rb-corp-plaza Except for limited office use, Red Bank Corporate Plaza has been empty since completion two years ago.

By Dustin Racioppi

Red Bank’s comeback from the depths of the economic downturn may turn out to be based on an unexpected foundation: pizza.

In recent months, one large pizza restaurant has opened, a second one  has committed to the downtown, and a third, smaller one is rumored to be coming.

Now, a fourth pizzeria appears about to take over a huge retail space in a white-elephant office, retail and parking complex on West Front Street. And this one could have a coveted liquor license.

Leonardo DiMaria, a co-owner a place to be called Pazzo’s Coal Fired Oven Restaurant, tells redbankgreen a sublease on some 4,900 square feet of space at Red Bank Corporate Plaza is “pretty much done. We should be signing the lease Tuesday or Wednesday.”

rb-corp-ctrPazzo’s would occupy this street-level space between the four-story office building and the parking deck. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

“Then it’s definitely a go,” he says of the project. “Right now it’s 90 percent.”

Completed two years, ago, the 93,000-square-foot office, store and parking complex at the corner of Pearl Street has remained all but vacant, with tenant Hovnanian Enterprises paying rent on some 66,000 square feet it committed to before the bust but apparently doesn’t use.

A spokesman for Mack-Cali Reality Corporation, which owns the  complex, says Hovnanian is the tenant and would be responsible for sub-leasing the space. Hovnanian’s spokesman could not be reached for comment.

DiMaria, of Lincroft, says Pazzo’s will be an affordable family restaurant specializing in pizza, meat, chicken and panini, with a large coal-fired oven as the centerpiece.

It will also serve liquor, he says. According to borough records, a request to transfer the liquor license last used by the now-defunct Villa Eduardo Restaurant is pending.

In January, the borough council authorized the transfer of that license to Edward Magliulo, who owns the property where Villa Eduardo stood, at West Front and Shrewsbury Avenue, before the eatery was replaced by Delfini’s Catering.

Once the lease is inked, DiMaria says tile will be laid and equipment will start moving in. He says he’s shooting for a January opening.

With an abundance of seating — DiMaria anticipates being able to accomodate about 150 inside and out with sidewalk seating — the light of the coal-fired oven could attract Red Bank’s moths away from the center of town and open up opportunities for other businesses to move in.

If the plan plays out, Pazzo’s would be part of a parade of new and planned pizzerias that includes Gianni’s, which opened recently in a onetime Burger King on Maple Avenue, adjacent to the SuperFoodtown store; and Pizza Fusion, an organic-pizza chain now getting ready to move to Broad Street across from St. James Church.

A fourth pizzeria, which we’re told is to be called Pacini’s, is rumored to have its eye on the former Quiznos store, at 177-179 Broad, between the East Side Café and Red Bank Cleaners. redbankgreen was unable to get confirmation on that last week.

Here’s the first-floor plan of Red Bank Corporate Plaza: 1st-floor-5-14-09-showing-lj-expansion-and-balance-of-2579-rsf