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Restaurateur believes in two futures: His own, and Wildwood’s


As head of Sciarra Restaurant Group, Brendan Sciarra is responsible for the operation of three Wildwood eateries.


By Ken Mammarella

Brendan Sciarra respects the past of Wildwood and is a force in developing its future – with a significant accent reflecting his Italian heritage.

Consider the history evoked by the names of his three restaurants and their menu items, and contemplate his ideas for six luxury cottages for vacationers to the Jersey Shore.

“I believe in this town,” said Sciarra, a Wildwood native who lives just to the south, in Wildwood Crest, with wife Robin and their three children, Michael, Kai and Brendan Jr. “It has a lot of potential.”

During the pandemic, many people reconsidered their work-life balance and the need to commute, and they left congested cities for once-seasonal communities like the Wildwoods for “some more space for living and to enjoy life.”

Sciarra feels that the trend will continue.

“People want to be on the water,” he said, with skyrocketing prices to the north and south luring development to a more affordable Wildwood. “This has put Wildwood over to another level.”

He feels that his businesses support that transformation by providing dozens of year-round jobs.

In his little spare time, Sciarra enjoys going out on his boat, an unnamed 30-foot Chaparral. “I grew up with the water, and I love being on the water,” he said. “If you can see the water, you’re OK.”

His latest venture, opening in 2023, involves six two-bedroom cottages, next to a four-bedroom house being sensitively restored “to keep the tradition of Wildwood’s older homes that were here before the hotels,” he said. “Mudhen Hospitality will bring something to the island that nobody else has done.” Accommodations include a swimming pool, bicycles and golf carts. He said similar establishments exist in Cape May and Lewes, the latter run by Dogfish Head Brewery.

Sciarra, who’s 40, traces his heritage on both sides of his family back to Abruzzi, and that heritage, of course, incorporates “hard work and good food.”

“It was business every night talking to my mom and dad, so it’s always been in my blood,” he said. His father, Mike, founded Kona Surf and is in the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame.

He’s toured Italy once, for a trip that included Rome, the Amalfi Coast and that “good Italian food.”

Sciarra got a tennis scholarship to Mount Saint Mary’s but left after a semester (“college wasn’t really for me”). He started a landscaping company and sold it after a decade. He bought a restaurant (Chiarella’s) and intended to have someone run it, but that just didn’t work out. So now he’s in the restaurant business – seven days a week, with especially long hours in tourist season.

He’s OK with that. “My passion is coming to work and creating a destination for people to enjoy their time,” he said. The Sciarra Restaurant Group owns and operates three places:

  • Poppi’s Brick Oven Pizza & Kitchen, with Neapolitan-style pizza, Nonna Maria’s meatballs (actually a combo of his mother’s and mother-in-law’s recipes) and Trish’s chopped salad (Trish is his grandmother). The place is named after his grandfather, David “Poppi” Sciarra, who emigrated from Italy and founded a cement and masonry business in Wildwood.
  • Dogtooth Bar and Grill, named after the Australian tuna.
  • Mudhen Brewing Co., named after the first passenger train that brought visitors to Wildwood, in 1883, and that year lives on in 1883 IPA, the name of its best-selling beer. Talking about the expanded distribution of Mudhen beer, he said, “We feel a lot of momentum, and we’re happy.”

The post office says the eateries are on different streets, but they’re close enough that diners in the BYOB Poppi’s can walk over with beer from Mudhen.


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