Freelance paints reminders of Tuscany

| 11 Jul 2019 | 06:24

By Laurie Gordon
So, you've found your spot. That culinary destination that's not too far from home that you just love. You go with your significant other, you go with friends and you bring your family, and then, boom, it closes. After many years, that was the fate of Tuscany Bistro as its owners were pursuing different occupations and keeping it alive wasn't possible. The building on Route 206 lay dormant for a while, but then West Coast dining entrepreneur, Xuguang “Jason” Wang discovered it and wanted to bring it back with a new name and flare. In keeping with Tuscany Bistro's genre, the new Freelance Bistro, which opened in April, features an Italian menu. Though some structural changes have been made, Freelance offers the same comfortable atmosphere with a European flare. There are two areas which can be used for special occasions, and Freelance Bistro is becoming well known not just for its scrumptious, sit-down cuisine but also for a place to host special events and catering.
What brought a Seattle man to Sussex County? One word: his daughter.
“She moved east and fell in love with it here, so the whole family followed,” he said. “She graduated from NYU and decided she was staying in this area.”
Wang has been a restaurant owner and connoisseur for nearly 30 years. Before moving east, he owned a bistro in Seattle. Several years ago, Wang settled near his daughter, in Upper Saddle River and bought Tuscany Brewhouse, in Oak Ridge. From there, he looked north and purchased two well established restaurants in the Piermont, New York area: Xaviars and Freelance Cafe. He renamed Xaviars then settled on a final name, The Kitchen in the Hudson Valley, when he opened with another partner. Wang is also the new owner of La Strada Ristorante, in Randolph.
Wang co-owns the restaurant with his neighbor for Upper Saddle River, Winnie Ma. The two struck up the name Freelance Bistro from Wang's Piermont restaurant.
“Many of our customers were long-time customers at Tuscany,” Wang said. “They are so happy that we brought back something similar.”
Wang also brought back some familiar faces including chef Raoul Hitzel, who had worked at Tuscany Bistro. He also brought back Karrie Szatkiewicz, who serves as his manager, and some other staff.
He said the secret to owning multiple restaurants is good staff and management. It's also good food, and many of the menu items are similar to what Tuscany Bistro featured.
“I have good managers and chefs at all of my restaurants and depend on them to make sure things run smoothly,” he said.
“The Zuppa Di Pesce, calamari and fresh mozzarella are among some of the best sellers,” Szatkiewiecz said.
Wang said that he plans on opening the patio area for outdoor dining in the near future and bring in music in the evenings. There is a daily happy hour daily and weekly specials on wine.
“We're a family restaurant and a place where people can come and relax and have a good time and enjoy really good food,” Wang said.
Freelance Bistro is currently open Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon through 9:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 11 p.m.; and Sundays, 2 to 9 p.m. For more information, call: 973-579-6966. Freelance Bistro can be found on Facebook at: @freelance2019newton. The restaurant is located at 216 Woodside Avenue (Route 206) in Newton. Find Freelance on Facebook at: