The Manalapan Diner had a ribbon cutting in commemoration of their reopening on Saturday, Aug. 6. The diner closed last October after a large fire, stemming from a sign on the front of the building, damaged the restaurant.
After months of rebuilding and redecorating the diner held an unadvertised opening on July 27, but invited the public to celebrate the reopening on Saturday. Mayor Andrew Lucas and Manalapan Diner owner Litsa Pagonas cut the ribbon. Also in attendance was Committeman Jordan Maskowitz, Committeeman Don Holand and former Deputy Mayor Susan Cohen.
“I am overwhelmed with our customers. They have overwhelmingly welcomed us back. It’s wonderful,” Pagonas said. “After nine months of trying to put it together, it’s an exhilarating feeling.”
Pagonas, who has owned the diner for a little over two years, said that all of the staff who worked at the diner before the fire have returned to work and are very happy to be back.
The customers satisfaction is what matters, Pagonas said, and exceptional service is her priority. “I am here for all the customers. I am here for them, whatever they need. I want them to leave with a smile on their face. I want them to be serviced and if I can’t do it right the first time, then I’ll do it right the second time,” she said.
Pagonas is a linguist (she speaks five languages fluently) and said that travel and art have always been an influence on her. The diner was redecorated in a style inspired by the artistic works of Alphonse Mucha and Gustav Klimt.
Klimt’s famous painting, “The Kiss” dominates the inside of the restaurant, as bits and pieces of the painting are noticeable on the ceilings and walls. “The Kiss” was painted during Klimt’s golden period and the picture depicts a couple entangled in an embrace. The murals on the wall and ceiling were hand painted by artist Patrick Brady. The servers wear ties that have a design from the painting on them, as well.
Mucha’s inspiration is visible in the foyer of the diner, where three large cut-out prints are hanging on the walls above the entrance to the seating area and above the two interior entrances to the diner. Mucha is an art nouveau painter from the Czech Republic whose famous portraits of women depict streaming hair, flowing fabrics, and beautiful faces.
Not only has the interior and exterior received a renovation, but the menu has, as well. The look of the menu has been changed, and a lot of new items were added to it, according to Pagonas. New appetizers, panini’s, saute’s, and sandwiches were added to the menu, but the basics and the Chef Specialities remain.
With everything up and running, the Pagonas family welcomes all to come and share the food and enjoy the new look of the Manalapan Diner. “This is all family, everybody came back to welcome us, and this is my family," Pagonas said. "This is my home. The Manalapan Diner is my home.”
The Manalapan Diner is located at 48 Rt. 9 North in Manalapan.