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Category: Entertainment

In Lyndhurst, we were to the manor borne

Photo by Karen Zautyk continued next page Judith Krall-Russo with basic necessities for a proper Edwardian tea

Photo by Karen Zautyk continued next page
Judith Krall-Russo with basic necessities for a proper Edwardian tea


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


Admit it, ladies. (And maybe some of you gentlemen, too). Many of us are suffering “Downton Abbey” withdrawal.

You know the symptoms: the compulsion to wear elbow-length white gloves; drinking far too much tea; dressing for dinner, even if you’ve ordered takeout, and constantly searching eBay for pickle fork auctions. (Personally, if I don’t get a Mr. Bates fix soon, I shall suffer an attack of the vapors.)

Watching repeats helps a bit, but we know there’s a long, long trail a-winding until Season 4 starts next year.

For that reason, I took the motorcar on a jaunt to the Lyndhurst Public Library on Valley Brook Ave. last Saturday forenoon for a special presentation: “Life at an Edwardian Manor — Inspired by ‘Downton Abbey’.”

The speaker was Judith Krall-Russo of Fords. Krall- Russo is a food historian, but she has also done “massive research” into the manners and mores of the Edwardian era, which technically spanned the reign of Edward VII (1901-1910) but is more generally expanded to define the period from the 1880s to the end of World War I. And perhaps a bit beyond.

As “Downton” fans know, the Crawley family at the center of the saga has already entered the post- WWI period, and massive changes are in the air. But within the walls of the manor house, customs and attitudes (and the relationship between upstairs and downstairs) evolve at a more glacial pace.

Krall-Russo’s informative and intriguing program helped fill in some of the cultural-knowledge gaps of the series’ American audience, ranging from broad economic issues to such tidbits as why Lady Sybil’s appearance in harem pants cause such a stir. (What she was wearing was called a “tango dress,” and the tango, introduced to England around 1911, was downright scandalous. Until then, thanks to the omnipresent gloves, when men and women danced, they never touched flesh-to-flesh; that would have been considered “totally evil.”)

Not that there wasn’t such touching going on off the dance floor. Arranged marriages could be especially unhappy, and there were scores of American heiresses (“new money” not accepted into U.S. high society) shipped off to Britain simply to marry a lord and gain a title — and save the husband’s formerly wealthy family from bankruptcy. This could lead to significant hanky-panky among the upper classes.

Photo by Karen Zautyk Choose carefully: Which one is for pickles and which for pastries?

Photo by Karen Zautyk
Choose carefully: Which one is for pickles and which for pastries?


Krall-Russo gave her listeners a succinct lesson in economics, which play a critical role in the Crawley drama. Downton is in dire financial straits, but it still looks pretty spiffy. (“This is a show, not a documentary,” Krall-Russo reminded us more than once.) In fact, many of the British manor houses of the time lacked electricity and indoor plumbing and had deteriorated into fairly shabby conditions. (Not what those imported heiresses had expected at all.)

A primary cause — this is how the world economy works, children — was the American Civil War, after which U.S. industry, research, science and technology took off. On this side of the pond, it was also the era of huge ranches and farms.

England began buying its corn, wheat and meat, etc., from us, and the English laboring class, who had worked the manor house fields for centuries, “began leaving the land to do other things.” The aristocrats were losing their fortunes as land values plummeted.

This is also why the aristocrats were eager to wed rich American brides, since a bride and her money became the husband’s property.

The idle rich, Krall-Russo explained, were exactly that. Idle. Completely, except for socializing. “They did nothing,” she said. “Aristocrats were unemployed, and they were proud to be unemployed.”

Oh, the men might go fishing or shooting or fox hunting on occasion, but there was no concept of “work” for them. If they were out shooting, they didn’t even load their own guns. The “loader” did that, handed the weapon to the gentleman, who pegged a shot at a bird, handed the gun back to the loader and was given a freshly loaded one.

As for aristocratic Edwardian women, their primary occupation was to change clothes. Five times a day. The clothes were put on them by their maids, as were their jewels, their shoes, etc. A servant even put the toothpaste on their toothbrushes.

Some other fascinating trivia for us ladies:

• In the Victorian era, only prostitutes wore makeup. Except in France, where upper-class women wore makeup but prostitutes did not. (Must have been confusing for Englishmen visiting Paris.) Makeup — rice powder, pearl powder and rouge — started becoming acceptable for proper Englishwomen in the 1900s.

• The dark brunette hair of Cora and Lady Mary was not the preferred color. And blonde hair was considered “unfortunate.” Light brown hair was the ideal.

• Until age 18, girls could wear their hair down. But once they “came out” in society, the hair went up and it never came down in public again.

• An unmarried woman would never be left alone in a room with a man. Ever.

• A woman never left the house without a hat or bonnet. Ever.

• Speaking of hats, on the street one could identify a man’s social standing by his headgear: Aristocrats wore top hats; the working class (meaning doctors, lawyers, judges) wore bowler hats or homburgs; lower-class laborers wore caps.

As for the lower-class, the servants or “slavies,” Krall- Russo noted, “In ‘Downton Abbey,’ they’re too clean.” They would not have bathed regularly. And they would have slept in attics on leftover sheets and torn blankets.

Aside from all the housecleaning and fireplace-feeding and silver-polishing and kitchen work, their chores would have included ironing the newspapers so ink would not come off on the master’s hands and washing all coins, because the coins had been touched by commoners. And nothing, not a letter, not a calling card, would ever be handed directly to a family member; it would always be presented on a small tray.

If you, as a servant, passed a family member in a hallway, you would look down or at the wall. “Because,” said Krall- Russo, “you were not there.”

The servants got a half-day per week and one full day per month off — family social engagements permitting. They awoke at 5:30 a.m. and did not go to bed until all the work was done. Or, in a lady’s maid’s case, until the lady returned from her evening out. Which could be 2 a.m. or later.

Sometimes, the servants got no sleep at all. At one shooting party, Krall-Russo said, “4,000 birds were reportedly shot in one day. Who plucked and cleaned them?” Not the gentleman shooters.

All of the above is just part of the information we gleaned in the hourlong presentation.

The library had noted that you didn’t have to be a “Downton Abbey” fan to enjoy the program, but “devoted fans may take more notice of certain details in the show after attending.”

This one certainly will.

On Sunday night, I already started applying my new knowledge while watching another PBS program, “Mr. Selfridge.” For the first time, I was noticing the hats on the men in the street and rating the wearer’s social standing.

The more you know, the more interesting even the simple things become.

‘Stuart Little’ takes the stage



The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will present a stage version of E.B. White’s classic children’s book, “Stuart Little,” on Saturday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday April 28 at 1:30 p.m., at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny.

This latest production from W.H.A.T. is made possible through a generous grant from the Kearny Education Association (KEA). “We are especially grateful to the KEA allowing us to bring our second family theater production to our stage, “ said W.H.A.T. President Gerald Ficeto. “Part of our mission is to reach the youngest theater fans and their families and help them embark on a lifelong love of live theater,” he added.

“Stuart Little” tells the story of a young boy named Stuart who, while born into a regular family of humans, looks curiously just like a mouse. His parents immediately accept him for who he is, but Stuart longs to see the world outside the comfort and safety of his home. At the wheel of his pint-sized roadster, Stuart sets off to see the world and encounters adventures and friends along the way.



“‘Stuart Little’ was one of my favorite books,” said director Mary Pat Shields, who also serves as the W.H.A.T. vice president and has been involved in many local high school and middle school productions throughout West Hudson. “The characters are wonderful, the adventures are exciting, and the idea that a little guy takes on the big world is a perfect message for the kids of our community.”

That cast includes Jack Haefner, Noelle Haefner, Tim Firth, Jonathan Pinto and Paula Reyes.

The audience can meet the cast after each performance and patrons are invited to bring their cameras.

General admission tickets are $5 for children (age 12 and under) and seniors; $8 for adults. Reserved seating is available for groups of 25 or more. For tickets and additional information, visit www.whatco.org, call 201-467- 8624, or stop at the theater box office 30 minutes before curtain.

Hawaii, Florida images at Nutley Library

Maui-Hawaii by Scott Bergenfeld

Maui-Hawaii by Scott Bergenfeld


Everyone is welcome to stop by The Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr., this month to view the photography exhibit of local artists Scott Bergenfeld, Rosemarie Linfante, and Marta Russoniello, all from Nutley. The display will feature a unique collection of vivid photographs taken at Maui, Hawaii, and Orlando, Fla.

Bergenfeld recently ventured to Maui for his honeymoon last October where he was able to enrich himself in a vibrant palate of landscapes and culture.

He took this time to photograph one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Some of the breathtaking images he snapped included the Haleakala Volcano, the Seven Sacred Pools, and all 52 miles of the Road to Hana. Read more »

Go fish! Starting Saturday, it’s trout & about




By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


The trout-fishing season starts in New Jersey this Saturday, April 6, at 8 a.m., and local anglers do not have to travel very far to seek a prize catch.

The pond in West Hudson Park covers a mere 4 acres, but by Saturday it will have been stocked with 340 trout, most of average size: about 10.5 inches and a half-pound each.

However, lucky fisherfolk could land what the N.J. Division of Fish & Wildlife terms a “lifetime trout.”

Of the 340 fishies, 30 are large “broodstock” trout — weighing 3 to 7 pounds each and ranging from 15 to 24 inches.

West Hudson’s pond is one of only 10 sites in the state to be selected for the broodstock for the 2013 season.

“By concentrating . . .these large trout in 10 relatively small lakes and ponds, it is expected that angler participation and satisfaction will increase as anglers catch these trout themselves or observe others catching them,” the division’s website notes.

Photos from NJDEP/Fish & Wildlife

Photos from NJDEP/Fish & Wildlife

“Imagine going to a small pond or lake and latching onto one of these lunkers.”

(We do not fish, but we presume “lunker” is a good thing.)

In 2012, West Hudson Park had received only five broodstock trout, so odds of catching one are far better this year.

Every spring, over a span of several weeks, Fish & Wildlife workers travel the length and breadth of the state, depositing more than 570,000 brook, brown and rainbow trout in approximately 200 bodies of water, not only lakes and ponds but also streams and rivers.

Photos from NJDEP/Fish & Wildlife

Photos from NJDEP/Fish & Wildlife

All the fish come from the the division’s Pequest Hatchery in Warren County.

The Hackensack River will have been stocked with 690 trout by Opening Day, and a total of 1,810 by the end of May. The Passaic River will have 2,700 by Saturday, and an eventual total of 7,020. (No broodstock in the rivers, though.)

Your correspondent was surprised to see the Passaic on the stocking list, but then we remembered that the river is more than the sum of its polluted parts (the section that flows through Observer towns.)

The Passaic is 80 miles long and wends its way through pristine hills and lowlands of rural and suburban Jersey before it reaches this

area. We surmise (and hope) that the river trout will be caught primarily in the unpolluted areas.

If any make it down this far and are caught in these waters (people do fish the river here; why we cannot fathom), they should NOT be consumed.

In any case, the trout likely will have developed feet and glowing fins if they’ve spent any time in the Lower Passaic.


Photos from NJDEP/Fish & Wildlife

Photos from NJDEP/Fish & Wildlife

Perhaps one could use them as nightlights.

Please note that, to legally fish for trout, even in a park pond, a valid N.J. fishing license and trout stamp are required for N.J. residents aged 16 through 69 and for all nonresidents aged 16 and older.

For a full list of regulations, info on the trout-stocked waters and all things fish, visit www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/

Getting ‘Real’ about tress distress



By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


Fans of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” lined up inside a local beauty salon Saturday afternoon for the chance to get up close and personal with Teresa Giudice, considered by some the most glamorous, and intense, member of the cast.

Giudice, who made her mark in Season 1 by toppling a dinner table, showed none of that tempestuousness at the “Meet & Greet” at the Hair by David salon, 534 Kearny Ave. She was all glitter and style and charm as, from 2 to 4, she met with her public, signing autographs and graciously posing for photos with one and all.

The occasion was a promotion for her recently launched hair-care line, called Milania. Although officially introduced just a bit more than a month ago, on Feb. 18, Milania apparently has been gathering its own loyal fans at a rapid pace.

More than one of the women who attended the event told us it was love of the product, as much as affection for Giudice, that led them to Kearny that day.

Milania is named after one of Giudice’s four daughters — the others being Gia, Gabriella and Audriana. It was chosen by a vote of fans on Facebook and Twitter, Giudice told us, noting, “It fits!”

Giudice, also known for her appearance on “Celebrity Apprentice” and as the author of three best-selling cookbooks, could have lent her creds to any number of products, so why hair care?

She told us the choice was the result of personal experience: all the damage her own hair was suffering thanks to “all the straightening irons and the curling irons and the blow dryers” used to prep her for her TV appearances.



“I wanted three good products,” she said, and sought the help of friend and beauty-industry guru Jerel Sabella, who developed formulas for the Milania line: the Total Vitamin Leave-In Treatment, the Keratin Heat Protector and the Argan Oil Infusion Serum. All of them designed specifically to increase moisture and shine in heat-damaged hair.

Salon owner David Antunes said Milania was first brought to his attention by his sister Elizabeth Aranjo of Morris Plains, who raved about it. He started offering it to his clientele, “and we had such a great success selling it; it has just blown off the shelves.”

Antunes contacted Giudice via social media regarding Milania’s instant popularity at the salon, and the “Meet & Greet” was arranged.



The products were for sale, of course ($24.99 apiece or $49.99 for the set of three), but the event, Antunes said, was also “a great way for her to meet her fans.”

Giudice publicist Dina Elliot noted that the Kearny visit was among the first in a series they have planned to promote Milania. Teresa “loves” the events, Elliot said. “She is so grateful and appreciative of her fans’ support, and she loves hearing the feedback.”

We had one more question for Giudice: What can you tell us about the new season of “Real Housewives”?

“It’s definitely a season you don’t want to miss,” she said. She’s not giving away any secrets. Except how to glamorize your hair.

Golden moments on silver screen




By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


Last Thursday evening, Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey played host to an extraordinary film festival, held at its N.J. operations campus on Supor Blvd. The Harrison site was actually one of eight venues in Essex, Bergen, Union, Somerset and Hudson counties to screen selected productions sponsored by a New Yorkbased organization called Reel- Abilities.

Formed in 2007, ReelAbilities “is dedicated to promoting [through film] awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities.” Read more »

‘Once on This Island’ coming to Kearny

Photo by Catherine Astrella Playing deities in “Once on This Island,” from l., are Gabe Navia, Mary Berko, Jimmy Simoes and Future Vereen.

Photo by Catherine Astrella
Playing deities in “Once on This Island,” from l., are Gabe Navia, Mary Berko, Jimmy Simoes and Future Vereen. Scroll down for gallery.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


Kearny High School will usher in spring by welcoming visitors to an enchanted tropical isle where, it is hoped that “Once on This Island,” they won’t want to leave.

Or at least, not until the play of that aforesaid name ends.

The KHS players have selected this 1990 Broadway musical, with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, to offer theatergoers on March 21, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. nightly. Tickets are $8 for students and the elderly, $10 for adults.

Local senior citizens will be treated to a special preview dinner and show on March 19. The meal will be served at 5:30 p.m. and the show follows at 7 p.m. at no cost but reservations are required.

For reservations and/or tickets, call Sally Sprague at 201-955-5048.

To convey what he described as a mixture of “Romeo and Juliet” with “The Little Mermaid,” KHS chorus teacher Brian Toal, the show’s director, has assembled a cast of 23, backed by an orchestra of eight professionals and two students – wind player senior Jennifer Gilker and percussionist junior Aislynn Sroczynski – conducted by KHS Band Director Ed Gargiullo.

If you’re one of those types that demand a plot summary before you venture into a theater, here is a capsule version: A young peasant girl falls in love with a rich guy who is badly injured but whom she nurses back to health but … well, I don’t want to be a spoiler. You’ll hear from those players shortly.

And, oh yes, complications abound, thanks to intervention by the local deities. More about them later.

During a break at a rehearsal a few weeks ago, The Observer was granted an exclusive interview with the show’s co-stars, junior Cassie Shea, who plays the peasant girl Ti Moune; and senior James Berko, who has the role of rich guy Daniel.

After prior supporting roles in “Les Miserables,” “Pippin” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” 16-year-old Cassie is going about the business of preparing for her “most challenging” assignment to date.

“I’ll be singing songs in a higher range than what I’m used to and I have more solos,” she explains. So, aside from normal two and a half hour rehearsals Monday through Thursday, she’s plugged into a karaoke recording at home to achieve the desired effect.

“The music’s amazing,” she says.

As for showing up as Ti Moune, that’s part of her new challenge. “She’s naive but hopeful and determined – I think I’ll be good playing that,” Cassie maintains.

And being disappointed in love? “I’m a teenager,” says Cassie. “I have had heartbreak before but I think I can tap into those feelings.”

James, 18, a seasoned veteran of five shows at KHS (including Seymour in “Little Shop …”), finds himself in a conundrum with this role.

“Daniel is rich and has an arranged marriage but falls in love with Ti Moune, a peasant girl, but the rules of the island say that the rich and poor can’t marry and that’s a hard concept for me to accept,” says James. “I’ve never been in that position so to get into that mindset is very difficult.”

His character’s willingness, ultimately, to accept that principle is a true mindbender for James who recognizes, “I have to get over that [feeling]” to nail Daniel.

Post-graduation plans find James on the path to studying to become an educator, preferably as a high school history teacher, while Cassie confesses to being “torn between pursuing a career in musical theater or forensic psychology.”

And now, lest we forget, an introduction to the island gods, starting with senior Mary Berko (sister of James), who plays Asaka, goddess of earth. (By the way, you should also look for senior Michael Berko – the third member of the Berko triplets – on stage: He’s Armand, another rich guy.)

Mary’s been singing for KHS audiences since her freshman year but she admits she’s up against it with Asaka. “This role is very much out of the [vocal] range of my previous roles,” she says. “The songs are in a lower register than what I normally do, plus my character’s personality is really big. I’m trying my best to be someone I’m completely not.”

By contrast, senior Gabriel Navia, 17, is quite comfortable in the role of Papa Ge, demon of death, who he describes as “very out there, menacing – he wants to take lives of others.” (That may evoke memories of last year’s role as Audrey II in last year’s “Little Shop…”). “It’s fun,” Gabriel says. “I feel this part is perfect for me. Big and outgoing.” He’s projecting a future in “risk management.” No fooling.

But, by the way, Mary, 18, is absolutely confident about a future before the footlights. “I’ve decided to pursue musical theater the rest of my life,” she says. “I like the fact that you can use [your character] to portray strong emotions through song and dance that people wouldn’t ordinarily see and then can relate to that.”

Senior Jimmy Simoes, 17, cast as Agwe, god of water, plays trumpet in the KHS Marching Band and tested the thespian waters last year with the town’s Teen Drama group. “I enjoyed it because you can not be yourself,” he says.

Now that he’s got the bug, Jimmy wants to continue singing and horn playing in postgrad years but not as a lifetime gig. His career choice? “I want to be a S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) officer.”

Last of the deities is senior Future Vereen, 17, who plays Erzulie, goddess of love. “It’s my first time in theater,” she says. Still, Future already knows she’s “going to have a career in music as a singer.” She’s been singing “since I was five” and currently her voice can be heard at the Revival Temple Choir in Newark.

Her vocal talent apparently runs in the family: Her cousin is the professional actor, Ben Vereen, a Tony Award winner for his Broadway work in “Pippin” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Alas, she says they’ve never met.

Rounding out the cast, other supporting players are: freshman Carly Hull as Little Ti Moune, senior Devin Wason as Mama Euralie, senior Adrian Yllatopa as Tonton Julian, sophomore Leslie Hassanein as Andrea, freshman Stephanie Herrera as Madame Armand, senior Chris Doran as Gatekeeper and seniors Shawn Carlos, Karine Nunes, Nicole Olivares and Kathereen Pablo, juniors Michael Oliveira and Stephanie Pinto, sophomores Lilah Orengo, Kevin Steinmann and Julia Truskolawski and freshman Kayla Santana, all as Storytellers.

Behind the scenes, scattered through the “island,” are several others contributing to the production. Among them are: junior Joana Marmelo, stage manager; Garfield School teacher Milagros Gonzalez, choreographer; KHS A.P. studio arts teacher John Bednarczyk, set/light designer; and KHS counselor Catherine Astrella, business manager.

They’re all waiting for you on the “Island.”

It’s never too early to start learning

Mayor Robert Giangeruso (c.) presides at ribbon-cutting for grand opening of The Learning Experience in Lyndhurst in September.

Mayor Robert Giangeruso (c.) presides at ribbon-cutting for grand opening of The Learning Experience in Lyndhurst in September.


If you’re looking for a daycare center that offers more than mere babysitting– or plunking a child down in front of a TV — look no further than The Learning Experience in Lyndhurst.

Open since early September, the new center, located at 518 Stuyvesant Ave., is focused on “providing children with a quality education, from the beginning,” noted owner Corinne Aulov.

And she means “the beginning.” The Learning Center enrolls children as young as six weeks. Currently, there are eight babies in the nursery, all of them being provided with “a nurturing experience.”

The infants are part of the initial enrollment of 72 children, through age 5. The facility has a capacity of 167, and “we anticipate being full” by this coming September, Aulov noted. In September, too, The Learning Center will be offering kindergarten classes, in conjunction with the Lyndhurst school system, she said.

Aulov, herself the mother of three, left a career in the corporate world of New York to devote herself to early childhood education, and her passion for and commitment to the work is evident.

At present, she has a staff of 10, including the center’s director, Mara Doloroso. “I make it a requirement that they are all certified in early childhood education,” Aulov noted. “I want the school to be on an elite level,” giving the youngsters “a strong foundation.”

The Learning Center, part of a nationwide group of franchises, offers “one of the best curriculums out there,” said Aulov, describing the program as a “structured Montessori type of education.” “We need to get back to the fundamentals,” she said. In many schools, “the basics are not there.” The Learning Center program is designed to give children “that extra foothold.”

In addition to the day-care program, which operates Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., The Learning Center is planning a “fun and exciting” summer day camp in August. That will be for children ages 2 to 8. If parents take advantage of early registration, by the end of March, there will be a discount, Aulov said.

The Learning Center houses nine classrooms and features two play areas, indoor and outdoor. There’s a strong emphasis on security; the school is “constantly monitored,” with security cameras throughout the building keeping a watchful eye on the little ones, who, are happily playing–and learning–in their “home away from home.”

For more information on The Learning Center in Lyndhurst, call 201-460-0040 weekdays between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Or visit lyndhurst.tlechildcare.com.

North Arlington’s Little Secret? The uncloaking of The Angry Coffee Bean


Shop logo

Shop logo

By Laurie Perrone

Observer Correspondent

Upon walking into The Angry Coffee Bean Coffeehouse and Café located at 89 Ridge Road in North Arlington, New Jersey, one would get the feel of a trendy coffeehouse a la Manhattan.

Though it needs no Manhattan trend-setting to uphold its pull-out-all-the-stops New York Coffeehouse theme, owners Eileen and Michael Cassano one- upped their own ingenuity in authenticity by hiring their Executive Chef Daniel Sullivan.

Sullivan is a graduate from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. He stayed on in New York working at various restaurants and cafes until his fascination with the fast-paced scene waned after eight years. He wanted to work in a much smaller environment for more creative control in the kitchen.

During an interview with The Observer, Sullivan whipped up a delicious foray of Arugula salad with baked melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese, cranberries, walnuts and a balsamic vinegar reduction, seductive red velvet chocolate chip pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar and lightly drizzled with maple cream cheese syrup and sinful stuffed French toast made from Balthazar bakery brioche bread cut thick and stuffed with fresh berry cream cheese – all made-to-order as everything is always made at The Angry Coffee Bean.

Speaking about one of his many other culinary creations, Chef Sullivan recommended: “For a quick, lighter fare try the grilled vegetable wrap with homemade garlic hummus or our Quinoa Taboule salad. Quinoa is packed with proteins and Omega3s.”

Co-owners Eileen and Michael Cassano

Co-owners Eileen and Michael Cassano


Berry Cream Cheese French Toast

Berry Cream Cheese French Toast


Sullivan also spends time encouraging creativity in both his Sous Chefs Chris Nazzaretto and Robert Flythe. Nazzaretto holds kitchen craftsmanship that is not to be ignored much like his teacher. While Nazzarretto was packing up to leave for the night, he mentioned his special “Carne Asada marinated Filet Mignon over mixed greens with roasted peppers, tomatoes, red onions, shredded cheddar and black beans with a citrus vinaigrette.”

Eileen admits that grocery shopping nearly every day is a minor struggle well worth the payoff in being able to deliver fresh products to her customers. Selling out of fish and chips every Saturday and Sunday speaks volumes about its return on investment. Even the smallest details such as coffee aroma, texture and taste mean so much to the Cassanos. They have their coffee beans micro-roasted from The Red House Roaster in Union City, New Jersey. Eileen said that the beans are still warm when she takes them out of the bag. She observed how such attention paid to the bread used for the sandwiches make all the difference in quality and taste. It just so happens that the Cassanos receive all their bread products daily from Balthazar’s Bakery in Englewood.

So, why would the Cassanos leave their cushy corporate jobs as director of sales and corporate trainer respectively at major corporations?

Cafe personnel: back, from l., Executive Chef Daniel Sullivan, Sous Chefs Robert Flythe and Chris Nazzarreto and co-owner Eileen Cassano; front, from l., dishwasher Thomas Hanson and server Natalie Cassano

Cafe personnel: back, from l., Executive Chef Daniel Sullivan,
Sous Chefs Robert Flythe and Chris Nazzarreto and co-owner Eileen Cassano; front, from l., dishwasher Thomas Hanson and server Natalie Cassano


A 20-year salesperson, Eileen Cassano said she felt like she wasn’t using the full capacity of her talents. She knew that she could do so much more by using all her salesperson knowledge to work for her and her family. This revelation came to her while advising other salespeople who worked under her; inwardly, she realized that she was speaking to herself as well as to them.

Eileen mentioned that she left her former position without any job prospects on the horizon, despite the precarious state of the economy. Together the Cassanos’ takeit- as-it-comes attitude reflects the confidence it takes to launch a business from the ground up. Eileen said that she trusted her instincts based on how the sales field is flexible and applicable enough to open other doors of opportunities. Thankfully for the rest of us, the Cassanos not only used those opportunities right in front of them, but they took their opportunities to the next level of success in our new entrepreneurship economy.

The fully equipped and never-lacking-in-atmosphere entertainment lounge

The fully equipped and never-lacking-in-atmosphere entertainment lounge



The Angry Coffee Bean Coffeehouse and Café’s grand opening is an integral part of Eileen Cassano and husband Michael’s story: They pushed forward with their opening two days after Hurricane Sandy hit. The Cassanos call it “the baptism” of their then fledgling business because they immediately became known as “beacons” in the midst of Sandy’s shroud of darkness. Local residents as well as residents from nearby towns found “North Arlington’s Little Secret” by walking in simply to power up their cellular devices. Thankfully, the Cassanos were one of the first businesses on Ridge Road to gain electricity post-hurricane. They saw trouble as an opportunity to give back as they generously donated food to the police, firefighters and utility crews. Word quickly spread about them and business boomed immediately as the Cassanos began steadily increasing their share of regular patrons. They were not such a “little secret” anymore! In fact, during this very Observer interview with Eileen Cassano, The Angry Coffee Bean received word that they are finalists in a bid for a catering job involving, potentially, more than 200 diners, in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Natalie Cassano, one of Cassano’s two daughters as well as an on-staff coffeehouse server, spoke about her parents’ achievements:

“I’m so happy that my parents opened this coffeehouse… I’m so proud of them. We are such a family and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The Cassanos are not the only ones enjoying their newfound entrepreneurship. They invite local musicians and other talented performers to participate in Open Mike Night every Friday and Saturday night. Eileen is especially proud of a project she is working on with the photography teacher from Kearny High School and his students in organizing an art exhibit showcasing the students’ work at The Angry Coffee Bean. She is currently searching out talents such as poets and story-tellers to fill entertainment slots on other full house nights.

For menus and more information about The Angry Coffee Bean Coffeehouse and Café, look for them on Facebook.com/theangrycoffeebean and tweet them at theangrycoffeebean. Hours of operations are Monday through Thursday, 7 AM to 8 PM; Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday Brunch is served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Although walk-ins are welcome, reservations can be made by calling 201-772-5554.

They were up to the ‘Challenge’

Photo courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photo courtesy of W.H.A.T.


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


If you are in need of a bit of inspiration, look at the faces in the photos accompanying this story. These are among the young people, and their adult mentors, who invested all their talents, and their hearts, in the West Hudson Arts & Theater Co.’s recent marathon “Musical Challenge.”

From 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, until 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 26, cast and crew worked virtually nonstop (there was time to eat or take a quick nap) to stage a production of “Rent.” From scratch. No prior rehearsals. No prior script memorization. No prep work at all. A monumental task for anyone, but especially for performers aged 16 to 22.

They entered the W.H.A.T. theater on Midland Ave. “cold” and for 24 hours studied lines and rehearsed and worked on music (with a live orchestra) and costumes and lighting and all the other essentials required to put on a show.


Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.


Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.


When the curtain went up that Saturday evening, it was to the applause of an audience of 100 or so people who knew they were about to witness something extraordinary.

The director, Michele Sarnoski of Lyndhurst, summed it up: “It was a blessing to be part of this experience.”

Sarnoski, a founding member of W.H.A.T. and an English teacher at Paramus High School, noted that although she has been involved in theater for about 10 years, it was mostly in choreography and production. “This was the first time I had directed a show of this scale by myself,” she said.

Sarnoski said she had first seen “Rent” on Broadway in 1998 and it had “become a huge part” of her life. “But I had always looked at it from a dancer’s perspective. As the director, “it was like seeing a whole new show.”

She called the 24-hour challenge “a truly impossible task,” but the result “was just astonishing.”

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.


Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.



It was also “exhilarating” although ““emotionally and physically challenging.” When the performance was over, “we were all spent,” she said. “We were laughing and crying — there was such a wave of emotion.”

“We had not been asking for perfection,” Sarnoski explained. “But we were asking them (cast, musicians, crew, etc.) to give us the best of themselves, and they gave just that. They gave 100%.”

One of those doing the giving was Faith D’Isa of Kearny, a senior at High Tech High School in North Bergen. She had approached W.H.A.T. with the idea for the challenge as a fundraiser for the group and served as junior director, as well as performing in the ensemble.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

D’Isa had a little bit of an advantage. “I’ve seen ‘Rent’ seven times on Broadway and I know it inside and out!” she said.

Still, when they began their work that Friday evening, “all of us were a little concerned” — especially about staying up all night and then performing.

“But it got to a point where the hours no longer mattered,” she said. “Some of the people we had never met before, but it was such a nurturing atmosphere that we started to bond. And when the time came to perform, the community we had formed really showed. Everyone in the cast was helping everyone else on stage.”

Two others in the production (their first with W.H.A.T.) were Kearny High School seniors Michael and James Berko. Michael played drums in the band, and James had the lead role of “Mark.” (By the way, they are two of triplets; the third, sister Mary, was away auditioning at a college. Show biz must be in their genes.)


Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.

Photos courtesy of W.H.A.T.



“It was a lot of fun. It was an amazing experience,” James said. It was also, he noted, “a challenge trying to learn everything, but we pulled it off.”

Michael, although he was offstage, still faced “a lot of work” but “it’s good to push yourself.”

And the brothers agreed that W.H.A.T.’s presence in town is enriching the lives of both those in its productions and the audiences who come to see them.

“It was just great to see the community come out,” James said. What W.H.A.T. “is doing for the community is awesome.”

And the community is also helping W.H.A.T. The group’s publicist Linda Kraus D’Isa (Faith’s mom) cited “the support we received from our mentor volunteers, as well as the wonderful donations in food from local vendors.”

Those donors included Midland Dairy, Lily House Chinese Restaurant, ShopRite of Kearny, Entenmann’s and Wawa of Kearny.

“We are so very appreciative of their support,” she said. “Twenty-five teenagers can consume a great deal of food!”