A new face downtown will add another restaurant to the space where Bistro 44 once was.
Master chef Umberto Turelli said he is bringing affordable Italian comfort food to downtown Toms River. “It’s going to be hearty, stick to your ribs kind of food,” Turelli said.
Located in the former Bistro 44 spot, at 44 Washington St., Turelli took over the location from Eric Witherspoon, a past winner on the Food Network’s “Chopped.”
Turelli has owned restaurants all over Monmouth and Ocean counties, including Freehold, Colts Neck, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro. He said he eyed Toms River as a potential location because he was looking to open up something close to home.
“My kids go to school here, I’ve coached soccer for my son for a number of years — downtown Toms River needs attention, and I’m hoping to help my own community,” Turelli said. “I’m hoping we’ll be a focal point.”
Turelli purchased the 2,500-square-foot space in the end of February. He said the restaurant employs about four or five servers, with three additional people in the kitchen. “It’s not a huge space,” Turelli said. It seats 65.
A soft opening will be held April 30, although he said word of the opening has been spreading so much, he’s not sure how “soft” the opening will be.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s very humbling,” he said.
Jody Alessandrine, executive director of the Downtown Toms River Business Improvement District, said Nuova Luna will be the sixth new-business opening since early December. “We’re proud we have a slew of new businesses opening,” he said. “We feel confident they’ve identified the right price point, and we think it’s going to be a home run,” he said.
Turelli said there is no item on the menu that costs more than $20. “It’s very unique,” he said. “If you’re going to come here, you’re going to experience something different.”
He said sandwiches cost up to $12, which come with a salad or fries, and pasta costs between $13 and $15.
“You’re not going to see chicken parm on the menu. We’ll make it, if a customer requests it, but we consider our food to be the most traditional comfort food there is.”
The grand opening for Nuova Luna is slated for May 7, with a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m.