by DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Planning Board Chairman John Cash said little at Monday night’s planning meeting, but spoke the words Leonardo DiMaria most wanted to hear: “Welcome to Red Bank.”
Following a brief overview from DiMaria’s attorney concerning plans to open a coal-fired pizzeria at 141 West Front Street, the board quickly gave approval to a change-of-use request for about 4,900 square feet of empty retail space at Red Bank Corporate Plaza to primary food with outside dining.
“We’re pretty much ready to go,” DiMaria, who is one of three owners of Pazzo’s Coal Fired Oven Restaurant, said afterward.
But the approval from the board comes with an expensive string attached, which the owners aren’t necessarily pleased about.
Because of the change in the space’s use, more parking is required, and the parking allotted to the restaurant in the garage attached to the West Front Street building is 12 spaces short, officials said. So the board imposed a $10,500 charge to go into the parking utility capital improvement fund to make up for the deficiency.
DiMaria’s attorney, Rick Brodsky, said he and the restaurant owners likely will make an appearance at a future council meeting because of the charge.
“We’re going to visit that,” Brodsky said, because with 339 existing parking spots, the fee seems a tad excessive. “We should only be so lucky that parking would be a problem for us.”
But for now the focus is on getting a construction permit from borough hall and starting work at the first-floor space, which has never been occupied. Plans call for a 25-seat bar, about 130 seats in the dining area and a coal oven. Outside there will be about a dozen tables with seasonal plants and a couple of light poles lining the sidewalk dining area. The family style restaurant will feature chicken, meat and panini in addition to pizza.
DiMaria said he’s targeting Valentine’s Day to open, but said March is more likely.
“The space is raw, and we have a substantial build-out planned for it,” Brodsky said.
The 93,000-square-foot building, much of which is rented out by Hovnanian Enterprises, was completed about two years ago, and the pizzeria will be the first noticeable sign of life in the large brick complex. Architect Mike Monroe, who is based in Red Bank, is hopeful that Pazzo’s will have a positive effect on the west side of Red Bank’s dowtown.
“It’s one of the major entrances to Red Bank that’s been vacant forever,” he said. “I think will be really good for the area.”