City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

The Welcoming Table

At Bistro Seven Three, Afrim Berisha Greets Every Guest as a Friend—and Here Shares a Favorite Recipe

Bistro Seven Three opened its doors in 2003 and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The restaurant is easily identified by the beautiful outdoor space and its inviting decor. Located in the heart of Bernardsville, this popular spot is known for its trendy and welcoming atmosphere and eclectic seasonal menu. Over the years, they have become a neighborhood gathering spot for generations of residents.

“I’m now serving the children and grandchildren of my original customers,” says Afrim Berisha, who co-owns the restaurant with Vinny Astudillo and Ross Rivas.

With recent new additions, including a European-inspired glass atrium, Bistro Seven Three has also become a happening place for guests from across the state.

In honor of Bistro Seven Three’s milestone 20th anniversary, Berisha gives us a taste of the restaurant business that has kept him captivated all these years. 

Keeping a restaurant open for 20 years is quite an accomplishment. What are you doing to celebrate the anniversary?

We don’t have specific plans because we celebrate every year by reinventing ourselves. Five years ago, we added a patio. Last year, we put in a glass atrium with a retracting roof and ceiling that we imported from France. Now, we’re changing our menu again because if I’m getting bored with it, so are my customers. I’m also opening another restaurant—my sixth. Toca Vez, the former Vine restaurant in Basking Ridge, is a Mexican-California concept. 

What’s the secret to your success?

It comes easy to me because I really love what I do. I think that’s the secret. I look at every customer as a guest and as a friend, not as another number. I personally greet everyone who walks through our doors because forming and fostering those relationships is crucial for me. 

What fuels your passion?

It comes from my roots, my Albanian culture. I’m a first-generation American. We are very hospitable people. I grew up in the Bronx and was born into the business. I learned everything I know from my uncle Benito [the owner of Da Benito in Union] when I started washing dishes for him at 12. I also attribute a lot of my success to my brother, Tony. He helped shape who I am as a businessman.

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of opening a restaurant?

Forget about it. Don’t do it. I’m just kidding. Seriously, you have to be dedicated and devoted and willing to work six days a week. It truly is all about consistency. 

What do you hope your guests experience when dining at one of your restaurants?

I want to deliver an overall memorable experience. From my guests’ first interaction to their last sip of espresso, I want them to enjoy themselves in a relaxed and upbeat atmosphere. The most important thing to me is for my guests to feel like they are at home. I love what I do and I want everyone who walks through our doors to feel that.

View the menu at

Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage, Roasted Butternut Squash & Kale

2 tbsp olive oil

8 oz crumbled Italian sweet sausage

1 large butternut squash, cut into small cubes

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 shallot, chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 c chicken broth

1/2 lb orecchiette

1 bunch kale

1/2 c white wine

1/2 c heavy cream

1 tbsp Calabrian chiles, minced

1 tbsp chopped sage

Parmesan cheese, to serve

Salt and pepper, for seasoning

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Place crumbled sausage in hot oil for two minutes. Add nutmeg and finely diced butternut squash for three minutes. Add in chopped shallots and garlic until lightly browned. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and cook until broth is almost completely absorbed.

Heat a pot of water over high heat until boiling. Salt water generously. Cook orecchiette until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water and drain. 

Remove the middle stems from the kale and roughly chop the leaves. Add kale to sausage and butternut squash and stir until kale has softened.

Add white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and reduce about 7 minutes.

Turn heat to low and add the heavy cream. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan with the sausage and butternut squash.

Add 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Add Calabrian chiles to pasta and toss.

Sprinkle with sage and Parmesan cheese.

  • Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage, Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale
  • Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage, Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale
  • Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage, Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale
  • Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage, Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale
  • Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage, Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale
  • Afrim Berisha, co-owner of Bistro Seven Three