Gypsy Jazz, Jersey Style
by Jack Meyer
There is a scene in Jacques Tati’s film Playtime (1967) in which the ceiling of a stuffy, upscale restaurant collapses around the guests. Amidst the debris, guests excitedly rearrange the furniture. A woman begins to play the piano. A man strums an acoustic guitar. Tati’sParisiens much prefer the carefree and intimate feel of a traditional bistro.
Madame Claude Café, located in Downtown Jersey City, captures the essence of the traditional Bistro Parisien Tati celebrates. Claude is nestled in the Little Italy section of Downtown. The neighborhood is peppered with elegant brownstones and row houses, impressive Romanesque churches and, of course, corner restaurants brimming with joie de vivre.
Mattias Gustafsson and his wife Alice Troletto, both natives of France, are the owners of Madame Claude Café, a charming petit bistro located on the corner of Brunswick and Fourth Streets. I spoke with Gustafsson at one of the Café’s outdoor tables. Gustafsson, with his untucked olive button-down and traditional flat cap, radiated with Parisian hospitality. “I feel like the mayor around here,” Gustafsson laughingly admitted as he warmly greeted almost every passerby.
Gustafsson, a songwriter and producer by trade, opened Madame Claude eleven years ago. Prior to owning the restaurant, he was a music producer. I was impressed to discover Gustafsson was nominated for a Grammy as producer for a song by the Backstreet Boys. His wife, Alice, has a background in restaurant management. They decided to open their own restaurant, which, undoubtedly, would serve la cuisine française.
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