Great times, great food again at Teresa Caffe, as patrons hurry to return to this longtime favorite
TIME TEST: âWe are really specialized in the hotel industry. We want people to feel better when they walk in, and especially now, that they love being together again. We look forward to welcoming everyone. We enjoy working with our staff and serving our customers. It’s the people – Momos love people! From left to right in the recently reopened Teresa Caffe and longtime favorite, the Momos: Carlo (co-owner), Alessandra, Gianni and Raoul (co-owner). Above is a larger photo of a young Teresa – Carlo and Raoul’s mother and the inspiration for the restaurant.
By Jean Stratton
Ihas a new look, but the same warm hospitality and the same delicious food that has always been its hallmark.
Teresa Caffe, at 23 Palmer Square East, is open again after being closed for 14 months due to COVID-19 and a major renovation. Reopening in May, this popular mainstay of the Princeton culinary scene is up and running, offering its neighborhood trattoria-style atmosphere and tempting Italian pizzas, pastas and a variety of other specialties.
Originally opened in 1991, Teresa’s is one of five restaurants owned by the Momo brothers, Carlo, Raoul and Anthony. Part of the Momo restaurant group, they also include Mediterra, Eno Terra, Momo Bread Company and the new AlbariÃ±o tapas and wine bar in Red Bank. The Bread Company also has a branch in the Trenton Farmers Market.
âIt all really started with our mother, Teresa Azario Momo, born in Italy, and our father Raul Momo Marmonti, born in Chile,â explains Carlo. âThey came to the United States in 1960, and in the mid-1970s Teresa and Raul opened the very first ‘Teresa’, an Italian specialty food store.
âWe worked alongside our parents when we were not at school, learning to cook in the tradition of our ancestors. This is where we acquired our passion for fresh food and our commitment to providing warm and welcoming service.
âIn 1982 we opened Teresa II in New Brunswick, and in 1987 we had an outpost on Nassau Street combining Teresa Pizza and David’s Cookies!
And the rest, as they say, is history.
With an emphasis on high quality fresh ingredients, special recipes, attentive staff and an attractive environment, Teresa and the other restaurants were all thriving.
Then came the pandemic and all it involved. People stayed at home, restaurants were forced to close, except for those who could improvise with al fresco dining opportunities.
âThe city and all government agencies have really helped keep our business afloat,â reports Raoul Momo. âClearly, word has spread about the importance of restaurants as cornerstones of the community. Cooperation has been excellent from everyone. And above all, the patrons who supported us.
âEating outdoors was a savior,â he continues. âAnd he continues to be very popular. It really is a huge success! Customers want to be outside after such a long lockdown. Nothing beats the sun, a glass of wine and a good meal with friends and family.
âNow that Teresa is open again, it’s like we’ve never closed,â adds Carlo. “Customers have flocked, they were so happy that we were back, and they can’t wait to leave.”
When customers return to Teresa, they will notice a new look. It’s an intriguing modern pattern – a “New York City Sophisticated” feel. Dark wood distinguishes the tables and bench, all adorned with white linen napkins, and they complement the overall theme perfectly: a modern and clean design, but at the same time ensuring a down-to-earth and unpretentious atmosphere. where people can relax and feel at home.
The design is the work of Carlo’s wife, architect Leslie Dowling of Dowling Studios. âLeslie approached the existing setup, but it has its own aesthetic,â emphasizes Carlo.
Large black-and-white photos resembling posters of Italian celebrities including Sophia Loren decorate the walls and the bar has plenty of seating. A large wall-mounted wine rack displays nearly 500 bottles.
Plus, a lovely outdoor patio can accommodate over 20 people, and it’s a particularly popular choice right now.
The menu is as attractive as ever, with its special pizzas and homemade pasta always the best choices. Noted for its thin and very crispy crust, the pizza includes a variety of options: pesto, ricotta, eggplant and mozzarella; or fresh mozzarella, ground tomato, basil and extra virgin olive oil; or artisanal pepperoni, large tomato, nardello peppers and fresh mozzarella – to name a few.
âMy son Gianni is the ‘pizzaiolo’ or pizzaiolo, as I was 30 years ago,â says Raoul. âHe is now part of the third generation, because it all started with Teresa, my mom!
âEveryone loves pizza,â he adds, âbut our homemade pasta is also a specialty. Everything is made from scratch with high protein flour at the bakery (Terra Momo Bread Company). It’s a big element for us.
âPasta Vongole with clams is a favorite, and other popular dishes are tagliatelle bolognese and grana; penne, tomato, pepperoncino and basil; and chitarra, clams, garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley.
In addition, main dishes, such as seared Scottish salmon, with broccoli rabe, maitake mushrooms and onion agrodolce; and roasted eggplant involtini, ricotta, grana, mozzarella, spinach and tomato are favorites.
The salads include a variety of choices, as do the antipasti with plenty of options, from fried calamari with prosciutto di Parma, to bruschetta with grilled avocado, among others.
The sweet tooth is not overlooked at Teresa! Among the most popular desserts are tiramisu, focociolatto pizza (Nutella chocolate) and cannoli.
Coffee, cappuccino, espresso and more are available, as well as a wide selection of wines, cocktails and beers from the restaurant. Cocktails have become increasingly popular in recent years, and Teresa’s has something for everyone.
The big success of the moment is the Rossini, with prosecco, Lillet and strawberry puree. Other favorites are Columba, with tequila, campari, lemon and aranciatta; Passero with rum, aperitivo del professore and lime juice; and Siciliano with averna amaro, sweet vermouth, espresso and soda.
âA lot of our cocktails are created by our mixologists Justin Donegan and Chris Canavari,â says Raoul, âbut many are also classic recipes like the Bellini from Harry’s Bar in Venice, and made just with good spirits and fresh ingredients.
âBy the way, our bartender Chris Canavari was the longtime bartender at Princeton’s old classic French restaurant, Lahiere’s.â
Prices cover a range at Teresa, with antipasti starting at $ 3, salads starting at $ 12, pizzas starting at $ 13, and pasta starting at $ 16. Desserts start at $ 6.
The Momo brothers pride themselves on their exceptional staff, including Chef Shane Spigner, Restaurant Manager Jaime Sanchez, Bar Manager Justin Donegan and Hospitality Manager Devin Rosa.
In addition, they are very happy that a new generation of Momos is joining the family business. In addition to âpizzaioloâ Gianni, Carlo’s daughter, Alessandra, is the Managing Director of the new restaurant AlbariÃ±o, and Raoul’s son, Luke, is the Marketing and Social Media Director of Terra Momo Restaurant Group. He also participates in the management of financial controls and also manages all media production. , videography and photography.
Serving the community in many ways is very important to the Momos, and they recently received the Reginald Lewis Community Award from the First Baptist Church in Princeton.
âReginald Lewis was the first black billionaire,â says Raoul. âIn his honor, the Baptist Church presents the award to recognize local business leaders for their community service. I attended the Sunday service to receive him, and we were very honored.
âIt’s always about improving,â he continues, âand after 40 years in the business, we know how to improve. There is no quick fix for success. that’s it: the food, the hospitality, the design, the people, the service. You have to manage everything.
âOf course, it’s really thanks to our loyal customers and our new guests. They are the ones who keep us going. “
In addition to on-site dining, Teresa’s offers take-out options. Private on-site parties are also available.
Always at the forefront, as Carlo explains, âto offer culinary experiences with the common theme of land, food, wine and the joy of life. And through it all, our mother Teresa has been our inspiration. She taught us to find harmony between tradition and innovation. Every detail – from the olive oil to the wine, from the basil to the artwork – is in keeping with his sensibility that every guest thinks “this tour” is the best yet! â
Teresa Caffe is open Tuesday to Thursday from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. No reservations required. (609) 921-1974. Website: teresacaffe.com.