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This feature was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 21, 1998.

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On Princeton’s `Restaurant Row,’ A Family Place

In 1990, after years of owning and operating various

pizzerias, brothers Tony and Joe Vitella opened what was then an

unusual concept for a restaurant — casual, affordable family

dining in a bistro atmosphere. The first TJ’s Trattoria was in

Pennington, followed by another in Morrisville. Undeterred by the

propagation of chain eateries with a similar target market, the

Vitellas have opened a third TJ’s Trattoria, this time in the high

rent district of Witherspoon Street, helping solidify that street’s

reputation as Princeton’s restaurant row.

Tony and Joe Vitella grew up in Mountain View until the family moved

to Lawrence, where their father, a pharmacist, owned the Lawrenceville

Pharmacy and their mother owned the health food store next door. The

brothers went to high school at the Pennington School and worked in

pizza places at the shore. In 1976, when Tony was 18 and Joe was 22,

they bought a restaurant.

That first TJ’s was a pizza parlor on Main Street in Lawrenceville

(which they later sold). There they were among the earliest to serve

Pizza Verde, a white pie with fresh broccoli, garlic, and mozzarella

cheese. Now all three trattorias serve moderately priced lunch and

dinner daily with generously-sized dinner entrees from $9 to $20,

including a salad and bread and butter. Daily specials might include

grilled swordfish for $17, and the $13 vodka rigatoni is a house

favorite.

You can also get sandwiches, pizza, chicken, veal, pasta, and fresh

fish, and there is a children’s menu.

Those who frequented the Athenian Restaurant will hardly recognize

this place; it’s been totally redone in rose tones with comfortable

booths and seats about 65 people. The entire restaurant is no smoking,

and credit cards are accepted. Though the Witherspoon Street edition

does not have a liquor license, a liquor store is right next door.

The two others have full-service bars.

TJ’s Trattoria, 27 Witherspoon Street, Princeton.

609-688-9300.

Also at 25 Route 31 South, Pennington, 609-737-7166. And in

Morrisville,

215-295-8585. Tony and Joseph Vitella, owners.


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