Longtime restaurateurs honored

Pina Muto, left, seen with her family, has been serving up Mediterranean-style food locally nearly 40 years. The family business was recognized by the West Milford Economic Development Commission. Also pictured are her son Louis and his wife Karen and their children ,Silvio Lee and Giuliana. PHOTO BY ANN GENADER

WEST MILFORD ‑ Pina Muto was just 18 years old and her husband Silvio 20 when they left their native Calabria area of Italy to come to the United States. With them came Pina’s collection of Mediterranean style healthy, delicious food recipes from her grandmother.
Not only did she have the recipes, but her mind and heart carried memories of how her Nona had lovingly taught her to prepare foods. She follows those directions to the day – as she continues to prepare dishes from scratch at each of the family’s three restaurants – DeMarco’s at 1926 Union Valley Road in Hewitt and Silvio’s Italian Villa on Route 94 in Warwick, N.Y. and Benito in Warwick, N.Y.
Their son Louis Muto and his wife Karen Muto manage the restaurant in Hewitt.
West Milford Economic Development Commission Chair JoAnn Blom accompanied by Commissioners Steve Drew and Dave Ofshinsky honored the business family with presentation of a longevity award at the Wednesday, Sept. 6 meeting of the Township of West Milford Council. Mayor Bettina Bieri also recognized the business and Lou Muto’s record of volunteerism with township projects.
The business in Hewitt was started by Pina Muto and Sylvio Muto in 1978 soon after they arrived in the United States. It had been a small pizza business. They kept it with the name DeMarco’s from the previous owner. It was thriving until hard times struck with the closing of their neighbor - a major A&P grocery store two years ago. The people who stopped for lunch at the Muto restaurant when they were there to shop at the major grocery story do not come to the shopping center anymore and business has consequently off, Pina Muto shared.
In speaking with the West Milford Messenger Pina Muto emphasized that the family thanks all the customers who have continued to patronize their business and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church for continuing to be supportive.
The small, intimate restaurant that is attached to DeMarco’s Pizza location is less known than the Muto’s popular pizza business next door. The fresh vegetables and herbs for the pizza and the food served in the restaurant are grown in Muto family gardens in West Milford where they live – or are purchased from the local farmer’s market.
What makes Mediterranean style food a-la-Calabria so different? According to available web sites it is a balance between meat-based dishes, vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish. Pasta is very important in Calabria – and Pina Muto continues to make the pastas served in the restaurants herself - from scratch. Traditionally there is emphasis on the presentation of the food and cooking with extra virgin oil, touches that the family takes pride in following.
The area where the Mutos originate from on the Italian peninsula is south of the Calabria region’s north where the rugged Polino Mountains form a natural barrier from the rest of Italy. Parts are heavily wooded while other parts have wind-swept plateaus.
In general most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards and fruit orchards.
The Muto’s restaurant in Hewitt could be one of the best-kept restaurant secrets in the township – but once people find it and enjoy the fresh, healthy, Mediterranean food with an affordable price they may decide to become regulars.
People in the West Milford Lions Club are supporters of the local business by having their meetings there on the first and third Wednesday of each month.
Meals are also available for take- out and deliveries are made by calling 973-728-1344. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursdays are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 10 p.m. Sundays.
On or off premise catering with set up and delivery is available at 973-728-1344. The web site is DeMarcosPizza.net.