After a debilitating car accident left Elyissia Wassung’s mother, Barbara, unable to commute to work, she stayed busy in the kitchen, devising her own homemade chocolates. Nine-year-old Elyissia would then load her mother’s sweets into a shopping cart and sell them door-to-door around the neighborhood, learning entrepreneurial skills that would last a lifetime. After leaving a telecom job as an adult, Elyissia returned to selling chocolates by founding 2 Chicks with Chocolate (the other chick being her mom), teaming up with master chocolatier Patrick Coston and lead chocolatier Stephanie Vazquez. The dessert innovators create diverse flavors, such as spiced pear and caramel ganache, s’mores, and hazelnut praline, from scratch with spices and sea salt. Customers can also create their own bars online without venturing into the store, building on a selection of chocolate bases and toppings that range from pistachios to gummy bears. The store also hosts chocolate classes and enlivens parties with chocolate fountains and chocolate tastings.
Lambert Epperly, founder and owner of National Bartenders School, oversees the progress of each of his school's students, and provides individual advice and adjustments from their first class through graduation. His bartending gurus pass on their knowledge and techniques in a custom-designed cocktail-lounge classroom, engaging students in hands-on training behind a 40-foot-long, fully stocked bar. These experienced instructors lead a 40-hour certificate program and other seminars in both English and Spanish, tailoring class times around students' work and crime-fighting schedules. For extended courses, they provide a bartending textbook spanning more than 200 drink formulas and detailing elements of the craft, such as types of glassware and customer-service practices. Licensed by the New Jersey Department of Education, the school keeps tuition low and connects its students with free job-placement assistance in local watering holes.
Let's Play in Italian exposes kids, young adults, and adults to the culture and language of Italy through engaging programs that range from preschool activities to conversational Italian classes. Tykes up to 8 years old sing songs, tell stories, play games, and put on puppet shows and craft fairs during afterschool programs and Mommy & Me workshops, absorbing Italian vocabulary during their formative years before gray matter turns angsty and taciturn. Parents and kids alike can expand their linguistic repertoire with colorful books, CDs, and DVDs from an online bookstore.
During the day, Trattoria Bel Paese Cooking Academy cuts a humble figure with its deli area bursting with grilled panini, fresh salads, and Italian hero sandwiches. By night, though, Chef George Joseph draws a curtain around the glass counter and, according to Teresa Politano of the Star-Ledger, this "unassuming little Clark Kent of a restaurant" sheds its eyeglasses to fight villainous hunger with a menu of authentic Sicilian and Italian specialties. Chef Joseph puts his international training to use for each meal, calling upon skills learned in London, Melbourne, and Italy itself to craft heaping portions of pastas with sweet red sauce and veal with cream sauce. Working with gluten-free and organic ingredients upon request, he also crafts platters of hot chicken parmigiana and fresh black mussels with marinara as part of Trattoria Bel Paese's catering team. But Chef Joseph doesn't limit his gifts to his own kitchen. He also educates the next generation of chefs during cooking classes, which combine fresh ingredients and simple Italian preparations into delicious, memorable at-home meals.
Golden splatters of magma embellish the eatery's fire-red walls and draw eyes to the back of the dining room, where a 10-foot-high volcano pulses with flames. Well, it's actually a custom oven, but it houses real hot lava rocks designed to cook up to 10 large Mediterranean-inspired pies in two minutes flat.
Chefs top dough made fresh daily with eclectic ingredients ranging from grilled eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes to smoked gouda and meatballs. Sharing space inside the specialty oven are vulcanas, similar to calzones and jam-packed with meats, veggies, and gooey cheese. Other fare includes certified Angus beef burgers and pitawiches, all aptly washed down with chilly fountain drinks sourced from Magma Pizza & Pita's sister restaurant, located inside of a real underground igloo.
At Grape Beginnings, passionate wine aficionado Frank D’Aponte splits his time between producing his own high-quality vintages and instructing others on how to do the same. Frank has a decade of winemaking experience under his belt; as a third-generation winemaker, grape juice runs through his veins. Frank has deepened his knowledge with extensive travel throughout the Napa and Sonoma valleys, studying under master winemakers such as James Allen of Sequoia Grove Vineyards. Novice vintners delve into every aspect of the process, including pressing fresh grapes from California, Chile, Italy, and Argentina, racking in oak barrels, and bottling with custom-made labels.