Ariane Kitchen & Bar will serve its last meal on Thursday, September 30.
The restaurant, created by Ariane and Michael Duarte and partner John MacEvoy in November 2014, is being sold to Skopos Hospitality Group, which operates casual dining restaurants in Nutley, Clifton, Harrison and Jersey City. The announcement was made this morning on AKB’s Facebook and Instagram pages, and in an email to patrons.
AKB was the larger and less formal successor to the Duarte’s Montclair restaurant, CulinAriane. In place of a small room with linen-covered tables, the Duartes provided reserved seating for 100 and, entirely new for Verona at the time, three long no-reservation communal tables that doubled as a meet-and-greet spot for anyone who couldn’t get a place at the bar. While CulinAriane was destination restaurant, AKB strove to be a place for every day eating and not just special occasions.
AKB’s involvement with Verona didn’t begin–or end–at the restaurant door. Ariane Duarte grew up here, as did her father before her, and graduated from Verona High School. She kept that local feel, often bringing in local entertainment and more recently, using a plot in Verona’s Community Garden to lettuce, tomatoes and herbs for the restaurant this summer. When the Verona Chamber of Commerce was relaunched in 2018, it was Michael Duarte who stepped up to lead it. The Duartes cheered for the success of other Verona eateries as loudly as they cheered for their own, especially during the pandemic. AKB supported many Verona school and community charities, even as it hosted tasting meals for some of the world’s great wines.
When the state forced restaurants to temporarily close to indoor dining last year at the start of the pandemic, AKB pivoted to lunches and dinners to go, and DIY cocktails. When the state cautiously allowed restaurants to re-open for outdoor dining last June, AKB put its energy into that, and continued to make good use of its covered patio over this past winter. This summer, it even hosted a kids cooking camp.
In their closing note, the Duartes do not indicate what their next culinary adventure might be. “We want to thank our loyal customers for all of their continued support and love,” they wrote. “We wish the new owners, Skopos Hospitality Group, the best of luck and are excited to have them join our neighborhood of Verona.”
Oh, how I miss the restaurant portion of O’Neil’s. So it goes.