Like many of their customers, Savor Lounge has been evolving since Superstorm Sandy struck the barrier island, devastating the business by taking away many of its longtime customers.
The De Rosa family had a plan. Previously called Luna De Rosa, sons Carmine Jr. and Nick earned their way to the top of the business, and would “cast a wider net,” Nick De Rosa said, with a new concept on the Boulevard in Seaside Heights.
Sometimes confused with the Karma nightclub it shares a block with, Savor is a laid-back lounge with an extensive bar in front of a fine dining room. But the establishment, which has been at its present location 10 years, is ever-developing its brand with events and specials that will last all summer.
“Over the course of the five years that we’ve been Savor, we’ve slowly started to retract back to our roots, which is upscale,” said De Rosa, but that doesn’t mean there is a stuffy dress code or typical elements of a trendy space that serves higher-end food.
“Obviously, you need a shirt and shoes, but we still encourage people to come off the beach – we know where we are, grab a table and have some food. We have a casual persona but the quality and serve of food is find dining,” De Rosa said.
The De Rosa family has been operating restaurants in Seaside Heights for years – first up the Boulevard as De Rosa’s (more of a pizza shop) and then as the Luna De Rosa Italian restaurant.
“We’re keeping it a higher tier of American food – heavy on the Italian – but Amern influenced,” said De Rosa.
The De Rosa brothers have capitalized on a trend in the industry known as “vibe dining,” where customers can come for dinner, but stay for drinks and entertainment lighter than that of a traditional nightclub. Savor has added fire pits to its large outside space for this season, and has also introduced several special.
Wednesday through Friday from 4:30-7 p.m. is “Halfy Hour,” where the bar menu is half off, as well as certain wines and beers, plus New Amsterdam vodka.
On Wednesdays all summer, the restaurant will introduce one of its most exciting specials: BYOB wine night. Customers can bring their own bottles of wine (even though Savor has a liquor license) and a $4 corkage fee will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project and Oceans of Love.
Friday nights will be themed “Circa ’99” with music from the late 90s and early 2000s, while on Saturdays, legendary DJ Jerry De Meo will appear at the restaurant.
“He’s going to be celebrating his 40th year in the business on the island,” said De Rosa.
De Meo, once a staple at Joey Harrison’s Surf Club, plays music from the 1970s to today.
“Sunday night is really special to us, because I don’t think anybody has built a Sunday like we have,” said De Rose.
Gerard Esposito, another island legend known for his Rat Pack-era songs, is one of the most celebrated local performers. Each week he sings during Sunday dinner. It is his tenth season with the De Rosa family’s restaurants.
“We have standing reservations for the entire summer,” said De Rosa. “If you want to reserve a table on the weekend, you’ll need to call a week ahead.”
For the De Rosa brothers, the business is one of love – and responsibility to their family – to keep the dream of a family business alive. Seaside Heights’ recent effort to lure more restaurants to the Boulevard and transform to a more family-friendly community only helps things.
“The nightlife industry has definitely taken a back seat to what everyone is doing now,” De Rosa said. “It’s good to see the town going in that direction – more restaurant, family-oriented. I think it has helped us.”
At Savor, everything comes back to family.
In the beginning, “It was my family, my mother and father,” he said. “We did everything. I’ve done every from selling pizza slices behind the counter, Carmine was making pizzas, then I bussed tables all the way up to the position I have now.”
If You Go
SAVOR Lounge (Website)
411 Boulevard, Seaside Heights