Anthony Lauro, co-owner of both on Broad Street and Anthony’s Cheesecake on Washington Street, is wearing a gray baseball cap with a red “B” on it.
"Brooklyn or Bloomfield?” I asked the Bensonhurst, Brooklyn raised Lauro, and he grinned. “This is for Bloomfield.”
A lot has been happening during the past years for Lauro and his partner, Phil Byrne, both current Bloomfield residents, who have watched part of their homemade cheesecake business expand into different playing fields.
Pun intended: the duo’s product is now the official cheesecake of the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Lauro’s brother Jack set the wheel in motion, approaching both the New York Jets and Giants to see if they’d like to offer the duo’s cheesecakes at games. Coincidentally, Lauro and Byrne were seeking to go upscale. The product is now offered in the luxury boxes, in the end zone East and West Clubs (which is the cafeteria equivalent for upscale concessions) and at stadium kiosks.
“The varieties,” said Lauro, “depend on what the stadium is looking for.”
Anthony’s Cheesecake is also sold at , Corrado's in Wayne, and New Jersey shore-area restaurants. There are 19 varieties of cheesecakes available, including New York Style, Oreo Cookie, Italian Ricotta. Some are even sugar-free.
“Being the official cheesecake at the New Meadowlands Stadium has helped open a lot of doors for us,” Lauro said.
One "door" that selling at Meadowlands Stadium has led to is growth. The orders for cheesecakes grew larger, and no longer could the Lunch Box Deli kitchen - where Lauro began making his cheesecakes - handle the volume.
“It's (Lunch Box Deli) a breakfast and lunch spot, but the kitchen is on the small side. We needed a spot,” he said, “and we looked for a spot to bake. We saw the sign in this store window (Washington Sreet), called the landlord, and he said it would be a good spot due to development in the area.”
And a huge development it is, as retail shops and condominiums will move into the sometimes quiet Washington Street area within the next couple of years as part of the township's overdue redevelopment project.
“We took a chance on this spot," said Lauro. "We wanted to stay in Bloomfield. That was a big thing.”
Took a chance. Those words define Lauro’s life. He did so when he opened Lunch Box Deli back in 1995, and again when he opened his first shop in Red Bank when he was 20 years old. The key words came from his mother.
“My mom said, ‘Give it a shot,'” Lauro said.
And he did. His mother and grandma, with whom he remembers spending time in their Brooklyn kitchen, eating fine Italian food and sweets as a kid, have passed away, but their memory lingers.
The 1,300-square foot Anthony’s Cheesecake opened in October 2009 (construction and renovation started last April), which began a three-day stretch of lousy weather.
“It was a monsoon, a flood zone, rain nonstop,” said Lauro.
But the turnout was a nice one.
“We had just desserts and coffee, and then people started coming in and asking if we had food," he said. "We were already set up for a kitchen. I said to Phil, 'We’d better start making food.'”
First, were light-style breakfasts, and then lunch, which rotates every day. Serving dinner is a future plan. And as for the fine baked goods, brownies, bagels, pies, muffins, cookies, quiches and turnovers are very popular.
You won’t go wrong visiting this spot.
One regular is Bloomfield College music technology Professor Cesar Alvarez, who visits the shop twice a week. During his two-hour break from teaching on Mondays and Wednesday, Alvarez walks from the college and takes a seat at one of Anthony’s Cheesecake's six tables for a bite to eat.
“They have really good specials, almost always include fresh vegetables," said Alvarez. "And it’s affordable.”
On this day, he enjoys a tuna salad on toast with lettuce and tomato while reading a book.
“I can sit and read – it’s very pleasant here,” Alvarez said. “It’s also the healthiest bet in town.”
Lauro and Byrne, whose mother Rose often helps out the duo (“She did a great job helping us with St. Patrick’s Day,” said Lauro), are fixtures within the town. The shop often partners up with Bloomfield High School clubs, organizations, and plays.
“We pretty much help them all,” said Lauro. “We have a real sense of community.”
71 Washington St.
176 Broad St.
Hours for both locations: Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sun., closed.
Catering and wholesale available.