5 throwback things to do in Central Jersey

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/18/18

It’s officially 2018, and with the new year, many of us are asking ourselves, “Where did the time go?”

You’re not alone. These days, it seems like our favorite “retro” activities — playing old arcade games, hanging out at the local pool hall and roller skating to our favorite tunes — are becoming cool again.

If you’re finding yourself feeling nostalgic about the past, then check out some of these retro — and most importantly, indoor — activities that you can do throughout Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties.

Gannett File Photo


‘Old World’ Belgian chocolate at Chocodiem in Clinton

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we’ve all got chocolate on the brain.

However, Jean-Paul Hepp, founder and co-owner of Chocodiem, and Katherine MacDonnell, creative director of the Belgium artisan chocolate local chain, are thinking fine chocolates every day of the year.

The company’s high-end “Old World” Belgian chocolates are hand-made from locally sourced, fresh ingredients from farms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey when possible.

With items such as red wine truffles using Tolino Vineyards cabernet sauvignon ($42 for 12), craft beer truffles infused with cacao porter from Shawnee Brewery ($2.40 per piece) and espresso truffles made with Fieldstone’s Kickin Goat espresso ($2.20 per piece), it’s impossible not to taste the difference.

Courtesy of Chocodiem


Rahway Restaurant Week brings ‘dinner and a show’ to city

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/15/18

As the home of the Union County Performing Arts Center, art galleries, dance studios and cultural programs, Rahway has become known as the Central Jersey hub of the arts, bringing in those with a creative spirit from all over the state.

However, no show is complete without a top-notch meal, and with Rahway Restaurant Week coming for the third year Monday, Jan. 22, to Friday, Jan. 26, when about 20 restaurants will offer a prix fixe menu of $40 or less, visitors will be able to sample meals at a bargain price.

“Not only do we have a thriving arts district, we also have amazing restaurants with great walkability from one another,” said Ann Marie Williams, managing director of the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership and Rahway resident for about 13 years. “People come for the destination and the restaurants have been a huge part of that. They want dinner and a show.”

Courtesy of Cubanu Restaurant


5 places to go ice skating in Central Jersey

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/11/18

After a stint of warm weather at the season’s start, one thing is for certain — winter is here.

However, there are tons of fun things to do in the winter that don’t involve camping out on the couch, such as ice skating, where you’re sure to break a sweat so quick you’ll forget about that temperature in no time.

Ready to get in the winter spirit and check out some ice skating rinks — indoor and outdoor — through Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties? Visit the following rinks.

Courtesy of Protec Ponds Ice Center


5 Central Jersey gyms to kick-start New Year’s resolution

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/8/18

Remember that time you said that this was the year you were going to get in shape, lose a few pounds and get cracking at the gym? Well guess what … it’s officially 2018 and it’s time to strap on your sneakers.

If drudging away on a treadmill has you wanting to head to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts, no need to worry — there are tons of places in Central Jersey where you can get in a workout that won’t only burn off those holiday calories but will also be fun. Read on to find out where to get your 2018 New Year’s resolution on track, in the first installment of Central Jersey Go.

Courtesy of Studio Barre Somerville


Two Sevens of Princeton offers shareable Latin eats in casual digs

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/8/18

The holidays may be over, but the spirit of giving and sharing is alive and well in Princeton with the addition of Two Sevens, a lively Latin eatery with a focus on sharing plates in an unpretentious and playful atmosphere, at 277 Witherspoon St.

The Fenwick Hospitality Group restaurant, which also operates Agricola, Cargot Brasserie and Dinky Bar, opened its doors Dec. 20 with a menu of dishes such as octopus tostada ($10), short ribs with fresh tortillas, rice and beans ($25), arepas with braised chicken, black beans and queso fresco ($9) and housemade tacos with meats such as marinated pork shoulder, fried oyster mushrooms and crispy white fish ($4 to $4.50).

Photo Courtesy of Two Sevens


Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick channels grandma’s Italian cooking

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/2/18

There’s a good chance that Catherine Lombardi, an upscale restaurant staple of New Brunswick nestled next to Stage Left, brings back some homey and tasty memories for Italian-American New Jerseyans.

Outfitted with warm red walls, cozy fireplaces, real family photos, couch seating and even a gaudy lamp in an intimate space, the 11-year-old restaurant — which can seat 100 people can serves about 650 people a week — may look a lot like your grandmother’s living room.

That’s because the eatery, which boasts comfort dishes such as veal parmigiana, wild boar and ricotta ravioli and long fusilli with walnut basil pesto cream, is channeled straight from the Brooklyn home of co-owner Mark Pascal’s grandmother, Catherine Lombardi. The family matriarch was known for her Neapolitan-style home cooking and coveted Sunday dinners.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Lombardi


RedBrick Pizza debuts in North Brunswick

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/2/18

NORTH BRUNSWICK – Got a nasty pizza addiction that you just can’t kick?

Thanks to RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Café, known for its fire-roasted gourmet pizza with hand-crafted organic dough made fresh daily, organic red sauce and premium toppings, you can feel a little less guilty the next time you dig into a slice — or five.

The chain’s newest location as of Dec. 18 at 754 Shoppes Blvd., North Brunswick — and first and only New Jersey location — is operated by Shivam J. Patel & Saad K. Farooq, South Brunswick residents and Rutgers graduates who were looking for a healthy concept to bring to their hometown.

~Courtesy of RedBrick Pizza


Drone Zone NJ makes futuristic drone flying a reality

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/16/17

Back when we used to dream about life in the future, we all thought we would be cruising in flying cars, living in space and flying our drones.

Now it’s nearly 2018, and yes, you can fly a drone — which is made easier thanks to Drone Zone NJ in Flemington, set to officially open on Jan. 15 in Liberty Village.

“People love to challenge themselves with speed, flips and turning with our drones,” said borough resident Diane Booher, the founder of Drone Zone N.J. “It’s a fun, lighthearted activity that people of all ages can enjoy.”

Courtesy of Drone Zone NJ


Monroe man creates 200-building mini Christmas village

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/20/17

To get in the Christmas spirit, many Central Jerseyans head to some of the region’s most festive towns, such as Flemington, Clinton and Somerville.

John DiTirro of Monroe just walks to his basement.

For the last 15 years, he has been creating an elaborate Christmas village adorned with over 200 lighted buildings and 500 accessories.

Photo by John DiTirro