Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

CAFe MATISSE'S OWNER SEEKING NEW CHALLENGE

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

CAFe MATISSE'S OWNER SEEKING NEW CHALLENGE

Article excerpt

More than 300 restaurant reviews have run in The Record since 2007. And of those, we've awarded a full four stars to only two: the Saddle River Inn in Saddle River and Cafe Matisse in Rutherford.

Both are fine-dining BYOs that emphasize higher-quality ingredients but can't collect profits from liquor or wine - an enormously challenging type of restaurant to run. And until recently, both were owned by chefs who built their careers around single restaurants, shouldering much of the labor themselves.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about how longtime Saddle River Inn chef-owner Hans Egg, exhausted and eyeing retirement, had hung up his chef's coat and sold the restaurant to a younger, energetic team of veteran restaurateurs.

At Cafe Matisse, chef-owner Peter Loria can relate.

He's owned a restaurant at 167 Park Ave. in Rutherford since 1987. In 1995, he decided to turn the 40-seat spot into a tribute to artist Henri Matisse. Since then, he's served "grazing menus" full of colors and flavors to great acclaim; he even opened a wine shop to get around the lack of a liquor license.

And last week, he scored a national honor: Matisse was named to a list of the most romantic restaurants in the United States by the users of Open Table.

But that didn't change the fact that Loria has owned a restaurant in the same tiny spot for more than a quarter-century - and is itching for something bigger.

"As much as I want to stay small, I've really outgrown small," he said recently. "Valentine's Day has been booked since the end of December."

Hence the problem with having only 40 seats. Most people want to eat at Matisse around 7 p.m. on a Saturday night - so the restaurant winds up turning many people away for those times, while ample seats go empty during the week.

Not only that, Loria said, he needs more of a financial investment. "I'm not getting any younger. …

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