When long-time friends Mark Callazzo and Ray Perez of Toms River, Al Coladonato of Freehold and Steve Silverstein of Monroe met up again for their weekly golf games earlier this year, they discussed their shared love of good food and drink and determined they needed to open their own place.
So, when the land and liquor license for the old Center Ice Sports Bar and Grill on Route 547 in Manchester became available, Callazzo, a Lakehurst real estate agent, said he excitedly called his buddies.
“Whenever we go out to an Irish pub, we have a great time,” Callazzo said. “But there were none in the area.”
The building had been vacant for three years after the Center Ice closed and was in a state of disrepair. The owners went under contract and renovated the place, opening on Tuesday, June 19, as the Tipperary Pub, Callazzo said.
“The goal was to recreate an Irish pub,” he said. “We did a lot of research, went to Irish pubs and found what we liked all these years.”
Callazzo said their food is made fresh — they cut their own potatoes for the French fries and make their own battered Irish cheese sticks. Hamburgers are made fresh.
“Our menu is simple, it’s fresh and delicious,” he said. “Food is about the time, the experience and the place, which adds to the taste and enjoyment of the meal.”
Other menu items include corned beef, cabbage and potato eggrolls, fried pickles and Irish staples, such as Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie and Fish and Chips.
Another important factor for the group was having a good whiskey selection. The Tipperary Pub has 53 whiskeys to choose from.
“We’re all whiskey fans,” said Callazzo. “We try to have the best whiskey in the area. Nobody has anywhere near the whiskey we have.”
A large chalk board adorns the wall above the door to the kitchen where they list some of their whiskeys and beers. There are 16 beers on tap.
Much of the art on the walls are pictures from County Tipperary, Ireland, taken by a woman from there who contacted the group on Facebook. In the pub’s party room are pictures given to them from the Lakehurst Historical Society and the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
The pub is a family affair for the owners. Some of the wives take on hostess duties and bake; their kids act as servers. Callazzo’s wife makes the bread pudding. And, since none of them had much restaurant experience, they have a manager, chef and kitchen staff, said Callazzo.
Prior to being the Center Ice, the building housed the Airship Inn for many years. Callazzo said one of their first customers was an elderly gentleman who had met his wife while working there and was curious about the new place.
The Tipperary has already hosted several private parties and has more booked for July. The first Saturday they were opened, they had 250 people for lunch and dinner. They are reporting repeat customers, as well. They hope to have a grand opening in a few weeks and eventually add entertainment.
Ken Beverly of Toms River, who works at the Joint Base, was sitting at the bar waiting for his wife to join him for dinner. He had eaten lunch at the Tipperary a couple days earlier.
“It’s a nice addition to Lakehurst,” Beverly said. “I love it so far. I’ve had the chicken fingers and they were good. The other people with me for lunch all said the food was good.”
Callazzo said he and his friends are certainly spending a lot less time golfing but it has been worth it.
“Everyone is more than pleased with the way the place came out,” he said. “We absolutely achieved the atmosphere and the environment we were looking for.”