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November 11th, 2011

by Total Food Service

Delicious Heights Blueprint

The Owner

Dominico Acquaviva, Alex Rubinstein, Ralph Acquaviva
Delicious Heights Inc. in Basking Ridge, NJ

The Kitchen Designer/Dealer

Michael Konzelman, Kevin Konzelman
Economy Restaurant Supply in Clifton, NJ

Ralph Acquaviva’s Approach:

Our first unit was in Berkely Heights. For many years, the restaurant was known as Gasoline Alley until my partners Alex Rubinstein and Dom Acquaviva bought it from Growth Restaurants. That restaurant and our newest in Bedminster involved careful renovations because of the site’s historic status.

"Our goal was to take properties that are rundown and have lost much of its clientele and renovate."

We accomplished that and we are now extremely busy. Our renovation goals for the dining room area, are to have a “neighborhood friendly” restaurant that doesn’t require reservations, and provide “a great bar” with “a lot of draft beers.”

The restaurant dates back to 1786 when Aaron Malick, a wealthy village tanner, built it for his son, John. From then on, it was the center of village life and was known as the Bedminster Inn. It has certainly made history through the years with a campaign visit from Woodrow Wilson in October 1911 who would go on to be elected President of the United States. The Konzelmans have done a great job of teaching us how to pick the right equipment.

We were hesitant when we began with combi’s. But I was sold when they showed me how we could be so consistent with staples like mashed potatoes and avoid the expense of a kettle. Even with our commitment to creating a successful bar business, we are definitely food first.

Michael Konzelman’s Approach:

Three and a half years ago we were brought in by Ralph Acquaviva and his partners to design and build Delicious Heights in Berkeley Heights. That design featured a full restaurant, large bar,  off-prem catering, and a very large take-out business. This was an existing restaurant that was just totally run down. So it was a full 100 percent ground up restoration that had to be gutted right down to the bare 2 by 4s. 

We did everything including reinsulation. When you are dealing with a facility that dates back to the 1700’s there are tremendous challenges. One of the goals with the new restaurant was to build on top of the very successful home meal replacement that they built.  So what we did is position the kitchen so that it sits in the middle of both the takeout and in restaurant dining.  The takeout facility actually looks like a completely separate operation in its own little building. It’s very unusual to see an operator move from takeout to a sit down operation. It’s usually the other way around. But these guys are young and the growth makes sense for their areas of expertise. They all got together working at the Short Hills Hilton.

Alex is more of a front of the house guy. He also spent a number of years at Houston’s. Dominico Acquaviva and Ralph Acquaviva both bring food backgrounds. The project went smoothly because everybody understands their strengths.  The architect understood his role and our challenge was to create a design that could create the very highest quality menus. Our goal was to create a comfortable bar environment for a 30 and older bar crowd that enjoys classic rock and roll. We created a clubby feel with tons of booth space.

The booths were built by Rollhaus who did such a great job for us in the first unit. In both cases, the kitchens have access to a basement.  We were able to wrap the kitchen around the takeout area and create a spur to handle the demands of the sit down dining. One of the challenges in designing this kitchen was the size of the menu.  Sure there are many similar ingredients on many of the menus but you are talking about enormous volume, especially for weekend brunches.  On top of that they are doing lunch and dinner every day of the week.

We also needed to build a kitchen that could support an ever growing on-line ordering. So one of the keys to the success of the operation was to add technology that could create a prescribed pick up time. One of the key elements of our equipment package has been the Eloma Combi ovens. It was a tough sell in the first restaurant but they have seen the consistency that it delivers with high volume items like ribs. and the fact after twelve minutes in the combi, we throw them right into a mixer, and they’re done.  As with many of our customers, we were able to bring the guys to the test kitchen in our office and run through many of the menu items. They were able to get a really good feel for speed and consistency of each piece of cooking equipment. What has really been interesting is watching how Chef Dominic has learned how to get the most out of the equipment. 

With the combi, he prefers not to use pre-sets. It gets him the control that he is after.  As we went through this project, low ceilings were an on-going concern. In most projects, we are usually working with an 8-foot ceiling minimum. Here we were dealing with 85” ceilings.  So we specified a Meiko dish machine with a power loader and unloader. The footprint worked beautifully and it’s a fully insulated machine that is very efficient and quiet. It also has some really energy saving benefits because it doesn’t use much water and saves tens of thousands of gallons of water.

The low ceilings also made the duct work challenging.  So we had to make penetrations and go through some office space above. It certainly would have been better for them if we could have just run the duct work out of the building, but zoning and an active historical society would not allow it. We built a full catering kitchen in the basement. It has a full package of fryers, Southbend ranges, a tilting skillet, and the Eloma combis. We were able to utilize many of the existing walk-in boxes from the former restaurant. There are walk-ins upstairs and downstairs and we had to put a new box in to support the Chill-Rite beer system. The Chill-Rite system is just spectacular. 

The system features two frosted towers that were actually built in Italy. They have also focused on quality coffeeservice. So to do that we put in WMF’s Bistro unit, it’s the same equipment that we put into Yankee Stadium. A major challenge was to follow a very tight, quick schedule to get this open. We made the deadline and we have a happy client.

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