Football hall of famer Dan Marino greeted a Bergen county crowd Monday night at a grand opening bash of the new Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza on Route 17N in Ramsey. Marino, a partner in the South-Florida based business that boasts thirty-plus restaurants up and down the East coast, said he was happy to bring “Italian soul food” to Northern New Jersey.
“I’ve been to a lot of different places in New Jersey, and though this area is new for me, we have good people behind this place and great food here,” Marino told Patch Monday night. The CBS Sports analyst started out as a customer of founder Anthony Bruno’s first restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
“I’ve known Dan since the late 80’s when he used to come to my restaurant," Bruno said. "Over the years, we became friends, and he actually wanted to have one of our restaurants in his hometown. So, he put up the money, and we eventually paid him back, and we’ve gone on from there." The duo has gone on to open about 30 more coal-oven pizza restaurants in Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and two others – in Edison and Clifton – in New Jersey. And the company has no plans of slowing down.
“Really, we have expanded throughout the bad economy, and we are going to continue to expand as much as we can,” Bruno, a Long Island native, said. “We always hope for a good economy, but it’s pizza. It’s something that people can come in and enjoy no matter what.” The restaurant’s website says it plans at least two more openings in the immediate future, including its first in Connecticut.
A crew from the original Florida restaurants comes to new locations to put local employees through a two to eight week training process. The goal, Bruno said, is to offer a consistent menu “that we are very proud of.”
“The food is what sets this place apart,” Marino added. “It really speaks for itself. Good food, and good people. It’s like our gift certificates, 10 percent of all of the gift certificates sold goes to the Dan Marino Foundation,” he said.
Friends and family members of the owners and employees of ACFP packed the new location Monday night, taking in the indoor-outdoor bar, big screen TVs, and Bruno family recipes.
"I think this is what the people want. There is a great atmosphere in here, indoor and outdoor dining, and the food is great. I think this is a really positive thing," Chip Gildea, an Upper Saddle River resident at the opening Monday, said.
The atmosphere is, of course, enhanced by sports games on the big screens and football memorabilia on the walls. Though surrounded by friends and family Monday night, Marino took time to tell Patch his prediction about the 2011-2012 NFL season.
“I think the Packers are going to go all the way this year. I thought their toughest challenge would be the Giants, and they played them good, but the Packers won and I think they can do it,” he said. Marino said he would not be surprised if the team won every game of the season, including the Super Bowl, matching the record held by his former team, the Miami Dolphins. “Though I wasn’t on the team then,” he said. “I’m not that old.”
Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, located at 984 Route 17N in Ramsey (in between The Vitamin Shoppe and Prestige Lexus) opens to the public Tuesday.