There's been a very unique restaurant since 1925 in Wanaque, NJ, which makes me feel sorry for fine diners not within driving distance of the Northern Italian cuisine served at Berta's. Sure, there are a gazillion very good establishments in Northern New Jersey, but none of them have the feel for delivering a cocktail to nuts, 3 to 4 hour service the way Berta's does. To prove my point as to their method, the cardinal rule for business success is location. Berta's is in such a remote area, you have to be careful with the directions, or come equipped with a GPS. Even so, you'd probably be better off following someone who's already been there (I'll offer, if you'll buy the drinks). Since 1925, enough people have found it to take the business into the third generation (thank God the adage, first opens, second milks, and the third generation closes the business doesn't apply here).
As it turned out, among the many good reasons for marrying my wife, was her family took her to Berta's since she was 2 years old. That wasn't the reason for marrying, but in retrospect, it could have been the deal maker.
We've been to Berta's just a party of two (this past weekend) up to a party of fifty, which afforded me one of my well timed zingers. The father of one of our friends, who was notoriously "tight" happened to be handed the check. While he had a horrified look on his face, I yelled out,
Before chest pains set in, a couple of us did the math, then presented Ralph with his fair share.
Another time, George, our son. was a few years old, still in shoulder strapped shorts, knee high socks, saddle shoes, and ants in his pants, so to speak. Between each course he would grab my wife's father, or my mother (his two favorites) to go for a walk in the back yard of the restaurant. A few minutes, George was banging on the window to the dining room, mortifying us, disturbing the other patrons, and causing belly laughter from his grandparent.
There are many more stories, but this is a blog, not Beowolf.
Berta's has always had a knack to hosting, and I believe that has been the secret to it's longevity, not just the high quality of the food. All these other places have great food also, but Berta's has a lock on hosting and service, which I haven't seen duplicated anywhere else in the area. Joe and Peter are our duo of waiters who have both been at Berta's more than thirty years each. It's a tie whose better, and I haven't found a close second, ever.
So if you're within driving distance ( we are seventy minutes away), go see Peter, the grandson, his wife, Sandy, Joseph, their fourth generation son in training, and Joe and Peter the waiters.
I guarantee a fond memory.