CARLSTADT, N.J. — Passing on the legacy of his grandmother, East Rutherford's Todd Villani has opened Terre a Terre in Carlstadt, promoting the farm-to-table movement.
“I grew up with my grandmother cooking meals as a kid,” Villani said. “At four years-old I was peeling potatoes and carrots, picking vegetables from the garden. It was quality food straight from our garden.”
Cooking in Greece for a few years had a powerful effect. Villani saw Europeans eating food directly from the Earth.
“I am very passionate about the farm to table movement,” he said. “More and more people are not eating well in America. Our obesity rate is rising. Our diabetes, our heart disease is rising."
After returning to the States, Villani took chef positions in Manhattan and across New Jersey, including working for celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson.
Villani found a home for his restaurant by chance.
Driving by St. Joseph’s Church — where his family used to go and where grandmother Carmella Cennamo's funeral was held — he spotted a "for sale" sign in the window of a nearby building.
“I thought, 'This is a sign' and went for it,” Villani said, un-ironically.
Terre a Terre — "down to Earth" in French — opened in September 2013 on Carlstadt's Hackensack Street.
“We get all of our food source from a 300-mile radius,” Villani said. “We are locally sustainable and get food straight from a variety farms in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania -- and seafood from the waters on the eastern seaboard.”
Bergen County residents seem pleased.
“We are so fortunate to have such a great restaurant in our area," said Darlene Johnson-Kulish of Kearny on the restaurant’s Facebook page. "Highly recommend. Great food. Great service.”