Maristella’s Luncheonette: ‘Making a Name for Ourselves’

By MARIA SCANDALE | Jun 19, 2019
Photo by: Maria Scandale

Ship Bottom — Happiness was a window bench in a new Ship Bottom luncheonette, the ocean breeze blowing in the open screened window while customers were making new friends over tater tots, Maristella-style.

Comfortable, colorful Maristella’s Luncheonette is on the Ship Bottom circle, where Lex Mex moved from. One couldn’t ask for a more central location than 816 Long Beach Blvd.

Young people online are calling it “my new favorite place,” for reasons like “a lot of TLC in there!” The next generations up are finding it, too. One recent Tuesday, the casual air had everybody talking.

The woman at the next table announced that she was “drooling” over the aroma of Parmesan cheese, garlic and chives that topped the tater tots, tossed with extra virgin olive oil. The man was having what he called an “incredible” avocado tostada. They have owned a condo at The Fishery for years, coming from Staten Island; the husband first hailed from Galway, Ireland.

Hearing the Irish heritage of the name of the guy at another table, Sweeney, they started talking. Sweeney and his wife in fact own popular restaurants in Beach Haven Terrace, and he was giving appreciation to the luncheonette owner over the “incredible”  – he used the same word – sandwich.

The vibe and the menu are cool local Long Beach Island meets Portuguese Brazilian – the owners, Ken and Carolina Platt, brought that together when they got married 10 years ago.

Ken grew up in Ship Bottom; Carolina is from Brazil, and they met while working together in a mainland restaurant. They have lived in both countries, but by now, she has spent more years of her life here.

The young-ish Platts – he’s 37 with a younger-than-that face – are first-time restaurant owners, but he has worked in the restaurant biz since age 13. They refurbished the inside of the space completely.

“We wanted to open it up and let in more air and more light here on the corner for the mornings,” Ken said.

Maristella’s’ three-page 7 a.m.-to-3 p.m. breakfast/lunch menu is very reasonably priced and big on sandwiches with stylized surprises. The food is freshly made to order, but they streamlined the production so that when demand gets busy, it’s set up to move quickly.

“We have the traditional stuff, and we have more-creative things. There are a lot of different flavors on the menu,” Ken and Carolina finished each other’s thoughts. “Everybody has been enjoying everything that they have been getting. We’ve been getting a lot of compliments on the presentation and the flavor.”

“We have a grilled cheese called the Romeo and Juliet, which has a Brazilian touch to it,” Ken described of the $10 offering. “It’s Texas toast with guava jelly, mozzarella cheese, American cheese and bacon. It mixes the fruity, distinctive flavor of the guava with the bacon and the cheese. The Brazilian thing of guava paste and mozzarella cheese they call ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as a flavor.

“We’ve gotten good feedback, too – the two of them called after they left to tell us they definitely enjoyed it ... that’s what you want.”

Yes, happy faces are what they want from customers. Asked what the rewards of the hard work are, Ken paused to phrase an answer, then smiled at how readily Carolina jumped in.

“Watching everybody leave here with a smile on their face,” she said, and that was just the beginning. “Because we’re here to make people happy. We’re here because we have so much love inside of us, and this is our platform to share our love to everybody in the community. That’s why we’re here.”

“Authentic” and “delicious” are how the menu describes specialty sandwiches and freshly made spreads. They roast their own roast beef and pork loin. And rolls are delivered fresh every morning from Liscio’s Italian bakery in Glassboro.

Everyone knows cheese steak, and they have savory griddle chopped beef or chicken. Their cool place adds a Haole steak to the choices. The Hawaiian-inspired version adds pork roll, Swiss, sweet pepper, pineapple and the house mustard lemon spread ($13).

“Actually, I never even made that until two days ago; I just wrote it down and put it on there,” Ken shared the humor he found in the new-ness of making their own menu. “And we made it and it was fantastic. I suggest it with chicken cheese steak; it really makes a difference.”

When they decided they would plan to stay open year ’round, they saw potential in the number of people who come onto the Island at 7 o’clock in the morning to go to work, first getting their coffee and a breakfast sandwich.

“If we could get a little bit of that, and start to create a local name for ourself,” that would be a goal, said Carolina. Maristella’s coffee is from roasted whole Brazilian beans, ground in-house.

Speaking of a name for themselves, they have a story about the origin of Maristella’s.

“Our oldest daughter Isabel, her middle name is Maristella, because it means ‘star of the sea’ in Latin.”

“In the very beginning, it wasn’t even determined whether we were going to do it,” added Carolina, “and one day we were sitting outside our house and I said, ‘If we were going to open it, I already have a name,’ and he’s like, ‘Me, too.’”

To see the menu, which also includes burgers, chicken grilled or crispy, açai bowls, a kids’ menu, and more, go to the Facebook page. Or just stop in; it’s the first place you see on the ocean side of the Ship Bottom circle. Phone is 609-361-9009.

— Maria Scandale





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