By Tina Pappas
for Montclair Local

The iconic Raymond’s Restaurant was host to the NJTV program “In Your Neighborhood” with a focus on Montclair.

The popular program showcased Montclair on May 3 during the film festival for its state-wide broadcast and community engagement initiative series. The program spotlights issues impacting communities throughout New Jersey.

The Montclair segment highlighted the annual Montclair Film Festival, while also focusing on the township’s local history, economy, culture and progress throughout the years.
The show was a homecoming of sorts for the anchor and the general manager, both of whom are from Montclair. The hour-long, live broadcast was held at Raymond’s Restaurant, located at 28 Church St. and was hosted by news anchor Mary Alice Williams. The restaurant was picked as the backdrop for the broadcast out of several other options in the township, said John Servidio, general manager of NJTV.

“Mary Alice and I both live in town and I chose Raymond’s Restaurant because it’s an iconic place,” Servidio explained. “We sent a scout out to several locations, but this was selected because of what it has to offer - great food that’s well-priced and you always feel at home. It’s also a famous place in town.”

Raymond’s Restaurant first opened its doors in 1989 by owner Raymond Badach. The restaurant was then moved to the Church Street address in 2003. According to co-owner Joanne Ricci, she and Badach wanted to emphasize hospitality, with the classic American bistro styled menu, which boasts a to-die-for French toast as one of their popular items.

“We offer a vibe here you don’t find anywhere else,” Ricci said. “It’s a very special downtown feel and we’ve got a bit of everything here. We have an eclectic, diverse clientele, which is great, and a number of regular patrons.”

The restaurant has grown over the years with the addition of a second location in Ridgewood five years ago, Ricci said.

“To be spotlighted and tied into the Montclair Film Festival, along with other local businesses, I thought was a great idea” Badach said.

During the broadcast, NJTV political correspondent Michael Aaron interviewed Mayor Robert Jackson, who spoke about some vitals of the township, including some history of the town and why it’s appealing to those who live here.

Williams also gave some timeline references, referring to the town as “media central,” when local resident Allen DuMont manufactured the first commercially practical television set in the home that he built. She also noted that some of the smartest journalist “power-hitters” live in the town today, including many Hollywood heavyweights such as Academy Awards winning actress Olympia Dukakis and Herman Hupfeld, composer of “As Time Goes By.”

The Montclair Film Festival was touted as being started by locals, supported by locals, and includes many film-makers who are locals too. The special also referenced Movie Magazine calling the rapid rise of the festival as having “blossomed into the 25 coolest film festivals in the world.” Tom Hall, executive director of the Montclair Film Festival, called the growth of the festival “staggering.” He said that "the growth had all to do with the community.”

In an interview with “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, he said he picked Montclair as his home to reside because he wanted a community that “wasn’t just a bedroom community.” He and his wife Evie, president of the Montclair Film Festival, are local residents for the past 17 years. Along with Montclair Film Festival founder, Bob Feinberg, they were surprised how many people in media reside in town when the festival first started seven years ago.

Colbert also hosted the “Storytellers” portion of the festival and conducted an interview with Academy Award winning actress, Rachel Weisz, who was promoting the new film she co-stars in “Disobedience,” featured at the festival.

“There’s culture, theater, the Montclair Museum and, especially the festival that make Montclair a beautiful place to live in,” Colbert said during the interview.

The broadcast also focused on other “mom and pop” businesses that line the mile stretch of the downtown area that has been on a revitalization upswing since 2002, with 324 retailers and restaurants.