By JOHN T. WARD
A vacant Red Bank building that’s been home to several well-regarded restaurants is about to get a new one – and a self-styled consultant hopes it will help him move beyond his recent infamy as a convicted felon, redbankgreen has learned.
Documents filed at borough hall identify the former Siena Grille space at 141 Shrewsbury Avenue as the future home of Blu Bistro + Bar.
Involved in the project is Russell D’Anton, who was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2010 for kickback scheme he ran as the top executive at the Charlie Brown’s chain.
As the president and chief executive officer of the then-30-restaurant Charlie Brown’s, D’Anton took bribes and kickbacks from kitchen vendors for contracts, he admitted in 2010. He and another Charlie Brown’s executive netted $1 million in home improvements, pricey appliances, vacation trips and cash over the decade-long conspiracy, the feds alleged.
Though he was paid $1.6 million by his employer in 2005, D’Anton also pocketed $123,000 worth of kickbacks that he did not report as income on his tax return that year, evading some $44,000 in federal taxes, he admitted.
D’Anton was sentenced to two years in federal prison for tax evasion and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. His post-incarceration period of supervised release imposed as part of his sentence ended in March, according to federal court records.
D’Anton told redbankgreen on Thursday that he is not a principal in Blu, which will be managed by his wife, Sandy, and is owned by the principals in Forsee Partners, which owns the building and the liquor license. He said his role is consultant.
D’Anton, a 53-year-old Manasquan resident, said he was trying to rebuild his life by advising Blu and other independent restaurants. “Certainly, if things work out, perhaps I could get something going again,” he said.
“I’ve been through the ringer, and obviously did everything I was supposed to do” regarding his sentence, he said. “Now it’s time to move on.”
His wife, he said, has deep experience in the industry.
D’Anton said the building will get an extensive interior and exterior makeover, and Blu’s menu will feature a “European bistro” theme, offering dishes from Italy, Spain, France and elsewhere, all of it “very affordable.”
The site is ideal for a restaurant, D’Anton said, because of its parking lot on the opposite side of Herbert Street and the heavy volume of pass-by traffic on Shrewsbury Avenue.
“I think Red Bank is kind of going up in that area,” he said.
Monmouth County records indicate the property is owned by Forsee Partners, which acquired it in 2009. The identities of the principals in Forsee were not immediately available.
The building was home to Sal’s Tavern for six decades, and later became Two if by Sea, according to a 2003 review of that seafood restaurant. Siena took over around 2008, according to another online review.
Siena Grille abruptly went bankrupt and closed in 2012.