Duo reunites after 23 years to feed Rutgers students

Robin Varga, co-owner of Fritz’s, a fast-casual eatery in New Brunswick with a fresh, homemade and seasonal menu, always knew that fellow co-owner Jonathon Guarino would own a restaurant one day.

That’s because the pair goes back 23 years – when Guarino went to school with Varga’s children and Varga and Guarino worked at the now-defunct St. Peter’s Elementary School concession stand together, which was only a few blocks from where Fritz’s stands today at 115 Easton Ave.

“He always liked to cook and he would invent all kinds of stuff to eat while we were working,” she said. “If you could put it in a deep fryer, he would.”

At the concession stand, which operated for the elementary school and the high school, they would make items such as mozzarella sticks and egg sandwiches and would also help out at school events, such as pancake breakfasts or spaghetti dinners.

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These days, Guarino deep-fries a lot less items than he did during his days working at the concession stand, which Varga managed. The duo’s restaurant serves sandwiches on house-made breads with fresh roasts, vegetarian and vegan options with house-made sauces and more than 40 scratch-made baked goods.

“Everything is homemade and fresh – we don’t have any processed meats or ingredients,” Guarino said. “Plus, we don’t have any big screen televisions – this is a very casual environment.”

Varying vastly from neighboring fat sandwiches and other late-night snacks, Varga and Guarino, a Rutgers and French Culinary Institute graduate, found a common vision to create a place where hungry college students could find an affordable, homemade meal, prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients.

With 1,000 customers a week, it’s clear that Rutgers students are on board.

Some of the most popular items that they scoop up on their way to class are the roasted tomato zoodles, which are zucchini noodles with roasted grape tomatoes, garlic and mozzarella ($7), the fiesta quinoa bowl, which is warm quinoa with roasted corn, onion, bell peppers, black beans, avocado and cheese ($7) and the meatball sandwich, which is blend beef meatball smothered in tomato basil sauce and melted mozzarella, provolone cheeses and garlic aioli ($7.75).

Mark R. Sullivan/MyCentralJersey Staff Photo

Mark R. Sullivan/MyCentralJersey Staff Photo

Fritz’s also has several popular bakery staples, such as the salted caramel blondie and pop tarts, a homemade spin on the supermarket treat.

In the fall, the restaurant aims to unveil a limited bar menu for late-night visitors “that’s inexpensive but of good quality,” Guarino said.

Since November of last year, Fritz’s has been feeding hungry Rutgers students, but that wasn’t without some serious work on Guarino and Varga’s part.

Varga’s family owned the residential property for 21 years and to refurbish it into a restaurant, the duo completely gutted the 1882 home, which took about four years. In order to retain a craftsman feel, they restored as much as possible, keeping the original doors and window jams.

“The space is full of handmade items, warm tones and natural brick,” Varga said. “A lot of customers say that it’s a homey atmosphere.”

And for the final touch? A small stained glass window of a cardinal – a nod to St. Peter’s Elementary School, which had the bird as its mascot.

Mark R. Sullivan/MyCentralJersey Staff Photo

Mark R. Sullivan/MyCentralJersey Staff Photo

FRITZ’S 

Where: 115 Easton Ave., New Brunswick

Contact: 732-543-0202 or fritzsnb.com

Cuisine: Fast-casual and fresh lunch, dinner and bakery items

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