AGAINST A BACKDROP OF TUSCAN RUSTIC MEETS INDUSTRIAL CHIC, A GENERAL MANAGER/HEAD BARTENDER SHARES HIS VAST KNOWLEDGE OF SPIRIT HISTORY AND LORE WITH STAFF AND GUESTS

BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC

The warm dining experience found at Tre Pizza, Pasta, Beer Garden begins with a cavernous open air space that fosters a safe environment. Guests fill the front patio with its welcoming re-pit, and gather excitedly around the indoor Skee ball machine. Diners in the main room can gaze at wall murals as well as the open kitchen. Enter general manager Alberto Fernandez, who presides over the establishment like a conductor directing a symphony orchestra.

Tre serves gourmet artisanal Neapolitan pizzas and a full menu of fresh Italian dishes in a casual atmosphere. The novel presentation of its “famous” chicken Parmigiana, pounded rail thin and sliced like a pizza, makes for a delicious starting point. Fans rave over the mozzarella bar, seafood, meat dishes, and authentic Italian favorites like pasta fagioli and Salome. The list of pizza toppings is lengthier than most, and cauliflower or gluten free crusts are available.

Indeed, wine and cocktails are in order. Fernandez, who doubles as Tre’s head mixologist, exudes a beatnik cool charm and an assured confidence that wordlessly conveys, “I got this.”

And he does. A graduate of the famed Rhode Island culinary arts institution Johnson & Wales University circa 2001, (alumni luminaries include Emeril Lagasse and Beau MacMillan), Fernandez takes pride in his creativity as a master spirits mixer.

His Amal Coast Mist cocktail, named for the famous Italian city’s coastline, is a refreshing beach party made with Malfy Blood Orange Gin, prosecco, and a scoop of lemon sorbet, then garnished with a dash of mint and rosemary.

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“The sorbet makes it a different drink as it infuses more lemon,” noted the mixologist. “The drink is ever evolving.”

The Old Bridge native got his start in the restaurant industry in 2004 at Pasha, a club in Manhattan. From there he continued to hone his skills at Grove Square Restaurant and the Embankment House, both in Jersey City.

“Liquor, mixology is my form of art. I liken it to a mad scientist lab, organized chaos, and a constant change of pace.” With Tre for six years, Fernandez is well versed in the history of the spirits industry. Besides creating interesting and equally delicious cocktails, he is also teaching his stall to excel.

“If you don’t know how it started then you don’t know the basis,” he explained. “This is my passion, to become the best you can at what you do. Sometimes it’s just sitting and going down a rabbit hole of research.”

The idea that well trained bartenders only put one or three olives in a drink comes from an old speakeasy rule never even numbers. According to Fernandez, whose mother Norma holds a doctorate in education, the origin of the mixed cocktail emerged during Prohibition as a way to hide the bad taste of cheap bootleg liquors.

“The basis of a good drink is not to taste the alcohol, not unless you want to,” instructed Fernandez. “If you want to taste the liquor, order a Manhattan.”

For dessert, we strongly suggest the Chocolate S’mores cocktail, made with Meletti’s Dark Chocolate and Baileys Irish Cream, then sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.

Fernandez, married with a six year old son, loves frequenting flea markets in his spare time and picking up what he called “garbage pieces of furniture” to refurbish. “I look at a space and envision what it could be.”

That’s exactly what he’s done at Tre, where with a curator’s eye, Fernandez created a wall with shelves of artistic tap handles lined up like soldiers, an enhancement to the bar’s ambiance that captivates and enthralls customers.

“The people who created them are really sculptors in their own right,” enthused the cocktail artist, whose ultimate goal is to own his own place.

Tre Pizza, Pasta, Beer Garden
611 Park Avenue, Freehold Township /
732.751.4422 / trerestaurant.com