On the 1-year anniversary of “Anthony’s Cheesecake” on Washington Street, co-owner Anthony Lauro was handing out free bite-sized morsels of cheesecake to the customers waiting in line at his café. They could not have been more pleased – and neither could Lauro.
“We wanted to show our appreciation to the community for helping us all year,” said Lauro with a smile.
In honor of the anniversary, special prizes were being raffled off: a free large cheesecake, a $20 gift card and the top prize, a free dinner for eight people, catered by Anthony’s. (The winners have yet to be announced.)
When Anthony’s restaurant opened a year ago it was an instant hit, recalled customer Doreen Sarcone. “As soon as he opened this place, it exploded [in popularity],” she said. “We’re hoping that with his success he’ll expand quickly.”
Judging by the steady stream of customers on Saturday, it seemed likely.
Sarcone has more than a passing interest in Anthony’s success. As the Deputy Director of Bloomfield’s Special Improvements District (SID), she said she welcomed the chance to help Lauro realize his dream of opening the bakery restaurant. Lauro already owns one successful Bloomfield business, the Lunchbox at 176 Broad Street, operating since 1997.
“We’re here to make sure local businesses’ needs are met by the township,” said Sarcone, referring to SID and its parent organization, the Bloomfield Center Alliance, Inc. “We help ease them through the red tape.”
Lauro and his business partner, co-owner Phillip Byrne, couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
“I love Bloomfield. I feel rooted here,” said Lauro. “People said, ‘why didn’t you open somewhere else [besides Washington Street in Bloomfield]?’ or, ‘You should go to Montclair’. But this is where I’m from.”
Customers can feel a sense of hominess when they enter Anthony’s Cheesecake café. A cheerful, eclectic décor mixed with the aroma of coffee and freshly baked food gives the place a warm and cozy atmosphere.
“Right now we have fall items: baked acorn squash, stews, homemade quiches, Italian pot pies. You know, comfort foods,” said Lauro. “We [originally] wanted a dessert business, but from the first day, everyone said, ‘why don’t you serve food?’ “
“It’s all about social media,” he said. “I take photos of what we made that day and put it on Facebook. It’s made a huge difference. We started doing that in June. We get about 500 emails a day now.” Lauro noted that pumpkin cheesecake and sweet potato cheesecake are two popular seasonal items on the menu.
Despite only being there a year, Anthony’s has already become a favorite destination in the neighborhood. Shanya Champeau from Glen Ridge, who was visiting the café Saturday with her two sons, Charlie, 4, and Jackson, 6, said her family often comes to Anthony’s after Tai Kwon Do lessons at Universal Martial Arts down the street.
Also, she laughed, “We love cheesecake.”
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