GARDEN STATE BUSINESS VISIONARIES SHARE SOME KEYS TO SUCCESS, THEIR FAVORITE GETAWAYS, AND SOME NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI, SAMANTHA FARAGALLI YOUNGHANS & JESSICA JONES-GORMAN PHOTOS BY PATTY PIXELS, AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY & ROBERT NUZZIE

 

Angelo Bongiovanni
Partner, Osteria Cucina Rustica, osterianj.com
Partner, Osteria Pizza & Parm, oppnj.net
Partner, Feast Italian Kitchen, feastnj.com
Partner, Brando’s Citi Cucina, brandosnj.com

A Brooklyn native, Bongiovanni was just nine years old when he started in the industry. After getting into his wife’s family business as a teen and later owning restaurants in Manhattan over the course of 20 years, he took his talents to New Jersey in the form of three well-known establishments.
Brando’s Citi Cucina (voted Asbury Park’s #1 restaurant) opened in 2011, Osteria Cucina Rustica (a New York Times-featured spot that recently expanded its bar and dining room) opened in Marlboro in 2013, and Feast Italian Kitchen (which seats 180 people inside, another 40 outside) opened in Old Bridge in 2019.
After 43 years in the business, Bongiovanni has plans to further expand his and his partner Steven Botta’s culinary empire, as their new Brazilian steakhouse, Churrascaria, is set to open right next to Feast this summer.
“Our mission is to grow every year and please all of our customers,” Bongiovanni said.

DREAM CAR?
A Ferrari
WEEKEND GETAWAY?
The Hamptons.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
To spend a little more time with the family.

 

 

Gardian Spread

 

George Cahn
President and CEO, Cahn Communications, Inc., cahncomm.com

New Jersey’s tallest building, Jersey City’s 99 Hudson (900 feet) is among the high-profile projects in Cahn’s prolific portfolio. His public relations agency serves the real estate development, design, and hospitality industries throughout New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, Florida, and in other areas. Recognized for bringing worldwide attention to the state’s “Gold Coast,” he was writing a real estate column for the New York Post when he entered the sector in 1991, co-founding Cahn Communications in 1995. His prominent clients include Ironstate Development, KRE Group, BNE Real Estate, and K. Hovnanian Homes.

“My dream was to cover the New York Mets for the Daily News, but after experiencing the business through my father, a PR professional, I was hooked,” said Cahn. “We’re in one of the world’s most exciting markets. I’m lucky to collaborate with creative and innovative professionals daily.”

DREAM CAR?
When I was a kid, a teenage neighbor owned a 1969 Camaro. It was the coolest car I’d ever seen and I never forgot it.
WEEKEND GETAWAY?
Long Beach Island during the summer.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
To carve out a little more family time before our daughter heads off to college next year.

 

Adam Philipson
President and CEO, Count Basie Center for the Arts, thebasie.org

Ascending to his current executive position at Red Bank’s historic County Basie Center for the Arts in 2012 was a fitting pinnacle for Philipson’s career in the arts, entertainment, and arts education. His broad experience includes stints as a producer/creator, in strategic planning, operations management, and education ideally positioning him to lead the renowned theater into its next phase, which includes a grand expansion expected to open this year.

“In addition to world-class events, the Basie prides itself as a champion of arts education, with its schools of music and performing arts,” Philipson said. “We’re excited to unveil the new Basie Center to patrons later this year.”

WHAT’S YOUR DREAM CAR?
My current favorite is a 2020 Subaru Ascent. In the future though, I’d like to see myself in a Tesla.
YOUR FAVORITE WEEKEND GETAWAY?
Quite frankly, it’s a staycation, right here on the Jersey Shore.
YOUR #1 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
For the world to come out and experience the new Count Basie Center for the Arts!

 

Scott Wolf
Founder/Owner, Wolf Fine Jewelers, wolffinejewelers.com

Wolf started working in the jewelry trade when he was just 16 years old sweeping up the shop floor at Malson’s, one of Brooklyn’s famed bauble businesses, learning the ins and outs of what would eventually become a lifelong career.

“It was a job that allowed me to learn about the business, witness jewelry repair up close, and study how to deal with manufacturers,” he said. By the age of 19, Wolf opened American Watch Works, a kiosk in the Ocean County Mall, which was soon followed by a second location in Garden State Plaza. He attended the Horological Institute, earned a degree in watchmaking, and took his skills to the Jewelry Exchange in the Monmouth Mall. He studied gemology at GIA before launching Wolf Fine Jewelers, also in the Monmouth Mall. Today, in addition to that location, he operates three more in Ocean County Mall, Brunswick Square Mall, and at The Piers Shops at Caesars in Atlantic City.

“My goal was always to bring the latest trends, brands, and service that other jewelers don’t provide,” Wolf said. “I wanted to combine my watch and jewelry worlds together in a one-stop shop… something for everyone at every price point.”

His shops carry brands like Alex and Ani, Pandora, Michele, Michael Kors, and Nixon, and he also maintains a “custom corner” where customers can assist in sketching out an item to their particular specification’s.

DREAM CAR?
I make my dreams into my reality. I’ve always set “dream car” goals for myself, and would never stop until I was able to buy myself the dream car of the moment. Right now, I have my eyes on a Pagani.”
WEEKEND GETAWAY?
My favorite is just a staycation. I really enjoy staying in with my new puppy, reading a book, and drinking a nice glass of scotch at my house.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
I am resolving to elevate my business to the next level in 2020. I want to broaden my horizons in business and in life and sustain a positive outlook for the future.

 

Rob Kash
Partner, Nonna’s Citi Cucina, nonnasnj.net
Partner, Rosalita’s Roadside Cantina, rosalitasnj.com
Partner, Metropolitan Café, metrocafenj.com
Partner, TRE, trepizzanj.com

Kash grew up in the restaurant business, so after earning a degree in accounting and going to law school, he opened his first restaurant in 1992. Today, he’s a partner in Metropolitan Café in Freehold (which has earned the Best Fine Dining in Freehold Award), Nonna’s Citi Cucina in Marlboro, Rosalita’s Roadside Cantina in Englishtown and Brick, and TRE in Freehold and Brick.

Kash embraces the diversity of cuisines he serves to hungry locals. “What makes it fun is you always have the opportunity to be creative. These are evolving concepts,” he said of his menus, adding that he has his longtime staff to thank for Great Restaurants NJ’s continued success. For the future, he and his partners have plans to open more Rosalita’s and TRE locations.

DREAM CAR?
A Ferrari California… just gorgeous.
WEEKEND GETAWAY?
Newport, Rhode Island. My other one is Miami, but that’s my weekday getaway.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
My business one is to stay focused and don’t rest on my laurels. My personal one is a little bit more “Rob time.”

 

Michael Littman
Co-Owner, Gary Michaels Fine Jewelry, garymichaelsfinejewelry.com

Littman is the third generation of his family in the jewelry business. Three years after his family sold the notable Littman Jewelers chain, he and his cousin, Gary, opened Gary Michaels Fine Jewelry, which has earned accolades such as “Most Innovative Jeweler,” “America’s Coolest Store,” and “Couture Jeweler of the Year” since its 2002 opening. It carries top designers with a focus on diamonds, watches, and the bridal business.
“We’re one of the top jewelers in the country,” Littman said, while adding that they plan to eventually expand the business. “We want to provide a superior customer experience and the finest diamonds, jewelry, and watches at the highest level of service, every day.”

WEEKEND GETAWAY?
St. Bart’s
DREAM CAR?
I love what I have, it’s a Jaguar I-PACE electric.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
To treat myself better. I always treat everyone else, so I want to treat myself better.

 

Drew Sciaulino
President and CEO, Precision Acura of Princeton, precisionacura.com

Sciaulino bought his first car when he was 13 years old. It had no engine, no transmission and no axles, but he dragged it home on a friend’s at bed and slowly restored it until it was drivable. He collected and repaired more cars in his mother’s driveway while earning a degree in automotive technology and launching a career in automotive sales. He estimates the total number of cars he’s owned at 347.

Sciaulino worked for Jaguar and Lexus and brought that high-end market experience to Precision Acura when he was hired there as sales manager in 1995. After purchasing the dealership in 2004 and becoming its president and CEO, the company became one of the highest rated dealers for customer satisfaction in the country. Sciaulino credits that success to a delicate corporate balance.

DREAM CAR?
I’ve owned everything from a Bentley to a Lamborghini. My newest supercar is a Ferrari 488 Spider.
WEEKEND GETAWAY?
We travel down to our oceanfront property in Vero Beach, Florida, whenever we can.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
In 2020 I’d like to realign balance in my life and spend more time with family.

 

Vito F. Cardinale
Founder and President, Cardinale Enterprises, cardinaleenterprises.com

Cardinale is a mechanical engineer who knew at a young age that he wanted to be a developer. In the 1980s, he founded Cardinale Enterprises and since then, the company has built developments in upstate New York and Staten Island, as well as shopping centers in New Jersey. Among his proudest achievements, he said, was being a part of the creation of the Linda E. Cardinale Multiple Sclerosis Center in Freehold.

This “country boy,” as he calls himself, is determined to find a cure for MS, and plans to donate all the proceeds from the company’s newest sports and entertainment venture, Adventure Crossing (in Jackson) towards building one of the largest brain institutes in the country.

“We’re going to do research on brain lesions and transmit information to MS labs around the world,” he said. “My focus is to end this disease on Earth before I leave it.”

DREAM CAR?
I drive my Ford F150, but if I dress up and have to wear a black tie, I’d take out my yellow Corvette.
WEEKEND GETAWAY? Hanging out at the marina with friends and family and having special Sunday dinners. I love Monmouth Beach; I hang out at the ChannelClub. We have a boat there and welcome everyone who wants to bring a great frame of mind.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION? To start Adventure Crossing and end Multiple Sclerosis on this Earth—saving 2.9 million people.

 

 

Frank Brusco
Owner, Patricia’s of Holmdel, patriciasofholmdel.com
Partner, Over Easy Kitchen, overeasykitchen.com
Partner, Gabriella’s Steakhouse, gabriellasnj.com

Brusco took a gamble in 2015 when he entered the restaurant business with no background or experience in that sector. “I’d heard it’s the hardest industry, so I figured I’d like to take that challenge,” he said. Since then, he’s successfully opened four restaurants—is the owner of Patricia’s of Holmdel and a partner in Over Easy Kitchen of Marlboro and Holmdel and Gabriella’s Italian Steakhouse of Red Bank.

There are now just over 200 employees throughout all four restaurants, and each location, he reported, has blossomed over the years. Patricia’s been serving 10,000 people every month and offers a unique private party space; Over Easy’s Marlboro location has doubled, and a third location will open in Fair Haven this year; and six-month-old Gabriella’s will soon introduce an outside patio with a bar, music, and seating for 50 people.

DREAM CAR?
I have a Maserati and a Ferrari, but I would say my dream car is a Bentley.
WEEKEND GETAWAY?
Miami, absolutely.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
To have an equal balance of working hard and playing hard.