Give a hand; comfort food from Latin America in Montclair (Robin’s Nest)

Melissa DiMarco at work, helping to clear out a house for sale. (ROBIN WOODS)

For the Montclair local

Have you ever met someone who you immediately pick up on, like you’ve known them for years? There was an instant connection between Melissa DiMarco and I when we first met at the 50+ Drag Bingo event in October 2021, sponsored by Out Montclair.

A resident of Montclair for 15 years, Melissa started her business, Run Around Melissa, in 2018. We met for a long chat over coffee while she explained what she was doing, as the name can mean to pretty much anything.

Her career path seems haphazard and everywhere as she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Speech and completed the Journalism program at American University. She also has a background in news writing and marketing and has worked as a teacher in between.

As the owner and president of Run Around Melissa (RAM), she helps homeowners and realtors prepare homes for sale, including downsizing, real estate sales, online sales, cleaning up the entire house. house and carpentry.

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Guiding the elders, or the elders as she prefers to call them, is the favorite part of what she does. She values ​​all of her clients and knows when a little help or encouragement is needed.

Her job pushes her to run locally and sometimes in other cities and states, and she said, “I haven’t planned any of this, and the way it has evolved is amazing. I was everywhere and wanted to see if I could find something that sticks. I help people.

RAM employs a local team of appraisers, electricians, plumbers, DIY enthusiasts, interior designers and garbage removal companies. Melissa goes to homes recommended to her by real estate agents and makes sure there is a clean slate for photos to show when an announcement is made, which helps eliminate the clutter.

For some, the hardest thing to do is get rid of their furniture and other belongings that take up too much space, and RAM guides customers through the process of removing personal items, sorting them, and packing them in. the categories of Keep, Sell, Discard or Give.

Melissa suggests that we should get rid of something every day, which she says is more difficult for some of her older clients, who “could be hoarders who save everything because they grew up with literally nothing, and save broken appliances, indoor / outdoor furniture, and clothes they’ll never wear again.

Melissa is also known for her volunteer work, organizing fundraisers for townspeople who have fallen victim to devastating house fires and coordinating the delivery of furniture to replace what has been lost.

I asked her what she would take if she had to leave her house quickly because of an emergency, and she said, “I’ll take my purse, my client files, my laptop, my cow boots.” -boy and my favorite glittery heels from the Sophia Webster platform.

A visit to Minia’s Montclair

Mariel Fernandez, left, and Lorena Coitinho have a chill out while Robin visits. (ROBIN WOODS)

After all the planning, packing, and moving you’ve done, it’s time to take a break to eat and relax. Head to Minia’s Montclair for a taste of authentic Latin American cuisine. The cozy little restaurant is owned by Lorena Coitinho and Mariel Fernandez. They are partners in business and in life, opening Minia’s Montclair on October 28, 2021.

Their first restaurant, Minia’s Breakfast and Lunch, opened in Bloomfield in 2011 and has a loyal following of people who love to eat foods from their home countries across Latin America, with family recipes from Brazil and the Dominican Republic, to name just two examples. .

Mariel learned to cook from her abuela (grandmother), Maximinia Herrera, and gave the restaurant her name. Abuela passed away just three months before Minia’s Montclair opened, and she wanted to serve what she had learned to cook as a child from recipes and cooking techniques shared by the family. “I’m from the Dominican Republic and my parents cooked a lot. We only went out to eat on very special occasions.

Lorena came from Uruguay to the United States, out of economic concern to find better opportunities in a country where she had only a few friends. She worked in the fast food industry for 12 years and said, “It gave me the discipline and the know-how to run a business and take the necessary steps to do so. “

So how about the food? I rarely eat in restaurants due to my many allergies, but I couldn’t resist the wonderful smells that emanate from the kitchen. I ordered the small bites but a pretty substantial portion of tostones, twice fried slices of plantain, a freshly made garlic, spice and olive oil dip on the side, and a side salad. accompaniment of tasty and crunchy arugula.

The tostones were crisp, light and delicious, something I couldn’t make at home if I tried. I asked for the exact recipe, but the best cooks don’t divulge all of their secrets. Lorena said, “Seasoning is the key to cooking, and we use a lot of garlic, lime and oregano in a lot of our dishes, especially our chicken. You can try to guess our secret ingredients.

Robin’s taster Woody Woods digs into Minia’s Montclair. (ROBIN WOODS)

I brought my taster with me, Woody Woods, who loves a good Cuban sandwich made with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mayonnaise and ketchup. He left only a few crumbs on his plate.

The avocado toast order had a Latin twist, and I’m curious to have him try the Mangu, made with mashed plantains and served with two eggs over easy fried Tropicano cheese, Dominican salami, and sautéed onions.

This is only served on weekends, and I can live vicariously through other people’s meals or go there at 8 a.m. and enjoy a freshly baked guava with cheese paste while sipping great coffee, cappuccino. or fruit smoothie.

As we close 2021, another difficult year, I want to wish you all happy, healthy and harmonious days throughout the New Year 2022, where you will read about new people and places that I meet as I travel through. Montclair.

In this article:

Running around Melissa (Melissa DiMarco)

Montclair de Minia
22 Lackawanna Square


Robin Woods is a town girl who talks about things to do, shops, restaurants, and interesting people who catch her eye. She has written personal memoirs and essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award for Essex County Legacies Essay Contest.

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