Barnegat restaurateur Jon Serpico had a busy Thanksgiving.
While others were getting ready to host a houseful of family, he was overseeing dinner for hundreds, as customers flocked to his brand new Spiaggia e Luna location in Waretown's Lighthouse Plaza on Route 9, which had held its grand opening the Saturday before.
Serpico said the success of his first venture, a pizza and fine dining restaurant by the same name that he opened in downtown Barnegat more than two years ago, inspired him to expand. He’d had his eye on the spot for some time, he said, and when Joey’s Pizza and Pasta left the location, he jumped at the chance.
The restaurant got a makeover that went beyond a new paint job for the walls. The building was originally outfitted to be a bakery, Serpico said, and came with a high-quality bread oven. That inspired him to bring on a specialty chef, who will make fresh breads and homemade pastas.
The bright, sunlit restaurant will also be a full-service deli, with Boar’s Head cold cuts, prepared foods and Italian specialties offered at very low prices, he said. Preparations for “Spiaggia II” also included tweaking the restaurant’s special crust recipe, made with a blend of imported flours, so that pizzas baked up just right in the new ovens.
There’s always a little nervousness about things going smoothly at first, he said, but he’s got experience behind him.
“After two years with Spiaggia, I feel like I’ve been in the restaurant business my whole life,” Serpico said. “Now, it’s like, ‘Hurry up! I want it all done!’”
Everything came together for the grand opening – just in time for the pre-Thanksgiving rush, always one of the busiest times of the year for pizza restaurants, he said.
Serpico said the same common-sense philosophy that made his first restaurant a success will guide him at the new location: great food for low prices, and a keen eye on what works and what doesn’t.
“Restaurants are like kids,” he said. “You’ve got to nurture them to get them to grow up to what you want them to be.”
And he’s happy to see his restaurant family growing. He’s able to offer more hours to his large team of employees, and the restaurant can now deliver to a wider area. Before, he said, he’d have to turn down requests for deliveries to Lacey Township. Now, they have Manahawkin to Forked River covered. And he doesn’t plan to stop there.
“We’re already scouting for our third location,” said Serpico.