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Sunday, September 5, 2010

How Good Is The Food The RHONJ Talk About?

Post from North

When Danielle Staub and sidekick Danny Provenzano crave panini, they head to the Market Basket in Franklin Lakes.

Though I assure you I am appropriately riveted by the hair pulling, urn crashing, poker playing, overspending and Andy Cohen-shoving, I can't be the only one watching "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" and wondering …

Is that panini really that good? Is that smoothie actually worth downing every day? And is Teresa's "juicy" husband really at his pizzeria around the clock?

Someone had to find out.

The scene: Hanger-on Danny Provenzano suggests to Wayne's Danielle Staub that they grab a bite at the Market Basket. Danielle recoils. She might run into the other women! But, Danny informs her, they're all in Italy. Hooray! Danielle has suffered too long without a panini! Things were different before all this drama started, she says. "I'd go to the Market Basket maybe three times a week. We'd have a panini. It's, like, the best panini in the world."

And now? "Those women have threatened me to the point where I don't even want to run into them," she says. "Coming here meant having, like, a sinking feeling in my gut that out of nowhere they would come. I couldn't let my kids walk around here safely anymore."

The Market Basket = the war zone. Who knew? But the panini? They're very good.

I stopped in for the same one the deli manager says Staub chose that day, the Smoked Turkey Avalanche panini ($5.95). It was a perfectly proportioned pile of smoked-in-house turkey breast, Jarlsberg cheese, freshly made coleslaw and made-from-scratch Russian dressing, pressed to order (mine got a bit charred as I chatted up the deli guy about Danielle's appearance).

While I agree with Staub that a bite might not be worth risking our children's lives, I might be more willing than she to risk a Manzo confrontation. But on that fateful day, did she and Danny eat in the parking lot? As the real housewives of North Jersey know, the Market Basket has no seating. 813 Franklin Lakes Road, Franklin Lakes, 201-891-2000,

The scene: Staub and Provenzano are conspiring at the Oakland Diner, a frequent haunt. Staub orders "my blueberry banana smoothie."

"It's like an antioxidant," she informs him. "I don't know, I hit 47, I gotta start watching out for things. Plus, I have this nutritionist that's really, like, saying, 'The more blueberries, the better.' And I get a smoothie here once a day."

When I visited the diner, I didn't see smoothies on the menu and my order seemed to confuse the staff, who began rummaging around for ingredients. But I was finally presented with a watery, not particularly well-blended smoothie that had big chunks of bananas bobbing about and a vaguely artificial taste, probably due to what our waitress called an "ice cream smoothie mix."
What do you think Danielle's nutritionist would say about that? Well, diner owner Harry Mihas said later that Staub's version comes with orange juice instead of the "mix" – good call. He said Staub comes in two or three times a week, and has for years.
"One day she says, 'Harry, I'm trying to be on this show, would it be all right if I shoot video [in the diner]?' To myself I say, 'She's never going to get on TV, is she crazy?' I'm going, 'Knock yourself out.' Maybe a year passes by and I see my diner on TV. And I say, 'Look at that, she actually did it!' " And now "Housewives" fans come in to take pictures of the booths.

Mihas said Staub often gets the same salad with her smoothie – a chopped-up mixture of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, two hard-boiled eggs and grilled chicken, dressed with olive oil and lemon. "I'm going to name it after her," he said. " 'Danielle's Salad.' Or, 'Danielle's Revenge'?"

I voted for the latter. 72 Ramapo Valley Road, Oakland, 201-337-1262.

The scene: Towaco's Teresa Giudice and her family are slinging dough at the Hillside pizza parlor owned by her "juicy" husband, Joe. "I'm so proud of all the hard work that Joe's put in the pizzeria, sacrificing not being at home, but I'm sure it will all be worth it," Teresa says.

The segment continues with lots of shots of her cute daughters, sauce and cheese, ending with the eldest, Gia, exclaiming, "You're the best pizzeria guy!" (At least we think it was Gia and we think that's what she said.) On Teresa's blog, she promised that any visitor to Giuseppe's Homestyle Pizzeria and Restaurant would definitely see Joe and might occasionally see her.

So I went in for lunch with my co-worker Virginia Rohan, The Record's resident "Real Housewives" expert. Rohan noted that the pizzeria has figured prominently in the Giudices' bankruptcy case – the trustee listed it as one of the businesses in which the couple failed to disclose an interest. Joe Giudice testified that his father actually owned the pizzeria. But our menu bore a picture of Teresa Giudice, listing her as the "owner."

Legalities aside, we did enjoy the charming family themes: paninis, pizzas and subs named after the couple and their children; a cheesesteak named "Fabulous"; and a sausage-and-peppers sandwich called "Love Love."

Our only issue with the place is that it stank like bug spray, which the guy behind the counter swore was not the restaurant's doing. Maybe the people upstairs, he said. Sadly, we didn't get to run this by Juicy Joe – he wasn't there when we visited and didn't call us back later. 1576 Maple Ave., Hillside, 973-351-5103.

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