When are those new restaurants going to open in the Village Shopping Center? It's a question being heard over town.
This spring, Angelo's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria and Muscle Maker Grill are planning to debut in the borough.
Angelo's will be moving into the storefront most recently occupied by Pioneer Pizza, where renovations are underway for the new eatery, and the owner plans to open the doors of his third restaurant in April.
Angelo Gencarelli Jr. previously owned and operated Italian restaurants in Nutley and Clifton, which he has sold. His newest venture, which will have a dining room and table service after 4 p.m., will feature his menu of 40 pizzas and other Italian recipes.
“I love what I do, and it comes through in my work,” the Nutley resident said.
Gencarelli has quickly grown fond of New Providence and is moving to the area next month.
“I liked it from the start,” he said. “I like everything about it. It has a quiet town feel about it. It’s like a hidden secret.”
Right next door to the new pizzeria will be a new Muscle Maker Grill, the New Jersey-based franchise chain that is quickly expanding on the East and West coasts. It will start offering its menu in the old Quiznos storefront in late April or early May.
Valerie and Jeff Wass of Mountainside, the franchisees for the New Providence store, are in the process of securing the necessary municipal permits to begin construction on the interior of the storefront, which is now just a hollow shell.
The two owners are both long-time professionals in the cosmetics industry, who met while working together at Avon. Valerie is spearheading the daily tasks of getting the business up and running.
Back in the 1990s, Muscle Maker Grill founder Rod Silva was deep into his exercise, nutrition and diet routine, and looking for a place to eat after his workouts. He came up with the idea for what he brands as a more healthy alternative to fast food. The original Muscle Maker Grill opened in Colonia in 1995.
The casual dining restaurant’s menu consists of wraps, salads, pasta, chicken, shakes and vegetarian items, among other selections.
“The country’s ready for it. People want to live longer, feel better, eat smarter,” Silva told Patch. “In New Providence, we think the demographic and the people are a perfect fit for what we do.”
Muscle Maker Grill sold its first franchise in 2007 and now has more than 30 locations open and scores more in development.
Meanwhile, the Village Shopping Center landed many new merchants in the past year as the center works to return to its former glory after years of decline. The main building has been renovated and a new “outbuilding” was added that houses Braunschweiger Jewelers and , which joined the lineup in .
In September, the A&P Fresh supermarket replaced the old Acme, while Michael Mascarenhas opened his Allstate Insurance agency in the center late last year.
The center comeback has not been without controversy. The main parking lot has received , while others find the amount of spaces available to be adequate.
In November, Bill Woods, chief operating officer of Hazelwood Management Inc., which runs the Village Shopping Center for owner Larry Paragano, said Paragano was actively pursuing solutions to the traffic flow and safety problems.
"We're going to tweak the flow of traffic from in front of the Investors Bank down through the cleaners. We're going to make that one way. We're going to put up a stop sign to impede some of the traffic," Woods told Patch in November. "The actual traffic flow is now going to be refined. We didn't know what it was going to be until the A&P was open. We now see how the traffic is flowing. It's still a work in progress."
Woods could not be reached for further comment for this article.