Adding a dining room to Gencarelli's pizzeria was always part of the family's plan since the establishment was first opened in 1982 by Antonia and Carlo Gencarelli.
Now run and co-owned by their son, Guy Gencarelli, daughter, Julianna Coppola, and son-in-law, Michael Coppola, Gencarelli's has been able to bring the expanded restaurant plan to reality.
Gencarelli's, located at 1 Hook Mountain Road, in Pine Brook, expanded its space by about 2,000 square feet after taking over the deli next door and re-naming in Paesano's. Previously, seating was limited inside the pizza restaurant.
Paesano's continued to operate as a deli for years before its closing in February for the construction of the dining room. In March, the pizzeria was closed down as well and both were reopened as one restaurant in April.
While a sign for Paesano's still hangs above what used to be the deli, Guy Gencarelli said Gencarelli's is the name of the pizza parlor and dining room. The name is not the only thing the same with the expanded facility.
"We serve a shorter version of our actual menu [in the dining room]," Gencarelli said.
That menu includes traditional Italian specialties such as Chicken Parmigiana, Calamari Fra Diavolo and Veal Marsala. Lighter fare is also served, including specialty subs, appetizers and, of course, pizza.
Although this food is common in most Italian restaurants, Gencarelli said his is unique in its operational approach.
"We're a family-owned and operated business. We're here. This is our lives. Our livelihood is wrapped up in this business," he said.
Michael Coppola said the love and passion of the family is represented in
"Over the years, this place was known as a pizza place. We've expanded it to more of a dining facility," he said.
Gencarelli's has five employees working in the Pine Brook location, but the family also operates a second restaurant, Gencarelli's On the Lake, in the Packanack Lake area of Wayne. The Wayne restaurant, which has six employees, has been open for about seven years and Michael Coppola said the family was able to start there what they had planned for the expanded dining facility in the Pine Brook restaurant.
"It's quaint, little, very comfortable," he said about Gencarell's On the Lake.
He also said the Wayne restaurant provides a sort of escape for diners.
"It's like a nice little gem," he said. "It doen't feel like you're in northern New Jersey."
Gencarelli and the Coppolas are hoping to inspire the same type of feeling with the dining room at the Pine Brook restaurant. In the past six months since the expanded restaurant has been open, Gencarelli said they are already starting to see more customers and different faces from the ones he was used to seeing.
"We've seen more customers come in, more customers who haven't come to us before who had only heard about us," Gencarelli said.