After owning many award-winning restaurants and being a celebrated chef himself, David Burke knows a winning combination when he sees one. Previously, he has announced that the Drifthouse by David Burke’s menu is taking a new direction: Coastal Italian-Mediterranean cuisine known for using only the best seasonal bounties of land and sea, locally and globally.
Now, Burke is certain he has the right chef on board and is pleased to introduce Executive Chef Toni Charmello, who will lead the way for the Jersey Shore’s most exciting dining
“Chef Toni is the only female to lead one of my kitchens,” said Burke. “She has the experience, talent, no-excuses attitude and leadership skills to take Drifthouse on its new course with our refreshed Coastal Italian-Mediterranean menu.”
While Charmello is somewhat new to the Jersey Shore, she is not new to delivering a world-class dining experience, or to Chef Burke. Charmello, whose most recent culinary leadership roles were at the highly regarded Eno Terra in Kingston and Albarino in Shrewsbury — both restaurants are part of the Terra Momo Restaurant Group. Earlier in her career Charmello was a chef at David Burke Tavern, Burke’s flagship restaurant in New York City.
Charmello began her career as a chef after she left a successful career in the healthcare field. Her culinary journey began by attending the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Shortly after graduating, Charmello worked at David Burke Tavern in the city, but after a few years left due to the burdensome commute, to take her chef’s position in New Jersey.
Like many of the chefs who have worked for Burke throughout his three-decade career, Charmello maintained contact through the years. “I saw he continued to open restaurants during the pandemic and I sent him a text wishing him a Happy New Year,” she said. “He invited me to discuss an open chef’s position. I welcomed the opportunity to carry out the David Burke brand while being able to create a new concept. It’s exciting.”
Charmello said her team will create a dining experience that expresses the rural Italian tradition of an “enoteca,” which focuses on a holistic regional dining experience, one in which wine plays a pivotal role.
“We will specialize in family-owned Italian vineyards, but will also carry labels from the U.S and other notable wine regions from around the world,” Charmello said. In typical Burke fashion, he has that unique ability to understand the needs of his customer base. With that in mind, the restaurant will waive corkage fees for customers with private wine collections.
But, she explained, an enoteca dining experience often begins with the wine that expresses the geography and traditions from where the grapes originate.
For example, Drifthouse will be featuring wines from the Apulia region of Italy known for its coastline and farmlands. Charmello also plans to add salumi and fromage boards to the menu using some heralded local charcuterie and cheeses from New Jersey. Already on the menu are house-made pastas along with some of Burke’s signature dishes like Short Rib and Cavatelli.
To launch the new menu and to celebrate the enoteca experience, Sunday and Wednesday is Lobster & Oyster Night featuring $12 lobster dishes and $1.50 oysters. Drifthouse has its own custom-made lobster tank and oyster spa, keeping the shellfish at optimum freshness in cold, salt water mimicking the very waters where they were harvested — the lobsters from Maine and a variety of the oysters right from New Jersey’s very own Barnegat Oyster Collective along with other East and West Coast oysters.
The Stavola family, who own and operate the Driftwood Cabana Club where Drifthouse is located since 1957, partnered with world-renowned celebrity Burke in March 2018 to open Drifthouse by David Burke. The seaside restaurant immediately received rave reviews — “Best New Restaurant” by both NJ Monthly and Star Ledger. The restaurant has remained open throughout the pandemic when state mandates allowed.
“This is the perfect next step for my career,” Charmello explained. “I have the experience to take the restaurant in the direction of David’s vision.”
To learn more about Drifthouse by David Burke, visit the website