Col-Ita’s, a new bakery and restaurant that serves Colombian and Italian food, opened on Saturday afternoon at the site of an infamous hookah lounge.
Owners Sullivan Lopez, Chiara Calderone, Felipe Alarcon, and Paola Bermudez celebrated the grand opening of the establishment at 967 Main Street by serving more than 50 people everything the restaurant and bakery has to offer.
“We’re very excited,” said Alarcon standing behind the counter as Lopez went table to table serving Panela, a brown sugar and lime energy drink from Colombia, and Italian cream puffs. “We’re thankful to the community for coming out.”
The grand opening attracted government officials and city residents. “The empanada is good,” said Ozzy Olivros. “The bread is also good.”
Olivros said he plans to patronize the restaurant long after the grand opening.
Councilman Andre Sayegh said the restaurant and bakery has an unique selling proposition offering a mix of Italian and Colombian viands.
“This is unique. You always have to find a point of difference,” said Sayegh. “They’re taking Colombian cuisine and marrying it to Italian cuisine.”
Sayegh said before the family owned Col-Ita’s bakery and restaurant opened in early August the storefront housed the notorious Big Apple Lounge. He said it took a full year to for the city to shut down the nightclub.
“It was hard to attract somebody here,” said the councilman. The business is located in South Paterson, the city’s most vibrant business district, said Sayegh.
“You can’t even find parking spots it’s so packed here,” said Assad Akhter, who welcomed the new business on behalf of congressman Bill Pascrell. He said the congressman is looking to possibly hold one of his small business walks in South Paterson next month.
“The only way we’ll have a strong local economy is by supporting our businesses,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large.
“Keep your money in our community,” added Sayegh.
Passaic County freeholder Cassandra “Sandi” Lazzara encouraged the new business to utilize the small business resources offered by the county. “This is a great town and everyone will support you,” she said to the owners of the new business.
The owners received a warm welcome from their next door neighbor Raed Odeh, owner of the Palestine Hair Salon.
This report was updated on Sept. 24, 2016 at 11:15 p.m. with the name of co-owner Chiara Calderone.