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Documentary about Rudy's in Closter tells owners' story of sacrifice and success

The initial idea was to make a fun short film about Charlie and Fred Osso, the owners of Rudy’s Pizzeria in Closter, full of satisfying, close-up shots of oozing cheese, creamy pastas and crusty bread — you get the picture.What emerged was a poignant story about sacrifice, success, family and the American Dream told through the story of two Italian immigrants. The documentary is called “Pizza Shop: An Italian-American Dream,” and it is now available on Vimeo for anyone to rent or buy....

The initial idea was to make a fun short film about Charlie and Fred Osso, the owners of Rudy’s Pizzeria in Closter, full of satisfying, close-up shots of oozing cheese, creamy pastas and crusty bread — you get the picture.

What emerged was a poignant story about sacrifice, success, family and the American Dream told through the story of two Italian immigrants. The documentary is called “Pizza Shop: An Italian-American Dream,” and it is now available on Vimeo for anyone to rent or buy.

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Released in the spring of 2017, it has been shown at festivals including the Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City, the St. Louis International Film Festival, the Manhattan Film Festival, the Indie Street Film Festival, the Salento Film Festival in Italy and more.

Filmmaker Antony "Tony" Osso, son of Carmine “Charlie” Osso and nephew to Fiore “Fred” Osso, the subjects of the film, got the idea to make the hour-long documentary while on a family vacation in the spring of 2015. Tony's brother Rick showed him and his father a video about a pizza maker in Brooklyn, and Charlie suggested Tony make a video like that about him.

“My first impulse was to say, ‘No, thank you,’” recalled Tony.

But then things started happening. Rudy’s was forced out of its location because the strip mall it was in was being renovated by a new company. It had to move to a new spot, formerly a clothing store called Rafters. Noticing the narrative potential of this involuntary move, Tony, a 42-year-old filmmaker who lives in the East Village but grew up in Palisades Park, decided to pin his documentary on this relocation, mixing in the stories of his father and uncle.

“I did what I think a lot of kids don’t get to do – talk to their father about his past.”

Charlie and Fred were born in Cosenza, Italy, part of a family of seven brothers and sisters. In the film, the two men reminisce about their lives in Italy and tell stories about the way things were. They had to walk hours into town to get a loaf of bread. They had no running water; they drank creek water scooped up by fig leaves. Charlie attended school from age 6 to 11, but had to stop because it took over an hour to walk to school, and his father needed him to work.

“We had nothing,” said Tony's grandfather Rizziero Osso in the film. “We came to America for the kids,” he added.

The Osso family moved to New York in 1963. Charlie began working at a bakery in the city, and eventually got a job at Rudy’s from Adolfo Coniglio, the original owner. When Coniglio wanted to sell the restaurant, he offered it to Charlie, who was then 25. He didn’t have the money, so Coniglio’s brother Leo bought it. Seven years later, Leo offered it to Charlie again. This time, he had the means. He called Fred and the two went in on the restaurant together. They officially opened on Oct. 17, 1977 and grossed $420 on opening day.

“We learned to be successful. We learned to be disappointed and live with it and never blame anybody,” Fred said in the film.

The documentary weaves the past with the present, showing Tony and his brother trying to bring modern touches to the new Rudy’s location, despite their father’s resistance. But Tony says a deeper meaning exists in the film.

“They’re one little microcosm of the immigrant story, because there are millions of those stories in America,” he said.

In fact, Tony credits his parents' hard work for his career as a filmmaker. He recalls a time when his late mother Norma (for whom the film is dedicated) told him he couldn’t learn to make pizza because she wanted him to go to school and not have to do manual labor.

Her dream came true. Tony graduated from NYU in 1995 and moved to LA. He has worked in television and short films and is now back in New York working as a script supervisor.

“The documentary was a way to say to my father, ‘I see you, and I respect you,’” he said.

When he set out to make the film in 2015, the topic of immigration wasn’t what it is now. It just so happens that Tony's film was fated to be released in the spring of 2017, after the issue of immigration became fodder for political debates.

“Immigrants want to put their kids in school," Tony said. "They want to have stability. They want a better life. This is one story of many. They're the backbone of America.”

Besides being a well-timed commentary on the immigrant experience, “Pizza Shop” has become a point of pride for Rudy’s regulars. Many have told Tony how happy they are to have seen the documentary and to learn more about the men who have been selling them pizza for years.

Many even participated in its filming. A segment in the documentary shows their smiling faces, chowing down on slices of pizza and saying how long they’ve been going to Rudy’s.

“Ever since we moved here seven years ago. We come here all the time,” says a family.

“Ever since we were born,” say a group of girls at Rudy’s with their mother.

For Tony, this documentary is more than a glorified home movie. It's a reminder of a fading kind of dining experience.

“It’s a community hub," he said. "It’s one of those places that don’t exist anymore.”

Tommy La Stella, former St. Joseph star, enjoying MLB All-Star season with L.A. Angels

Tommy La Stella knew who he had to call first when he learned he has headed for his first All-Star Game in his major league career.There was his girlfriend. Then his brother. And his parents.He even took time to look back at his surprise run to baseball’s summer classic. But only after the first-year Anaheim Angel from Bergen County remembered the people who’ve been in his corner through the thick and thin of his career.“It’s a lot of reflecting back on getting here, and all the peo...

Tommy La Stella knew who he had to call first when he learned he has headed for his first All-Star Game in his major league career.

There was his girlfriend. Then his brother. And his parents.

He even took time to look back at his surprise run to baseball’s summer classic. But only after the first-year Anaheim Angel from Bergen County remembered the people who’ve been in his corner through the thick and thin of his career.

“It’s a lot of reflecting back on getting here, and all the people helping me alone the way,” La Stella told MLB.com. “My parents, my friends, everybody back home, they were pushing for me to make the All-Star Game. I’m happy for them, honestly. It really means more to them because they were so excited and wanted it for me.”

La Stella finished third, behind starter DJ LeMahieu of the Yankees and Jose Altuve of the Astros, in the fan balloting for second base. La Stella won the nod for the final spot by vote of the players.

One glance at the Angels’ team stats and you’ll know why the former St. Joseph star from Closter is an All-Star. Going into Tuesday night’s game in Texas, he was hitting a team-leading .304, with 16 home runs, 44 runs batted in, a .356 OBP, and an .856 OPS. He even had an inside-the-park homer in Cincinnati.

Not bad for a 30-year-old who had never hit more than five home runs in an MLB season.

“He’s having a career year,” Angels superstar Mike Trout told the Los Angeles Times. “He obviously believes in himself and we believe in him as a team. He just comes in every day and it’s showing. I’m happy for him. He’s helping this ballclub a lot. Nobody saw this coming. If someone said they saw this coming, they’re lying to you.”

The offseason trade in which the Angels acquired La Stella for a minor league pitcher hardly raised eyebrows throughout baseball. It came one day after the Cubs traded for former Yankee infielder Ronald Torreyes (now in Minnesota’s farm system).

The Angels expected La Stella to be a utilityman. Play some second base, back up at third base, maybe some time in the outfield. Bat mostly lead-off.

La Stella saw it as an opportunity to be a regular for the first time. With Zack Cozart recovering from shoulder surgery, La Stella jumped right in.

“I was focused on my role,” he said. “When I got traded, I was hoping I’d get a little more playing time. My sights shifted. Obviously, not on the All-Star Game, but hopefully getting more playing time.”

Which has been La Stella’s campaign since his freshman season at St. John’s, when another player was given a scholarship he felt he deserved. So he transferred to Coastal Carolina, setting enough school records to be noticed by the Atlanta Braves, who drafted him in the eighth round in 2011.

He debuted in the majors in May 2014 and was later dealt to the Cubs, where he became the best pinch-hitter in the National League. La Stella set a Cubs’ single season record with 24 pinch hits in 2018, compiling an .813 OPS off the bench.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon nicknamed La Stella “3 a.m.”

“Tommy could wake up at 3 a.m. and hit anyone,” said Maddon.

But La Stella woke up one morning, approximately two months before the Cubs ended their 108-year World Series championship drought, wondering after his future. He had just been told he was opted back to Class AAA Iowa. What hurt most was that La Stella was hitting .295 and Chris Coghlan, the player who was taking his roster spot, was hitting .155.

La Stella went home to consult with family and friends and the Cubs didn’t pressure him, extending the deadline for him to report to the minors. La Stella eventually reported and was back with the Cubs before the World Series run. He had one at-bat in the NLDS, but wasn’t on the roster for the NLCS and World Series.

Eventually, Maddon sold the lefty-swinging La Stella on his role as a pinch-hitter. Now, he’s headed to Cleveland for the All-Star appearance he never dreamed of.

“I don’t want to say Tommy’s an underdog, but he’s not someone I would have picked to be an All-Star this season,” Brad Ausmus, the Angels’ first-year manager, told the Los Angeles Times. “…I’m happy for him. I hope he really enjoys it.”

Here are five things to know about La Stella:

Back in college

La Stella played for both Coastal Carolina and St. John's. In his only year at St. John’s, the future major leaguer vied for playing time at second base with Joe Panik, now of the San Francisco Giants.

Major League debut

Drafted by Atlanta in the eighth round in 2011, La Stella was called up by the Braves on May 28, 2014. He had two singles in his first game and his first major league homer was off Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals.

Moving around

The Braves traded La Stella and an international signing bonus slot to the Cubs in November 2014, for reliever Arodys Vizcaino and three international signing slots. He was then traded to the Angels in November 2018 for cash and a player to be named later.

Help from Dad

La Stella’s father, Phillip, is a doctor and clinical psychologist and was raised in New York City. He set up a pitching machine in the family’s basement so a younger Tommy could hit whenever he wanted to.

Athletes in La Stella family

La Stella’s sister, Christine, was on the rowing team at the Academy of Holy Angels in Demarest.

More MLB news

Chakra's celebrated chef to open a traditional French brasserie in Closter

Thomas Ciszak, chef and partner of one of Bergen's most dynamic restaurants, Chakra in Paramus and elegant seafood restaurant Blue Morel in Morristown, plans to open a traditional French brasserie in the new Closter Plaza.Braserrie Memere (French for "granny") will offer classic French cuisine as well as a wine and cocktail program. His wife Evelyn will...

Thomas Ciszak, chef and partner of one of Bergen's most dynamic restaurants, Chakra in Paramus and elegant seafood restaurant Blue Morel in Morristown, plans to open a traditional French brasserie in the new Closter Plaza.

Braserrie Memere (French for "granny") will offer classic French cuisine as well as a wine and cocktail program. His wife Evelyn will be general manager and beverage director, as she is at Chakra. It will seat 140 indoors and 40 "on a great private patio," Ciszak said.

Brasserie Memere will not be a high-end fine-dining restaurant, Ciszak assures, but a down-to-earth restaurant offering solid "everyday French food" — the kind of classic French food served at such celebrated new Gallic restaurants as Le Coucou and Frenchette in New York City without the hefty price tag, he said.

"I want everybody to come in and eat," he said.

He also said he wants to reintroduce classic French food to young restaurant-goers.

"People think French food is fancy," he said. But, he said, that's a myth, one that he wants to dispel with a menu featuring lots of "healthy" salads including salad Nicoise and frisee-lardon, simple sandwiches such as a fresh baguette with home-made butter and ham, and quintessential French dishes such as coq au vin and roasted rabbit.

"This will not be my interpretation of French food," he said. "This will be the real thing, the real traditional French food."

Ciszak said that he was approached by the developers of Closter Plaza five years ago to open a restaurant at the shopping center, but he was hesitant. "Nothing was there yet," he said. "I didn't know if I should do it." Food Network stalwart Jose Garces signed up, but after Garces had to declare bankruptcy, the developers once again approached Ciszak.

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"It's a really nice shopping center with Whole Foods. Lululemon, an upscale movie theater," he said. His restaurant will be located right next to Orangetheory Fitness, a workout center.

Why a French restaurant?

The German-born chef said that French cooking techniques were always considered the gold standard for professional cooks and for a long time French food was the exemplar of the best fine dining. "My first Michelin three-star restaurant was French. In culinary school, everything we learned was French."

He added that the concept of "fusion" cuisine ruined appreciation for traditional food. "It's okay to be traditional," he said.

He named the restaurant to honor his grandmother, who, he said, "was an exceptional cook, grew her own food, made everything from scratch. She was my inspiration to become a chef."

Brasserie Memere will be located at 107 Vervalen St., Closter. Chakra is at 144 NJ-4, Paramus, 201-556-1530 chakrarestaurant.com/

Man sentenced to five years' probation for harassing Closter rabbi

A Norwood man who admitted harassing a Closter rabbi in person and through social media was sentenced to five years' probation by a Superior Court judge in Hackensack on Friday.Jonathan Singer, 54, appearing via videolink from the Bergen County jail, offered a brief apology to the rabbi’s family “for...

A Norwood man who admitted harassing a Closter rabbi in person and through social media was sentenced to five years' probation by a Superior Court judge in Hackensack on Friday.

Jonathan Singer, 54, appearing via videolink from the Bergen County jail, offered a brief apology to the rabbi’s family “for whatever pain I’ve caused,” while his attorney issued a lengthy statement arguing the harassment does not reflect the person Singer is.

“I certainly do not condone many of the things my client did or said by way of social media,” said the attorney, Ilene J. McFarland. “To quote the movie ‘Network,’ he was just mad as hell, at the world, at his personal circumstances, at the people around him, and he crossed the line, no question about it.”

Singer pleaded guilty in May to one count of cyber harassment, a fourth-degree offense. He was arrested in November and charged with stalking and harassing the rabbi outside Temple Emanu-El in Closter.

It’s not clear why Singer targeted the rabbi, David-Seth Kirshner, who appeared in court on Friday to read a lengthy letter accusing Singer of repeated acts of harassment and urging Judge Susan Steele to sentence Singer to the maximum penalty, five years’ probation.

Kirshner said the latest round of harassment began in August and made him fearful for his life, his family’s life and the lives of his congregants. Singer would write up to five social media posts daily attacking Kirshner and Temple Emanu-El, drove back and forth by the temple dozens of times on Jewish high holidays and, in an episode Singer recorded on video and posted to Facebook, accosted the rabbi with verbal harassment, Kirshner said.

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“These acts instilled fear and unrest in our community,” Kirshner said. “I had and I still have no idea whatsoever of what Mr. Singer is capable of or the physical or mental harm he can exact.”

Temple Emanu-El has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to beef up security because of Singer’s harassment, Kirshner said.

As part of Singer’s plea agreement, he agreed to have no contact with Kirshner directly or through social media, to dismiss a complaint he filed in municipal court against the rabbi and to participate in mental health treatment.

Email: [email protected]

Tao Haus Restaurant Opens in Closter NJ

Let’s face it: Dining out with the whole entire fam often turns out to be something of a yin-yang situation. Us grown-ups want to sink our teeth into something, well, grown-up, while our kids’ taste buds typically want, well, anything but that. So when we saw that the motto of just-opened Tao Haus, a fast-casual artisanal Asian joint in Closter, is “we put the yin to the yang,” we rounded up our brood for an “everybody wins!&rdquo...

Let’s face it: Dining out with the whole entire fam often turns out to be something of a yin-yang situation. Us grown-ups want to sink our teeth into something, well, grown-up, while our kids’ taste buds typically want, well, anything but that. So when we saw that the motto of just-opened Tao Haus, a fast-casual artisanal Asian joint in Closter, is “we put the yin to the yang,” we rounded up our brood for an “everybody wins!” mealtime moment.

And, oh, how we won—big time. Owner Mr. Chou’s extensive but surprisingly manageable menu is heavy on Hong Kong/Cantonese favorites infused with Japanese, Indian, and Mexican influences, to name just a few, and all those flavors add up to a ton of options sure to please any palette (even gluten-free and organic-only ones). House specialties include a long list of made-to-order noodle entrees (personalized with your choice of protein, sauce and noodle), dumplings, buns, dim sum, chopped salads, kid-friendly Chinese “tacos” and “burritos” (wrappers include moo shu pancakes, roti, scallion pancakes, and lettuce) and—everyone’s favorite—the Superior Steamed Soup Dumplings, made with perfectly flavored pork.

We popped in for a family sit-down last week and it wasn’t long before we all agreed this might be our new gastro go-to. First off, the ordering process—placed at the counter located in front of a large window where the organized chaos of the kitchen is on display for all to see—was just plain fun. Equally fun was the ease of finding a table big enough to seat everyone. The roughly 1,200-square-foot industrial-style space has plenty of clean tabletops, not to mention the comfy multi-couch front lounge area, which also houses a mini café serving up a variety of Asian-style coffees and teas (traditional steep and, coming soon, bubble-style). Even more seating—outdoor, to be exact—is set to debut once spring temps rise to the occasion.

Dessert is also on the menu, with steamed dumplings filled with crowd-pleaser flavors including pumpkin pie, sweet potato, red bean, and classic custard. At long last, hungry-time harmony has been achieved!

Tao Haus

272 Closter Dock Road, Closter

(201) 784-9988

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