AT AN ELEGANT NORTH JERSEY RESTAURANT, THIS BUSY MOM IS EQUALLY ENGAGED CREATING UNIQUE SEASONAL LIBATIONS AND HAVING FUN WITH GUESTS

BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY PATTY PIXELS

It takes an expert, flexible, and imaginative bar staff at LuNello to keep pace with the elevated Northern Italian dishes, “with a twist,” coming out of Chef Louis Seger’s kitchen.

A 1978 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Seger apprenticed at the Rainbow Room in Manhattan, worked in several other fine Big Apple restaurants, and in 2006 was invited to participate in special dinner before the distinguished James Beard Association. Now, in his own fine dining establishment, opened in 1990, he’s renowned for fresh ingredients, homemade pasta, and signature fish dishes featuring fresh catch flown in from the Mediterranean to Hawaii. As a result, LuNello has been the recipient of the “Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator Magazine three times.

“Lou’s passion for food is amazing,” said bartender Laura Moore, who has a similar enthusiasm for customer service, adding that LuNello’s extensive wine list complements the menu, with Cabernet and Pinot Noir the biggest sellers.

Moore, who has been mixing drinks here for six years, entered the bartending industry 15 years ago because she simply thought it would be a fun job a quality of the profession that has endured. Being a working mom, it also gives her the flexibility to be present in her ten-year-old son’s life.

“I work at night and my husband works during the day, so I get to drop my son off at school,” she said. She also makes time for the gym working out six or seven times per week. That level of activity, she explained, is key to maintaining energy sufficient to handle the hustle and bustle of the restaurant business, as well as to relieving stress.

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Moore has also made a number of friends at LuNello, an added perk of the occupation. “I like the people I meet. There are regulars, and it’s different every day,” she said. (Once, she was asked by a customer to put a ring in a drink as a birthday surprise for his significant other.) Moore also enjoys tailoring new cocktail specialties for the cold days of winter, including the “Fig Vesper,” which consists of g vodka, Bombay Gin, Lillet, and fresh lemon juice.

“I made three of them tonight!” laughed Moore during our interview, adding that one patron describes the drink as “heaven.” The LuNello Expresso Martini, meanwhile, made with vanilla vodka, real espresso, Kahlua, and a splash of Baileys Irish Cream, is also very popular. Brown liquor continues to trend among both men and women, she pointed out, as do variations of Mules, made Moscow-style with vodka. Her “Kentucky” is prepared, not surprisingly, with bourbon, while the “Mexico”’s principal ingredient is tequila. All contain ginger beer and fresh lime.

“When you make a cocktail, muddling fresh ingredients is huge,” she noted.
Her personal cocktail choice?

“I keep it simple: Ketel One Vodka and club soda.”

LuNello
182 Stevens Avenue, Cedar Grove 973.837.1660 / lunello.com