An award-winning Monmouth County native brings his expertise to an historic Rumson restaurant

by Jon Domenick •Photos By Robert Nuzzie

Being a good bartender is 100 percent about the passion you put into your craft,” offered Nick Tango, bar manager and mixologist at Rumson’s recently re-opened Fromagerie. “ If you go in with the mentality of just slinging drinks, you’re not a bartender, you’re just a worker.”

Born and raised in Long Branch and currently residing in Tinton Falls, Tango began his career in the restaurant industry early, waiting tables as a kid at a breakfast place for ten years. His passions were further piqued when he became a bar back at former Long Branch hot spot The Mix before enrolling in the TGIFriday’s corporate bar training program.

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“Anyone who wants to be a serious bartender should go through some type of corporate training,” Tango said. “ You learn how to be professional, pour correctly, memorize hundreds of cocktails, and find out what’s trending— classic, current, and popular.”

After TGIFriday’s, Tango returned to Mix, and then opened up its sister bar in Sea Bright, The Dive. He worked there until Superstorm Sandy, when it was washed out of the hard-hit borough.

“Sea Bright is such a beautiful community,” he related. “ It’s hard to see something like that. These people spend so many years building a home then had to start over…it’s rough.”

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Post-Sandy, Tango moved to the Tinton Falls Applebee’s, getting re-accustomed to trending cocktails in a corporate environment. Soon he was back at the beach at Long Branch’s Indulge Lounge, where he started as bartender and worked up to general manager; running its bar program and winning awards for the best cocktails in Monmouth County.

The mixologist eventually landed at Blu Grotto in Oceanport. It was there that chef Steven Botta recognized Tango from a brief meeting years prior. Shortly thereafter, he started at Botta’s Fromagerie as bar manager.

“Fromagerie is amazing,” he said.

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“We serve phenomenal food and have a great cocktail menu and program. It’s something to be really proud of—a great revival and a heartwarming spot. Growing up in Monmouth County, everybody knew it and would look forward to going there. You see the history of the building. It’s been renovated, making for better service, but it’s kept all the key aspects of the old buildings.”

Botta, both chef and owner, describes the vibe as “ elegant, but not stuffy. The menu is the same in each of our spaces. Every guest who comes through our doors has service oriented around them. We want to bring back the glory days of the restaurant.”

At a recent bartending competition, while Tango didn’t bring home any hardware, he caught the eye of Joe Gratkowski, Master of Whiskey for Johnny Walker, who, like Nick, noticed that the other contestants were more worried about making drinks quickly than properly. After he and Tango realized they were kindred spirits, Gratkowski sponsored him to become a member of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.

“I’m grateful for that,” said Tango. “ He recognized what this industry is about: hospitality and passion.”

Fromagerie 26 Ridge Road Rumson / 732.852.2650 / fromagerienj.com