NEW YORK (PIX11) — A small and wildly popular Italian restaurant run out of a family home in Jersey City offers a dining experience unlike anywhere else in the New York City area.
With no menu and no alcohol served, 15 Fox Place customers are made to feel like they’re attending a special family holiday celebration, said chef and owner Marc Budinich.
“That’s what we’re known for. There’s nothing really comparable in the tri-state area,” he said.
Budinich grew up in a six-family apartment building in Jersey City where his grandma and aunts also lived. Eating in their homes made him fall in love with southern Italian food that inspired the restaurant’s popular recipes.
Despite the changing menu, there are a few dishes customers insist are a must at the 60-seat eatery, like the polenta, eggplant rollatini, warm soft chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, and the zeppoles stuffed with cannoli cream and topped with figs.
The 2 1/2-hour meal comes with healthy portions and costs $99 a person. The restaurant only takes reservations and customers can bring their own alcohol to enjoy with their meals.
“They go crazy over the polenta,” Budinich said.
Budinich worked as a chef in New York City and his parents, Richard and Kathryn, ran a catering business until the family opened 15 Fox Place in 1999. It was Kathryn’s idea to use the family home as a dining space, which started as a one-floor operation before expanding to the second floor. Then about 10 years later, when the restaurant really took off after a New York Times review, Budnich said he had to kick his parents out of the home.
Kathryn passed in 2018. Richard, 80, mingles with the customers while Budinich is cooking up memorable dishes in the kitchen.
“I want them to feel like they’re coming to my house for a family holiday,” the chef said. “It’s about giving everyone an experience.”
The eatery has received several accolades, including being named a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2020. But it was the social media influencers who created the reservation havoc in the past two years. Diners are encouraged to book in advance and call often to snag a table.
“We didn’t create it (the buzz). Blame the TikTokers,” Budinich joked.