A LIFE IN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY PREPARED THIS NEW JERSEY ’TENDER FOR KEEPING THINGS FRESH AT ONE OF THE STATE’S MOST ACCLAIMED RESTAURANTS

BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE

Born and raised in New Milford, Bergen County, Charlie Poveromo spent much of his youth in his father’s two pizzerias and a bar, located in his home borough and Hackensack.

“My earliest memories in the food business were serving Italian Ices at age five on Sundays; that’s when I fell in love with the business,” Poveromo said. As a teen, he cooked in his father’s restaurant, “jumping behind the bar” at 18 when that was still the legal drinking age in New Jersey. His father bought another restaurant and bar in Delray Beach, Florida, and Poveromo relocated to work there. At the time, restaurants at this beachside resort didn’t have the outdoor seating so prevalent today, and he recalls being embroiled in the fight to gain al fresco dining approvals.

After several years, Poveromo decided to venture out on his own, returning to New Jersey in 1993. He came across a place in New Milford that was down on its luck, and Poveromo bought it with his brother Frank, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Together they opened Henley’s, named for the street on which it was located. They operated the business for 10 years, after which Poveromo took a year off to regroup. Little did he realize that he was about to start working again for a previous boss.

Back in 1979, Anthony “Tony” Del Gatto owned a live music venue in Garfield called the Underground, where Poveromo worked for a time. The men reconnected years later and Poveromo became a bartender for Del Gatto at Grissini Restaurant in Englewood Cliffs, a highly acclaimed and upscale Italian restaurant where he’s now worked for 13 years. (Del Gatto also owned the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park since the 1970s.)

Poveromo heads a team of three bartenders and does the ordering for the bar. With his experience and flair for fresh ideas, he’s where he wants to be.

“What I enjoy so much is the different people and the couples who come in, as well as creating different drinks,” he said. “I don’t take the job for granted. Anyone can make drinks, but you need a little flair to be a good bartender. Service is the bottom line. People want to feel special.”

Cellini Spread

He calls Grissini a “high-end restaurant with a mature customer base—a martini and Manhattan kind of place.” In recent years, however, Poveromo has stretched out his skills and created specialty cocktails made with fresh ingredients. His white truffle/hibiscus “Truffle-tini,” costing $130, was featured on the front page of The Record newspaper back in January of 2014. A fresh ginger cosmopolitan is another favorite, as is his fresh kiwi-mint margarita.

“The Del Gatto family make me feel like one of their own,” he said. “Tony and his brother Thomas are great people to work for.”

This summer, Poveromo will be whipping up mulled watermelon martinis and other top-shelf concoctions focused on fresh fruits, mint, and basil.

 

Grissini Restaurant
484 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs
201.568.3535 / grissinirestaurant.com