Fundraiser for Wounded Warriors at Fresco

That moving sound? At Fresco, it's something refreshing called "fun" on Church St. in Montclair

A photo of "Cher" last night at Fresco. This was one amazing, talented performer.
A photo of "Cher" last night at Fresco. This was one amazing, talented performer.
Diane Lilli

You can have beauty, or intelligence or even spirit but to make a place so hot people jump out of their seats and dance with abandon you must be at Fresco. Last night, Fresco threw a fundraising party that kicked the blah-ho hum winter spirit of winter in its behind and ignited a feeling that was hot, hot and hotter.

A few years ago, Church Street was quiet after 9 or 10 p.m. Now, with the addition of Fresco, this is a happening spot filled with the most fun vibe I have ever witnessed this side of the Hudson.

Brothers Franco and Rob Porporino hosted a Studio 54 themed party in order to raise money for the Wounded Warriors, a non-profit organization with a mission to “To raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members;help injured service members aid and assist each other and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.”

The usually quiet Church Street in Downtown Montclair on a weekday night was magically transformed into a fun, musical dance party complete with fresh, delectable food on every table. Franco is well known in New York City for his many famous parties, including years of hosting major Cipriani downtown parties that also brought a decidedly

fun, Studio 54 vibe to Soho.

Last night, downtown Montclair joined the ranks of these epic parties, with a sold out crowd supporting a worthy cause and dancing, singing and enjoying a fantastic night.

But before we ate - and danced the night away - a surprise performance by a wildly talented “Cher” rocked us and brought us to our feet. This was a Cher that looked exactly like her counterpart - and kept everyone on their feet. Every dance move, every costume change, and each wink of this Cher’s eyelashes were authentic, passionate and totally fun.

Studio 54 inspired dancers also came out to the delight of everyone, and kicked off the night of dancing that never stopped.

As Franco said, if you were going to work Friday morning, you might not make it!

But the food, along with the atmosphere, must be noted.

Appetizers were outstanding, and included grilled octopus; Fresco’s popular stacked eggplant dish, which consists of lightly breaded eggplant slices between fresh mozzarella and tomato and Burrata.

I ordered my favorite appetizer there, the buratta cheese, served with cherry tomatoes that are roasted and literally burst in your mouth with flavor. This is a soft Italian cheese, a lush first cousin to the typical fresh hand made mozzarella you find in most authentic delis but much more decadent and luscious.

For our entrees, we had a choice of a large rib eye steak, prepared with a port wine demi glaze and herb mashed potato; a chicken-on-the bone giambotta served with sausage, caramelized garlic, mushroom, roasted peppers in a chiffonade basil; or their pan seared blackened atlantic served over cannellini beans, spinach and lemon. Wow. Each dish was outstanding, and the salmon was as usual a fresh slice of heaven.

Their salad also must be mentioned, since the dressing had an irresistible hint of truffle that just kept us happy. Even the desert, which I was too full to eat, was fantastic.

I do not exaggerate when I say Fresco is the most fun place in New Jersey. The food is top notch and inspired but when you add in the totally fun, lighthearted vibe and the charming stylings of the Porporino brothers, it feels like a magical fun house for adults, right in Montclair. At least for one night, the cold brutal winter was melted by the heat of this lively party, and I for one raise my glass to Fresco for sharing their delight in something so old fashioned and classic yet so often overlooked: the sheer, deep human joy in having fun.