Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association (NJRHA) will honor the state’s best and brightest on November 27, 2017 at the 37th Annual Awards Gala held at the Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City.
Highlights of the Gala will include Raoul and Carlo Momo receiving this year’s “Restaurateur of the Year Award” as well as Wade Avondoglio’s acceptance of the “Lifetime Achievement Award” while his family celebrates 100 years in business.
This year’s winners are:
- Restaurateur of the Year Award – Raoul & Carlo Momo (Terra Momo Restaurant Group)
- Deborah Dowdell Lifetime Achievement Award – Wade Avondoglio (Perona Farms)
- Gold Plate Award – Michael Sirianni (Principal of the Culinary Education Center, Monmouth County Vocational School District)
- Gold Plate Award – Kirk Ruoff (Turning Point Restaurants)
- Hospitality Award – Anthony & Lou Calandra (Calandra Enterprises)
“I say this every year, but it’s true—picking the winners is hard. We have so many impressive restaurant owners and culinary teachers that have influenced our industry and continue to make a difference,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the NJRHA. “This year, these were the few that stood out to us, especially the Momo brothers and their continued growth and support of their community, and Perona Farms for their impressive longevity,” she added.
Restaurateur of the Year Award
Following in the footsteps of their parents, brothers Carlo and Raoul Momo are leaders instrumental in the growth of Terra Momo Restaurant Group from a take-out pizzeria to a full-service multi-concept restaurant group. Established in 1982, Terra Momo Restaurant Group is now a cornerstone in the Princeton community having grown to three full-service restaurants, an artisan boulangerie, and a kiosk in the Princeton Public Library.
“Our passion for food is what keeps us growing and excited about what we do. This award is an affirmation to my family, employees, and community that our efforts matter,” said Carlo Momo. “We especially work hard to raise awareness of the importance of buying from local farms by sponsoring many farm-to-table events and fundraisers that benefit half a dozen environmental groups that work to protect land in New Jersey for the production of the fresh vegetables we use in our restaurants,” he added.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Wade Avondoglio has spent most of his life working at family-owned Perona Farms, eventually becoming president in 1989. Wade runs the fourth-generation business with the help of his three siblings, Mark, Kirk, and Tracey. Together, they manage an expansive event staff and a large on-site restaurant, boasting the world’s best smoked salmon. What began 100 years ago as dinner around a boardinghouse table has become one of today’s most sought-after wedding and event venues in the state.
Wade has served as NJRHA Chairman and currently sits on the Board of Directors. He is also a Trustee and the Vice President of the New Jersey Restaurant Educational Foundation (NJREF). Notable awards include the NJRHA’s “Restaurateur of the Year Award,” as well as “New Jersey Family Business of the Year” (New Jersey Monthly Magazine) and “New Good Neighbor Award” (New Jersey Business and Industry Association). His Lifetime Achievement Award comes at a perfect moment: the 100-year anniversary of Perona Farms. Through the venue’s annual wild game dinners and other events, Perona Farms has raised over half a million dollars for various charities over the years.
Wade Avondoglio has played an important role in the industry, with such roles as representing New Jersey on the National Restaurant Association’s Board of Directors, and representing the United States as an Exchange Director for the Canadian Restaurant Association. Wade is particularly proud of his time traveling around the world to judge the best food service program in the United States Air Force.
Gold Plate Award
Michael Sirianni, Principal of the Culinary Education Center at Monmouth County Vocational School District, helped create the two-year innovative culinary arts program. He is instrumental in assisting students with college placement as well as helping them find jobs in local restaurants and hotels during school and after graduation. Most importantly, he is creating a talented workforce feeding into our state’s hospitality industry while providing careers for our state’s youth.
Kirk Ruoff, Founder and CEO of Turning Point Holding Company will receive the “Gold Plate Award” for his fast-growing restaurant chain. Comprised of 14 restaurants to date, Turning Point has 11 locations in New Jersey and 3 in Pennsylvania. The company is very involved in each of the communities in which it resides. Last year, Turning Point raised close to a quarter of a million dollars for various charities to support its customers and communities.
Anthony and Lou Calandra learned the inner workings of their family’s business, Calandra’s Bakery, at a young age. The small, family-owned bakery in Newark that their father, an Italian immigrant, founded in 1962 quickly earned a reputation for producing delicious bread. Today, Anthony and Lou have expanded their family business with two additional bakeries, three Italian restaurants, and four family-owned and operated hotels. The bakeries deliver their products to more than 500 supermarkets, delis, and restaurants in the tri-state area. The family also produces and sells their own line of olive oil, coffee, fresh pasta, homemade sauces, and wines from their vineyard in Italy. Although their business has grown substantially within the past 50 years, the Calandra family remains driven by hard work, traditional family values, and a focus on customer service.
The Annual Awards Gala, a black tie event created to honor the winners and celebrate the restaurant and hospitality industry, is traditionally held the Monday evening after Thanksgiving and hosts approximately 350 people.
For more information on the awards, the recipients, or how to sponsor or attend the Gala, please contact Ali Lubin, the Events & Marketing Coordinator at (609) 599-3316 or AliL@njrha.org.
About the NJRHA
Established in 1942, the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association represents the Garden State’s 25,000 eating and drinking establishments—the state’s largest private sector employers, generating $14.2 billion in annual sales and employing over 318,000 people. Support, education, and advocacy for its members are part of the NJRHA’s recipe for success and why it has become an essential ingredient for the hospitality industry. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @NJRHAssociation. Or, visit www.njrha.org for more info.