For Antonio Berisha, getting into the restaurant business was a natural fit.
“My family’s Albanian, and our culture is big on hospitality,” he says. “Growing up, we were entertaining all the time, and every weekend was filled with food, parties, family and friends.”
Berisha, who co-owns Martinsville Tavern with seasoned restaurateur Benny Mavraj—who also owns Cafe Azzurro in Peapack—creates a unique atmosphere in a building with a historic past, alongside cuisine comprised of classic favorites with unexpected twists. The 200-year-old building constructed of brick and natural stone has been a place for lodging and food since Colonial times.
“Martinsville Tavern is a pub with European flair,” he says. In addition to standard pub offerings like wings, calamari and their award-winning burger (perfectly cooked on a cast iron skillet and topped with caramelized onions and white cheddar on brioche), they put their own spin on European-style dishes like Linguine Azzurro (cauliflower, sautéed spinach, garlic, olive oil, shaved Parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs) and Fire-Roasted Bronzino (served over arugula salad topped with grape tomatoes, red onion, olives and blood orange zest vinaigrette).
As far as washing it all down, the bar stays well stocked with classic choices and seasonal brews and beers on tap from local breweries. In addition, they serve up craft cocktails like the Fig ’n Juniper (Figenza, Nolet’s Gin, lemon juice and blueberry preserves) and the Martinsville Sour (Bulleit rye, lemon juice, simple syrup and Sangiovese float).
Having such a variety of choices is pretty special for the only bar in town.
“Though we’re part of greater Bridgewater Township, we are the only bar in Martinsville,” Berisha says. “It feels like an escape to a rural village with a cozy, neighborhood feel.”
Visitors can enjoy scenic views from two dining rooms wrapped in windows or dine al fresco in an outdoor tented area surrounded by tropical plants. The tavern is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with live music from Tuesday through Saturday, starting at 6 p.m.
Book a table at Martinsville Tavern at martinsvilletavern.com.
Pan-Fried Flank Steak
1/2 lb flank steak
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp softened butter
Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
Tenderize by cutting away any tough connective tissue and poking small cuts about one-inch apart into the meat at an angle and in the direction of the grain.
Turn the steak over and repeat the cuts on the other side in areas where there are no cuts you previously made.
Rub steak on both sides with salt, pepper, dry mustard and butter.
Heat a cast iron frying pan on high heat. Place steak in hot pan. Let sear for 2 to 3 minutes until well browned.
Use tongs to lift up the steak to see if it is browned. If so, flip to the other side and let sear for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the steak continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes in the hot pan.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the steak: 125° F for rare or 130°F for medium-rare.
Remove the steak from the pan, cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Thinly slice steak at an angle, across the grain of the meat and serve.