Sam Chiarella is no stranger to the restaurant industry or the area as he first opened Fratello’s in Sea Girt in 1997, which he sold in ‘06, followed by the opening of Rella’s in Brielle in 2009, which he sold last summer. In 2017 he opened Duke’s, originally as a barbecue concept in Point Pleasant Beach, and now Duke’s is gearing up for another summer with a more tavern-style menu and atmosphere.

DUKE’S TAVERN & TAP

“It went from Duke’s Supper & Spirits, which was barbecue, to Duke’s Tavern & Tap,” said Chiarella. “And that’s basically what we are, we’re a tavern and we pride ourselves on being food-driven. Food is always good and fresh for tavern fare.”

Duke’s serves the same pizza that Chiarella cranked out for nine years at Rella’s and was very popular.

“We have entertainment on weekends, Fridays and Saturdays,” he said. “We keep our kitchen open later starting Memorial Day, we keep it open until midnight. So we do a happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m. and then we do it again from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.”

The change from the initial barbecue concept ultimately stemmed from it being a poor fit in the area with a lack of interest on the part of clientele.

“You know what it was with the barbecue, it’s not even that we didn’t execute, it’s just that the interest in barbecue just wasn’t that big and I think people when they really want barbecue are going to just go to a little BYOB place,” explained Chiarella.

“And I think it’s a lot to do with being near the water,” he added. “They want seafood. But, yeah, we wanted to make it –– there’s so many seafood places where you can get fresh seafood that we want to have seafood, but we also want to have something else too.”

Getting off to a slow start during the summer 2017 opening, has not slowed Chiarella down. He admits that last summer a lot of people still didn’t really know that Duke’s changed concepts, but this summer he’s hopeful that everyone is now aware.

“So I think this is the first summer that people are really going to know me and know my history a little bit and I think this summer will be a really good summer in terms of people finally identifying with what Duke’s really is as opposed to a barbecue place,” expressed Chiarella.

“It’s not barbecue. So I think a lot of people still don’t know that, but the majority of people in the area are starting to understand that, which is exciting. It makes me optimistic for the summer.”

MUCH MORE TO THE MENU

In addition to the full dining room and bar, Duke’s Tavern & Tap is also home to a small upstairs deck for outdoor dining. According to Chiarella, it’s a good spot for fireworks on Thursday nights once they start for the summer.

The restaurant offers dining specials each day of the week. Monday is Lobster Night starting on Memorial Day, Tuesday is Half-Price Apps all day and night, Wednesday is Game Night, which is trivia and Name that Tune, which is complemented by 2-for-1 bar pies and finally Thursday is Prime Rib Night.

Beginning the first week of June, Duke’s will be open daily for lunch and dinner opening at 11:30 a.m. In addition to the special nights, the restaurant will also feature nightly dinner specials.

“For the summer we’ll have a bunch of seafood specials,” shared Chiarella.

Can’t miss menu items? The pizza, of course, not to mention the burgers too.

“I think the pizza is growing in popularity,” said Chiarella. “We sell a lot of burgers too.”

“But I think pizza is something we sort of made a name for ourselves in Brielle and that sort of transferred here as well. But then we have steaks, we have fresh seafood, a couple pasta dishes, pizza, we have a burger section, we have a lot of apps. So the menu’s pretty diverse.”

STOP INTO DUKE’S THIS SUMMER

Chiarella’s track record of successful eateries from Fratello’s to Rella’s to Duke’s quite simply speaks for itself. While Rella’s has come and gone, its pizza remains and those who don’t want to dine out can enjoy the pizza for take out as well. The entire menu will likely be available this summer on Doordash.

“We’re just a good local spot … if they want to come out and grab a drink and grab a good bite to eat, this is the place to be,” said Chiarella.