Dining “Under the Moon” in Bordentown & Lambertville

Under The Moon sign in Lambertville.
Under The Moon sign in Lambertville. Photo by Cora Berke

Out of the Kitchen

Santiago Orosco grew up in Argentina, surrounded by homemade food cooked by his maternal grandmother, great-aunt, and his mom Estala. The food in Argentina he said is a mix of Italian, Jewish and Spanish cuisine, with plenty of beef, pasta, and empanadas.

Some selections on the menu
Some selections on the menu at Under the Moon

Years later, while living in New York and working in real estate, his mom was not happy with her job and Santiago decided to open a small café across the Hudson in Bordentown. The original “Under the Moon” was opened in Bordentown in 2006 and run with the help of his mom and sister. Santiago said he learned to cook using his mom’s family recipes and changing the menu daily. The cafe quickly became a favorite in Bordentown and eventually moved to a bigger location on Farnsworth Avenue.

Santiago and his life partner Eric Richardson, opened their second location in Lambertville in 2017. They first met when Santiago worked in a restaurant in Lawrenceville, and they have been together for over 20 years.

In April 2020 “Under the Moon” opened in their newest home, an historic 1860 Italianate-style building on North Main St. In Lambertville. Santiago hand-painted the ceiling tiles in the Lambertville location and he made the tile dining tables too. He said the decorating is influenced by their travels.

The Lambertville location recently obtained a liquor license and they will be adding a full bar soon.

The menu is a mix of American, Italian, and Spanish cuisines. Customer favorites are the beef empanadas and the meatballs. Stuffed pork chops with goat cheese, prosciutto and a cranberry demi-glace with homemade gnocchi garnishes get rave reviews. The traditional tapas menu was inspired by Eric’s and Santiago’s trips to Spain. They have their own rendition of a pork belly tapas.

Santiago shared a cooking tip with me for potato salad. He said to pour a cup of red wine vinegar into the boiling water. This prevents the potatoes from breaking apart and being too starchy.

Santiago also does his own baking and he said he prefers baking over cooking, since he is a “sweet” lover and would like dessert for dinner. His 20-layer crepe cakes are a favorite with a stack of crepes filled with various fillings.

Santiago and Eric talked about the importance of community. They are very active in the LGBTQ community in Lambertville and are partners with New Hope Celebrates. They hosted a meet and greet after the walk for Trans Remembrance Day at the Lambertville restaurant. And for Pride in late May they had a Tea Dance with performers, stilt walkers and tarot card readings.

They want “Under the Moon” to be a safe place for the LGBTQ community to gather. Santiago is also the President of the Downtown Bordentown Association which organizes town events such as the Porch Fest, which they hope to bring to Lambertville in the future.

When Lambertville flooded during Hurricane Ida last year, Santiago and Eric loaded their van with pallets of water, food and cleaning supplies and brought food to the police and fire departments. They said this is what makes a community, and they are so grateful for the support the community has shown them.

Their advice to those wanting to open a restaurant is to understand the market and find a terrific location. More importantly, the secret to their success is to treat employees with respect and pay them well. They have staff who have worked for them more than 10 years and they encourage them to always do better. Over the years, their employees have left to open their own businesses and they have supported them wholeheartedly.

When asked what their plans are for the future, they said they are working on opening “new concepts” and new locations down the road.

“Under the Moon” does off-site catering and private parties in-house. Eric is officiating at a wedding of one of their customers who started eating at the Bordentown restaurant as a child. They have watched families grow up and have had parties from high school graduations to baby showers. A true testament to their bringing families and community together “Under the Moon.”