HACKENSACK, N.J. — Mike Monaco got an offer he couldn’t refuse when he was asked to run the newly open Picco Tavern on Prospect Avenue, between the two Excelsiors.
For one thing, 20,000 people live on the street, which is lined with high-rises.
For another, the place was once home to The Restaurant, a noted dining destination.
“It’s a spectacular facility,” said Monaco, 59, a Cliffside Park native.
But Picco, which boasts a dining room, bar and piano lounge, catering facility, and upscale retail deli, also signals a return to Monaco’s glory days.
As a young man, Monaco apprenticed with acclaimed Chef Joseph “Sonny D” DiCrescenzi.
For 10 years, he co-owned the popular PiccoLissimo in Fort Lee with the late Ron Mawn, owner of the famed Archers Ristorante, also in Fort Lee.
More of his creations, then and later, included Michael’s Food and Spirits in Cliffside Park, Baci’s and East Hill Grill in Englewood, and Sanducci’s in River Edge.
In the past decade, Monaco has been working at other business ventures. But the chance to create another restaurant, this one owned by Anthony Palmeri, was irresistible.
According to Monaco, Picco fills a niche.
“There’s 1,000 Italian restaurants but nobody really keys in on Italian seafood,” Monaco explained. “I also serve pizza because I want it to be a family restaurant.
“I don’t mind a blue-collar crowd coming in. I want it affordable for everyone,” he added, noting that some wealthy people don’t want to go to pretentious restaurants.
A person could come to Picco’s four times a week and, each time, have a different dining experience — a pizza pie, bass marechiara, sole francese, grilled veal chop pillard, filet mignon steak sandwich, and much more.
Monaco said he’s still in love with the business.
“I love it because I know I can do it,” he said. “When I had PiccoLissimo, there were lines out the door at 10 o’clock on a Monday. We killed it.”