Franco Ammirati hopes to bring the best of European cafes to a corner shop in downtown Millburn.
Cafe Luna offers everything a European cafe would offer, except alcohol, the Springfield resident said. The small cafe at the corner of Main and Essex streets offers sandwiches, salads and fresh-made Italian pastry. But it's the gelato and sorbeto Ammirati is most proud. They're made by hand at Cafe Luna.
Some of the food on the menu includes an Italian cheese plate, a Caprese salad and Cesear salad. One of the more popular sandwiches contains mozzarella, proscuitto, tomato and basil. The dessert menu includes tiramisu and tortino, a warm chocolate cake with chocolate and vanilla gelato.
"I want to give people the best food, the best gelato," he said.
Ammirati has a background in cooking that spans generations. His father was one of the best chefs in his home country of Italy. Ammirati studied architecture in school, but he would go with his father and studied pastry. He ended up following in his footsteps.
When he was 24 years old he opened his first restaurant in New York on 2nd Avenue in 1984. He's owned and ran a number of restaurants in New York City, but moved to upstate New York to run restaurants there before moving to Tel Aviv with his wife, Sharon, who is from Israel. Their son was born there. They then moved back to Italy where he ran bed and breakfasts.
Recently they moved back to the New York City area, but Ammirati and his family couldn't afford to live in the city again. They chose Springfield, and Ammirati commuted to New York for work.
But he wanted to do something local, and the space at the corner of Main and Essex street became available. It's the spot where Cold Stone was once located. He wanted a restaurant with a full kitchen, which he does not have at Cafe Luna, but he is happy with the cafe.
By being in downtown Millburn, he's close to home and his family. "I took this space because it's next to home," he said. "My wife comes and helps me at lunch. I never got to see (my family) when I was going into the city."
The cafe has a counter area with the gelato/sorbeto case on one end and a number of tables. There is a cabinet area behind the counter. All of the cabinets, shelves, tables and chairs were built by Ammirati, something he has done in many of his restaurants.
Business has been slow thus far for Cafe Luna, but the people who come do some back, Ammirati said. They're also telling people and spreading the word about the cafe.
And there are plans for the future. Ammirati said he wants to add a television to the dining area "so we can show soccer games." He also wants to promote dinner since lunch is the time most people come to Cafe Luna. He's thinking of introducing a prix fixe menu of salad, soup and pasta for $20.