Nino Kabashi feels different when he is in Morristown.
The restaurateur has owned and operated restaurants in New Jersey for almost 15 years. However, when it has come to his time off, Kabashi often found himself in Morristown with his wife and children.
So, when an opportunity to open a restaurant here materialized, Kabashi jumped at the chance.
The Planning Board approved Kabashi's Fiore's Italian Restaurant Thursday night. Only Planning Board member Joseph Kaine voted down the plan, citing parking issues, said Martin Newark, the attorney representing property owner 12 Elm Street LLC.
The 92-seat dining destination—68 inside, 24 outside—comes after that building had been approved with plans for retail on its first floor. However, "in the 10 years passed while it was being built and it's been up, no retail tenant materialized," Newmark said. "They concluded the location at the end of the Central Business District is where people don't tend to shop."
But, they do tend to eat. "He thinks like everyone else Morristown is a place to have a restaurant," Newark said of Kabashi.
A native of Albania who grew up in Milano, Italy, Kabashi moved to the United States in 1995. In 1998, he opened his first restaurant in Martinsville then moved on to Nino's on the River in Clinton in 2002.
Kabashi said his businesses have always been and will continue to be family affairs. He serves as head chef while his brother, John, handles the floor. "My wife and I cook," Nino Kabashi said. "We have a whole team working together."
Having grown up in Milano, "we're doing north Italian," Kabashi said. "Chicken, veal. The south is more Lasagna, Parmagiana."
Fiore's will comprise 4,400 square feet, with 1,700 square feet on the basement being utilized for bathrooms and storage. The 2,700 square foot main floor will feature an open kitchen, allowing diners to see the chefs at work.
Kabashi said he is full steam ahead with the project since his previous restaurant has been sold since October. He said he hopes to open sometime in the next couple months.
It cannot come any sooner. "I've always liked Morristown," he said. "It's a beautiful town. I feel different here."