JAlthough they never met growing up, the owners of Fiorentini in Rutherford both hail from Florence, Italy. In fact, Antonio and Brenda De leso didn’t meet until they were both in New York. Now the couple are bringing a taste of their Rutherford, NJ roots with their new restaurant, Fiorentini. (The Italian word for citizens of Florence.)
The 1,800-square-foot Fiorentini can seat 49 diners indoors, though they plan to open an outdoor garden by summer. The restaurant emphasizes sustainability and Brenda knew exactly what she was looking for. “I wanted to create a warm, comfortable and elegant environment without being pretentious,” she says. “The restaurant is a reflection of who we are as people.”
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Fiorentini features lush vegetation made from natural moss to reflect the concept of sustainability. In fact, this greenery is just about everywhere, even in the toilet! “I wanted to create something that was visually appealing,” says Brenda. Plus, guests can watch the chefs in action via the open kitchen. “We wanted the kitchen to be transparent to customers and push employees to be clean and organized,” she adds.
An authentic Italian menu
The restaurant’s modest menu changes seasonally because “it’s based on what the earth gives us in each season,” says Brenda. Overall, she describes the food as Italian with a modern, global twist. “We wanted to stay authentic to our roots,” she also says. In other words, you will only find authentic Italian dishes such as Pappa al pomodoro at this family restaurant.
However, they prepare fresh ingredients every morning. To drive the point home, Fiorentini doesn’t even have a freezer. “We don’t store anything and have no leftovers,” says Brenda. If they have something left over at the end of the day, they donate it to locals in need. In particular, they receive deliveries twice a week from a farm that uses no chemicals. During this time, they only use wild caught fish. “It’s important to know where your food comes from,” says Brenda. “It’s our priority, and we wanted to share that at Fiorentini.”
Current menu favorites include the most requested item, the Mediterranean octopus entrée; as well as the wild halibut and tagliatelle starters. For dessert, they serve tiramisu with caramelized banana inside. “It kicks the banana,” says Brenda. They also serve bombolongcini toscani, a traditional Italian dessert consisting of small donuts to be dipped in cream. Click here to see the full menu.
About the owners
Antonio was fired from his role as executive chef at the Metropolitan Opera at the start of the COVID outbreak. Brenda, a producer and event planner for 15 years, was also fired. “Our restaurant was born out of tough times,” says Brenda. “We thought it was time to give it a shot.” The couple live in Cedar Grove, but chose Rutherford because it complements the Fiorentini concept perfectly.
Visit Fiorentini at 98 Park Ave in Rutherford. (Click here to see them on Google Maps.) Learn more: Click to visit their website | Follow them on Instagram | Click to call them.
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Yes, they take reservations through Resy.
Yes, they serve gluten free options.
Fiorentini offers vegetarian options, yes.
They don’t offer takeout, no.
They don’t offer delivery, no.
No, but they are BYOB.
No, but they can respond to requests.
All photos: © Fiorentini