The closing of Thyme Square restaurant in Red Bank a few months back was so abrupt that, until about a week ago, one could still peer into the windows and see an artificial Christmas tree and table settings awaiting the next seating of diners.
Prompted by a tragic death in the family of owners Rona and Steve Rosenstein, the departure left a particular void for devotees of chef James Corona, who opened the Broad Street restaurant with the couple in July, 2006. He ran the place, set its Mediterranean stylings, and quickly worked it onto culinary must-visit lists.
The interval since the closing has only seen a deepening of the recession, during which the annual rite of restaurant and retail turnover has been especially Darwinian, littering the business district with some 40 empty storefronts at last count.
So it is somewhat unexpected to learn that a new restaurant will be opening in the space in the next month or so.
Claudette Herring, a native Italian chef, and Lauren Phillips-Daly, a pastry chef are the owners of Via 45, whose name blends the Italian word for “road” with the building’s street number.
The two have worked together in the past, but this is Herring’s second venture as an owner, and Phillips-Daly’s first. With the help of “head of the house” Cole Young, they hope to be open Via 45 within the month, they tell redbankgreen.
The menu will offer light a la minute (made fresh on order, that is) Italian and vegetarian offerings. The space, the owners hope, will become one where artists of all media come to show their pictures and paintings, read from their written works and perform.
“We would love to bring in and display artists and musicians,” says Phillips-Daly. In fact, she and Herring see their venture in part as an effort to stanch what they see as an exodus of artists from Red Bank’s downtown, citing the departure of Asher Neiman Gallery as an example.
Ah, but where does one find the certainty to open any kind of business in this economic climate, particularly a restaurant, where cash can flow out faster than tap water?
“First of all, everyone has to eat,” says Herring. She adds that Via 45 presented itself as an opportunity that she and her partner could not turn away from. “Life itself is risk,” she says.
“You can’t pull your head in like a turtle,” says Phillips-Daly. “You have to be out there.”