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It’s Shaken, not Stirred at the Laguna Grill Martini Bar...
by Bob Bickell

    "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made."
              - James Bond, from Casino Royale

    "One Martini is all right, two is two many, and three is not enough."
              - James Thurber

Big business keeps getting bigger and it is interesting to note that a restaurant on the beach in Brigantine, New Jersey has positioned itself to play a major role in the worldwide beverage industry. It’s all about friendships and contacts that evolved over many years, and suddenly the future looks very bright for several of the key players including a gentleman by the name of Alessandro Martini II, restaurant owner, Tony Pullella and his general manager, Angelo Bondi.

Alessandro Martini II & Family

This story actually begins in 1863 in Italy when two men got together and formed a company called Martini & Rossi to produce something called vermouth. Martini eventually bought out Rossi, and it didn’t take long to discover that his vermouth worked well with gin and vodka, and the world even named a drink after him. Suffice it to say, the name caught on, and the martini became one of the most popular drinks of all time.

Many years later, the grandson of Alessandro Martini appeared as part of the family business, and Alessandro Martini II helped organize the 1992 acquisition of Martini & Rossi to Bacardi for $1.4 billion.

We must accept the fact that a debate exists over the origin of the martini, however, The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest use of the word “Martini” as 1894 and states that the word comes from Martini & Rossi Vermouth. That’s good enough for me, and based on all the dates in question regarding the origin of this classic cocktail, one has to conclude that the martini was named after Alessandro Martini, one of the founders of Martini & Rossi. This is vitally important to this story and even more important to the owners of the Laguna Grill Martini Bar.

Tony Pullella is a local restaurateur and nightclub operator, and long-time owner of the Ocean Front Restaurant in Brigantine. In 2002, he wanted to modernize the Ocean Front and hired Angelo Bondi, formerly of Sysco Foods in Florida, to help make this happen. It just so happened that Angelo was a long-time friend of the Martini family in Italy, and he asked Alessandro Martini for help in establishing an authentic Martini Bar in the new Laguna Grill.

Laguna Grill Martini Bar

Alessandro Martini traveled to Brigantine and created a special martini presentation, and trained the staff accordingly. There are martini bars all over the United States, but only one that is endorsed by a member of the real “Martini” family, and that would be the Laguna Grill. Still loyal to his original company, the vermouth in his recipes is Martini & Rossi, and one of his most popular is called the “Island Classic” that includes your favorite Gin or Vodka with a mist of Martini & Rossi's Dry Vermouth, garnished with a large Spanish olive. His “Caesar Martini” includes Wild Turkey, Benedictine! , with a mist of both Martini & Rossi's Dry and Sweet Vermouth, two dashes of bitters, garnished with a lemon curl.

Alessandro Martini Wine Label Mr. Martini has no intention of kicking back and enjoying his incredible success – the man is driven and has developed a line of fine Italian wines to be marketed under the Alessandro Martini name. It’s interesting to note that the folks from Bacardi were less than thrilled to see him using the name they consider as part of their investment, and even offered to purchase his new concept prior to its launch. Mr. Martini is determined to maintain his independence and has elected to make a go on his own.

His line includes a Chardonnay; a Chianti; A Chianti Classico; a Merlot; a Pinot Griglio; and a Nobile di Montepulciano. The wines will retail from 26 to 52 dollars. Still loyal to his friends (Tony and Angelo) he has included them in his distribution plans. While Bacardi will be his main distributor in the United States, Tony and Angelo will maintain exclusive distribution rights for the State of New Jersey and Las Vegas.

Laguna Grill Martini Bar
1400 Ocean Avenue
Brigantine Beach, New Jersey
Phone:(609) 266-7731

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