Verona’s lack of Mexican food is about to end. In the next few months, not one, but two taco-focused restaurants will be opening near the center of town.
The first, Mad Taco Express, has been “coming soon” for months. Located in the former Lucy’s Diner near the entrance to Verona Park, it is the brainchild of Anthony Tortoriello, a partner in Avenue Bistro. He said this week that he is hoping for a September opening. Mad Taco Express doesn’t yet have a website.
The second tacoria is so new that it doesn’t yet have a name or a design. But it, too, has ties with an existing Verona restaurant. It is being opened by Skopos Hospitality Group, the owner of The Parkside Social, and it will take over the space next to Parkside at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Rockland Terrace. The building held a dry cleaning and fur storage business, Gemmell’s, for many years, but it has been vacant for about a decade. And for about that long, would-be business operators have tried unsuccessfully to buy it.
Dean Maroulakos, an operating partner at Skopos, said that the Gemmell’s building came on the market earlier this summer and Skopos bought it. He says it needs extensive renovations and, though there is already a dumpster and workers on the property, the new restaurant likely won’t open until January.
Unlike Mad Taco Express, the Skopos restaurant will serve alcohol, and Maroulakos says Skopos is already planning a mix of margaritas and other drinks. “Tequila and mezcal are really hot right now,” he adds.
It will be able to do so under quirk in New Jersey’s liquor laws that allows one restaurant to piggy-back on the liquor license of another if they operate as a single place of business. Both The Parkside Social and the new tacoria would be Skopos properties and restaurant workers will be able to pass from one to the other thanks to a doorway in the back. Maroulakos said, however, that the two restaurants would have separate kitchens and bars.
The tacoria would be Skopos’ first foray into Mexican food. The company operates Cowan’s Public, The Barrow House, The Vanguard, Franklin Social, Gus’ Last Word, and The Junto Attic Bar, all of which have an updated American tavern approach to their food and drinks. Maroulakos says that the tacoria would have a “casual vibe,” but would offer some of the composed plates that The Parkside Social has come to be known for.