Matera's Italian Market & Catering Celebrate 10 Years
By Tracy Leigh
Matera's On Park is celebrating their 10 year anniversary and all are welcome to their celebration on Saturday, November 12th from 9 am - 11 am.
TIR recently interviewed Matera's on Park co-owner, Mark Forte, along with their general manager and executive chef, Erica Russo to give readers a taste of this popular Rutherford eatery's history.
TIR: What is the history of Matera's? Give us some background on how it was started.
Erica Russo: Matera’s on Park-Italian Market & Catering started when Mike Finan & Mark Forte decided to open the space to fulfill a longstanding dream, a beautiful Italian market for the community of Rutherford. Mike worked in an Italian kitchen thru high school and college and developed culinary skills and menus in use at the market today.
Mark Forte: As close friends for years, Mike & I have always embodied our family traditions while breaking bread, particularly dining Italian. The name “Matera”, comes from the town in Italy, where my family, is from and still resides today. The “On Park” portion of our name, is because of our corner spot, located at 72 Park Avenue, right in the heart of Rutherford.
TIR: Why did you choose Rutherford as a location?
Mark Forte: Rutherford is where Mike’s wife Christine, my wife Laarni, and I grew up and we all agree that this is a special place. The changes on Park Ave. have been amazing over the last 10 years and we are excited to be a part of the food scene for many years to come. Opening this business in the heart of 07070 was the best decision we have ever made. Having Rutherford High School graduates on our team, Store Manager, Chris Sienkiewicz (class of '10) and General Manager/Executive Chef, Erica Russo (class of '06), adds authenticity and a small-town vibe to the atmosphere in the market.
TIR: For anyone new to Rutherford, what can customers expect when they walk into Matera’s?
Mark Forte: We have a saying at the market, “Walk in a stranger, leave as family.” After 10 years, our family has grown! Matera’s Italian Market will forever remain intimate, personable and unique. As a new customer, you can expect knowledgeable service, great flavors and a guarantee that you’ll be back.
Erica Russo: We pride ourselves on being a small batch Italian market, eatery & delicatessen. We strive daily to create consistency in our popular dishes, such as Chicken Vodka Parmigiana, Nonna’s Meatballs, Orecchiette, Broccoli Rabe & Sausage, Fresh Baked Bread & Fresh Mozzarella and many more that can be found on our menu here on our website: www.materasonpark.com. While preparing customer favorites, we also encourage creativity in our staff and prepare house made items in our daily specials, such as homemade soups, chicken savoy & eggplant ricotta pies.
TIR: Erica's trip to Italy looked amazing! Can you share with us what inspired the trip and what Erica learned from the experience?
Mark Forte: Mike and I traveled to Matera, Italy in 2017 and it validated our commitment to bringing authentic family recipes and culture to the community. Matera is a special place that is difficult to describe in words and pictures. For me it’s where my family is from and still reside, and Mike became part of that family during our trip. We spent a week there soaking in the culture, people, and cuisine all while being hosted by my family. It’s a wonderful lifestyle and our hope is that when you walk in the door you can feel a little piece of the third oldest city in the world, our "Beautiful City of Matera". Erica’s trip allowed her to better understand the Materano way of life and help spread that to our market.
Erica Russo: I was hired at the market in Summer 2013, and since then, I became enamored with all things Matera. That includes, Matera’s in NJ and Matera’s in Italy. I come from a very passionate Italian family, which drove me to seek an education at an Italian culinary school, called ALMA, located in Parma, Italy. As years passed, it was always a dream to visit Matera, but knew when the time was right, I would be able to go. 9 1/2 years later, coming up on such a milestone, our 10 year anniversary, I was gifted this life changing experience, with just a few tasks promised, that I must complete:
1. Taste everything, write it down, and take pictures.
2. Enjoy your time in the restaurants and bakeries, (as I was scheduled to shadow in 3 vastly different facilities.)
3. Give the Forte Family a big hug!
I learned that not only the Italian way, but the “Materano” way, is about enjoying each day, value your traditions, and be proud of where you’re from. Stop in Saturday, November 12th to taste some of the new dishes I learned in Matera. Mangiamo!
TIR: Anything else you want to share with TIR readers?
Mark Forte: Being in operation for 10 years is a great accomplishment that comes with many thanks. We opened just after Hurricane Sandy, and every year that passes we realize how fortunate we are to celebrate with the community. We are thankful not only to our Rutherford community, but to everyone who has spread the word about our family business. We have gained great corporate clients & partnerships that have blossomed into friendships. Because of our customers’ positivity and loyalty, we have been able to create a beautiful event space, The Loft 07070.
Erica Russo: We are passionate about giving back and focus the majority or our philanthropy on the first responders and children of Rutherford and surrounding towns. One of our proudest accomplishments came during a difficult time for all of us during the pandemic. An idea spearheaded by our friends at ERA, Justin Reality we were able launch “The First Responders Program". This idea that started as a great Rutherford community program, blossomed into a state-wide program for Matera’s as we fed over 6500 First Responders throughout the area.
The future is bright for Matera’s Italian Market as we hope to continue our love of Southern Italian Fare and our community involvement for years to come. We are your neighborhood Italian market and catering company that strives to put a smile on every customer’s face. Cheers to another 100 years. Grazie Amici!
Matera’s Italian Market & Catering
72 Park Ave
Rutherford, NJ 07070
201-438-8083 Website: https://www.materasonpark.com
Mike Finan, Co-Owner
Mark Forte, Co-Owner
Erica Russo, General Manager and Executive Chef