From her Tiny Kitchen, Chef Carmela Suppa Serves Tasty, Traditional Italian Fare
Â By Sally Deering
Â Nestled among the storefronts on Avenue â€œCâ€ between 25th and 26th Streets in Bayonne is Carmelaâ€™s Piccola Cucina, a cozy little Italian restaurant that serves hearty, home-style dishes from Northern and Southern Italy.
In Italian, Carmela’s Piccola Cucina means â€œtiny kitchenâ€ but thatâ€™s the only thing small about the place. Owner and Chef Carmela Suppa cooks serves up hearty portions of homestyle dishes that are delicious and seasoned just right.
â€œYou know when you do something you enjoy, you donâ€™t think about anything else,â€ Suppa says, taking a break from her work at the stove. â€œEverything I make is cooked to order.â€
Â Carmela’s Piccola Cucinaâ€™s menu includes Antipasti like the tasty Calamari served tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside and with a choice of mild or hot sauce; Caprese Stacks, which is Roasted Eggplant, Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes; Stuffed Mushrooms with Roasted Peppers; and Antipasto Rustico, a Selection of Dry Meats and Sharp Provolone cheese. ($6.50-$8.95)
Soups include Chicken and Minestrone and daily soup specials like Potato-Leek; and Lentil. ($350-$4.95) Pasta dishes include Pasta with Ham & Mushrooms; and Pasta al Filetto di Pomodoro. ($10.95-$11.95) Fish dishes feature Flounder Marechiara; Shrimp Parmigiana; and Involtini di Flounder made with Pancetta and Spinach. ($13.95-$14.95)
Chicken dishes include Chicken Rustica, which is Chicken Breast with Mushrooms, Peppers, Sausage and Potatoes; and Lemon Chicken, Boneless Chicken Thighs in a Lemon Sauce. ($11.95-$12.95)
Suppa serves specials, too, like Fettuccine with Ricotta cheese and Asparagus. Suppa sautÃ©s the asparagus stems in garlic and olive oil and then adds them to the ricotta cheese which has been blended with the flowers of the asparagus. ($12.95)
â€œI call it traditional American,â€ Suppa says. â€œI try all the dishes myself before I put them on the menu or make them specials. I like to try new things.â€
Coming in the fall, Suppa plans to add a Braciola dish, which is meat seasoned with garlic, parsley, cheese, rolled, and cooked in a red sauce; and Chicken Rollatini with a ham, rice and Ricotta cheese filing served in a white wine mushroom sauce. ($14.95)
For dessert, Suppa serves Cream Puffs and Cannolis with home-made fillings; and Truffles ice cream in several flavors including Pistachio, Amaretto, and Chocolate Chip Mint. ($4.50)
Since Carmela’s Â Piccola Cucina opened two years ago, Suppa has lots of regulars who come back again and again for her homestyle cooking. The Chicken, Minestrone, Lentil and Potato-Leek soups are very popular, Suppa says. So are the Chicken Parmagiana, Lemon Chicken and Involtini di Flounder. Pasta Primavera is also a favorite.
Although this is Suppaâ€™s first time as a restaurateur, she is no stranger to the kitchen. Suppa grew up in Naples, Italy, and she was 15 when her family came to the U.S. and settled in Bayonne.
She watched her mother and older sister cook and Suppa herself worked as a banquet chef for the Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange.
â€œIt was my internship,â€ Suppa says. â€œThey have a restaurant and a banquet hall where they do weddings and parties.â€
Â Carmela’s Piccola Cucinaâ€™s dining room is painted a warm yellow and seats 40. Thereâ€™s a large flat-screen TV for customers who like a little news while they dine, and dinner guests are treated to white linen tablecloths that dress up the tables and warm the room so that it almost feels like youâ€™re dining in Suppaâ€™s home. Suppa says that traditionally Italian families like to entertain and feed their guests.
â€œWhen somebody comes in we cook something and we all eat together or we offer coffee and cake,â€ Suppa says. â€œYou sit around the table with the family and thereâ€™s a little bit of food and a little bit of red wine. Thatâ€™s how we are.â€
Â Carmela’s Piccola Cucina is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and brunch is served on weekends. Suppa says the restaurant also delivers to local businesses and caters to customers who have to spend their lunch hours behind a desk or in a classroom.
â€œThis is fulfilling a dream I always had,â€ Suppa says. â€œHaving a restaurant is something Iâ€™ve always wanted.â€
If you go:
Carmelaâ€™s Piccola Cucina
578 Avenue â€œCâ€
(Across from the Shop Rite)
Open 7 days