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Due Mari brings a multi-regional Italian flair to New Brunswick

by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Amessé Photography

After successfully bringing the Soho-based Osteria Morini and all of its Emilia Romagna glory to a small section of downtown Bernardsville, Ahmass Fakahany and his team of seasoned chefs and restaurateurs decided to expand their fine dining empire, debuting an authentic Italian eatery in the center of New Brunswick called Due Mari in September of 2008.

“‘Due Mari’ means ‘two seas,’” Fakahany, CEO and owner of Altamarea Group noted, defining the crux of what would become his company’s second venture. “It speaks to joining two streams of inspiration in Chef Michael White and me. We wanted to create a less rustic ambiance than the Osteria in New Jersey…something that relates more to the city of New Brunswick and its broader clientele. The Osteria has more of a focus on the Emilia Romagna region, while Due Mari branches out and touches many regions of Italy and allows more breadth.”

The endeavor joined the forces of Fakahany, an experienced businessman with a keen taste for exceptional food, and White, a gourmet chef with an impressive resume. Together, the pair deviated from the bustle of New York City to bring a diversified menu to residents of the Garden State.

“We love the location,” he said. “It is central for all our clients. Once you arrive to New Brunswick, you can essentially walk to it from most places, and it is also close to the theater and the main hotels. The space itself has private dining and a la carte space that is comfortable…and a sizeable bar—the plan being to have something for everyone, depending on client mood and need. You can come for a drink and a small plate, for dinner, or come with a group of friends. I have lived in New Jersey and like the state very much, and residents here understand and appreciate good food. We wanted to save them a trip in to the city.”

The pair’s idea was a success, and created an instant following. After five years in business, the space, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson, was completely refurbished in 2013 to give the entire restaurant a fresh feel.

“The décor plays off the good sunlight that we receive and then has dusky alluring lighting in the evening,” Fakahany said. “It has a new aquamarine color scheme that makes the theme light and highlights the fresh fish and pastas we serve. There is an open feel to the bar and kitchen, too—with a visible pasta station and a view to some of our wines on offer.

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There are different pockets of the restaurant to eat in as well, so you can experience it in several settings.”

“Typical of Altamarea as a whole, the menu allows full flexibility in sharing and trying different dishes, so you can visit a few times and try a range of options,” Fakahany added.

“True to our reputation, we have a strong pasta section and have it on every menu in the Altamarea Group, actually. We are renowned for our pasta and take pride that the kinds we have at Due Mari are top in class. In addition, we have a good range of appetizers and focused sections with fresh fish and prime select meats.”

Like Lumache, a shrimp and scallop ragu, served with leeks, white wine, and garlic. Or a creamy mushroom risotto with truffle pesto, mixed herbs, and a Parmesan crisp. The seared filet of beef is served with trumpet mushrooms and creamy potato puree; while the rib eye comes with rosemary potatoes, broccolini, and a red wine sauce. A dish of pan-roasted scallops is served with brussels sprouts, crispy pancetta, and a golden raisin puree, while the salmon is pan seared and accompanied by cauliflower, cippolini onions, and kale.

Some dishes are composed, Fakahany explained…some grilled simply to the client’s preference. And a four-course prixfixe tasting is the recommended method of sampling the restaurant’s full range of tastes.

“Overall, there is a light ‘modern brasserie’ feel to the place with a menu that is well executed,” he said. “It has a wide range of selections in a buzzy atmosphere that has an understated elegance to it. Chef Bill Dorrler, who runs many of our properties, is from New Jersey, and oversees Due Mari closely. Our general manager, Mona Carbona, attends to all the clients’ needs in partnership with Chef Bill.”

And the quality of product is assured by Due Mari’s respected position in the city’s restaurant landscape.

“Because of the other excellent restaurants we have, including Marea, Ai Fiori, Costata, Ristorante Morini, and Osteria Morini, we can pull in excellent quality product to Due Mari that we might not be able to source if it was just a standalone place,” Fakahany explained. “We also reach out to local providers for fresh produce and proteins. It is a great balance that is a win-win for the client. Because this is an Italian restaurant, we stay within the ingredients of the Italian frame, though push the envelope at times. But not too much; we stay true to the core.”

As far as the future is concerned, Fakahany is focused on building upon the excellence he and Chef White have already created.

“New Brunswick continues to evolve as a city,” he concluded. “We have been there for six years and plan to be there for a long time and be a true part of this community. We are already known for high-quality food in an accessible and relaxed environment, and would like to build on that foundation. That is our focus right now, and we feel our best days and cooking are ahead of us.”

Due Mari
78 Albany St., New Brunswick
732.296.1600 / duemarinj.com
Cuisine: Italian
Brunch: Sun. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Lunch: Mon. – Sat. 11:45 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.
Dinner: Sun. – Wed. 5 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
Thurs. & Fri. 5 p.m. – 9:45 p.m.
Sat. 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Price: Appetizers $7 – $16
Entrees: $26 – $36
All major credit cards accepted
Bar: Full bar with a focus on varied selections from the main wine regions of Italy.
Parking: Street, valet
Private Parties: Yes