A New NJ Discover Series: “Happenstance” by Calvin Schwartz July 15th 2017
Happenstance by definition is a chance happening or event. I just looked it up. It’s stuff you don’t plan. My life these past six years at NJ Discover continues to be a journey of discovery (obviously), exploration, revelation and arrival. As many of you know, I’ve had the free-wheeling opportunity to travel around New Jersey, meeting amazing, wondrous people, working, playing, growing and who also do the ‘living and dying’ right here in the Garden State. I got the “living and dying” idea from a soliloquy that George Bailey (James Stewart) gave in one of all our favorite movies, “It’s A Wonderful Life.
The other day I was travelling around Springfield, New Jersey, sort of my old stomping grounds, and it was through basic happenstance that I came to Marino’s Fine Foods, Seafood, Italian Deli and Catering at 905 Mountain Avenue, Springfield. Walking around inside, doing deep absorptive aromatic food inhalations, that I stumbled upon the idea to tell a brief story of where I was and call it ‘Happenstance.’ Nothing elaborate or introspective, but I knew there was a feel-good story here.
The timing was perfect. It was off hours, late in the afternoon, awaiting a severe thunderstorm and I was also hanging around with NJ Bad Boy of Comedy Mike Marino (absolutely no relation to the owners of Marino’s Fine Foods, Michael and Linda Marino).
Linda and I sat down at a quiet little table in the corner. I told her that I was a journalist and was totally enamored with where I was. In the distance, Michael was making home-made mozzarella cheese. Linda dispatched me over to watch. The cheese was bathing and being stretched out carefully. Then Michael gave me a warm piece to taste. It was heavenly. Of course, later, I had my own plate of fresh mozzarella and I continued my heavenly tasting journey.
Michael is a third generation in food. His grandfather came from Sicily and peddled fish originally in a horse and buggy in Brooklyn which means there were no cars yet. His grandfather did that fish gig until 1968. Linda and Michael have been at this location for 21 years.
They serve lunch every day and dinner on Wednesday and Friday nights and are closed on Mondays during the summer. I had to ask this burning question, after all, I was with consummate experts, and perhaps they could finally set me straight after decades of confusion and bad guidance, do you call it gravy or sauce? Suddenly a great veil of hypnotic confusion was lifted and I would see clearly now. Michael explained, “Sauce is with tomato, garlic, onion, basil and gravy is with meat.” I suddenly pictured Peter Clemenza telling Michael Corleone how to prepare sauce and gravy in that kitchen scene.
Linda told me that Michael also makes homemade cannoli cream with mascarpone cheese. Would I like to try it? I answered yes but no. I was still savoring the mozzarella and I thought it a conflict of interest.
They used to own the Hillside Seafood House on Liberty Avenue from 1961 to 1995. I lived in Newark way back and deep in memory banks, remember it. Michael called me back to show me trays of freshly prepared stuffed peppers before and after baking. I thought fleetingly that I could really get into being a food journalist.
Marino’s was a perfectly appointed quaint restaurant and place of exquisite real food. Hint, if you folks are floating around Springfield. Life is people, relationships and loyalty. When I said goodbye to Linda, we hugged and kissed. I’ve known her and Michael for decades within that precious hour. I like this happenstance stuff. To be continued.
Marino’s Fine Foods
Address: 905 Mountain Ave, Springfield Township, NJ 07081
Phone: (973) 258-9009