Shrewsbury BFFs at Balderose Fine Foods
The Fair Haven gourmet prepared foods eatery is owned by Shrewsbury residents
"We are blessed to be in this little spot in Fair Haven," said Bill Dodge, a Shrewsbury councilman and co-owner of Balderose Fine Foods, as the last coat of paint was rolled onto the walls of the space full of fond memory history as a lunch spot for school kids.
Way back in the day, the spot at the corner of Fair Haven and River roads used to be Esther's, the The Corner Room, and, most recently, Gourmet Picnic. It's remembered vividly as a place where you could buy a burger and a cherry coke or a grilled cheese and a shake for a buck and have a little left over for the candy counter.
And, Esther didn't put up with shenanigans at lunchtime, either. Kids had their "gourmet" treat for lunch with a side of sound advice in good behavior.
And it will still cater to kids (and their parents), just not in quite the same way. "We had no idea how important this little intersection is," said co-owner Bill Dodge, noting how moms who drop off the kids at nearby Viola L. Sickles School and pick up coffee and a little something for breakfast are probably looking for a quality prepped dinner at the end of the day.
"We'll be offering lunches for the kids to either be dropped off or picked up," he said, noting, though, that it won't really be a sit-in kind of place, like the others have been. In the warmer months there are plans to have tables outside and perhaps a stand-only, Manhattan diner-style bar where people can rest a cup of coffee and sandwich for a few minutes.
This will not be your average sandwich shop or corner cafe — certainly not that there's anything wrong with that. Balderose will bring something unique to the corner stop.
"We plan on being in a bit of a different spot than the other eateries in the area — which are all quality, of course," Dodge said. "We plan on providing more finished prepared gourmet meals and catering — ready to put on the table, presentation and all. We'll also be serving high quality breakfasts and lunches, all signature dishes created by the chef and owner Anthony Balderose."
Balderose is "the guy," Dodge said — an "amazingly talented chef" who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked as executive chef at Balducci's Italian gourmet store in Manhattan as well as other top-rated restaurants.
"My dream is to bring all of my experience and enthusiasm about cooking to Monmouth County," Balderose said in his bio narrative on the Balderose Web site. "My goal has always been to establish a top rated retail market, specializing in prepared foods as well as catering. I am so excited do this here – the place I call home. The home I share with family and friends."
And that wish of Balerose's will become a reality in Fair Haven any day now. Dodge said that the place should be set to open anywhere from a week from now to very early April. "This is what Anthony wanted to do and you will be amazed by what you see and eat from here," he added.
Dodge said all the owners had anticipated opening up sooner, but, he said, "We just had a few things to take care of that surprised us, such as repairs that we initially didn't see."
While Anthony Balderose is the chef and owner/operator of the eatery, his wife, Judy is also a parter as are Dodge and his wife Kathy and Marc and Laura Feaster, of Shrewsbury. Dodge is a councilman.
"We're really looking forward to being a part of the Fair Haven community," Dodge said.