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Introducing our first honoree for 2023 Citizens of the Year!

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

We could not be more excited to introduce our first honoree for 2023 Citizens of the Year: The Napoletano Vitale Family! Read on to meet the family behind the beloved Westwood staple, Caffe Anello!

The idea was born on their honeymoon: John Vitale and Alissa Napoletano-Vitale's 2012 honeymoon in Paris and Tuscany proved to be quite productive! Inspired by the crepes in Paris and the handmade pasta and fresh-roasted coffee in Italy, the Cresskill duo decided they wanted to open a restaurant in North Jersey, featuring European dishes. They began by launching Sogno Coffeehouse with Alissa’s parents (Joe & Cheryl Napoletano) in November 2012, which quickly became a popular Westwood neighborhood spot for its sweet and savory crepes and in-house roasted coffee. Then in 2013, they expanded next door to open Caffe Anello, a 20-seat Tuscan-inspired eatery with an open kitchen and daily fresh-made pastas. In January of 2017, they added Johnny’s Italian Market, which served made-to-order donuts, pizza, sandwiches and imported Italian products for two years. In 2019, they made the tough decision to sell all three spaces to move their Sogno/Anello concept across the street to bigger space on the corner of 11 Madison Avenue in Westwood. Finally, in the fall of 2020 they got the opportunity to purchase a liquor license. The new bar provides a more casual atmosphere and additional seating on the Sogno side of the popular dinner venue.

John Vitale, the Executive Chef, was raised in Somerset County in an extended Italian family. "From Scratch" was a given in his home. The family cooked, baked, gardened, canned foods, and made wine together. John loved the kitchen and was encouraged to try his hand at food preparation as a young boy. His inquisitive nature led him to learn about cooking methods and seasoning at a very early age. In college, at Elon University in North Carolina, John worked as a grill chef and created new dishes and new taste experiences for his fellow students. He worked at several restaurants to earn pocket money and observed food preparation and service filing away the information for the day he would own a restaurant of his own.

Alissa Napoletano, a native of Park Ridge, handles baking of all of the desserts for Anello as well as the marketing and social media. She is extremely talented and it shows through her creative dessert combinations that are enjoyed by many loyal customers.

Joe Napoletano was no stranger to family business; he owned Keystone Appliances in North Bergen for 62 years along with his parents and two brothers. Upon retiring in 2012, Joe and his wife, Cheryl decided to join their kids in opening Anello. If you know, Joe you will agree he definitely spices up his position as Matre’D of Caffe Anello and welcomes his customers like he would if they were coming to his home. Before opening Sogno and Anello, Cheryl raised her two children Joseph Jr. and Alissa. Once both kids were in college, Cheryl pursued her true passion in Real Estate becoming a top Real Estate Agent for Caldwell Banker in Tenafly. Her years of experience in real estate aided in the search for the perfect location to open the business in Westwood. Currently, Cheryl handles the reservations and event planning for Caffe Anello.

The Napoletano Vitale family has used Caffe Anello as a platform to become a staple in the community beyond just serving their customers. When the pandemic hit NJ hard in April 2020, they spray to action creating Anello Feeds First.

Their family aided in the efforts to bring homemade hot meals to all of the frontline healthcare workers that are still working tirelessly to help those impacted by COVID-19. They realized that the best way that they could provide immediate help was with their own talents - food - and decided to feed the heroes who have no time to grab lunch or dinner on the frontlines. While hundreds of thousands of restaurants across the country shuttered their doors, this family sprang into action.

With the support of the community, who were asked to purchase 10-50 meals at $10 a meal for doctors and nurses, Chef John was able to personally deliver over 48,000 meals from April 2020 to October 2021. 80% of the proceeds raised went to making and delivering the meals; 20% was put aside for the small businesses of Westwood and the Greater Pascack Valley Small Business district. This supported the community in three main ways: feeding frontline workers during the pandemic, helping small business in town, and helping their restaurant get back to business as usual once the virus became less severe.

The Napoletano Vitale family has served over 89,000 meals to date. While they could just end their initiative entirely, they have decided to reformat and revamp it into a new initiative: The Wonderful World of Birthday Wishes! They're teaming up with the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital and Grace's Gold Ribbon Gang to deliver birthday cakes, gifts, and meals to the families, doctors, and nurses of kids aged 18 and under who are hospitalized on their birthday.


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