After serving 33 years, retired Newark cop opens restaurant in city

NEWARK -- After serving 33 years as an officer, Sam Siino is trading in his badge for a spatula. 

The 67-year-old Newark Police Department retiree and his wife, Liz, have opened Suite 304 Bar and Restaurant in the city's Central ward, the same neighborhood where Sam Siino was raised along with six siblings.

"We grew up poor, but Newark was always good to me" Siino said. "I got a job here and an education here... (That's) why I wanted to do this."

Until 2015, the space on University Avenue was home to Skipper's Plane Street Pub, a popular bar that featured live music. The Siino couple spent two years giving the building a makeover, from replacing the floor to fixing the kitchen's sink.

Speaking alongside the owners, Mayor Ras Baraka called the work put into the restaurant "heartwarming" and said he is excited another business is moving in.

"It warms my heart to be able to come back into this space because I would drive past it and see it closed down," Baraka said. "I'm glad that you're doing this."

Baraka, a spoken word poet, said he frequented the old pub with his parents to listen to live jazz and blues. The new space, he said, mixes Newark's past with its future. 

"We don't want to have a city of giant chains. We want to have a city mixed with creative and imaginative places," he added.

Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins said the Siinos' eatery will help keep residents in the city, and spending money in Newark's economy. 

"You don't have to go to Montclair, you don't to Hoboken, you don't have to go to Jersey City in order to get a great dining experience" she said. "You can meet us in Newark."

Seeing recent investments in the city inspired Siino to be apart of what he called "Newark's comeback." 

Among the numerous development projects is a 22-story apartment complex across from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center that will cost an estimated $116 million.

"I see the potential of Newark coming back," he said. "I saw Newark when it was good, when it went down and as it's coming back up."

Co-owner Liz Siino said her husband's bucket list has always included managing his own food place, and she was thrilled to put her 25 years of knowledge to the test. For more than a decade, Liz Siino worked for Restaurant Associates, a New York City-based hospitality company. 

"He knew that I had the experience," Liz Siino said. "I said, 'Okay, let's go for it."

She said the restaurant will serve Italian and American food, and may begin offering live music on weekends.

Top Chef Michael Logan used to run his own Italian restaurant in Manalapan and previously worked in Newark's Radisson Hotel.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment