CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — The owner of a Cliffside Park Italian eatery says he is paying it forward after an angel cured him of blindness.
“Valente’s closed, so God gave us the knowledge to do things,” said Gennaro “Gino" Ottomanelli, the owner of PIzzotto Italian Gourmet Deli & Grill on Anderson Avenue. “The economy is bad, so we are trying to help.”
He was referring to the popular Italian deli, Valente Bakery and Trattoria, further south on Anderson Avenue, that suddenly closed shop in October after more than three decades.
Ottomanelli, who is building his business on a strong Christian faith, originally wanted to open in Italy. But God had other plans, he said.
“The town was always for us," said his fiance, Paula. "They said they want us, to keep going.”
The pair have held religious blessings in the store and post faithful sayings and scripture on the walls and in the restroom.
In a glass jar they collect money for a dozen children sponsored by their church. They also hang tags where anyone can buy a food token for a stranger, and needy patrons can pick one up from the wall and get an order of homemade soups, fresh mozzarella or pizza.
Ottomanelli comes from the long line of Ottomanelli brothers who have become synonymous with Italian food in New York City.
Being cured of blindness, he said, has guided him to giving back to the communty.
“I saw the banners and something called me into this place,” said North Bergen resident Maria Santangelo.
Ottomanelli said he understood.
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