WEST ORANGE, NJ - Restaurants and businesses from West Orange, various locations in Essex County and from as far away as New York City came together at the West Orange Rotary’s 12th Annual “Taste of the World” evening event at Mayfair Farms in West Orange on March 7.

The “Taste of the World” is the Rotary’s largest fundraiser of the year. It helps the Rotary support programs that include providing college scholarships, providing every third grader in West Orange with a dictionary every year, funding a local summer camp for disabled children (Camp Merryheart), supporting the West Orange First Aid Squad and local food banks, as well as many other local community organizations. 

West Orange Mayor Rob Parisi said that the event seems to grow in size and success each year.

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“Other than the parade (St. Patrick’s Day Parade), this is the one event each year that by far gets the biggest turnout. As big as it’s always been, it seems to get bigger each year, and still feels kind of intimate,” he said, while noting, “we have a few restaurants from Manhattan, and so obviously the word has spread.”

West Orange Councilwoman Susan McCartney, who is also the president of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce, concurred, saying, “This is an amazing turnout. Each year the Rotarians do an outstanding job of bringing in people. What’s surprising is there are faces here I don’t recognize, and that’s unusual, and it’s a good sign more people are coming.”

Senior VP and Chief Credit Officer at Regal Bank Rich Cimo, who said Regal is a seven-year sponsor, also agreed and said, “This is a great event. It gets bigger and bigger every year.”

Rotary member and Downtown West Orange Alliance Director Megan Brill noted that the warm temperatures may also have helped the turnout.

“The weather couldn’t be better for everyone to come out,” she said. “Hundreds of people are here to enjoy the food and entertainment of the evening.”

While the event promotes the Rotary and its fundraising, West Orange Councilman Jerry Guarino said West Orange benefits as well.

He said, “This is a fantastic event for promoting the town of West Orange. The people of the town know there are many, many great restaurants and services available right here in West Orange…you don’t have to go anywhere else.”

Each year, the event is sponsored by a wide range of businesses. Many were on hand this year to show their support, and said they were impressed with both the event and the crowd.

John D. Fanburg, managing member of Brach Eichler, a law firm based in Livingston, attended the event for the first time.

“We’ve been a sponsor of this event for five or six years, but this is the first year I’ve been able to come here,” he said, while noting, “this is a great community ‘come out and support’ a great organization event.”

Vice President-External Affairs at the Saint Barnabas Health Care System Louis LaSalle said the event never fails to amaze him.

“Every year we come here to support the Rotary because we feel it is an important thing to do. I get in here and they blow us away with the food and wine,” he said, and jokingly added, “Mazeltov….as they say in Italian.”

Laura Lab, president of the West Orange Board of Education, said she came out to say “thank you” to the West Orange Rotary.

“The BOE always supports the Rotary because they always support our students. They give us scholarships each year and they’ve done a great job of supporting our students for a very long time,” she said.

Vendors said they were equally impressed with this year’s event.

Tony Markouris of the Essex House said this “was the place to be.”

“The crowd is absolutely beautiful, this is our second year being here and I have to say it’s a lot more organized, there’s a bigger crowd, the atmosphere is amazing,” he said.

Frank Guerrera, creator of Punzoné Vodka said, “We are here every year. This year is phenomenal. Every year the crowd here gets larger and larger, the food and the liquor are so innovative it’s a great vibe.”

Paul Bartick of the New York City-based Meatball Obsession said the event has caused him to begin looking for a NJ-based location in West Orange, Morristown, Montclair or Newark.

“We’re back again this year,” he said. “Two years ago we came here and found West Orange loves our meatballs—so much so that we’re looking for a location now in New Jersey for a new store.”

The event also gives many restaurants and vendors face time with old and potential new customers.

It was the second “Taste” event for Kevin and Lisa Greene of Honey Baked Hams, a store located in West Caldwell, who noted, “There are a lot of people that are just finding us, they order from the catalog anyway and now they realize there’s a store here.”

It was also the second year for Andrew Slutzky of Jimmy Johns in Roseland.

“We are glad to participate in a community event like this,” he said.

Stuart Garber, owner of Argyle Market in Livingston said, “This is awesome, this is my first time, this is a lot of fun, everybody’s cool, it’s a good time.”

“It was the fifth ‘Taste’ event for Susan Hoffberg of Suzy Que’s BBQ and Bar in West Orange, who said, “I think it’s great this year, more people, great crowd. I see a lot of people here I see at the restaurant.”

She said her goal for this year is to raise awareness of her restaurant.

“I just want more people to know about us, we have music five days a week, sometimes six, so I just want some more exposure,” she said.

Marty Kamberogiannis, of Shoprite Liquors, said the event helps to get people in his stores.

“It helps a lot, after one of these events we give a special discount to people who come to the event and I know people come to the stores for these wines,” he said.

And unofficial West Orange Town Historian Joe Fagan summed up the night in his own style.

“This is absolutely delicious,” he said, adding, “The best meal I ever had was the last meal I ever had. I highly recommend every vendor here.”

Participating Vendors:

  • Ah' Pizz
  • Anheuser Busch
  • Argyle Café
  • Bagelwich Bagel Bakery
  • Bella Italia-Sm Table Rear
  • Benji's Tex Mex Grill
  • Bill And Harry's - Chinese
  • Chatham Wines
  • Thom's Saloon (Egans)
  • Essex House - Greek/Amer.
  • Fairchild's Market
  • Fin Rawbar/Salute
  • Honey Baked Ham And Café
  • Ios Naturals, Llc
  • Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sand.
  • Kim's Sushi
  • Legal Seafood
  • Lithos
  • Mark And Julie's Ice Cream
  • Mcloone's Boathouse
  • Meatball Obsession
  • Mesob Ethiopian
  • Newark Disc Wine And Spirits
  • Noodle Fan
  • Oak Barrel Pub
  • Papillon 25
  • Peters Of Millburn
  • The Pink Cupcake - Late
  • Philly Pretzel Factory
  • Purity Vodka
  • Ricalton's Village Tavern
  • Romarsi Pesto
  • SANDWICHES UNLIMITED
  • Sunrise Shoprite Liquors: Punzone Vodka, Whispering Angel Rose
  • Supreme Bakery
  • Suzy Que's Bbq And Bar     
  • The Deli Guy
  • The Table (Soul Food)
  • Vital Rest & Juice Bar -Carib.
  • Warwickwine/Blackdirtdist
  • West Orange Wings
  • Whole Foods
  • Wilshire Caterers
  • Wine Legend
  • Yia Yia's (Greek)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event.

All photos taken by Jackie Goldman-Schatell.