Eastern European cuisine merges with opera, jazz and more at NJ dinner theater | Test
It almost feels like a movie of a lifetime: a successful opera singer decides to leave the road behind and turn her passion for home cooking and love of music into a space where the two arts meet in exciting new ways.
At the Green Pear Dinner Theater, with locations in Jersey City Heights and Hoboken, that vision has come true.
Isabella Megyeri has toured the world singing great operas, but she gave it up to settle with her husband, Alfredo D’Innocenzo, in the Heights. Today, she owns/operates two restaurants, Green Pear Heights at 93 Franklin St. in Jersey City and the Green Pear Cafe at 93 Grand St. in Hoboken.
The food is Eastern European with a modern twist, the ambiance lush and ornate, and on nights when the venue transforms into a Green Pear Dinner Theater, dining turns into a multi-sensory experience.
“The idea was to bring my cultural background of classical music and merge it with food, creating this immersive dining experience where we include almost all of the senses,” Megyeri said. “And it’s not exclusively opera or classical music, we’ve started now with a wider range of entertainment.”
The Green Pear Dinner Theater presented classical music and opera as well as samba and flamenco. Upcoming events include a Jack Breslin Jazz Trio dinner show on Saturday, March 12; an impromptu speed dating night for singles 40 and over on Friday March 25, and a vegan sushi class and dinner on Thursday March 31.
In the future, however, Megyeri hopes to do more to help the classical music community.
“I know they suffered even before the pandemic,” she said. “They are very well trained and, of course, you can imagine the discipline. I compare opera singers to ballet dancers, one of the lowest paid performers across the performing arts spectrum. We spend so much time perfecting our craft, it’s hard to get by while waiting for an opportunity. I consider it our mission to preserve live entertainment, because I think people forget how magical it is.
When Megyeri decided to open a restaurant, she had to take a huge leap of faith, she said.
“I’m not a trained chef, I just like to cook and remember some things my grandparents and my parents used to make in Europe,” she said, her favorites being goulash and paprikash at the chicken. “Everyone cooked at home all the time. We went out on the weekends, maybe, but we made great food at home every night. I bring this to my restaurants.
“But then,” Megyeri continued, “I had to update a bit because, you know, nobody wants to eat that much cholesterol and people are turning away from eating meat, which is great. So, you have to improvise a bit and update some things. But the seasoning is always the same. It’s the New European. It’s who I am. But I’ve learned a lot here living in Jersey City for almost 30 years now. I love, love, love going to all these ethnic markets and learning about their spices. So that was my road to success.
For inspiration, Megyeri took classes at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York “because of my own and my family’s health,” she noted. “So, yeah, I always try to stay on the healthier side and lighten up all those calories to make some great tasty food.”
Megyeri’s family fled their native Hungary during the Balkan Wars and immigrated to the United States, where her mother found employment at the Jersey City Medical Center. Megyeri had studied music in Hungary, then earned a master’s degree at Brooklyn College and started auditioning for opera.
“I won the Metropolitan Opera competition twice for the region, then I won the Wagnerian competition in New York, but I went back to Europe to perform because I needed that experience,” he said. she declared. “In Europe, you can start in smaller houses. Here, it’s very difficult to start at the City Opera or the Metropolitan Opera.
Megyeri’s big breakthrough came when she had the opportunity to replace Annette Fleming at the Paris Opera, but staying at the opera would have meant moving to Vienna.
“And that’s where my heart broke, because I’ve lived here in the United States before and I love this country, I learned the language and started to understand everything that we started here with my husband and my two children,” she said. “And so I decided to come back.”
Her transition from the stage to a professional kitchen, however, was not smooth.
“We decided to open a small cafe that was completely flooded by Hurricane Sandy two weeks later,” Megyeri said. “And, of course, the pandemic hasn’t helped. But I don’t want to complain about that. I want to look forward and hopefully we can do even more shows. We are now at three shows a month, and I would love to have one a week eventually. Of course, we’ll see what the future holds.
For more information on reservations and upcoming events, visit greenpeargroup.com.
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