By Steve Sears
For Sergio Sciancalepore, it’s about longevity, people, and Denville.
“I’ve been working in Denville for 20 years; it’s been my home,” he says. “It’s like one big family, we all know each other, and that’s what makes Denville so great. It’s still very much a community.”
Sciancalepore is owner of Sergio & Co. Italian Specialties (28 Broadway, Denville, www.sergioandco.com, 973-627-1043), his gourmet Italian deli and catering store, which is entering its third decade, and The Pasta Shop (13 First Avenue, www.thepastashopdenville.com, 973-253-4143), the nifty, open kitchen, 36-seat eatery featuring made-from-scratch specialties and wood-fired Italian American classic dishes which just celebrated its second anniversary.
Sciancalepore co-owns the latter with Tommy Pollio, whom he speaks of fondly. “Tommy started to work with me when he was a young kid, about 14 or 15 years old, and then the past 15 or so years went out and has been working really hard to become a great chef and a great businessman. He came back into my life, and he showed me a few things, taught me a lot, and said, ‘All I ask in return is that someday we do something together.’ And that’s how The Pasta Shop idea came up, and I saw his talent, and I said, ‘Absolutely. This is something we have to do.’”
Both Sergio & Co. and The Pasta Shop benefit from being in Denville. Yes, it’s the warmth and cooperation amongst all in the community, but it’s also about location. Routes 10, 46, 53, 80, 202, and 287 are a vehicles “jog” away. That means as word spreads (and it has) about the worth of both locations, clientele find the most convenient path to trek to this area of Morris County. “The cool thing? Tommy grew up in Denville,” says Sciancalepore, who lives in Randolph. “Denville is definitely the only places I can ever see myself. It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. We love the people and I’m very grateful.”
Sergio and Co., per Sciancalepore, is an evolution. “It’s taken 20 years to get ‘here;’ it wasn’t like that since day one. You just get better and better every year, and The Pasta Shop – the same thing – it just keeps getting better and better. But with Tommy, it was 15 years of hard work to be able to create something like that. He had a lot of knowledge going in.” Sciancalepore also mentions that Gina D’Alessandro, who started working at Sergio & Co. when she was 14, is now his Catering Manager.
For Sergio & Co. and The Pasta Shop, used are the finest ingredients, but also time is employed to make sure each and every item is superb. There’s no haste here; rather patience and proper food prep. “It’s just very simple,” Sciancalepore says. “It’s how you treat it. With the love, you put the time in, and it’s that slow cooking that we do, even at The Pasta Shop, that makes it so good. We put the time in that most people don’t to get those flavors to do what’s necessary to bring out the best in the product.” Encouraged at the restaurant is putting a fork into and savoring two of Chef Tommy’s dishes, Pappardelle Bolognese or Cauliflower Parmigiana.
Also, although The Pasta Shop is a BYOB, Old York Cellars of Ringoes, New Jersey – due to the eatery’s popularity – allows The Pasta Shop to feature their wine by the bottle. “And that’s a great compliment for what we do,” says Sciancalepore.
Ownership, in addition to fine cuisine, perhaps most importantly values great customer service as part of a hospitality operation. “That’s a great point,” Sciancalepore exclaims when told his Sergio & Co. team is ultra-courteous when someone visits. “That’s what makes us so strong. Not only do we want to provide something great in our food, but we also have to do outstanding personal service as well along with fair pricing. It just makes it a great experience from the start to the finish. You walk in the door, you get the ‘hello,’ you get the greeting, you get the choice of what foods you need, ‘goodbye and thank you,’ and you go home and finish your experience by eating something good. With The Pasta Shop, it’s the same thing. You’re going to be treated like you’re the only person in the restaurant. Sit down and enjoy your meal from the start to the finish. You can’t beat it.”
“That’s what I’m really proud of.”
Sergio & Co. is open Tuesday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and is closed Sunday (except for catering upon request only) and Monday. The Pasta Shop is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sundays for private functions only, and is closed Monday.