Cusumano added some spark to its business last spring when husband-and-wife duo Nina and T.J. Cusumano brought an outdoor barbecue into the mix.
The al fresco dining experience that started last year at the Old Forge eatery gives patrons a chance to dig into barbecue and listen to music on Sunday afternoons only. The next barbecue event is set for Sunday, Aug. 1, according to Cusumano’s Facebook page. During the rest of the week, guests can eat in the two dining rooms on the main level or in a special area in the eatery’s basement dubbed the Cellar Bar. No matter where they go, though, they can enjoy Cusumano’s Italian dishes.
Chef’s Table recently chatted with T.J. Cusumano, who has owned and operated the restaurant at 432 S. Main St. for several years.
Q: When did you open?
A: We opened our restaurant in the winter of 2013, but “the Pit” came about during the early spring of 2020 in the height of the pandemic.
Q: What is the history of the Pit?
A: The Pit was born out of a love for cooking over a wood fire. We looked at the space in the very back of our property and decided that it would make the perfect setting for an outdoor barbecue. When COVID-19 struck, the idea of cooking and eating outside became the safest thing to do, so we started smoking ribs and cooking just about a fire pit built in the ground. Now, a year and a pandemic later, we expanded our ability to cook and serve guests with an outdoor bar, cooking and seating area.
Q: What kind of food do you serve?
A: We serve classic American barbecue with an Italian twist, and our main restaurant serves classic Italian dishes with a modern twist. We offer lots of gluten-free items, like our Grilled Shrimp Risotto, Grilled Chicken with Roasted Peppers and Balsamic, and much more. For vegans and vegetarians, we can easily modify dishes to be agreeable.
Q: What are your most-ordered menu items?
A: Our most popular (Pit) items are: Pork Spare Ribs, Half Roasted Chickens, Homemade Sausage and Peppers, and Italian Red Potato Salad. In the main restaurant, our most popular dish by far is the Papardalle with Wild Boar Ragu.
Q: How did your menu come to be?
A: Our menu came to be after many sleepless nights of poring over hundreds of recipes from authorslike Marcella Hazan, Mary Ann Esposito and Lidia Bastianich, then making sure those recipes align with the countless family memories of cooking with my grandmothers, parents and our traditions around the table.
Q: Describe the atmosphere?
A: Our atmosphere is fun, a little loud (on the weekends). (It’s) a fast-paced atmosphere filled with people in all four of our dining spaces.
Q: What type of seating do you offer?
A: We offer seating in two indoor dining spaces at the Main Street level. In our basement is what we call the Cellar Bar, and in the back of our parking lot we have the Pit, where we serve wood-fired and smoked American barbecue. (We have) booths, bar-height tables, regular tables and bar stools.
Q: Do you offer catering, event space, etc.?
A: We do offer catering for parties of 25 or more in any one of the rooms of the restaurant. We specialize in rehearsal dinners, bridal and baby showers, baptisms, luncheons and funeral breakfasts.
Q: Are you offering delivery, takeout or curbside pickup?
Q: Where do you see the restaurant headed?
A: In the future, we hope to grow our loyal customer base because serving people is what we truly love. If we can continue to grow better at doing that, the future will always be bright.
Laura Rysz is the features copy editor and calendar editor at The Times-Tribune and runs the Talk of the Times column, which focuses on local fundraisers and other events. She also writes Chef’s Table that profiles restaurants around the region. Additionally, Laura curates events online on AccessNEPA.com. Laura is involved in the special Mother’s Day edition and curates occasional features Marry Memories and Times Travelers. She is a graduate of Haddonfield Memorial High School, New Jersey, and earned an English professional writing degree with a minor in mass communications from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre. She also earned a certificate in Social Media Marketing from Rutgers Business School. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5228.