Worldly cuisine featured at annual scholarship fundraiser

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Ann Richardson / Katie Harpel, Jordan Gallagher, Adrienne Brown, Mariah Rowell and Alyshia Rowell, in front, are on hand to help guests. Ann Richardson / Katie Harpel, Jordan Gallagher, Adrienne Brown, Mariah Rowell and Alyshia Rowell, in front, are on hand to help guests.

OCEAN CITY — Featuring international cuisine prepared by a wide variety of local chefs, the seventh annual Scholarship Dinner at Ocean City High School was not one of the largest the high school leadership club has hosted, but the “Dining Around the World” event, held Thursday, Nov. 15, just two weeks after the worst storm in a century to hit the island, was one of the most meaningful.

Event founder chef Joe Massaglia said it was a proud moment to be amongst his fellow chefs in tough times as the community begins to heal from the devastation. The event had to be rescheduled due to the storm.

“Some of you don’t have a kitchen to cook in, but you are here tonight,” Massaglia said to his fellow chefs.

With Ocean City High School teacher Tym Cox and the jazz band providing dinner music, Massaglia suggested the gathered crowd relax, and enjoy the music and buffet.

Looking to give back to the community that has been so good to his family, Massaglia, owner of Mama Mia’s in Seaville and Egg Harbor Township, worked with school district officials to host a dinner to raise funds for scholarships for graduating Ocean City High School students.

“My nature is to help,” Massaglia said as he stirred his signature dish, Pasta ala Mama Mia, with a rustica sauce with parmesan shavings. “I’m involved with many fundraisers. I had three daughters and one son go through Ocean City High School. You have to give back, especially in hard times.”

Acknowledging that the storm made it difficult for both sponsoring chefs and potential patrons, Massaglia said he was happy to have hosted the event at all this year.

“With the storm, it won’t be as big, we know that,” he said. “Many of our chefs have lost their businesses, temporarily. Those who could still do it came and we are happy to do this. The kids always come first, no matter what we were going to make this work.”

With 45 years of restaurant experience under his belt, 25 at Mama Mia’s, Massaglia said he enjoys preparing and serving his Italian creations.

“You have to, that’s a given,” he said. “Food and beverage is an art, it’s a challenge. To prepare a meal like this, and have people come up and talk to them, tell them about your dish is a wonderful opportunity. It’s very rewarding when you are able to see people enjoy the fruits of your labor. So often we are in the kitchen, with something like this, we are with the people.”

Massaglia said his fellow chefs call him “the leader of the pack” because he brings them all together each year to do something special for the community.

“I take the initiative because I believe in it and enjoy it,” he said. “Organize it and they will follow. We enjoy working together.”

Members of the leadership club served beverages throughout the evening. Students and staff members were dressed in ethnic and traditional world costumes of the past and present.

Following opening remarks by Vince Terry, Hannah Bromhead led diners in the Pledge of Allegiance. Carley DelSordo sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” Host and hostess for the evening were Kieran Tracey and Jeannie Romano.     

“I can’t say enough about these students,” said Mary Maguire, a co-advisor to the club along with Joan Vicari Fulton. “I couldn’t give them enough praise. They helped the top chefs, they helped the guests, everyone worked very hard to make it all come together.”

Maguire said many of the guests commented on how nice it was to get together with other members of the community in a relaxed environment.

“They said they look forward to doing this,” she said.

While a few restaurants could not make it, such as Arlene’s and the Chatterbox due to ongoing flooding issues, she said others stepped up, like DiOrio’s with chicken tenders and Bakely’s Deli. Ward’s Bakery was unable to provide butter cookies, so Superfresh donated sheet cakes and Acme donated chocolate chip cookies. Blue Dolfin Sweets of Marmora also provided a table full of desserts to the event.*

“They reached out to help us. Everyone enjoyed it so much, we can’t thank them enough,” she said. “They were all willing to reschedule and with Thanksgiving coming up, that was a very nice thing to do.”

*Correction : In the Nov. 22 story, “Worldly cuisine featured at annual scholarship fundraiser,” about the Ocean City High School scholarship dinner Nov. 15, it was not mentioned that Blue Dolfin Sweets of Marmora provided desserts. 

Ann Richardson / The chefs, including event founder Joe Massaglia of Mama Mia’s, gather at the Ocean City High School scholarship fundraiser dinner. Ann Richardson / The chefs, including event founder Joe Massaglia of Mama Mia’s, gather at the Ocean City High School scholarship fundraiser dinner.


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