Maria Jelliff, David Strollo, Joe Grasso, and Tom Fornicola wear different versions of the WOYP tee shirts available for sale. Missing from this founding admin group is Anthony Giordano.
A photo of a fragrant platter of meatballs and zesty sausage is the first thing you see and what does that image do to your psyche? Reactions range from soul feeding comfort to nostalgic meals enjoyed with family. It’s a ritual shared by so many who find their joy-factor intertwined with good food. And a desire to share this feeling with others is part of the reason WOYP! was born.
Thanks to social media we’re learning more and more about global eating habits. Thanks to five talented and voracious Italian American friends, we now have a website where we can post pictures of our meals while salivating over what everyone else ate that day.
A little antipasto consists of fresh mozzarella yellow and red tomatoes and green olives, drizzled with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
What’s On Your Plate! Starting about a year ago, this Face Book group is seeing a meteoric rise in membership. Currently about 30,400 like-minded foodies are popping in daily to show and tell anyone who’s interested about where to find the best ingredients, restaurants and meals in general.
That this is a closed group, which means you have to be sponsored or invited by a member makes it even more elite.
Lobster fra diavolo a sauce with a kick, is teeming with big chunks of sweet lobster meat.
Five admins, all chefs in their own right and all coming from Long Branch, NJ, police the site and are specific about what is and isn’t acceptable. They have no tolerance for negative feedback, bullying or political posts.
Pasta served family-style is perfectly al dente.
Over a remarkable Italian-style Sunday dinner, I sat down with four of the five admins to hash out what this culinary phenomenon is about.
Joe Grasso, aka Joey Capers is the only one in the group who has culinary school background and currently makes his living in the food world.
Dave Strollo, a descendant of the famous Jersey Shore Strollo’s Lighthouse family, loves to cook. “I can do anything. Meatballs and sauce, a marsala or saltimboca. I’ll read a recipe, then give it my own spin.” His girlfriend Susan Agostini adds that it’s called gravy, not sauce but her boyfriend gives her a pass because, “She’s from Jersey City.” Lighthearted and funny, the teasing is never mean-spirited.
We chowed down on tender meatballs, a Sunday dinner staple. The creamy ricotta in this case is a condiment to the meatballs and pasta.
Do they critique each other’s cooking? “Yeah. We all have our specialties but you know, one makes sauce with a little sugar and one without. It’s all good natured fun,” Tom Fornicola says.
Expanding their horizon’s, the group recently cooked a meal at the local Ronald McDonald House in Long Branch at Monmouth Medical Center. “We were booked in October last year and given a date in April to cook for them,” Maria says. “Everyday someone else comes in to cook for the people staying here.”
Spicy hot sausages and a braciole rolled around a stuffing studded with sweet bits of garlic were a centerpiece of the meal.
More than their cooking, they all have a unique sense of hospitality. Guests feel welcome on their site the way they might if they are invited to their homes. They are cheerleaders for at-home cooks, novices and professional, as well as for each other.
Telling stories of their younger years that include church on Sunday and the traditional family dinners that follow, they are infused with hilarity and a drop of sarcasm. Snippets include everyone sitting down at the table at the same time, a ritual that Maria continues in her house even today.
I started with a taste of everything and then went for seconds.
“After dinner it’s all about football,” Dave Strollo says. He played professionally for the Indiana Warriors – NAFL-1 and Arena football with Bayshore Brawlers, winning 3 championship rings.
Closing out the magnificent dinner, Maria baked two amazing desserts. So good, that I will go so far as to say that she might be sitting on the superlative cheesecake recipe of the Jersey Shore. We’ll be covering Maria’s involvement in WOYP, and her desserts in another article next week.
A plateful of Sunday dinner, Italian style. Delicious doesn’t do it justice.
WOYP can be found on face book by clicking here. They are open 24/7.
Souvenirs: Some world travelers keep diaries listing places they’ve been and sights seen. Maybe the photos and words jar memories of happy times but sometimes an aroma or a taste of a meal shared with loved ones can also trigger those memories.
A moment of pure bliss: I’m standing in the Fair Haven Fields community garden under a wall of eight foot tall sunflowers. It’s a hot-muggy 90 degrees already, but in this split second I’m alone with the honey bees and all I can smell, and all I can see is green. A thousand different aspects of green.
Land-locked: A canoe filled with a wide variety of beverages, primarily craft beer was just one of the eye-popping abstract concepts put to use at a barbecue hosted at the home of Rick Norman and Sissy Starr Norman.