From Doylestown to The Boulevard: How Genevieve's Kitchen Came to Seaside Heights
Early last summer, those strolling through town noticed something new at 113 Boulevard. The old building’s façade had been crisply repainted, the interior had been elegantly renovated, and a new outdoor dining area graced the back yard. In front, a sign – an understated, glowing “g” – invitingly beckoned. What was this new place?
Meet Genevieve’s: an upscale, New American restaurant that quietly entered the scene in summer 2018 and quickly became a hit among locals. Guests particularly praise Genevieve’s creatively composed and skillfully prepared dishes, set in a casually elegant ambiance perfect for the beach. “Everything I’ve had there has been first rate,” says one frequent guest. “The flavors are classic, and very well done, often with interesting twists. I particularly love being able to sit outside, al fresco, under the fairy lights on a balmy summer evening.”
Word spread quickly, and soon Genevieve’s was regularly drawing crowds all the way from Mantoloking, Bay Head, and Point Pleasant. “We’re seeing that people who used to go north for dining are now coming to Seaside, which has been great,” said Chef-Owner Genevieve DiFilippo, also of the well-regarded Genevieve’s Kitchen in Doylestown, PA.
The menu – which changes seasonally – currently features nine tantalizing mains. As of this writing, on the Spring 2019 menu for example, there’s the Mediterranean Sea Bass, served with oakwood shiitake and fennel cream. “The shiitakes add an earthy, vibrant flavor to the dish and fennel is one of my favorite vegetables – raw, grilled, or braised; I love the sweet anise flavor. I made it in a cream to accompany the delicateness of the filet,” explained Chef DiFilippo. If you’re in the mood for a steak, try the Filet Mignon with lemon rosemary, charred Tuscan kale, horseradish cream, and fries. Or, should you be craving a pasta after a day in the surf, there’s the Wheat Linguine, with pork shoulder & sausage ragu, spring pea, and quark. “We braised the meat and slow cook it. It’s a bit hearty for a spring dish, but the addition of crisp fresh peas and creamy cheese makes it a winner. The wheat linguine has a hint of nut that goes well with the richness of the ragu.” (As of this writing, Genevieve's is in the process of rolling out its Summer 2019 menu, which we are eager to try!)
Inspiration for new menu items often come from DiFilippo’s travels, which have provided ample opportunities to sample diverse cuisines and meet other chefs. Most memorable for her was a trip through Italy, where in a small restaurant she happened upon the best pasta dish she’d ever had – a ravioli with taleggio cheese, finished with radicchio in a walnut sauce. “When the plate arrived at the table, the chef – a little nonna – came out and told me that I had ordered the best dish on the menu. And it was – truly amazing; just the perfect balance of flavors. I had fun speaking with her to understand the dish and, naturally, I had to figure out how to make it myself as soon as I returned.” Of course, going from inspiration to something offered on the menu can take quite a bit of practice. “We want to maintain high quality – I need to feel that I’ve really nailed the flavor component first.”
Like the minimalist “g” sign that hangs outside, underlying the menu is a philosophy of simplicity. “We try to build our dishes without layering in too many ingredients – we really want people to experience the food for how it should taste. And rather than try to offer an expansive menu with something for everyone, we try to focus on doing a few dishes really well.”
Achieving this level of simplicity, however, reflects a deep understanding of flavor composition, technical preparation skills, and creativity. Born and raised in NJ, DiFilippo’s training began at age 12, when she convinced her parents to let her take a dishwasher job at the restaurant where her father worked as a bartender on weekends. “I loved it. I was hooked.” Two years later, at 14, she got her first experience working on a food prep line, working two nights a week at Matter of Taste. The Head Chef there, Maura Stockman, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, became a mentor. “I learned all the steps to executing and preparing dishes, and also learned the ropes of the business. It really confirmed for me that food was my passion – my heart and soul was in this industry.”
DiFilippo wanted to go straight into culinary school, but her mother convinced her to get a liberal arts education instead. “I went kicking and screaming, but it was the right decision.” To satisfy her culinary calling, she spent summers working at Amici’s, a fine-dining Italian restaurant in Trenton. After college, she moved to Washington DC, took a job at a large multinational foodservice provider, and attended culinary school. This showed her another side of the business and exposed her to a highly professionalized operation. However, after 16 years spending the majority of her time traveling and living out of a hotel room, she decided it was finally time to pursue her dream of opening her own restaurant. “It was 2010 and I turned to my partner Karen and said, “It’s time for a change - let’s do it.’”
They started small, opening a panini shop in Doylestown, which they selected for its historic downtown area with solid foot traffic, and its general population that appreciated good food. Business grew steadily and they gained a base of repeat customers. “It was great - we got to know everyone in town.” After two years, they felt confident taking the next step and opening a restaurant. Fortunately, a space across the street opened up, and thus Genevieve’s Kitchen was born.
As the Doylestown location continued to grow, the idea to buy a property and open a second location began to germinate. Living in NJ and working in PA, the two enjoyed spending summer weekends on the NJ shore, and ended up purchasing a beach home in Seaside Park, visiting Island Beach State Park, where DiFilippo had spent summers in her youth. After some reflection, they came to a realization: since they enjoyed spending time on the NJ shore, why not have the restaurant there? “We considered Asbury, but then we were driving back one day through Seaside Heights, saw a ‘For Sale’ sign on a building and thought, ‘how about right here?’” Seeing the potential, they put in an offer, bought the property, renovated, and in September 2017 opened Genevieve’s Seaside. Now, says DiFilippo, “rather than have a long commute, I can enjoy morning on the barrier beach and simply ride my bike through town to the restaurant.”
Doors open at 5 pm for dinner, but the work day starts several hours before that. DiFilippo and her team arrive around noon to begin food preparation and meeting with suppliers. “We try to source locally whenever possible, and we try to incorporate local specialties. Being near the shore has been especially great for getting freshly caught fish.
These efforts have paid off, with a loyal clientele and a strong opening season. Culminating the year was a well-received, sold-out New Year’s Eve prix fixe. “We weren’t sure how many people would come, given it was the low season, but we thought, let’s give it a try. To our surprise, a month before, we were almost completely booked! It was really the best ending to a great season. We are so happy to be here and it really felt like all the great people in the community were happy to have Genevieve’s in town.”
Having recently returned from a road-trip, DiFilippo is excited for what promises to be a great second season, with a new menu and fresh inspirations (and your author, for one, is certainly looking forward to trying them!).
Genevieve’s is the latest example of the positive transformation underway in Seaside Heights. The past two years have seen a steady flow of promising new businesses opening on or near the Boulevard. Free Range, Genevieve’s, Heavy Reel, and Santeria have made great additions to the strong base of spots like PJ’s, Hemingway’s, and Klee’s. Together, these are helping turn Seaside into a walkable destination with that rare but coveted pairing: good food and drinks with laid-back, beach town vibes.
Genevieve’s is open for dinners March through December. Reservations are available online at https://www.genevieves-seaside.com/reservations
Genevieve’s Seaside 113 Boulevard Seaside Heights, NJ 08751 https://www.genevieves-seaside.com/ 732-930-3520 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bestjerseyshorerestaurant/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/genevieves__/
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