by Diane Norek Harrison
CARTERET-Here are some wonderful memories of the City Line Bar and Grill, which used to be on Roosevelt Ave. They are from the grandson of the owners, Bill Donovan.
“The City Line Bar was started by Giovannina D’Arienzo (born 1900 in Casserta Italy) and her husband Antonio De Ruosi after they came to the USA in 1938 by the way of Ellis Island. They settled in Carteret on the border of Woodbridge Township and Carteret, thus the name City Line Tavern.
“Antonio opened a small tavern, at first which was attached to their modest home, where he sold his homemade wine, but dreamed of building the City Line Bar (which he did.) Shortly after that my grandfather died, so my grandmother had to step up and take over. She raised three children, Palma, Theresa, and Gloria, and ran the business by herself.
“The building itself contained a small restaurant area, a good size bar room and pool table area, a small hall in the back for private parties, and my favorite a vegetable garden on the side of the garage. City Line was truly a family affair for my family, as well as my mom’s sister’s family.
Both our families lived in Carteret and all the children of both families, including my aunt (Palma Catri) and uncle (Wes Catri) and my mom (Theresa Donovan) and dad (Bill Donovan) worked at the City Line at one time. I started helping out cleaning tables, then making sandwiches and pizza, eventually bartending. My cousin, Brian Catri moved in and helped manage the place for a while.
“My grandmother, everyone called her mom, had an unbelievable work ethic, she would be up at 5 a.m., mopping the floors into her early 80s. She expected a lot from her two daughters, but gave as much as she possibly could to help out with everything from college tuition, to helping with my mom and dad’s first house. As a child, if you were visiting her in the restaurant you would never leave without receiving a few dollars. She was the most generous woman you could ever meet.
“The food was simple, all made from scratch, I never knew how much better homemade macaroni tasted compared to store bought, and delicious. Ingredients were always fresh: meat from the butcher, fresh cut cheese, sauce and dough for the pizza was made that day. When making the sauce, there was no measuring, and there were specials like escarole, spinach pie and frittata’s, with fresh asparagus, that she would make like she did in Italy.
“According to most people in town, I included, City Line had the best pizza. The meal portions were large. The meals usually consisted of a roast she made that day or something she spent most of the morning preparing, stuffed cabbage, fresh ham, homemade macaroni. They were under priced compared to what other restaurants charged.
“If you were down on your luck, mom would feed you anyway. She never turned anyone away from a meal because they couldn’t afford it. She sacrificed a lot. She never left the restaurant and getting her over for Christmas dinner was like pulling teeth. The minute she was done eating we had to drive her right back. She dedicated her life to helping her family.
“You could look far and wide to find a place like the City Line, but I don’t think you would find it. I think of my grandmother when I make homemade gravy, you see I don’t measure either.”
Thank you Bill!