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This article by Pat Tanner was prepared for the April 13, 2005

issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Taste of the Nation

‘New Jerseyans are more passionate about food than any other subject –

more than politics, traffic, development, even sports," writes Peter

Genovese, reporter and author, in his new book "Food Lovers’ Guide to

New Jersey." In an phone interview, he goes even further. "I’ve been

to a lot of other places, and New Jerseyans are the most forthright

people, sometimes even in-your-face. You never doubt what’s on a New

Jerseyan’s mind, especially when it comes to food. There are so many

food places in the state, and everyone has a favorite. God forbid

yours is different from someone else’s!"

When Genovese comes to Princeton on Monday, April 18, as celebrity

guest host of this year’s Taste of the Nation food and wine benefit at

the Doral Forrestal, it will be something of a homecoming. "I was born

in Trenton, grew up in Ewing, and lived in Plainsboro when it had

exactly two apartment complexes and one small shopping center," he

says. He even remembers when the Doral Forrestal Hotel & Spa, the site

of this year’s event, was Scanticon.

But perhaps the real star of the event is the food. It’s like going to

two dozen restaurants all at once. Now in its 14th year, Taste of the

Nation has gained a reputation as one of the top social events along

the Route 1 corridor, as literally hundreds of working professionals

and foodies nibble and drink their way through the area’s finest

restaurants, which serve up their signature dishes at informal tasting

stations. Attendees can also bid on a range of silent auction items,

including a stay at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, including

airfare, and a week at a villa in Tuscany for 10 people, courtesy of

Tuscan Hills in Princeton.

Genovese (pronounced Jen-oh-VEEZ) lived in Plainsboro during the years

he worked as a reporter for the (then) Home News in New Brunswick.

After earning a degree in journalism from Marquette University in

Milwaukee in the early 1970s, he started out at the Milwaukee Tribune.

"But somehow New Jersey drew me back," he says. For the last seven

years Genovese has been a feature writer for the (Newark) Star-Ledger,

the state’s largest newspaper, where, among other things, he oversees

and writes the wildly popular Munchmobile series and writes a weekly

food review column, "Eat with Pete."

Genovese will be the first-ever celebrity guest at Taste of the

Nation, signing copies of "The Food Lovers Guide" as well as his four

prior books. Taste of the Nation is one of a network of fundraisers

across the country under the umbrella organization Share Our Strength.

One hundred percent of all proceeds from Taste of the Nation,

including sales of Genovese’s books, will benefit area food banks,

including HomeFront, Isles Inc., Mercer Street Friends Food

Cooperative, and Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.

"Food Lovers’ Guide to New Jersey" ($14.95) has just been published by

Globe Pequot Press in Connecticut, which also published Genovese’s

"New Jersey Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities, and

Other Offbeat Stuff." The Garden State is more than Genovese’s "beat,"

it is his passion, both as reporter and author. Rutgers University

Press published his other works, "The Jersey Shore Uncovered," "Jersey

Diners," and "Roadside New Jersey."

"The Food Lovers’ Guide," he writes in the book’s introduction, is "a

culmination of years of wandering New Jersey as a reporter both for

stories and, well, places to eat." But the book is not just a

compilation of restaurants. Rather, it is Genovese’s take on where to

find the best of everything related to food and drink in New Jersey –

local products (pork roll and peanut brittle, for example), specialty

stores and markets, farms and farm stands, eateries (modest and

grand), annual festivals and events, wineries, and brew pubs. Some

area venues that garner mention as among New Jersey’s best include

Burrito Royale in Monmouth Junction, Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen & Market

in Princeton, Bon Appetit in Princeton, Michele Lorie Cheese Cakes in

Trenton, and Porfirio’s in Trenton. He even throws in recipes,

including Pam Mount’s apple rhubarb slump from Terhune Orchards in

Lawrenceville and Garden State Seafood Salad from Jim Weaver of Tre

Piani in Forrestal Village.

During Genovese’s formative years in Ewing, a family favorite was

Marsilio’s restaurant in the Chambersburg section of Trenton.

Genovese’s mother, Connie, a homemaker who will turn 82 this summer,

recalls that she and her husband, who died 10 years ago, would take

all six of their children there about once a week. "And those kids

didn’t move from the table. Pete likes to say to me, ‘You just had to

look at us and we knew to behave,’" she says.

Peter Genovese, whose tall, lanky but physically fit frame belies the

amount of eating he does for a living, says that food played a key

role in the family. "It really was at the center. You know, that whole

Italian family thing where you don’t ever walk away hungry, you have

pasta on Sunday. We weren’t poor – we were solidly middle class – and

my mom was always in the kitchen. She was a proud cook, and cooking

was her chance to shine. I’m not saying I loved everything she put on

the table but I did love all the Italian stuff." In fact, his

dedication to "The Food Lovers’ Guide" reads, "To my mom, best cook in

Trenton, who always made me eat my vegetables."

Connie Genovese tells a slightly different story. "There were things

the children wouldn’t eat, like broccoli rabe, so I didn’t make it.

But now that it shows up on restaurant menus and is expensive, guess

what? Now they eat it!" She and her husband, an engineer who designed

airplanes during World War II for a company in Trenton, sent Peter and

four of his siblings to area Catholic schools, Incarnation and Notre

Dame, for elementary and high school. One daughter, Gina, who has Down

syndrome, lives with her mother, who recently moved north to Union

County after 56 years in the Trenton area.

Peter Genovese continued the family’s educational tradition by

choosing Marquette, a Jesuit institution. "But I broke the mold in

other ways," he says. For one thing, he decided at an early age to be

a writer. "I don’t know why exactly. I read a lot but so do a lot of

kids who don’t go on to be writers." The subjects of his books derive

in most part from his own passions and ideas. One exception, though,

is a book that is not solely about the Garden State. "The Great

American Road Trip: U.S. 1, Maine to Florida" grew out of a newspaper

article he wrote. "This book was the publisher’s idea," he says. "I

only knew Route 1 through New Jersey, from going to my aunt’s house in

Philly for Sunday dinner. I didn’t see the possibilities so I took two

weeks to drive U.S. 1 from Maine to the Florida Keys and fell in love

with the road." He calls U.S. 1 "the most democratic of highways. You

can see the whole country on it. Think of how different Maine is from

Florida. It keeps changing character, not to mention climate and


Even this newspaper gets a mention in the book: "U.S. 1, a central New

Jersey-based community newspaper started by Richard Rein in 1984 is

named after the road." Genovese goes on to describe another namesake

publication. "U.S. 1 even had its own comic strip back in the 1980s.

The main characters of Marvel Comics’ ‘U.S. 1’ included Papa Wheelie,

Wide Load Annie, Taryn (Taryn down the Highway) O’Connell, and Ulysses

Solomon Archer, a tall, handsome trucker who could tune in CB

transmissions through a metal plate in his head, the result of a

near-tragic accident." The comic book, he notes, lasted only 12


The Star-Ledger’s roving food patrol, the Munchmobile, is Genovese’s

summertime preoccupation. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, this

big white van with an eight-foot hot dog on top travels all around the

state looking for the "best" eats, from thin-crust pizza to ice cream

to chocolate. The idea for the Munchmobile, which has been in

operation since 1998, originated with Star-Ledger editor Jim Willse.

Genovese credits its popularity to two factors. "First, it’s about

food, and not high-brow food. Beyond that, it’s entirely reader-driven

– the public has direct input." In fact, readers suggest places for

the Munchmobile to go, by writing letters, sending E-mails, and

calling the Munchmobile hot line (which goes directly to Genovese).

They sometimes even get to ride along, like on a recent chocolate

outing for singles only. This reporter spotted the Munchmobile on

Vandeventer Street in Princeton last summer, where it turned out to be

on its way to check out the coffee at Small World Coffee on


Genovese recently moved from Bloomsbury to Little Egg Harbor, in part

because he missed the Jersey shore and in part because as an avid

runner he missed flat land. "The shore is the most identifiable thing

about Jersey," he says. He doesn’t get back to his old stomping

grounds in Mercer County much these days, he says, other than as a

by-product of covering the state as a reporter.

The former Plainsboro resident says he was delighted to be pegged a

"celebrity" by the organizers of Taste of the Nation. Some of the

restaurants mentioned in the guide, such as Anton’s at the Swan in

Lambertville, Rat’s in Hamilton, and Tre Piani, will have tastings at

the event.

Some county residents might, in fact, take issue with one puzzling

aspect of "The Food Lovers’ Guide." The book is divided into chapters

by geography: north Jersey, central Jersey, south Jersey, and Jersey

shore. While this breakdown seems straightforward, residents of Mercer

County towns such as Princeton, Hopewell, and Kingston might be

startled to find they live in south Jersey. Genovese explains, "One

constraint of the book was that you couldn’t split up a county, so I

had to choose. Mercer is the one county that sort of straddles central

Jersey and south Jersey. Trenton has always been a dividing line. If

you go to Allentown, Crosswicks, and that area, nobody there considers

themselves part of central New Jersey."

— Pat Tanner

Share Our Strength’s "Taste of the Nation," Monday, April 18, from

6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Doral Forrestal in Plainsboro. $75 in advance;

$85 at the door (if available). Visit www.princetontaste.org or call


Top Of Page
Volunteers Needed

Somerset County Park Commission seeks volunteers for the therapeutic

recreation department TRAILS program offering adapted riding

instruction for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

No experience necessary. Call 908-722-1200 ext. 234.

Top Of Page

James Tolin Memorial AIDS Benefit seeks actors for "The Odd Couple."

Performances are June 17 and 18. Auditions are Saturday and Sunday,

April 16 and 17. Call Tracy Antozzeski at 609-291-8123. Productions

are in June.

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Call for Entries

CAPPS invites New Jersey playwrights to submit works for consideration

for public reading. Call 609-490-7550.

Top Of Page
Call for Donations

The Salvation Army seeks donations for New Jersey Flood Relief. Checks

may be sent to Salvation Army, Box 3170, Union 07083. To become a

disaster service volunteer call 908-851-8256.

Top Of Page

Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission offers a history

grants workshop at East Jersey Olde Town Village, 1050 River Road,

Piscataway, on Wednesday, April 20, at 6:30 p.m. Open to non-profit

organizations interested in apply for history grands to fund projects

taking place July, 2005, through June, 2006. A Help Clinic is also

available by appointment. Visit www.cultureheritage.org or call


Princeton HealthCare System offers a 24-hour physician referral

service about physicians and programs available. Call 888-PHCS4YOU.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County offers

funds to assist families with the expense of the Passover holiday

beginning on Saturday, April 23. Call 609-987-8100. Contributions from

community members are welcome.

Hunterdon Art Museum has launched class registration for spring

classes ending June 17. Classes offer creative and instructive choices

for adults and children. Call 908-735-8415.

Top Of Page

ECHO (Energetic Citizens Helping Others) is sponsoring a five-day bus

trip to 1000 Islands on June 20 to 24. $545, double occupancy with all

breakfasts and dinners, for ages 55 and older. Call 609-695-4151.

Need a Friend for senior singles, ages 55 to 75, meets every Thursday

at 7:30 p.m. at the Prestige Diner, Route 33 East, East Windsor. Call

Joyce at 609-448-3378 for information.

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Washington Crossing Audubon Society offers a full scholarship to the

Audubon Workshop for Educators, July 17 to 23, in Maine. The award

covers the fee for the workshop including room and board. Any educator

may apply. Call Herb Lord at 609-443-3981.

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