Home Food + DrinkBars Exclusive: Montclair’s Fresco Da Franco is About to Undergo a Major Makeover

Exclusive: Montclair’s Fresco Da Franco is About to Undergo a Major Makeover

by Jennifer Tripucka
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The arrival of the new, exclusive bar, Bar Franco, hit the presses last week in Montclair. Owned + operated by Hollywood TV producer and restaurateur Franco Porporino, Bar Franco will sit adjacent to Franco’s other Montclair business Fresco Da Franco — which, for the last decade, has built a sturdy reputation as one of the town’s most beloved Italian restaurants.

But now, rumor has it that Porporino will be enlisting the services of a celebrity chef to elevate Fresco Da Franco’s existing concept, turning it into a fine dining establishment. The Montclair Girl got the exclusive from Franco Poporino about what’s to come at Fresco da Franco and Bar Franco, both arriving on Church Street this spring. 

fresco da franco montclair nj makeover featured image

Photo Credit: Franco Poporino

The Ivy at Chatham

Fresco Da Franco, Reimagined

North Jersey has been buzzing about Porporino’s latest venture, Bar Franco–the high end, bespoke aperitivo bar complete with mixologists from Italy — due open this spring.

With expectations high for Bar Franco, our sources say that Porporino is reimagining the future of Fresco Da Franco, which has been a cornerstone establishment on Montclair’s boutique Church Street for more than a decade.

“Sometimes the Ferrari needs a tune up, and sometimes the engine needs to be replaced,” Porporino said when we reached out for comment. “But Ferrari is the staple of Italian luxury and stands for the very best. My Montclair establishments are the Ferraris of the North Jersey restaurant scene.”

The Rumors

When asked about the fine dining rumors swirling around Fresco Da Franco, Porporino has mainly remained tight lipped, only saying, “I welcome competition. It’s healthy. I’m coming to reclaim the title of being number one.”

Franco also shared with The Montclair Girl exclusively that Fresco da Franco will enlist mixologists alongside the celebrity chef — mixologists coming in from Italy this February, including world-renown Luca Cinalli and his counterpart.

luca cinalli bar franco

Photo Courtesy of Franco Porporino

He noted, in fact, that this upgrade to the longtime restaurant comes in conjunction with Bar Franco.

“When you walk into Bar Franco, you’ll experience that elevated bar experience with caviar and oysters — and then when you want the main course, you can go next door to Fresco da Franco for dinner.”

The Creation of Bar Franco

bar franco montcliar

^ Bar Franco’s space. (Photo Credit: Rachael Grochowski of RHG Architecture)

Bar Franco, according to Poporino, is a new bar that will be bringing sophistication + elegance as Fresco da Franco’s sister spot, with a door person and velvet rope guarding the bar’s entrance — as well as a members-only secret basement speakeasy. The Church Street cocktail lounge will serve up specialty drinks and Italian small plates to bring an opulent, “New York vibe” to Montclair. 

Liquor licenses are pretty hard to come by in Montclair, but Franco managed to snag one for his premiere Italian restaurant, Fresco Da Franco, back in 2022. Per northjersey.com, The license Franco acquired can serve two adjacent properties, so, naturally, Franco endeavored to open another business next to his Church Street eatery — this time, an upscale cocktail lounge called Bar Franco. 

Read More: These Restaurants + Bars in Montclair Will Wow Your Visitors

The Design

Accordingly, Franco spent $350,000 designing Bar Franco with Rachael Grochowski of RHG Architecture to create a “bespoke aperitivo bar with a unique, opulent, old-world Harry Cipriani vibe.”

Word on the street is, the bartenders will be giving theatrical performances, too. Cocktails will range in price from $20 to $25 each, and, Franco explained, “there will even be an infamous $1000-dollar dessert.” This dessert, according to Franco, “is going to include Louis XIII and edible gold.”

bar franco cocktails montclair

^Elevated cocktails by head mixologist Luca Cinalli

Renderings of the space confirm that Bar Franco will be decorated with chandeliers and velvet chairs + couches to lounge on to evoke the grandeur of the Prohibition era — and exclusivity.

“Guests will be greeted by a doorman and velvet rope upon entry,” Franco shared. Some guests will be personally invited by Franco to explore the basement speakeasy, La Tana, which will be open exclusively on weekends to 150 members. A perk, Franco noted, that is already fully sold out with a waitlist.

See More: Restaurants With the Coolest Interiors in Hoboken + Jersey City 

The Timeline

Bar Franco will be located on Church Street, right next door to Fresco Da Franco, which is located at 15 Church Street. The spot is slated to open sometime next month, though a date has yet to be confirmed. 

Per Franco, Fresco da Franco’s makeover and upgrade is expected to reopen the space in March, with a grand opening in April. We’ll share more details as they come to light  — including who the celebrity chef will be, coming to the heart of Montclair.

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