Franco’s Metro: Celebrating 40 Years in Fort Lee
From Columbia, Italy to Main St. in Fort Lee, to its current location, Franco's Metro continues to go strong, offering delicious food and a perfect dining experience.
Upon walking into Franco’s Metro Restaurant, Bar & Pizzeria on Bergen Blvd., visitors are greeted by beautiful, fresh flowers, the elegance of the bar and the ambiance throughout.
Franco and Antonietta Bazzarelli, the owners of Franco’s Metro, are from Calabria, Italy, albeit from different regions. Antonietta came to the U.S. in 1965, and Franco came over in 1968. A mutual friend introduced them when Franco arrived in the U.S.
They soon married and opened Main Pizza on Main Street, offering 35 seats and take out, but the success of the business and the congested parking called for a bigger location.
“I really think to be so young, at 21, having a business was very challenging, very hard, but extremely rewarding,” Antonietta said.
When they found larger space in the just-being-developed strip mall, Plaza West, Franco’s Metro Restaurant Bar & Pizza was born. After four years, as business kept on booming, they got a liquor license and moved to an even bigger location in the same Plaza.
“We create a family relationship with our customers and want to accommodate them at all times," Antoniette said when asked how they keep the business going steady in the face of an economic downturn. "Even with the economy affecting everyone, we hold our own. Our customers might patronize us three times a week, instead of four, but the relationship is always there. The economy affects the growth of the profit because we do not decrease on the quality of food. The dynamics of our chefs, with each of their certain talents, creativity and skills, continues to be strong and must be maintained even if we have to take a loss.”
Antonietta is equally optimistic about the future. She says being able to maintain quality of service is important.
"We continue to be the eyes, ears and voice of the business to the best of our ability,” she said.
Two of the Bazzarelli children, Melissa and Eugene, are main players in the restaurant. With their gift of gab and intuitiveness, they provide personality and effectiveness at the bar, dining room and kitchen.
“They are the business's strongest pilars with their inventiveness and creativity and their up to the minute ideas," Antonietta said of her kids. "They keep the business strong in every aspect with their involvement."
Staying in business, serving great food and creating a customer base is what Franco’s does best. But that doesn't mean they're afraid to change with the times and the changing face of the community.
“We try to diversify by accommodating different palates with different choices of food," Antonietta said. "Gene created a clam bake, consisting of a large selection of sea food, served family style, and a whole fish on Wednesdays that caters to the Asian population.”
Different styles of pizzas along with an assortment of the best Italian food choices, only add to that diversity.
Asked what advice she would have for other business owners to stay on track during challenging economic times, Antonietta said, “Don’t cut corners; don’t cut on quality, portions and standards. Keep service going and maintain an upbeat attitude. Your customers will smile with you."
The restaurant located at 1475 Bergen Blvd. has 22 tables and a number of booths, a full service bar and offers catering for all occasions. For reservations call 201-461-6651.