Because of its remote location, people told Ernesto Sicari back in October 2011 that his new restaurant, Me and Tommy’s, would probably last about six months. It was being built in a 100-plus-yearold former train depot that had most recently been home to an unsuccessful Filipino restaurant.
But, today, more than three years later, the restaurant, at 4 Essex St., Belleville, is thriving.
“People kept telling me, ‘There’s no way this will survive,’” Sicari said. “But here we are almost four years later — and we’re going strong.” Sicari, a law enforcement officer, and his business partner, Thomas Escott [Tommy], a firefighter, decided that because both of them had very flexible work schedules — and because Sicari had worked in the restaurant industry since he was a kid — they’d open the place up.
Everything on the menu — most of it is Italian — is fresh and made daily.
Sicari says just this past Monday morning, he and his staff were in at 7 a.m., well before the place opens, cutting chicken and getting ready for the lunch crowd.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but consistency is very important to me,” he said. “We want our customers to know that when they come in here, everything we prepare for them is fresh and homemade.”
Homemade like their signature dish — rice balls.
“Our rice balls are very popular,” Sicari said. “But they’re not typical rice balls. Ours are topped with our fresh vodka sauce — and the vodka sauce is great. Ours isn’t as thick and heavy as other places … so people just love the rice balls and the vodka sauce.”
The vodka sauce is so well loved it’s sold by the pint and by the quart to take home.
The restaurant is open seven days a week — Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 4 to 9 p.m. Originally, the place was only available Sundays for private parties and catered events, but there was a demand from regular patrons to be able to dine there on Sundays.
“So we went ahead and figured we had nothing to lose by opening a few hours on Sundays,” Sicari said.
A website for Me and Tommy’s is under construction, but if you want to see the full menu, Google search “Me and Tommy’s,” and you’ll find it on Urbanspoon and on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Speaking of websites — you’ll be hard pressed to find a review of the restaurant that isn’t completely flattering, like this one from a patron, Kim, of Nutley.
“The food was absolutely delicious,” she wrote on Yelp. com. “[The] rice balls [were] out of this world. The mussels were huge and extremely tasty. I must’ve eaten it and an entire loaf of bread just by dipping in the clam sauce and the mussel sauce. For dinner, I had linguine in white clam sauce — the freshest I ever eaten. These were not canned clams and their portions are very generous.”
Want more information? Call the restaurant and ask for Sicari personally at 973- 302-7408 or stop by the restaurant during business hours at 4 Essex St., Belleville.