Holiday 2005 • Montclair Magazine

Dishing With Raymond

by Jacqueline Mroz

For 16 years, Raymond Badach has been dominating the Montclair restaurant scene. From his humble beginnings with Raymond’s, a tiny café serving breakfast and lunch on Church Street, to Twenty-eight, his sleek and critically acclaimed high-end restaurant down the street, Badach has taken the pulse of dining in Montclair and given the place a shot of adrenaline. Since his start, both Church Street and Raymond’s have seen big changes. Early this year, Badach and his partner, Joanne Ricci, closed both restaurants and completely redesigned Twenty-eight into Raymond’s, a chic bistro-style eatery that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and of course, immensely popular weekend brunches. Montclair Magazine sat down with Badach recently to discuss his new incarnation of Raymond’s.

How did you get started in the restaurant business?
My first formal cooking experience was at the former Evergreen (in Upper Montclair) as a line cook. I worked there for about a year and learned a couple things, but there was a point when it wasn’t challenging anymore. So I started a lunch delivery business out of my studio apartment in Montclair; I made sandwiches and soups, very simple stuff. But it got to the point where I couldn’t do it any more, especially since it wasn’t legal and the landlord was getting suspicious. So I started looking in Montclair for a business I could take over. That’s when I found the space that became the first Raymond’s. It was a deli called Cranberry Hill.

How did you get interested in food?
My interest had always been in cooking. Growing up in Jersey city, my Sicilian grandparents lived downstairs in our two-family house, and I was fascinated by how they lived and the things they would make.

Why did you decide to close Twenty-eight and reopen it as Raymond’s?
The original Raymond’s was really bulletproof- it was busy all the time. It filled a niche in this area. Twenty-eight, on the other hand, was more chef-driven. It was busy on weekends, and it catered to only a certain segment of Montclair. We wanted something that was more democratic, where the price point of the food wouldn’t alienate people. People could come and have a cup of coffee, a scone or an entrée.

The restaurant looks completely different, sort of like an old-fashioned diner. What were you trying to achieve with the redesign?
We brought in the people who designed Balthazar, Pastis and Pravda in the city. We liked the work they did (there) and their ability to authenticate a certain era of time or place without being cheesy. We wanted to recreate a French bistro or brasserie, but we wanted it to be more American- not strictly a diner, but a restaurant you would have seen in the 1930s or 1940s dining around Montclair.

How have you seen Church Street change since you started here?
There’s been some controversy about the old stores leaving and high-end retailers moving in.
Church Street hasn’t actually changed that much. YOU always have the pattern of people coming in and out. It’s easy to make judgments, but it seems like Dick Grabowski (a new landlord on Church Street) is trying to improve the quality of retail in this area. If people can do well and pay more rent, then more power to them. The Hahne’s building closed when I first opened, and it’s just now being rebuilt.

Restaurants in general have also changed. Many, it seems are going the more casual route like Raymond’s. Why do you think that is?
Food and restaurants are cyclical. There will always be fine dining and adventurous chefs. I think a lot of the casualness ond simplification of food today is a reaction to the chaos in the world. People seek comfort in certain things, like food, when they feel unsettled by events around them.