by Mike Fitzsimmons, Taste of Westwood
For John and Alissa Vitale, it all comes down to family. It began with growing up in a family that supported each other, spent time together, and encouraged selflessness. Of course, spending time with family and friends goes hand-in-hand with food. The Vitales, together with Joe and Cheryl Napoletano, have brought new life to the food scene in Westwood.
Five years ago, Sogno Coffeehouse became a dream come true and since then the Vitales have added Caffe Anello and Johnny‘s Italian Market to their family of businesses. We spoke with the Vitales about what makes them unique.
TOW: You have renovated three spaces since you opened. Has that led to more efficiency for you and your customers?
Alissa: Our renovations have streamlined our business. By opening Johnny’s and bringing the crepe and coffee business together, it has allowed our family to be in one place and it provides a one stop shop for all our customers’ needs.
TOW: Are there more renovations in the works?
John: Yes, we plan to expand seating for Caffe Anello as we are currently turning away more customers than we’d like.
TOW: Speaking of dinner, last year you offered a dinner for 8, served in your home as a silent auction grand prize at Taste of Westwood. How did that go?
John: It was fun. The town council had the winning bid so Mayor John Birkner and I cooked for the council at Caffe Anello. We will offer it again this year and I already know the bidding will be fierce.
TOW: You and Alissa do a lot for that causes that are dear to you. Tell us about Sunset Vista.
John: Sunset Vista is an all-natural, pesticide-free, family-owned Tuscan farm in rural Sussex County. Linda Grinthal (formerly Puntasecca, of Sicilian descent) and her husband Andrew, supply seasonal fresh produce to Caffe Anello. The farm has fig trees, sunflowers and grapevines, and they crush and bottle our sauce from their marvelous tomatoes.
This is our fifth year doing a benefit for the Sunset Vista Community Garden and Learning Center in Andover. We have assisted in raising funds for a handicap ramp and irrigation systems at the farm. Our Tuscan Farm Sunset dinner always sells out. We serve 80 guests a farm-fresh four-course Italian dinner.
By Mike Fitzsimmons, Taste of Westwood
Conrad’s Confectionery is the longest running business in Westwood, New Jersey at 89 years young. Thanks to a recent renovation, stepping into the shop is like stepping back in time to the 1930’s. We spoke with owner JJ Krachtus about his business and the three generations of his family who have served the community.
Taste of Westwood (TOW): How long has Conrad's been in business? Are you the oldest running business in town?
JJ: Conrad’s was started by Fred Conrad in 1928. He stayed in Oradell, New Jersey during the Depression years, and then, when he was financially able to do so, moved to Westwood in 1935. At the time there were nine soda fountains in Westwood serving ice cream sodas and sundaes. Every drug and stationery store had a fountain where soda jerks made egg creams and malteds. After the movies, everyone headed to a soda fountain to share an ice cream soda or dip into a sundae.
Conrad combined the soda fountain model with his homemade candy business and quickly became a Westwood tradition. School children stopped by for an ice cream cone on the way home from school, and young couples on a date would share a booth in the back. Conrad’s chocolate confections became a staple in many a household’s holiday traditions.
TOW: You recently underwent a renovation yet everyone thinks of it as an old fashioned ice cream parlor. What hasn't changed and what has?
JJ: The mirrors behind the counter and a couple of milkshake machines are original. There have been at least four remodels with the last looking more 50’s and 60’s Formica. We wanted a 20’s and 30’s look and everyone has responded positively to the work we did.
TOW: You have started “retro nights” offering a free ice cream to anyone who comes dressed in clothes of the era. How much fun is that?
JJ: Lots of fun! We had live music this past Tuesday and plan another 60’s night August 1st. Follow our Facebook page to see highlights and check out our video!
JJ: Our walk up order window is open until 11 PM from Memorial Day to Labor Day and creates a lot of foot traffic during the summer months.
TOW: For all this retro feel, you surprisingly sell chocolate online. Do you ship year round?
JJ: We make chocolate year round but we only ship between Halloween and Mother’s Day. We avoid shipping during hot weather. At the opposite end, our ice cream service starts a month after Easter and goes into the fall.
TOW: What will you bring to Taste of Westwood this year?
JJ: We will bring our nonpareils in the fall as everyone starts to think about chocolate then.
TOW: Conrad’s has been a supporter of this event from the beginning nine years ago. What do you like about Taste of Westwood?
JJ: It’s the same as everything I like about my business -- meeting people, having a mutual relationship, growing that relationship and sharing a love for our community.
TOW: We saved the toughest question for last, what is your favorite candy and favorite ice cream flavor?
JJ: Lately I like the dark chocolate butternut crunch and mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I hesitate to pick favorites, as I like them all, and I don’t want the other candies or ice creams to get jealous.
Sink your teeth into Conrad's chocolates at the Taste of Westwood! Tickets are on sale now!
Taste of Westwood
Westwood's finest restaurants present their signature dishes.