GARDEN STATE LUMINARIES IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE FAVORITE DISHES, THEIR PERSONAL STYLE, AND WHAT INSPIRED THEM TO ENTER THEIR INDUSTRY

BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN, ARCHANA AITHAL ROSE, AND AMANDA MCCOY PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC, VIOLET KARYN PHOTOGRAPHY, AND ALEX BARRETO

 

 

John Meadow President, LDV Hospitality / ldvhospitality.com

As a child, this future hospitality extraordinaire dreamed of one day owning New York’s Plaza Hotel, enchanted by the famed Fifth Avenue landmark’s elegance and prestige. After college, he landed a position as a breakfast manager at the Plaza’s Palm Court, planting the seeds for his future boutique hospitality group, one that would bring the dream of “La Dolce Vita” to everyday life. In 2008, that vision was realized with the opening of Scarpetta in NYC’s Meatpacking District. Today, the LDV Hospitality portfolio spans 25 bars and restaurants across nine cities, including seven additional locations of its inaugural restaurant.

“It was quite simple back then, the good old-fashioned independent restaurant business,” noted Meadow, who is planning additional Scarpetta openings in Dubai and Tokyo later this year. “Over the years the business side has become more complex and we have pivoted towards hotel food and beverage, as it allows us to truly focus on our passion for hospitality.”

His other signature brands include American Cut, a classic ne dining steakhouse in Tribeca and Atlantic City; Dolce Italian in South Beach, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia; and the Seville, a music and cocktail lounge in NYC. Amid its soaring success, LDV is a fervent supporter and partner of the Food Education Fund’s Food and Finance High School, focusing on the education of NYC’s under-privileged youth and giving them a foundation for a future in hospitality. “People are what make a restaurant, and there is a never-ending hiring crisis in the industry. This mission allows us to support our community and solve our industry’s single biggest challenge. We participate in multiple capacities, and $1 for every one of our signature spaghetti, tomato, and basil sold goes toward this effort.”

VJ SPREAD

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
The romantic notion of old-world hospitality.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
Pizza Margherita from Song’E Napule in NYC.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
Elegant, comfort, classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivette Zeik-Fernicola Owner, Leonardo Jewelers / leonardojewelers.com

Ivette Zeik-Fernicola was born into the jewelry business. Her father Leonardo, a Cuban immigrant, opened his eponymous 18-karat focused boutique in 1964, just a few months after she was born.

“I learned so much from my father,” she said. “He was brilliant not just in business but in life. He had such a way with people. He was such a good and humble man and he worked so hard to achieve for his family.”

Zeik-Fernicola grew up in the shop, first located in Elizabeth, and would walk there from kindergarten when she was just five years old. She said witnessing her father sell quality products and seamlessly interact with customers were the greatest lessons she ever learned. When the store expanded to Red Bank in 1989, she joined the team.

“I’ve officially been in this business for 35 years,” she said. “After graduating college in 1986 I thought I would be a social worker. But I realized how much my father wanted me by his side. Joining the family business was the best decision I ever made.”

Calling her role in the jewelry industry “fulfilling,” Zeik Fernicola said she enjoys being a part of her customers’ lives.

“We are so blessed to be in a business that’s all about happiness. We deal in milestones – births, weddings, anniversaries, retirement. It really is a beautiful place to work.”
And for Zeik-Fernicola, family is everything. “Out of my five siblings, two have retired and three of us are still in it and now we have a third generation of Leonardo’s grandchildren working alongside us. I wish my father was here to see it. How happy he would be.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
Well the truth is I was literally born into it! My father, Leonardo, opened the first Leonardo Jewelers the year I was born. I grew up in the jewelry store. After college, I came to work full time at the store and have been working here ever since.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
My ancestors are originally from Lebanon and I absolutely love Mediterranean food. Grape leaves, kibbeh, humus, tabouli. My parents were born in Cuba and I love that food, too. Classic Cuban dishes like carne ripiada, ropa vieja so many to choose from!

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL FASHION STYLE IN THREE WORDS?
Conservative, comfortable, functional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Scaduto Co-Owner and Vice President, Food Circus Super Markets and Circus Wines, Beer & Spirits circuswines.com

This New Jersey native was 14 when he first joined the Food Circus operation as a part-time clerk officially, that is. The grandson of one of the original founders of the grocery, liquor, and pet store mini empire, Scaduto and his siblings were involved in the family business for as long as he can remember.
“We would learn about the business sitting around the dining table,” he noted. “Even before I started earning a paycheck, we would go to the store with my grandfather and spend hours. It’s what we were built of.”

What began as a humble candy shop in 1927 has since grown into five grocery stores, three pet supply shops, and six liquor and wine retailers. Even amid massive expansion and success, the business remains 100% family owned and operated, with a fourth generation of the founding Scaduto and Azzolina families now on the team.

“My family were early entrepreneurs and pioneers in the food business, and we grew into it. We had an ‘intrepreneur’ role. We took what we had and expanded it, and now our kids are involved.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
We grew up knowing it was a natural progression of our fiber and who we are.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE FOOD DISH? FROM WHERE?
Veal parmesan.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
My wife would say I dress with a European flair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe and Sandy Folgore Owners, Il Nido / ilnidonj.com

Healthy, enriching food has long been a staple of the Folgores’ dinner table. After the couple married in 1998 and started a family, they were intent on feeding their sons only natural, unprocessed meals, and while sourcing groceries was an easy task, the Folgores struggled to find restaurants that only served hyper fresh, organic dishes. So, they opened their own. II Nido will be celebrating its three-year anniversary this February.

While the couple might not be lifelong restaurateurs, Joe Folgore has 50 years of running his own business as a mechanical contractor under his belt, and both have a fervor for fresh Italian fare (Joe Folgore was born and raised in Sicily before relocating to the U.S. with his mother). They teamed up with chef Joe Voller to fill the menu with wild caught fish, grass-fed meats, and scratch-made pastas with our imported from Italy. The couple’s goal was to become a family dinner table for their Marlboro neighbors.
“II Nido means ‘the nest’ in Italian, and we gave it this name because we wanted our customers to feel as though they were coming home, like ‘a bird to a nest,’” said Sandy Folgore. “We designed each room to have the feel of different areas of Italy that we have a strong connection with.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
We were inspired to start II Nido so we would have a place to eat that would use all the organic ingredients we would use at home.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
One of our favorite culinary dishes is from the Genovese region of Italy, “Pasta Pesto,” a simple dish but it holds a place close to our hearts. Freshly grilled Mediterranean fish is another.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
Simple, casual, and down to earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Spengler Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Lending Officer, Investors Bank / myinvestorsbank.com

Since joining Investors Bank in 2004, Richard Spengler has played an instrumental role in its sweeping metamorphosis. Over the past 15 years, the 95-year-old Short Hills-based financial institution has tripled its branches, introduced a robust commercial lending program, and grew its assets from $3 billion to $27 billion. And in his 17th year, Spengler once again is standing at the brink of a massive transformation, announced just this July: Investors Bank will be merging with Rhode Island based Citizens Bank, a $196 billion institution with more than 1,000 locations.

“We are the hole in their donut,” noted Spengler, who spent 21 years with First Savings Bank in Woodbridge before joining Investors Bank. “They are a larger institution, but they have less than ten branches in South Jersey and zero in the boroughs of New York.”

But not only does Investors Bank complement Citizens Bank geographically, so do its products. “We do a lot in the middle market – commercial and real estate loans between $1 million and $70 million – and that’s not a big space for them,” noted Spengler, whose appetite for bigger loans was a crucial enzyme in Investors’ growth in the 2010s. “It’s a market we can help them with, and this merger will give us the ability to do more loans that we may have been cut out of in the past because of geography or asset class. I’m very excited about what this opportunity will bring to both institutions.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
When I was 21, I was trying to decide between healthcare and banking. My mom was in healthcare. We had a family friend who was in banking, and he motivated me go into the business. Mom was upset [laughs].

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
Anything from Restaurant Nicholas, which is now called Nicholas Barrel and Roost, in Middletown.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
STYLE IN THREE WORDS. I love boating culture, so nautical, classic, comfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenny DiMaria Executive Chef, Patricia’s of Holmdel patriciasofholmdel.com

This celebrated chef didn’t sharpen his craft in a fancy French culinary school, but instead learned at the end of his parents’ aprons at home as a child, helping them cook for large, quintessential Italian family gatherings. At Patricia’s, his humble approach to gastronomy is palpable through the curated menu of hearty and authentic pastas and pizzas, dishes that feel true to their ingredients. The chef ’s humility also extends to his work ethos as he gives credit where it’s due: “I learned a long time ago that no matter what you do, you are only as good as the company you keep or the people you surround yourself with; that’s why I’m so appreciative of the entire staff at Patricia’s of Holmdel. From the ownership to the assistant chef, cooks, dishwashers, prep management, servers, bussers, hostesses I’m blessed with a phenomenally supportive staff.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
I always had a passion for cooking for family and friends, as far back as I can remember. So I decided to extend my family and friend base. I get great pleasure when I see people enjoying good food and company.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
Pappardelle Bolognese second to none in the city of Imola, Italy, just outside of Bologna.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL FASHION STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
Home, comfort, street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Todd Katz Long Branch NJ Real Estate Team Leader, Re/Max, remax.com

With over 32 years of experience and a plethora of industry awards under his belt, Todd Katz has built a booming real estate business specializing in commercial and residential properties. “I was fortunate to grow up in a family business that was part retail (Siperstein Paints) and part real estate,” noted Katz of his initiation into the business and valuable experiences he picked up along the way.

He continued: “We owned the small strip centers involving the paint stores as the anchors, and that experience taught me how to be a tenant and a landlord at the same time.” It is that tenacity paired with a genuine love for his local community that has long fueled a consistent record with Re/Max, one of the world’s highest reaching real estate networks. But the road to success hasn’t been without obstacles. “The retail business has changed dramatically over the last several years and forced me and my clients (Rook Coffee) to find niches to exploit in today’s ever-changing world, like repositioning non-traditional retail sites, working with RWJ Barnabas to build 120,000 square feet of medical offices at the Monmouth Mall, and creating a new health and wellness center.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
My father loved all aspects of real estate, whether dragging me each day to check the progress of building our family house or to meeting a new prospective tenant with a dream of opening up a new business. This helped form my love of helping people build their dreams.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
That’s a hard question for a foodie to answer, like a last meal request. Might have to do it by category. Appetizer: Nicholas’ seared foiegras (no longer on the menu). Main course: Brandl’s beef wellington. Dessert: Blend on Main’s crack waffle, which is to die for.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL FASHION STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
The three COs: coordinated, colorful, comfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. John Griffith Head of School, Ranney School / ranneyschool.org

When Dr. John Griffth was fresh out of grad school, he took a teaching position at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. “I was born in New Jersey and grew up in New Hampshire so Nashville was a bit of a departure for me,” noted Dr. Griffth. “Montgomery Bell was the school where Dead Poets Society was patterned so as a newly minted English professor I felt a lot of pressure to be the Mr. Keating of my student’s lives.”

But Dr. Gri th thrived. Holding a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in English, an M.A. from Columbia University in Educational Leadership, and a Ph.D. and Master of Philosophy in Modern British Literature from Oxford University, the educator worked in Nashville for a time before taking a position of academic leadership at the Miami Valley School in Dayton, Ohio, where he met his wife, Dana. A few years later he became headmaster at Battle Ground Academy (BGA) in Franklin, Tennessee.
“I have a deep love of literature and history and have had great mentors throughout my career that inspired me to pursue administration,” Dr. Griffth said. In 2013 Dr. Griffth returned to his New Jersey roots, accepting a position as head of school at Ranney, a college preparatory institution in Tinton Falls.
“I’ve always had this connection to New Jersey and was extremely happy to come back,” he said. At Ranney, Dr. Griffth is focused on helping students flourish in academics, the arts, and athletics flourish in academics, the arts, and athletics. “I really do love what I do,” he said. “We have a great system of teachers and administrators here and our parents and board of trustees are extremely supportive which makes my job extremely fulfilling and easy.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
As a child, I attended Derry field, a small prep school in New Hampshire, and I loved my experience there. There were phenomenal teachers and I received a great education which really inspired me to pursue this path.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
My wife and I love to travel, especially to Italy, which has inspired a deep appreciation for Osso Buco. There are so many great restaurants around here that have it on the menu, most notably Angelica’s in Sea Bright.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN THREE WORDS?
Heads of school are not usually associated with fashion but growing up in New Hampshire I’d have to say classic and preppy with an anglophile bent. Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, and Sperry are my go-to brands.