SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Beloved South Orange favorite Reservoir Restaurant is celebrating its 80th anniversary of providing the community with delicious Italian cuisine and a welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy it.
“My grandmother, Vincenza Agnellino, started this restaurant in 1935 when she was a widow and had six children,” current owner Bill Agnellino said in a phone interview with the News-Record. “And she was able to put that together and do it well and over the years it kept evolving.”
Reservoir Restaurant was originally located on the corner of 14th Street and 9th Avenue in Newark, and was named for the reservoir located across the street from the restaurant. At that time, the 14th ward of Newark was a bustling, Italian-dominated neighborhood of bakeries, Italian specialty shops and markets.
As time progressed and the neighborhood changed, the Agnellinos decided that a new space was necessary in order to accommodate the growing popularity of the restaurant.
“My grandmother passed in 1955, and my father and his brother left the neighborhood because they were looking to expand and found a space,” Agnellino said.
So Reservoir Restaurant pulled up its Newark roots and relocated to South Orange in 1965, where is has remained for 50 years.
Although the restaurant is on a new block, fans of its food can rest assured that the dedication to thoughtful and well-prepared dishes remains the same.
“We still have a lot of the same pans and use the same products that my grandmother did when she started the restaurant,” Agnellino said. “We call it comfort food because we give large portions and it sticks to your ribs.”
One of Reservoir’s many claims to fame is its reputation as the “home of the original pizza pie,” according to Agnellino.
Agnellino fondly recalls that when they first started making pizza in the old days, they didn’t have pizza boxes — instead they used white butcher paper, folded and tied.
“It evolved to pizza when people started putting cheese on the tomato pies,” Agnellino said.
Though Reservoir’s location has changed since its earliest days, its commitment to providing a memorable dining experience for its patrons has never wavered.
“We had a great experience at Reservoir. Our waitress was very nice, and the food came out quickly was delicious,” Seton Hall University student Heather Keith told the News-Record. “As a self-declared pizza connoisseur, I feel confident in saying that this pizza definitely lived up to my standards.”
The restaurant remains very popular with the college crowd, attracting a number of Seton Hall University students looking to enjoy a well-made Italian dish.
“They have great food in a busy atmosphere and yet they still manage to have quick and friendly service,” Seton Hall junior Julia Beyer said.
Bill Agnellino and his sister, Barbara Cammarata, have been running the restaurant since the early 1990s, and he says that, although they have expand ed the menu over the years, they will always remain true to their grandmother’s original recipes.
“We increased the menu to include healthy dishes like more chicken and seafood dishes,” he said.
“We have a lot of regular customers in the area, and South Orange is making some great changes,” Agnellino continued. “We look forward to meeting a lot of the new people coming in, between the new buildings going up and the people commuting from New York.”
You can sample Reservoir’s 80-year-old recipes for yourself at 106 W. South Orange Ave. in South Orange.