The former owners of the Crosswicks dining spot Coltello Restaurant are giving another local restaurant a reboot.
Dubh Linn Square Pub, located on Route 130 in Bordentown Township, has been rechristened the Dubh Pub, with an expanded menu, entertaining theme nights, and live music featuring local bands, according to proprietor David Boyer.
For now, the sign outside will remain the same pending town approvals, but inside the changes are already taking shape.
“This was an opportunity for us to take an existing venue and elevate it to a new level,” said Boyer.
The plan to bring in new customers includes offering a new menu and choice entertainment.
“Any restaurant no matter how long you are open needs a refresh from time to time,” he said. “At Coltello’s we did a refresh every six to seven months. You can’t serve the same thing for five years. The refresh here was long overdue.”
Boyer, a Hamilton lawyer, got involved in the restaurant business after his longtime friend, Anthony Gervasi, a former vice president of engineering and technology at Nassau Broadcasting, acquired Coltello in 2012.
Boyer at first was an enthusiastic patron, but partnered with Gervasi after Coltello lost its lease in the Chesterfield village of Crosswicks.
Coltello specialized in Italian dishes made from fresh ingredients with a varied menu that included fish, poultry, veal and pasta.
“There is a huge difference between store-bought and something fresh made five minutes ago,” Boyer said. “I think that is the taste that people appreciated at Coltello’s.”
It was forced to close its doors earlier this year when the landlord chose to turn the location into apartments.
“Coltello’s was very popular. It was booked six weeks out Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. People couldn’t get a reservation,” Boyer said. “We still get emails asking when we are coming back to Crosswicks, but we couldn’t find a building.”
Gervasi joked about partnering with Boyer on the old Coltello website, writing, “What does an attorney know about being a restaurateur? … Well, you can also say that about me. … What does a radio guy know about running a restaurant?”
For Gervasi, the answer was simple: a love of food and a “passion for quality, passion for the freshest ingredients, (and a) passion to create an experience second to none. “
Boyer was seeking a “change in lifestyle” and an opportunity to “see my children more even if they have to see me here.”
Earlier this year, it seemed Coltello would make a triumphant return in Allentown at the Old Mill, but a flood derailed those plans. Boyer and Gervasi then set their sights this summer on the Take It Easy Bar and Liquor Store on Route 156 in Yardville with a plan to change the name to the Grove Bar and Grill, but the opening has been tabled to possibly spring.
This summer, Boyer heard that Dubh Linn Square owners Sean and Michael McGeough were looking to sell their properties, including one in Cherry Hill.
Seeing an opportunity to keep the Coltello staff, including popular Chef John Tavlaris, employed, Boyer and Gervasi acquired the Bordentown restaurant in August. He is not buying the Cherry Hill location.
The changes in décor will be subtle, Boyer said, but the menu created by Tavlaris will expand. In addition to some of Dubh Linn Square’s familiar Irish dishes, Coltello favorites such as a sirloin dish, a bone in pork chop and freshly made pasta will be available. Boyer said recent offerings, a pumpkin soup and a beer batter soup, sold out briskly.
“We are going to offer five new specials every day on a rotating basis. Also we went from vendor-bought desserts to house made desserts. Everything is going to eventually be in house including the sausage. We already carve our own meat – we get larger pieces and higher-quality meats that way,” he said.
“We also started producing all of our sauces from scratch which is a big deal because they are fresh. We steered away from the processed canned items to fresher whole food ingredient items. We also have gluten-free items and vegetarian and vegan items on and off the menu,” he said.
Other twists include a gluten- and sugar-free local vodka called Devotion that will be offered at the bar.
“We are trying to have broader appeal than what a typical Irish venue would have,” he said.
Which brings the owner to the expanded entertainment calendar, which includes the aptly named Dubh After Dark, “seven nights a week,” Boyer added.
“We are looking to make it a more fun atmosphere,” he said.
A “DubhOWeen Celebration” Halloween party is planned for the holiday, which lands on a Friday this year. An “‘80s on the 8th” party is slated for Nov. 8 complete with kamikaze shots, ‘80s trivia and karaoke hosted by WPST’s Chuck C. There will be karaoke nights on Thursdays, Quizno, a bar trivia game, on Wednesday nights, and featured local bands.
The upstairs, he said, seats 85 people – the entire restaurant seats 220 – and is perfect for viewing Saturday morning soccer or football, with the full NFL Sunday Ticket satellite TV package available for viewing. It is also perfect for finer dining possibilities, he said, as the restaurant has already hosted a variety of parties.
The results so far, have been good, according to longtime bartender Chelsea Onori.
“Lunch has been busy,” she said. “The word has gotten out.”
Boyer, who will move his law office to the Bordentown location in a scaled-down capacity, said that segueing into restaurants has also had a positive effect on his own life.
“It’s been a challenge but it’s been very interesting,” he said. “I have people that have known me for 20 years saying they have never seen me this happy, which to me is a huge compliment.”