Montclair isn’t wanting for restaurants, yet we’ve been watching, waiting and wanting to know more about Montclair’s Pig & Prince Restaurant and Gastro-Lounge located at 1 Lackawanna Plaza. A new restaurant in Montclair is always news, especially one with a coveted Montclair liquor license, but there’s so much more to the Pig & Prince story. Chef-owner Michael Carrino, in creating a sprawling restaurant, with a gastro-lounge, tap room and huge dining space, has also brought back a piece of Montclair history in his thoughtful renovation of the long neglected Lackawanna Terminal. I met with Carrino and got a chance to see the restaurant, which is readying to open on or about August 24, with a grand opening in September.

About that history: The restaurant repurposes the former Lackawanna Railroad Station, which opened in June 1913 as the end of the Lackawanna’s Montclair Branch. Designed by William B. Hull, service at the six-track, four platform terminal was once used by thousands of commuters. The station ended service February 27, 1981 when the Montclair Branch was rerouted to a one-track terminal at Bay Street along an alignment with the proposed Montclair connection. The Grecian-Doric style building is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Hull, a then 25-year-old architect, died in the wreck of the Titanic before construction began. The cost of the station in 1913: $500,000.

Stepping into Pig & Prince, there are historic details just waiting to be discovered at every turn.

Carrino was able to track down and obtain one of the original wooden benches from the terminal’s waiting room that had been taken to the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center in Phillipsburg in 2010. The long gleaming bench, beautifully restored, is one of the first things you notice when walking into Pig & Prince. Inside, under layers of carpet and linoleum, Carrino and business partner Serge Hunkins, of Kadan Productions Inc, fashion producer and the design talent behind the restaurant space, discovered the intact stunning marble chip terrazzo floors with borders of inlaid tile in the main waiting room of the terminal, now the main dining room of Pig & Prince. Hunkins devised a warm, welcoming palette of rich wood, dark orange and metal that harmonize with the terminal’s historic elements.

At the bar, you can rest your feet on an actual rail from the station, stamped with the word Lackawanna. Surrounded by the buff-colored brick walls, softened by sections of upholstered wall and terra cotta colored leather banquettes, the dining room has a focal point – a mural featuring playful pigs frolicking around pots – that fills the space of an arched opening in the waiting room wall. Carrino says he plans to switch out the murals, allowing an ever-changing showcase for local artists. Outside, wooden and glass boxes that once held train schedules are now mounted on the exterior of the building, waiting to hold copies of Pig & Prince’s menu.

About that menu: It’s an eclectic and approachable Modern American showcasing local meats and produce. Dishes include everything from Duck Duck Goose (duck prosciutto, duck rillettes and foie gras crème brulee) Spanish chili empanadas with chorizo and smoked sausage, fish and chips, spicy Korean lamb, to a sweet pea risotto with country ham and cracklings and a lobster tagliatelle that will “change your life.”

Carrino, a past winner of Food Network’s Chopped who became a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs at age 28, conceived Pig & Prince as a place where everyone – families, couples and late-nighters can feel comfortable. “This is more my style,” says Carrino, of Pig & Prince, as opposed to his former, more formal Restaurant Passione.

Worker completing the bar in late July.
A 1913 New York Times article described the opening of the Lackawanna terminal as ushering in an “era of better feeling” in Montclair. The same could be said for Carrino’s impact on Lackawanna Plaza and the area’s revitalization.

“People in the neighborhood are great, and they are so excited that someone is doing something with this space,” says Carrino, who had kept his eye on the historic terminal for some time, hoping to create a downtown destination. “I love this corner. I think it’s a great corner.”

Carrino ignored naysayers who told him the area wasn’t right for a fine dining establishment [other restaurants already in the area include Fascino, located less than a block away from Pig & Prince and Greek Taverna, across the street]. “I’m putting my flag down. There were areas in Brooklyn that people never used to go to that are now cool. I think this area is vibrant and is going to become even more so.”

The kitchen, which faces Bloomfield Ave, has a pizza oven that Carrino plans to keep busy baking bread for the restaurant, as well as a glass curing room visible to diners from the tap room, where aromatic meats already hang seductively. The restaurant’s transformation makes it hard to remember the Hollywood Video store that previously occupied the space, but Carrino let a piece of that history stand, too. There’s just one remnant of the long-gone video rental business, which previously had its walls plastered with cinematic images. High up in a corner of the kitchen hallway, where the wall meets the ceiling, a smiling Jack Nicholson leers, teeth bared, captured in a scene from the movie, “The Shining.”

Carrino has plans for a beer club, wine club, special tasting menus and experiences with pairings, a butcher’s table, where you can dine in the kitchen an experience a meal “unedited,” and by next spring/summer, dining outdoors in a bordered patio.

At the far end of Pig & Prince’s dining room, there is a large cast bronze clock on the wall, located above what used to be the ticket office, as well as an original drinking fountain with a grapevine tile design. Carrino says the clock still works, but cannot keep time. His plan is to set the hands of the clock to reflect the day Pig & Prince opens its doors. It’s fitting that the clock will serve as a reminder of both the past and the space’s new chapter in Montclair history.

Pig & Prince Restaurant and Gastro-Lounge, 1 Lackawanna Plaza, Montclair (973) 233-1006

Here’s an answer to what Carrino intended with the name Pig & Prince:

The funny answer- it represents the duality of man.

The real answer- it’s where the casual and elegant can co-exist.

50 replies on “Montclair’s Pig & Prince Restaurant and Gastro-Lounge Coming Soon”

  1. As a resident of the Lackawanna Plaza area, I’m glad to see that Mr. Carrino saw it’s potential. I’m also pleased that a restaurant like his could really kickstart a long needed revitalization of the area.
    I can’t wait to try Pig & Prince when it’s open for business. Hopefully more residents will too, despite it’s location, which is often derided around here.

  2. As happy as I am to see something happening at Lackawanna plaza, and I wish him the best of luck, this place will probably be the victim of an armed robbery and the patrons mugged at night.

  3. In the 80’s it was one of those places that was always a new restaurant, some fancy, once a Pizza Hut, and nothing seemed to stick. I’m hoping the liquor license is the change that was needed.

  4. I’d go just to see the interior, and some of the historical stuff (that floor looks especially beautiful!)… but they lost me at “bone marrow aioli”. Chalk me up as non-adventurous!

  5. How exciting!!! Fabulous news! I wish them grand success!

    I’m looking all over Youtube for the scene from the original Cheeper by the Dozen, from the 1940s, that was shot in the Montclair Train Station. I’m sure that there are some great still shots of our station. Please let us know if anyone has a link. ox

  6. I can’t wait to try this place when it opens! It looks beautiful, and the liquor license will give it a different atmosphere than the other restaurants in town.

  7. I’m glad to see the venison is back. As a frequenter of your old digs on Walnut Street, I can’t wait to sample the treats at your new digs. You should be commended for your work in maintaining the historic significance of the original station as well as the risk you are taking in opening in that space. Just do me a favor. If you run out of a type of meat, please don’t send someone scrambling down to Pathmark. 😛

  8. Also – how come no prices on the menu??? One needs a sense of price before choosing a restaurant.

  9. “gastro-lounge” sounds like everyone is
    sitting around on comfortable couches farting.

  10. This may actually be the most exciting epicurean opening Montclair has experienced in a long time. WOW can’t wait to try it!

  11. Not sure I dig the name or the thought of a Gastro Lounge. Really, what is that? BUT…I am excited for this place to open and I wish Carrino much success! I love this area. My son dances HipHop down the street at the 3sixty club, I shop in Pathmark from time to time and we had some good ice-cream at the place on that corner!!! Looking forward to checking this new place out!

  12. I wish him luck and hope this will help turn around that area. It’s a beautiful structure.

  13. They should provide security in the parking area. This is common in Houston and L.A. Sounds like a good concept.

  14. At the end of the post — I’ve added a postscript explaining why Carrino chose the name Pig & Prince.

  15. rude budd(d)ah – And it only took you a mere two hours and twenty-five minutes to figure that out. I guess the extra “d” stands for uh . . . dimwitted comes to mind.

  16. huh? Gastro lounge sounds like a fart? First off, Gastro literally means stomach, not colon. Secondly, a gastropub is a British term for a public house (“pub”) which specializes in high-quality food a step above the more basic “pub grub.” Egans & Sons is a Gastropub.

    I am a huge fan of this spot. Even when Pizza hut was there as a kid I used to stare at the walls, ceiling and floors in awe. I think when pizza hut was there they still had the original benches and light fixtures, but I may be wrong. I don’t think you will have muggings and hold ups any more than you would if this opened in Watchung Plaza. Banker’s cafe is directly across the street and nobody is scared to go there. I dine at Fascino a few times a month and I don’t look over my shoulder. Bobbi Brown has her studio on that side street and the rest of the street is filled with Art, yoga and fitness. Behind the restaurant is a (little gym? Cupcake place? No idea, but I know its family friendly over there) The rest of the stores suck in lackawanna station, but the restaurant doesn’t have a shared entrance and if you don’t feel safe, park on the street instead of the lot
    Lastly, Carrino- I didn’t like Passione, but I like your style and I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far on the pig & prince. Like Fig and Olive, Frog and peach, I think your name is good. Keep the beer cold and the dress code neat and you will do fine

  17. The real answer- it’s where the casual, elegant and washed up cougars from Egans can co-exist.

  18. Does any one else remember when H-O Gauges used to be there? Too many people got robbed, jumped and mugged outside so business just dried up. It’s a shame because the inside was beautiful from what I remember. We used to use the parking lot for fishing trips out of Belmar when the Essex County Salt Water Anglers were active back in the 50’s and 60’s and mid 70’s when the Station was all but abandoned. I wish the new owners all the luck in the world.

  19. I remember H O Gauges. It opened when the Wedgwood Cafeteria closed, and a lot of the Wedgwood employees went to work there.

  20. The new restaurant sounds really interesting. Can’t wait to see the new space and it’s always good to see new, upscale business in this area.

  21. Whenever I feel like I live in a great and welcoming town, I can come here to find proof that there are still some prejudiced people on the loose. There are not roving bands of muggers waiting in the Lackawanna parking lot. If you ever actually shopped there you would know that it is very safe at all times of day and is frequented by people with a wide range of incomes. Even if you bring your Land Rover you can still make it out alive.

    Thanks to Chef Carrino for having vision. I plan to patronize the Pig and Prince on a regular basis.

  22. POSTED BY redrum | August 09, 2012 @ 10:48 am
    As happy as I am to see something happening at Lackawanna plaza, and I wish him the best of luck, this place will probably be the victim of an armed robbery and the patrons mugged at night.

    COMMENTS SUCH AS THIS ALWAYS MAKE ME SICK. The lack of awareness of the prejudice overlay of this comment by thw writer is astonishing, or repulsive. My suggestion is that anyone who would make this statement in public should move. Montclair is not the place for anyone with this attitude.

  23. Menu looks exciting so far! Hope they take advantage of having a liquor license in Montclair and offer a beer and wine selections that isn’t filled with usual mass produced same old. It would really be great to have a cutting edge menu AND wine list in town.

  24. This is not a dangerous area. My family lives a two blocks away and I walk past Lackawanna Plaza every day with my toddler. If you spend time in the neighborhood, you’re likely to encounter young couples with baby strollers, kids walking their dogs, families on their way to the farmer’s market, or folks sitting on their porches eager to say hello. The neighborhood is racially and economically diverse, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s crime-ridden or should be avoided. Come and visit us.

  25. I rented on Claremont Avenue, close to Grove for several years and would walk to Lackawanna Plaza often. No, it’s not the best area, doesn’t look like Upper Montclair business district, but not once was I mugged or made to feel unsafe. In fact, once I dropped my cellphone while pushing my stroller and received a call from a young teen telling me he found it in the Pathmark lot. He waited there for me and when I met him, he handed it over to me. He wouldn’t even take a cash reward, just said he was doing the right thing.

  26. thanks Georgette for posting your story. Jimmytown, appreciate the facts in your post, too. this part of Town gets a bad rad, but there are several thriving businesses to prove it’s viable. {your Eagan’s comment was spot on and hilarious!} finally, a sophisticated Montclair option for cocktails and gourmet food!!!! so excited for this new spot!!

  27. With the entire complex in a state of flux for so many years its really uplifting to see a few young and motivated guys take on a building like that. I walk there almost every day to get my morning coffee on my way to work and occasionally groceries. Truth be told the long walk up the hill to Whole Foods is worth the effort! What I did find was that the cool young builder types coming in and out of that building very friendly and receptive to my questions. I’m pretty sure one of the owners has a few small children who I’ve seen coming in and out at night as I get home on the Bloomfield bus. The neighborhood is really in need of a place we can call our own and certainly with enough folks coming in to eat regularly will only get better! Thanks for thinking of us Mike! Keep Montclair a restaurant destination- make sure you include directions by train from NYC so my friends can come out too!

  28. If you have honestly not heard the term gastro lounge by now (especially living so close to Manhattan), or if the thought of bone marrow gives you the “heebie geebies”, then something tells me you probably grew up on velveeta and wonder bread and maybe you should broaden your horizons. As Anette said, “This may actually be the most exciting epicurean opening Montclair has experienced in a long time.” Hear hear!
    It’s nice to see a more current food scene making it’s way into NJ. Cheers Chef Carrino!

  29. Voscolaidhe: There are people in this world who can barely AFFORD Velveeta and Wonder Bread. Your comment is insulting.

  30. Well frobnitz, your comment is shortsighted and narrow-minded, I grew up poor, but I don’t approach food in the way a stereotypical five year old treats broccoli. I’m simply suggesting people try new things that might seem “yucky”. My words were in reference to the earlier comments written by folks who were slightly less than thoughtful.
    Also, I’ve noticed a lot on these types of forums what I like to call “courage through anonymity”. Certain types use sites like these to make themselves feel better about whatever, and they say things that they would never say to someone’s face. Have a nice day frobnitz.

  31. I realize that no matter what your circumstances are, were or will be (Assuming of course Mitt Romney doesn’t bring us back to 1929) we are all ALWAYS in need of a good meal at good prices these days.

    I do hope Frobnitz has a moment and buys me a beer at the awesome TAP ROOM this place touts! I like his working class style on the foodie blog.

    We all won the cultural lottery here you know! A true American will understand the diversity and not judge before he tries. My momma always said TRY IT YOU MIGHT LIKE IT!

    Here’s to Hot Dogs and Foie Gras!

  32. Yum! My family just checked this place out, got a few appetizers off the bar menu, small portions of two entrees, and split the goat’s milk cheese cake – all delicious! Space is lovely. Service was very nice. And a window into the kitchen was interesting!

    My husband opted for Hershey’s Ice Cream dessert across the street at Banker’s Cafe – very nice people there, too (and you can go in the bank vault.)

  33. uh oh! have to write Pig and Prince is inconsistent. that lovely cocktail in the pic tastes will taste different depending on who makes it and which day you visit. the lobster tag..didn’t live up to its name, either (change lives? perhaps it will after 9/8?) oh man, consistency is KEY in the restaurant business, am i the only one who wonders why it’s so hard to achieve?
    BTW, great NEW spot in Nutley: MEAL on Kingsland, across from Hoffman La Roche – food, service excellent; soon to have a liquor license and bar, so go fast if you prefer BYO.

  34. My wife and I stopped at the bar Friday night, had a couple of glasses of wine and tried their rustic bar pies. They have a fairly extensive bar menu and also serve half portions of the pasta dishes. The food was pretty good.
    The place was pretty lively. Too lively to have an intimate dinner since there is no separation between the bar and dining area.
    We’ll go again to have some wine and a light dinner.

  35. I haven’t been to Pig and Prince yet but I certainly will try it. But please, don’t send any city friends in from the train, they will run for their lives walking over! Send them via car, route 3 to grove street. Much more serene.

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