This Paramus Eatery Serves Classic And Traditional Italian Fare With An Elegant Twist
By Jessica Jones Gorman • Photos By Eric Coleman
When Jimmy Perides took the helm at Biagio’s in 2003, he quickly upped the Paramus restaurant’s pasta game, crafting his own ravioli and gnocchi and blending the high quality carb with exotic imported meats and cheeses, even throwing a little micro basil into the mix. It was Perides’ way of modernizing his family’s 25 year old eatery, giving a much needed makeover to some very traditional Italian comfort food. But there was one conventional dish the young chef would never dream of updating his father’s chicken parm.
“It’s simple and plain, built out of only two ingredients really good cheese and my family’s marinara sauce but it’s perfect and has been on our leader board for decades; there was absolutely no need for me to change it,” noted Perides during a recent phone interview from his kitchen, detailing the signature dishes that make Biagio’s tick. “Our philosophy was, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ I think a whole lot of customers would be pretty upset if we messed with their chicken parm.”
Smothered in mozzarella and served with a side of spaghetti upon request, it’s one of several types of classic dishes that have fueled Biagio’s success since it opened in the ‘90s. And according to Perides, the concept behind the restaurant’s simple menu is still going strong.
“People want to experience that fine dining aspect of cooking at a reasonable price point. Since 2003 that has been my goal: to bring high quality ingredients to every single one of our dishes while still maintaining an affordable menu.”
Enter the homemade pasta an art Perides learned while studying under Mario Batali at Babbo.
“That skill was honestly one of the finest tools I’ve ever learned in my career turning something as simple as pasta into something so elegant was such an important lesson,” he said. “Pasta is pasta but the art behind the noodle itself and the level of ingredients at Babbo made it so high end and very much in demand.”
Defining his initiation into the industry as “old school,” Perides did an internship at Café des Artistes in Manhattan before his time at Babbo and was then mentored by chef Nino D’Urso of Capriccio Restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. He then cooked abroad in Asiago, Italy under chef Ricardo at Tre Fonti.
“I chose to work at Capriccio because it served continental cuisine a mix of Italian classics entwined with other European influences. It was a little bit of a larger style restaurant, and on a very busy night we served 350 to 400 plates. There, I learned how to produce a large number of dishes at a high standard, which is not easy to do.”
After his experience at Capriccio, Perides embarked on a three month journey to Italy where he took a culinary tour and worked in a small restaurant just north of Asiago. After returning to the U.S. he had a greater respect for what his father had built at Biagio’s.
“My father has been in the restaurant business for 40 plus years. When he came here from Greece it was his first job and he fell in love with it. So he launched a small café and eventually moved up to a diner. He kept looking for something bigger and better. Biagio’s and its Italian comfort food concept was his fifth try.”
Choosing Paramus for the community’s growth potential, the elder Perides focused on building a steady clientele of frequent diners, quietly expanding along the way.
“As the years went on he consistently added to the property. For a long time Biagio’s was known for its big oak bar and classic wood trim. We just updated it about five years ago with more of a cleaner look. We added a catering hall next door, the Terrace, which has been a big boon for business.”
And the COVID pandemic created even more reinvention for the storied Biagio’s.
“2020 was tough,” said Perides, describing how he was forced to restructure the business along with his father and brother, who runs the front of the house. “We were never a huge takeout restaurant, only the occasional orders and the preparation of an extra meal for a customer every now and again, but we made it work because we had to. The size of our property helped when indoor dining was no longer available. We called it a ‘car hop’ and allowed people to eat in their vehicles right in the parking lot. We were also able to make use of our rooftop venue which usually accommodates weddings. We built an entire kitchen outside and cooked off a charcoal grill. It changed our menu a little and we were serving a lot of steaks, chops, and fish all grilled but customers loved it.”
A few dishes were still made in the kitchen, including shrimp scampi, a handful of pasta entrées, and of course, Biagio’s famous chicken parm.
“We couldn’t take it off the menu; our customers would’ve been too upset,” Perides concluded.
“But our rooftop dining helped us stay alive through the summer months. We put up an outdoor tent to accommodate gatherings in September and October and were boosted through the holidays with orders and catering. It certainly has been tough but I think if we made it through this we can make it through anything.”
299 Paramus Road, Paramus / 201.652.0201 / biagios.com