Legendary Montclair Restaurant Sold, New Concept to Come

by Peter Candia
Fascino Montclair

For 20 years, Chef Ryan DePersio’s Fascino—nestled on a busy Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair—has wowed North Jersey diners with inventive Italian cuisine and a focus on seasonality and local ingredients. The small, intimate space has garnered a resume of praise and accolades in that time, including a spot on New Jersey’s best restaurants list as recently as 2022.

For the past few months, DePersio has been testing out other concepts in the space in the style of pop-up dining. First, it was Rosie’s Rustico, an homage to DePersio’s Grandmother, serving homestyle Italian-American fare and comfort food. The concept was so popular that one month quickly turned into two.

Then came Gioia Mia—another concept aimed at celebrating nostalgic cuisine. This time, it was Fascino’s General Manager, Mary Cumella, and Chef de Cusine, Logan Ramirez, running the show. In a post originally announcing the pop-up, Cumella wrote: “Gioia Mia translates to ‘my joy.’ My grandmother would exclaim those words while watching her loved ones enjoy her Sunday dinners. She kept her kitchen door open to everyone, any time of day. Her love for watching family and friends come together through food was the main reason I got into the hospitality industry.”


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A post shared by Gioa Mia @ Fascino (@gioiamianj)

This concept aimed to do more than just celebrate the cooking of Cumella’s youth, it also gave DePersio much-needed time away from his flagship restaurant. Anyone who is familiar with Chef Ryan DePersio will tell you the same thing: The guy doesn’t stop. He is constantly reinventing the wheel of Jersey dining and looking to his next project. It is for this reason that Fascino essentially transformed New Jersey dining two decades ago, and in a state scattered with local celebrity chefs, DePersio was really the first.

DePersio has a lot on his plate currently, including Battello and Kitchen Step in Jersey City, the latter of which seems to be constantly expanding, as well as a new event venue on the horizon. Something DePersio has said to have put every penny into. So, he felt it was time to let go of Fascino and hand it off to someone who could give it the proper love that it deserves. That’s right, Gioia Mia is moving from pop-up to permanence, and Fascino’s legend will be a story of the past.


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A post shared by Gioa Mia @ Fascino (@gioiamianj)

Though not an easy decision, with less time available to be in the restaurant, DePersio felt he was doing a disservice to his guests. Furthermore, Ramirez and Cumella were perfect candidates to take the reins of a new concept as regulars already know and love them and an inward promotion felt like the best option to maintain 331 Bloomfield Ave’s status as a culinary staple in Montclair.

In an Instagram post announcing the sale, DePersio wrote: “It’s been 20 years in Montclair with my first restaurant Fascino. I opened when I was 25 years old with my parents and my brother. This restaurant made me who I am today. My parents are looking to retire and I’m continuing to grow with two new projects in the works. We have made the decision to sell Fascino.”

Additionally, with Fascino closing, this opens the floodgates for a new path in DePersio’s journey—making the move from chef to restauranteur, something he has inched towards for the last decade. This tough decision feels like the full commitment needed for the role change, though.

Gioia Mia is open and, in a short time, has been met with praise. Regulars and locals still flock to the space for great food and service. The Fascino staff and decor have been kept through the change, but with the sale being permanent, diners are eager to see what other changes will come to the space.


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A post shared by Ryan DePersio (@chef_rd)

About the Author/s

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Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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