Praised by Dr. Oz and Barstool, groundbreaking Morris eatery is moving


2-minute read

A popular Morris County restaurateur − touted by “Barstool” and celebrated on the “Dr. Oz Show” − is shutting down his groundbreaking Main Street eatery in Boonton.

But Mickey Chopra is already scouting for a new location to continue his creative comingling of two rarely-blended cuisines.

Chopra has put the brick-and-mortar locations for his double play of Italian-Indian fusion restaurants, i2i and the neighboring Vinnie’s Pizza and Ristorante, up for sale, along with the Vinnie’s brand. The i2i name and concept, however, are going with him, ideally to a new location in the town he calls “my second home.”

“I’m selling the business, I’m not selling the name,” said Chopra, a Rockaway resident, adding, “i2i is just taking a pause.”

Chopra immigrated to the United States at age 19 in 1987. A son and grandson of New Delhi restaurateurs, he took over the existing Vinnie’s in 2016 and quickly expanded to incorporate his trademark Italian-Indian melange, adding dishes like chicken tikka calzones and butter chicken pizza.

Where’s i2i moving?

But Chopra has decided the time is right to move. His lease is coming to an end, and he’s been frustrated by “landlord issues” and a lack of parking along Main Street, he said. He’s already scouting several sites in Morris County, including Boonton.

“My first choice would be to stay in Boonton,” he said. “But not on Main Street.”

Chopra’s establishment was part of a revival over the last decade for the downtown district, where monthly “First Friday” events lure foot traffic to enjoy live music, trendy boutiques and a wide range of cuisines.

More: What keeps people coming to this Boonton barbershop after 65 years? Just ask the customers

A pandemic hero

He also drew praise for his efforts to stay open and feed emergency responders during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020. The attention eventually brought Dr. Mehmet Oz and his TV show to town.

During a February 2021 visit recorded for the show, Oz toured the i2i kitchen and presented a video tribute from DoorDash Chief Operating Officer Christopher Payne. Payne announced Chopra would receive a $10,000 grant and “white-glove service” to set up a new website.

“I am the perfect example of the American Dream,” Chopra told Oz. “I gave away a lot of free meals, and I got a return, so God was watching.”

Italian-Indian fusion blows up on Barstool

Barstool’s Dave Portnoy also posted a memorable video after a 2021 trip to i2i.

“We stumbled across the first Italian-Indian fusion restaurant in the world,” Portnoy said.

The next year, the Morris County Board of Commissioners recognized Chopra’s community outreach work, awarding him $15,000 through a Small Business Grant program funded by the federal American Rescue Plan.

Since then, Chopra has expanded his family operation, taking over Caffe Delhi in Denville and enlisting his wife, Bhavana Chopra, to oversee a successful makeover of that spot’s dining room, kitchen and menu.

Closing celebration in May

Chopra expects to choose a final destination soon for his Boonton operation, but it will take some time to reopen, he said.

“Some of the locations I am looking at will need a lot of work from the ground up,” he said.

i2i will stay open until the last week in May. Chopra said customers should follow his social media for news of a big closing event that week. Staying in Boonton remains his goal.

“I don’t want to leave Boonton,” he said, “and Boonton wants me to stay.”

William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: wwesthoven@dailyrecord.com 

Twitter: @wwesthoven

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