By Susan Baldani
Walk into Biagio’s Italian Bakery and Deli in Stirling, New Jersey, and you may just decide to have dessert before dinner. There is a display of desserts that will make anyone with a sweet tooth want to rejoice. Napoleons, cannoli, Italian cookies, brownies, cheesecakes and more are there to greet you. However, keep walking, for the dining room of their new restaurant, Trattoria Biagio, has even more temptations.
With its high-end modern furnishings and sparkling chandeliers, it is truly a special place to spend a night out. The menu is filled with a variety of mouth-watering dishes, starting with appetizers such as Clams in a White Wine sauce and Mussels in Red Sauce. Their entrées, including my favorite, Chicken Francese, literally melts in your mouth. Other traditional Italian favorites, including Lasagna, Rigatoni Bolognese, Penne con Vodka, along with Pork Chop Giambotta, Ossobuco di Maiale, Black Sea Bass Del Giorno, and a Zucchini Parmigiana with Penne Marinara, are on the menu. Since the restaurant focuses on seasonal ingredients so that everything is fresh and flavorful, dishes may change depending on the time of year.
The owner and Executive chef, Biagio Iuliano, is living his American dream. Growing up in Italy, his love of cooking was fostered by his mother who encouraged him to help in the preparation of the family meals, which were often elaborate and contained multiple courses. After training in Salerno to be a baker and pastry chef, and attending IPSAR, where he studied courses in culinary arts, hotel and restaurant services, Biagio immigrated to the United States in 1996.
For many years, Biagio worked for various restaurants in the Morris and Union County areas, and even appeared beside Emeril Lagassi on the Food Network. Since his specialty is bread making, he decided to start his own bread business in 2003. “Unfortunately, people don’t know what good bread is, they are used to the supermarket stuff, which does not even compare with the type of product I put out.” he said.
His wholesale bakery in Millington, NJ supplied bread daily for area restaurants and delis. In 2010, he opened Biagio’s Italian Bakery and Deli in Stirling, where he creates his wonderful pastries and lunch offerings, and then in 2013, recognizing the need for southern Italian cuisine in the community, he expanded to include a dinner menu. With long lines of customers outside the door, in 2017 he expanded again and opened Trattoria Biagio, an upscale BYOB restaurant, right next door.
With his wife Carmela at his side, diners feel like part of the family. The couple often stops by tables to not only check how your meal is, but also to just chat and get to know you. Since it takes a team to run a successful restaurant, in addition to Carmela and Biagio, right there by his side is his highly experienced sous chef Raphael Armenti, who has worked in some of New York’s finer restaurants. Their daughter, Rikki Arale, the General Manager, helps keep everything running smoothly.
Biagio’s dream of coming to American and being a successful restaurant owner has indeed come true. And he still finds time to devote to beekeeping, and even sells his local farmed honey in the store.
And remember those desserts I mentioned? Whether ordering in or taking out, I can never leave without at least one of their Napoleons. And the cakes and bread! If something you want isn’t there, just order it and they’ll have it ready for you when you need it. Or stop in for breakfast for a Taylor Ham and Cheese, or for lunch to pick up one of their amazing sandwiches or salads. Planning a party? Ask for their catering menu. Whatever time of the day or night, and whichever part of the establishment you choose to visit, you won’t be disappointed. Molto delizioso!
Biagio’s Deli and Bakery is located at 239 Main Ave., Stirling, NJ and is open Tuesday 8:00-6:00, Wednesday-Friday 8:00-9:00, Saturday 7:30-9:00 and Sunday 7:30-1:30. Trattoria Biagio, right next door, is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:00-9:00. For more information or reservations, please call (908) 350-8064 or go to www.biagiosbakery.com