Acclaimed chef Anthony Bucco’s Felina in Ridgewood is leaving
- Bucco goes to the Channel Club Marina in Monmouth Beach
- Flavia Amaral of Let’s Meat Steakhouse in River Vale to take over at Felina
- Replace Amaral at Let’s Meat will be Carlos Valdez, the former culinary director of Rumba Cubana
Celebrity four-star chef Anthony Bucco is leaving Felina, Ridgewood’s award-winning contemporary Italian restaurant that he launched in 2019 as a partner of Landmark Hospitality. Its last day is October 10.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “The past two years have been stressful. I’m exhausted. I needed to move in another direction.”
His next move: Culinary Director of the Channel Club Marina in Monmouth Beach, overseeing three restaurants including Beach Tavern and Abbiocco. The marina is 10 minutes from his house in Matawan. “It’s not a sexy story,” he said. “There is no contentious separation. It was a personal decision to be closer to home. It is important to me.”
Flavia Amaral, executive chef of Let’s Meat Steakhouse in River Vale, is Felina’s new executive chef.
“I’m very, very happy,” said Amaral, a Hillsdale resident, who plans to move to Jersey City soon (“It’s more my style,” she said). “It’s a big job.”
Amaral said she plans to change the menu next week and offer “more family-friendly and rustic dishes, I’m not a foodie.” Nonetheless, Amaral has worked in some of the country’s most sought-after fine dining restaurants, including Restaurant Daniel, Le Bernardin, and Alain Ducasse’s Ardor, all in Manhattan. “I’m not frou-frou-frou,” she added.
Read more : Why Chef Anthony Bucco closed the Felina in Ridgewood during the COVID-19 pandemic
Amaral, who was born in Brazil and lived in Spain (she speaks Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English), said “there is no money in gastronomy”. She added that she will serve her fried cauliflower dish with honey mustard sauce and dried Turkish apricots. “I’m taking her with me,” she laughed.
Felina, which has been closed for a long time during the pandemic to only open four days a week – Thursday through Sunday (he recently added Wednesday) – also lost chopped champion Martyna Krowicka, who was Bucco’s co-chef . Born in Poland and a former student of the French Culinary Institute, Krowicka was recently promoted to executive chef by Bucco after having been the founding chef of Felina. She could not be reached for comment.
Bucco is one of New Jersey’s most acclaimed chefs. He received a four-star review in the New Jersey Monthly in 2012 for his cuisine at the Ryland Inn while serving as its executive chef (this was the magazine’s first four-star rating at the time in nearly a year. decade).
Bucco also received the highest New York Times rating (Excellent), the coveted Four Diamond Award from the AAA and four stars from the Star-Ledger for his work at Stage Left in New Brunswick, Uproot in Warren and the Ryland Inn at Whitehouse Station.
Bucco is well known for championing, training, promoting and supporting chefs. Among them: AJ Capella, who worked at Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, David Viana of Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge and Aisling Stevens at Restaurant Latour at Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg. At Felina, he often invited up-and-coming chefs to cook in order to introduce them to the foodie community of North Jersey. He is a member of the board of directors of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association and has served as an advisory member of the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce.
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The title of Bucco at Landmark Hospitality was Director of Business Development. Some of the restaurants the company owns include The Ryland Inn, Liberty House in Jersey City, and Stone House in Warren. There are plans to open a number of restaurants, including Ferry & Main in New Hope, Pa., And Terra e Mare in Jersey City.
He would joke that he wore a helmet more than a chef’s hat in recent years.
As for who took over the cooking of Let’s Meat, now that Amaral is gone? The answer is Carlos Valdez, the former culinary director of Rumba Cubana, a mini-chain of Cuban restaurants in North Jersey. He left, he said, “two days before” the opening of his agency in La Rochelle Park.
He worked at The Hill in Closter as a sous chef – “It wasn’t my cup of tea,” he said – and was quickly recruited to join Let’s Meat.
A graduate of Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts, Valdez ran the kitchens of The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Hackensack and Halcyon in Montclair. In 2015, he was named Ultimate Chef Bergen County. He also had his own restaurant, the Red Hen Bistro, a French-American café in Wood-Ridge.
“I’ll probably change the menu four more times,” he said. Adding, “I’m not trying to break the mold, I want to be able to make great food, great steaks.”
He also wants to offer dishes for those who don’t necessarily want a steak, “strengthening our seafood” and introducing vegetarian dishes and large Italian dishes including chicken parmigiana and Milanese veal. “I want the presentation to be great,” he said. “We already have some awesome sized steaks – 36 ounce T-bone and 48 ounce Tomahawk. I think that will be fun.”
Esther Davidowitz is the Food Editor for NorthJersey.com. To learn more about where to dine and drink, please sign up today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.