Valley Diner in West Orange is a classic, Jersey eatery. With its stainless steel exterior, and red accents, customers can pony up to the counter or slide into a booth -- and feel like they're going back in time.
The owner of Valley Diner works double duty as its chef, Eric Pitusiak. Originally from Poland, Pitusiak said customers will find traditional diner fare there, including hamburgers, shakes, chicken fingers, soups and salads, but also traditional Polish dishes such as pirogies and stuffed cabbage.
The diner was vacant until Pitusaik moved in near the end of December. He cleaned the place up and opened for business in April.
“I love this place,” said Pitusaik. “The style is homey. We don’t see [diners like this] anymore. ... I have customers that came over here as kids.”
Pitusaik graduated from the New York Restaurant School in 1998, and has been working at various places ever since.
New Jersey diners have a long tradition and deep affection in this state. Peter Genovese writes, in his book Jersey Diners, "There is nothing more "Jersey" than a diner." Traditionalists weigh in on what makes a great diner; EthnicNJ says, "a great diner is equal parts looks, atmosphere, and food. From the outside, a diner should make you say, 'Cool, look at that diner.' "
Valley Diner, under its new ownership, gleams. And when it comes to the best item on the menu, Pitusaik did not hesitate to recommend pirogies.
“It’s the way we make them, that’s why they taste the best,” said Pitusaik. “That’s why they sell the best.”
Valley Diner, 567 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ.