By Laurie Perrone
Upon walking into The Angry Coffee Bean Coffeehouse and Café located at 89 Ridge Road in North Arlington, New Jersey, one would get the feel of a trendy coffeehouse a la Manhattan.
Though it needs no Manhattan trend-setting to uphold its pull-out-all-the-stops New York Coffeehouse theme, owners Eileen and Michael Cassano one- upped their own ingenuity in authenticity by hiring their Executive Chef Daniel Sullivan.
Sullivan is a graduate from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. He stayed on in New York working at various restaurants and cafes until his fascination with the fast-paced scene waned after eight years. He wanted to work in a much smaller environment for more creative control in the kitchen.
During an interview with The Observer, Sullivan whipped up a delicious foray of Arugula salad with baked melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese, cranberries, walnuts and a balsamic vinegar reduction, seductive red velvet chocolate chip pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar and lightly drizzled with maple cream cheese syrup and sinful stuffed French toast made from Balthazar bakery brioche bread cut thick and stuffed with fresh berry cream cheese – all made-to-order as everything is always made at The Angry Coffee Bean.
Speaking about one of his many other culinary creations, Chef Sullivan recommended: “For a quick, lighter fare try the grilled vegetable wrap with homemade garlic hummus or our Quinoa Taboule salad. Quinoa is packed with proteins and Omega3s.”
Sullivan also spends time encouraging creativity in both his Sous Chefs Chris Nazzaretto and Robert Flythe. Nazzaretto holds kitchen craftsmanship that is not to be ignored much like his teacher. While Nazzarretto was packing up to leave for the night, he mentioned his special “Carne Asada marinated Filet Mignon over mixed greens with roasted peppers, tomatoes, red onions, shredded cheddar and black beans with a citrus vinaigrette.”
Eileen admits that grocery shopping nearly every day is a minor struggle well worth the payoff in being able to deliver fresh products to her customers. Selling out of fish and chips every Saturday and Sunday speaks volumes about its return on investment. Even the smallest details such as coffee aroma, texture and taste mean so much to the Cassanos. They have their coffee beans micro-roasted from The Red House Roaster in Union City, New Jersey. Eileen said that the beans are still warm when she takes them out of the bag. She observed how such attention paid to the bread used for the sandwiches make all the difference in quality and taste. It just so happens that the Cassanos receive all their bread products daily from Balthazar’s Bakery in Englewood.
So, why would the Cassanos leave their cushy corporate jobs as director of sales and corporate trainer respectively at major corporations?
A 20-year salesperson, Eileen Cassano said she felt like she wasn’t using the full capacity of her talents. She knew that she could do so much more by using all her salesperson knowledge to work for her and her family. This revelation came to her while advising other salespeople who worked under her; inwardly, she realized that she was speaking to herself as well as to them.
Eileen mentioned that she left her former position without any job prospects on the horizon, despite the precarious state of the economy. Together the Cassanos’ takeit- as-it-comes attitude reflects the confidence it takes to launch a business from the ground up. Eileen said that she trusted her instincts based on how the sales field is flexible and applicable enough to open other doors of opportunities. Thankfully for the rest of us, the Cassanos not only used those opportunities right in front of them, but they took their opportunities to the next level of success in our new entrepreneurship economy.
The Angry Coffee Bean Coffeehouse and Café’s grand opening is an integral part of Eileen Cassano and husband Michael’s story: They pushed forward with their opening two days after Hurricane Sandy hit. The Cassanos call it “the baptism” of their then fledgling business because they immediately became known as “beacons” in the midst of Sandy’s shroud of darkness. Local residents as well as residents from nearby towns found “North Arlington’s Little Secret” by walking in simply to power up their cellular devices. Thankfully, the Cassanos were one of the first businesses on Ridge Road to gain electricity post-hurricane. They saw trouble as an opportunity to give back as they generously donated food to the police, firefighters and utility crews. Word quickly spread about them and business boomed immediately as the Cassanos began steadily increasing their share of regular patrons. They were not such a “little secret” anymore! In fact, during this very Observer interview with Eileen Cassano, The Angry Coffee Bean received word that they are finalists in a bid for a catering job involving, potentially, more than 200 diners, in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Natalie Cassano, one of Cassano’s two daughters as well as an on-staff coffeehouse server, spoke about her parents’ achievements:
“I’m so happy that my parents opened this coffeehouse… I’m so proud of them. We are such a family and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The Cassanos are not the only ones enjoying their newfound entrepreneurship. They invite local musicians and other talented performers to participate in Open Mike Night every Friday and Saturday night. Eileen is especially proud of a project she is working on with the photography teacher from Kearny High School and his students in organizing an art exhibit showcasing the students’ work at The Angry Coffee Bean. She is currently searching out talents such as poets and story-tellers to fill entertainment slots on other full house nights.
For menus and more information about The Angry Coffee Bean Coffeehouse and Café, look for them on Facebook.com/theangrycoffeebean and tweet them at theangrycoffeebean. Hours of operations are Monday through Thursday, 7 AM to 8 PM; Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday Brunch is served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Although walk-ins are welcome, reservations can be made by calling 201-772-5554.