BLENDING FOOD AND ART, THIS DYNAMIC DUO HAS TURNED A BELOVED RED BANK EATERY INTO A NEW HOT SPOT
BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
Federico “Chico” Ablan’s talent as a graphic designer is evident in the website he created for West Side Eatery, the restaurant he runs with Nicole “Nikki” Grandinetti. The site’s photos will look familiar to fans of The Danish Café, which occupied the rustic, cozy locale inside the red brick Galleria over the past five years. Rebranded from a café to an eatery last fall, its menu still includes brunch style cuisine, with Nordic influences. (Famed for its arts and antiques, the turn of the century Galleria, completed in 1917, was for many years a textile factory, producing uniforms worn by soldiers in World Wars I and II.)
The dynamic duo of Ablan and Grandinetti met and worked at Danny’s Steakhouse directly across the street. Ablan, who attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, had worked as a graphic designer at the New York Post for seven years before pursuing a career in cooking. He graduated from the New York Institute of Culinary Education in 2004. While Ablan rose to head chef at Danny’s, a position he held for ten years, Grandinetti, a former special education teacher, worked as a waitress.
Their opportunity came when the owners of the Danish Café decided to sell the business. Along with an investor, Ablan and Grandinetti took fate in their hands, hoping they had the goods to turn the café into the heart beat of the borough’s resurgent West Side, with an expanded menu, including artfully dressed omelets and elevated soups du jour.
“I also started to come up with non Danish specials,” said Ablan. “We had to expand the menu in order to keep it going,” adding that made to order is their specialty, like the maple pecan chicken salad on a croissant; light years from premade chicken salad served with an ice cream scooper in some delicatessens. An assortment of wraps and Paninis, along with staples like freshly brewed coffee and Danish, are always available.
“We have so many regular customers who come every single day,” said Grandinetti. Added Ablan, “Seeing a person loving what I make is the reward. The plate is now my computer screen where I create culinary art instead of graphic design.”
West Side Eatery
The Galleria / 2 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank
732.268.7365 / westsideeatery.com