If an escape to the Mediterranean did not make it to this year’s summer schedule there is an alternative. The food and spirit of that region, along with breathtaking water views, can all be enjoyed right here in Edgewater, New Jersey at Taverna Veranda.
Backed by restaurateurs Constantine Youssis, Moutaz Ali, and Aldo Abdallah, and helmed by Executive Chef Nestor Moina, there is little doubt that this restaurant reflects the myriad of fresh tastes and natural beauty that make the Mediterranean such a draw. The team’s heritage and extensive experience in the restaurant industry are apparent the moment you walk in the door.
Despite its previous life as a bank, Taverna Veranda is decidedly unfussy in both food and atmosphere. Here simplicity reigns with gray upholstered banquettes mixing with wooden tables, chairs, and polished concrete flooring. The space is broken by random cascades of greenery spilling from cast iron planters and walls of windows that expose the breathtaking views of the Hudson River backed by the city skyline.
Warm summer nights are made for enjoying a meal al fresco, so Taverna Veranda opens its patio that can accommodate up to 48 guests. And if summer storms roll in, there are plenty of seats inside at the bar or tables. Either way, that city and river view will be there to admire. Whether indoors or out, the decor is designed so that view and the food take center stage.
Sip a cocktail as you glance over the menu and take in the views. Taverna Veranda offers a host of specialty cocktails with cheeky names like Never too Old to be Sexy or Life is too Short for Bad Coffee. Adventurous drinkers will find a perfect match.
Having completed the challenge of choosing the ideal cocktail, attention can turn to the meal. The menu is unmistakably Mediterranean with lamb, falafel, moussaka, and an array of fresh vegetables, spices, and of course, feta, making appearances. But these Greek staples are often served with a twist. Lobster gyros, falafel crusted salmon, and spinach pie rolls are some of the unique items. The restaurant’s Simply Grilled menu includes king crab with ladolemono, chicken kebabs, lamb chops, and octopus. Whether the entree is from the land or sea, finding the best wine to pair with your meal is certainly possible as the wine list features more than 100 wines. Sticking to the Mediterranean, you will find bottles from Greece, Lebanon, and Cyprus, but there are also plenty of standouts from Italy, France, and the Napa Valley as well.
You could say Youssis was born into the restaurant business at his family-owned Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill in Hasbrouck Heights, but he did stray to Wall Street, launching hospitality projects as more of a hobby. Ali, who is an immigrant from Egypt, worked several hospitality jobs before he opened Falucka in the East Village. The success of this bar and hookah business inspired him to try his hand as a restauranteur. The two men met and paired their skills in kitchen organization and marketing to open Veranda in the West Village, which quickly rose to restaurant fame. Ali later opened Pergola in the Flatiron District and Gardenia on the Upper West Side.
While history and experience in the restaurant industry account for projected success, nothing is assured without the talents of a skilled chef. For Taverna Veranda, the food is left in the hands of Executive Chef,Nestor Moina, meaning every bite will be memorable. A native of Ecuador, Moina was educated in Mediterranean cuisine as he worked his way up the ranks in some of the best French and Italian restaurants in New York. His acceptance of a position as Sous Chef at Veranda introduced him to Youssis and Ali which proved to be strategic to his rise to the Executive Chef that he is today. In between then and now, Moina enhanced his Greek culinary skills as Executive Sous Chef at Nerai in Midtown, and further expanded his range as Executive Chef at Pergola. As his resume indicates, Moina has excelled under the scrutiny of critical New York diners, and he now stands ready to convince New Jersey patrons that his food is worthy of praise.
On the next starry summer night, sit out on the Hudson, take in the city views, and convince your tastebuds you’ve jetted off to Santorini.