For northern New Jersey natives, the name Calandra’s will likely sound familiar. Since 1962, Calandra’s Bakery has become the premier supplier of freshly baked breads and Italian specialties. But for those outside of northern NJ, the immense success and popularity of Calandra’s Enterprises may come as a surprise. In fact, even those who know of Calandra’s Bakery may not know about the many other services they provide.
It total, Calandra’s Enterprises encompasses five different services spread out over many unique establishments. They of course began with opening Calandra’s Bakery in 1962, but have since gone on to open restaurants such as Cucina Calandra, il Vecchio Cafe and Calandra’s Mediterranean Grill; a market/deli housed inside Calandra’s Italian Village; a series of hotels including Best Western Plus, The Holland Hotel and the Meadowlands Hampton Inn; and finally, six apartment complexes primarily concentrated in Belleville. Not bad for a family-owned business that started out as a small bakery in Newark.
For over 50 years, Calandra’s Bakery has been baking the now award-winning bread it is famous for. As the story goes, “Luciano Calandra, an Italian immigrant, had been in America for just five years when he went into business for himself and opened a small Italian and French bakery. Mr. Calandra and his wife Ortenza worked hard day and night, and their bakery quickly developed a reputation for producing delicious bread.” Flash forward to present day, and Calandra’s Bakery has expanded to a 50,000 square foot building in Newark and added two additional bakeries in Fairfield and Caldwell.
Combined, the three bakeries supply products to over 500 supermarkets, delis and restaurants throughout the tri-state area. Calandra’s Bakery is also the official bakery and bread supplier of MetLife Stadium, the Prudential Center and Red Bull Arena. The bakery also supplies cakes, cookies, and pastries to many NJ hotels, casinos, restaurants and catering facilities. (Of course, you can purchase all these baked goods for yourself directly from the bakery.)
Cucina Calandra describes itself as a “family kitchen” in terms of both the restaurant aesthetic and authenticity of each meal prepared. The menu is strongly focused on southern Italian cuisine, offering classics such as Chicken Parmesan and Pasta Fagioli. Modeled after an Italian courtyard, the main dining room features a stone deck wood-burning oven. The executive lounge, however, provides a more intimate setting for private parties. Cucina Calandra is located inside the Best Western Plus Fairfield Executive Inn hotel, which is one of the hotels owned by Calandra’s Enterprises.
Calandra’s Italian Village is a cultural experience like no other. Located in Caldwell, the Italian Village is home to one of three Calandra’s Bakery locations as well as il Vecchio Cafe, a market and deli, a bar and lounge called La Taverna and La Gelateria. The market — known officially as Calandra’s Italian Market & Deli — features Italian specialty items suitable for either lunch or dinner such as Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella, deli meats, hot pressed paninis and cold deli sandwiches, in addition to soups, sauces and pastas. High-end corporate and private catering is also available.
Another staple of Calandra’s Italian Village is La Taverna, a bar and lounge easily suitable for either a work lunch or a night out. The lounge area has six big-screen HDTVs perfect for viewing sports; if there aren’t any good games on, live entertainment is also regularly planned. La Taverna hosts private events by request.
La Gelateria is by far the “sweetest” offering Calandra’s Italian Village has to offer. The ice cream shop has over 20 flavors of sorbets and gelato, each handcrafted using fresh milk, sugar, cream and purees from fresh fruit and nuts. There is also an espresso bar with options to compliment each flavor. Featured gelato flavors include Pistachio, Raspberry, Black Cherry and Banana, while sorbet flavors range from Mango and Cantaloupe to Peach and Mixed Berries.
The open-concept dining room found at il Vecchio Cafe is designed for large groups and families. The Italian-infused menu has familiar options like pizza, pasta and panini sandwiches alongside burgers, flatbreads and calzones. Meals are made using natural, whole grain semolina flour in the same style stone deck wood-burning oven found at Cucina Calandra. On top of the more traditional menu, il Vecchio Cafe also includes gluten-free and family-style menus. Many promotions take place throughout the week, including Pasta Night (which happens every Tuesday), Trivia Night (which takes place Thursday evenings) and daily takeout specials.
While Cucina Calandra focuses on southern Italian cooking, Calandra’s Mediterranean Grill instead offers northern Italian-inspired meals with a Mediterranean influence. The Tuscan-themed dining room, lobby bar, outdoor seating and fireside lobby dining give the Grill a versatile atmosphere that can be enjoyed any season of the year. The dinner menu includes appetizers such as Baked Eggplant, Calamari Fritti and Shrimp Risotto while main course offerings feature Salmon Marrakesh, Veal Marsala, Duck Torrino and more.
Fully embracing the family aspect of true Italian dining, Sunday nights are Family Night at the Mediterranean Grill; two children per table, ages 12 and under, eat free from the Children’s Menu as a magician performs table-side, while adults can enjoy half-price wine bottles.
Calandra’s Enterprises isn’t just limited to dining and delis. The Calandra family also owns and operates a number of apartment complexes throughout northern New Jersey. The locations include four complexes in Belleville, one in Hackensack and one in Bloomfield. Most units are one-bedroom, though some of the complexes include two-bedroom units complete with a balcony. Most offer eat-in kitchens and large living rooms. All include heat, hot water and gas as part of the rental price. They don’t allow pets in any of the complexes, though all of them offer private parking.
The Holland Hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites, Best Western Plus and Meadowlands Hampton Inn make up the four hotels Calandra’s Enterprises is responsible for. Each offers a diverse set of amenities throughout the northern New Jersey area, but perhaps the most intriguing is the Hampton Inn Carlstadt located at the Meadowlands. Just minutes from MetLife stadium, the IZOD Center, and the Meadowlands Racetrack, the Hampton Inn Carlstadt is perfect for families.
The hotel is also just a 15-minute bus ride from New York City; in addition, they offer a free shuttle van service to nearby NJ restaurants, shops and attractions within five miles.
New Jersey is home to a number of wonderful and inspirational businesses both large and small. Calandra’s Enterprises is just one shining example of greatness in the Garden State. To learn more about Calandra’s Enterprises and their assortment of services, visit calandras.net or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
All Photos: © Calandra’s Enterprises