By Anthony J. Machcinski
Years of decay and decomposition plagued one former Portuguese watering hole on on Ferry St. in Newark. The once glorious Ironbound icon Roque and Rebelo had become a shell of its former self, with the building showing more years than it had been in existence. Since May 2011, Carlos Pinto has taken that dried up watering hole and created an oasis in Newark.
“It was one of the oldest restaurants in the area,” explained Pinto. “Basically, when the Portuguese immigrated into the area, this was one of their stomping grounds and it became a focal point of the community.”
For Pinto, the restaurant has some history. As a teen, Pinto worked at the restaurant and grew to love the place.
“There is definitely a kinship with the establishment,” Pinto said of the restaurant he would eventually own. He promised himself that one day, if he had the wherewithal, he would make the place something special.
Despite his years of working in the restaurant in various positions, becoming a member of the restaurant business was not something he’d planned on doing.
“I like design and architecture,” said Pinto, who now works as a power plant builder in Latin America and the United States. “This was my opportunity to do something special (for the restaurant).”
While the restaurant had become a fi xture in the area, Pinto wanted to add his own touch to the menu, creating the unique Tapas and Sushi combination that Manu’s currently uses.
“I’ve toured the world quite a bit and I took little ideas of different parts of the world to create a soft fusion,” Pinto said. “Believe it or not, there is a lot in the sushi kitchen that is in the tapas kitchen. I just wanted to create a new experience for the community.”
Manu’s and its unique menu has created a restaurant that has something for anyone, even if you’re not in love with tapas or sushi.
“(Manu’s) is Mediterranean with a soft Asian touch,” Pinto explained. “However, we have traditional dishes as well. The idea was not to own a restaurant – it was to make something special.”
Even the eatery’s name highlights this restaurant’s diversity.
“In Portuguese, Many is a slang term for brother,” Pinto said, referring back to his own history. “My sister used to call me that. It’s short, simple, and not very Portuguese, but I’ve been told people think it seems Spanish or even Asian, so it seemed like the appropriate title.”
While the restaurant has been revamped, Pinto and Manu’s has fought a social taboo familiar to others in his neighborhood.
“There’s a certain stigma that sushi in Newark can’t be good,” Pinto explained. “We can’t buy better fi sh and created our own reputation for good fish. We had to do it right.”
Keeping with the traditions that distinguished the old restaurant, Pinto wanted to keep the comfortable, family environment that had existed with the previous establishment.
“It’s a very family feel type of environment,” Pinto explained. “I wanted to create a cozy, comfortable, and familiar feel to the place.”
The unique challenge for Pinto is carrying the responsibilities of both the restaurant he owns, and his day-to-day job.
“The establishment is operated by my sister and other people who have been here since the beginning,” explained Pinto. “I wish I could have opened it earlier, but it was just a timing thing.”
The recently refurbished Manu’s, with its unique cuisine and comfortable environment, is located at 90 Ferry St. in Newark and is open until late seven days a week. It has a full bar and serves lunch on weekdays.