Fred Shandler ’05 runs one of the hottest restaurants in New Jersey – Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria in Maplewood – but he leads his Instagram bio with the humble title “Head Dishwasher.”
That description is a testament to Shandler’s considerable work ethic and his collaborative approach to business management.
We’re a team of cooks,” Shandler says, with everyone contributing. “It’s a lot of trial and error.”
Shandler graduated from Montclair State with a degree in Elementary Education, and, even though he didn’t put it to use in the classroom, it’s obvious that he’s an educator at heart. The staff at Arturo’s – as well as his new bakery, The Bread Stand, also in Maplewood – are continuously training, learning, testing, sharing and aiming for excellence.
It’s a recipe for success that took the once humble by-the-slice pizza place to a darling of The New York Times that had diners from Manhattan to Morristown lining up outside Arturo’s nightly in pre-COVID-19 times, where weekend waits could run up to two hours. (At present, Shandler has shifted to a safe, socially distant curbside pickup model.)
Shandler credits Montclair State for putting him on the right path: “The diversity of the staff and the student body both in terms of cultural and economic diversity, just having that exposure and meeting all these people, helped to heighten my level of empathy. The ability to communicate with different people at different levels – I began to grasp that at Montclair State.”
Empathy flows through The Bread Stand and Arturo’s business ethos: “Supporting a local food ecosystem is simply a part of who we are, but I was always adamant about not jamming it down people’s throats. It’s ingrained. Essentially everything that we use is either locally or domestically sourced and is in-season.”
Eight or nine years ago there weren’t many restaurants outside of Manhattan focusing on locally sourced food and we were doing it in a really casual way – in a pizza shop with a refrigerator in the dining room. I love it.”
Meanwhile Shandler is not resting on his laurels. “Maintaining the level of expectations is incredibly challenging. We are only as good as our guests’ last experience.” This is where his inner teacher comes out, schooling his staff of mostly 18- and 19-year-olds: “We spend an incredible amount of time preparing. Service is game time. But the real work is practice.”
–Mary Barr Mann