For just over two decades, Pierre's of South Brunswick has been a township institution as a deli, bakery, banquet hall and restaurant. But with the changing times, even a cornerstone of South Brunswick must continue to evolve.
As the economy fluctuates causing large corporate eateries to close their doors, Pierre's has endured by never being comfortable with the status quo.
"The trick to surviving in this economy has been the way this business was designed with different aspects," said owner Pierre Hage-Boutros. "When the deli was slow, the catering and banquet part were busy. So the different aspects of the business help make this place survive and grow stronger by having all kinds of services for different seasons and times of day. This is what makes our business grow, by servicing people with all of their culinary needs."
After purchasing the Old Butler, a small deli and general store on Georges Road in 1990, Pierre's Deli soon began to flourish and the eatery looked to expand. The facility then added a restaurant in 1995, and later added a bakery in 1997, after purchasing the property next to the deli. In 2001, the deli and bakery were moved to the same building after the restaurant underwent renovations, including the addition of a banquet hall.
A true family operation, Pierre's recently began the next step in the evolution of the business. Pierre's Restaurant has been revamped with a new name, Terracotta at Pierre's of South Brunswick, and under new management, Pierre's son Tony Hage-Boutros.
"We've been in business for 22 years, so you have to constantly change because the competition is so fierce. It's not like 22 years ago when we were one of the only delis in the area," Tony said. "Now it seems like there are 100 delis and 40 pizzerias. But we're the best because the product we have is made with love and made with true fundamentals. We meet the new school with the old school. It's almost like a computer where you constantly have to update and change with the times or you'll be left behind. That's what separates us. We're not a corporate idea. We're open-minded and we take anything our customers tell us into consideration and try to implement it as best as possible."
The new Terracotta builds on the traditions set at Pierre's, with an emphasis on fresh ideas. A new look, highlighted by stone and stucco, lend an elegant ambiance to the inside of the tastefully decorated restaurant, which underwent renovations last year to provide a Mediterranean theme for the interior. But the real changes in store at Terracotta are on the menu.
"We have a brand new chef, a brand new menu, new management, and a new look to the dining room," Tony said. "We used to be known for early bird specials and were popular with seniors. But we want to build on that and bring everybody back to give us a try. This is a friendly, warm atmosphere for any occasion, with a nice bar serving cocktails and an extensive wine list. Everyone who comes here is treated like family. We lost some customers over the years and we want to regain them by stressing that this is a new beginning. Pierre's son is onboard and I'm always here to make sure everything is running smoothly, to meet and greet everyone who comes in here and to listen to the customer. New management, new people, and a new chef, so we've gone from the old to the new."
Tony said patrons of Terracotta will immediately notice the new seasonal authentic Mediterranean menu, which has a focus on freshness and quality. The restaurant also offers extensive brunch options, in addition to lunch and dinner with daily specials.
Some of the highlights of the new menu include the roasted branzini, which is a Mediterranean sea bass, and a roasted chicken breast with apricot glaze. Tony said the condensed menu will constantly change with the seasons to capitalize on fresh ingredients.
"When you walk into some places and see 100 items on the menu, that means all of those items are frozen because it's impossible to have 100 items on a menu everyday and be able to serve it fresh," he said. "The thing that separates us is our freshness. We have fresh deliveries everyday from the vegetable market, plus meat and fish. We condensed the menu to bring a real fresh product and not some frozen garbage. Our bread and desserts are made fresh everyday in the bakery. That's the uniqueness about this place. I doubt there's another place in New Jersey where the same man owns the deli, bakery, restaurant and banquet facility all on the same property. That's unheard of."
While emphasizing the changes to the restaurant, the family aspect of the business will remain as it has for a generation in South Brunswick.
"Nothing has changed in that regard because this is a family business and it's still in the family," Pierre said. "This family will be here to meet and greet every customer, while making sure the food is right and the service is right. Pierre's is here to stay. I invested my life in South Brunswick and to serving the people of South Brunswick, so now it's time for my son to do what I did."
Tony echoed his father's sentiments and said he will be at Terracotta seven days a week to make sure each customer leaves satisfied.
"When people walk into the dining room they're not dealing with some stranger," he said. "They will see me on the floor, know who I am and know that I will be here to listen to good news and bad news."
Even with all of the changes at Pierre's, the next generation of the Hage-Boutros family said the township institution will remain as it has, while also embracing the changing times.
"Even as other places struggle, Pierre's hasn't gone under because of our hard work and the support of the people in South Brunswick," Tony said. "We built this place together and it's become a staple in the community of South Brunswick. Even with all of the competition that's gone in and out of this town, we're still a part of South Brunswick and we're always going to be part of South Brunswick. This town has always given to us and we will always try to give right back to them."
Terracotta at Pierre's of South Brunswick is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Click here to visit their Facebook page or click here to visit their web site.
is located at 582 Georges Road, in Monmouth Junction.