Union City is hosting the second annual Taste of Union City at the Jose Marti Middle School, 1800 Summit Ave., on Sunday, April 29, from noon to 3 p.m. - and it's free.
Guests can sample a multitude of international cuisine from classic Italian to authentic Cuban and Latin American infusions.
Sponsored by the city's Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) in collaboration with Mayor Brian Stack and the Board of Commissioners, A Taste of Union City features 15 restaurants including new ventures such as Criollo Restaurant to longstanding staples of the community such as Casa Di Napoli Ristoranti.
"This was an initiative by the UEZ to promote the city of Union City," said Juan Carlos Rojas, UEZ member. "It showcases the different types of cuisine available here in Union City as well as the diversity of the community. You can get food from all over the world here."
Approximately 500 people attended last year's event, and they expect an even larger crowd this year.
However, if you would like more than just a taste, stop on by some of the restaurants.
Classic Italian food
A long time favorite in the community, Casa Di Napoli Ristoranti will bring many of their traditional favorites including their renowned shrimp with rigatoni in a rich and creamy penne vodka sauce that melts on the tongue.
"My father always said if you do business in a town, it's always best to give back to the community in anyway you can," said Stephen Lancellotti, whose father Joseph is the head chef and owner of the family run business.
Joseph Lancellotti worked as a chef at the now defunct Jewel's Restaurant in Jersey City before going into business for himself in 1981.
"My father learned to cook from his mom," said Lancellotti. "My father is really hands on and is back there everyday cooking. He is tireless."
Standard favorites at Casa Di Napoli include their parmesan dishes of veal, chicken or eggplant; a variety of seafood dishes; chicken Francese with ravioli; as well as dishes featuring their signature vodka sauce.
"We make simple delicious food with consistent quality," said Lancellotti. "Last year we brought too much of a variety [to Taste of Union City], so we're trying to simplify it a little. But we are bringing the penne vodka."
Casa Di Napoli is located at 703 32nd St. The restaurant is a cash only establishment with a Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) license.
A fusion of Latin cuisine
Criollo Restaurant, which opened last January, will feature traditional dishes at a Taste of Union City as well as inspired fusions of food from Latin America and Caribbean countries.
"We do Cuban and international Hispanic food; it's criollo food," said Manuel Cortina, co-owner of Criollo with his wife Lilian Garcia. "We buy everything fresh and [make] everything here on the premises."
Cortina will showcase the wonderful diversity of criollo cuisine with samplings of some of his most popular dishes, including: lenguado (any flat fish) with shrimp, churrasco (skirt steak), and a variety of chimichurris (sauce and marinade) alongside a Cuban standard favorite, mariquitas (toasted plantain chips). There will also be a variety of pastries.
Even the staff at Criollo is as diverse as the menu with members hailing from several Latin American countries, and even a little Italian in the mix.
"We are from different areas and everyone brings a little flavor to the place," said Cortina, who chose the name Criollo to signify the diversity of the establishment.
Criollo is a designation typically given to individuals whose heritage derives from other countries than their place of birth.
Criollo Restaurant is located at 4805 Broadway. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday and can cater private dinners and parties. Dishes range in prices from $7 to the more expensive dishes such as filet mignon. The restaurant is also BYOB.
With traditional cafeteria favorites to perfectly seasoned entrees, Pan Con Todo has a festive air that makes one feel like they are in old Havana.
Surrounded by images of the lush tropics from palm trees to postcard prints, Pan Con Todo customers are immersed in the culture and flavors of Cuba.
"I want people to feel like they are walking into old Cuba," said Daniel Marrero, owner.
They serve authentic favorites such as a variety of empanadas (stuffed pastry) and croquetas (croquets) to rabo encendido (stewed oxtail).
"It's authentic Cuban food," said Marrero. "I keep all of the spices and ingredients consistent. I give quality at decent prices."
Marrero first opened up Pan Con Todo four years ago as a little sandwich shop on Bergenline Avenue, and gradually started to include entree dishes.
"I went up to two plates a day and now it's a full blown restaurant with every type of Cuban dish you can think of," said Marrero.
The house drink ($1.50) comes in six different varieties and includes blends of iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch and Tang.
This is Pan Con Todo's second time at Taste of Union City.
"I'm setting up a variety of appetizers to desserts, and entrees, so people can get a taste of real Cuban food," said Marrero.
Pan Con Todo is located at 4607 Bergenline Ave., and is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Italian favorites on the go
Another Bergenline Avenue landmark, making its second appearance at the Taste of Union City is Termini Pizzeria and Ristoranti, which has been feeding the local Union City community since the 1970s.
"It's a good way to give back to the community," said Shane Phillipy, partner.
Termini Pizzeria and Ristoranti is run by brothers Shane and Kyle Phillipy, and Gino Ranaudo. The trio also runs Sal's Pizzeria in West New York.
"We bought it about nine years ago, but everything has stayed the same," said Phillipy.
Of course, Termini's offers more than just pizza. Among their customer favorites are typical Italian dishes such as spinach salad with mozzarella and grilled chicken, seasoned chicken dishes, baked ziti and lasagna.
"Last year we brought the spinach salad, rice balls, and focaccia sandwiches with eggplant, and grilled chicken," said Phillipy. "We also brought pizza and chicken marsala."
Termini's has been a favorite lunchtime spot for local professionals and politicians, as well as catering favorites for pharmaceutical companies. They can cater parties from 10 to 500 people.
"We try to do what we can for the community," said Phillipy.
Termini Pizzeria is located at 4107 Bergenline Ave. Comments on this piece can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sidebar A Taste of Union City
Don't forget to bring your appetite!
Casa Di Napoli Ristoranti
703 32nd St., (201) 867-1934
4900 Bergenline Ave., (201) 863-0345
4805 Broadway, (201) 865-1400/1900
Delicias Peruanas Restaurant
403 43rd St., (201) 330-9010
704 New York Ave., (201) 864-7669
La Bella Salumeria
2308 Bergenline Ave., (201) 867-3065
Las Brisas Café
4900 Hudson Ave., (201) 866-4177
La Cachita Restaurant
4546 Bergenline Ave., (201) 223-0326
Noches de Colombia
4329 Bergenline Ave., (201) 863-3165
Pan Con Todo
4607 Bergenline Ave., (201) 902-0048
Park Avenue Bar and Grill
3417 Park Ave., (201) 617-7274
Pollos a La Brasa Mario
4215 Bergenline Ave., (201) 601-2533
Termini Pizzeria & Ristoranti
4107 Bergenline Ave., (201) 866-7336
4116 Bergenline Ave., (201) 863-3058