After Sandy, It's Pizza And Homemade Meatballs For The Lucky In New Jersey

Nov 2, 2012
Originally published on November 2, 2012 6:43 am

The produce aisle may not yet be restocked at the Stop & Shop in Toms River, N.J., and other perishables may still be hard to come by. But rest assured, the local pizza joint is hopping.

"We've been busy, very busy," says Marissa Henderson, granddaughter of the proprietor of Geno D's pizzeria in Toms River. It was one of the few restaurants open in the area in the wake of the hurricane that rolled through earlier this week.

"We had lines out the door, we had people sitting in, all of that," Henderson told us. Even though she was running low on flour, she and her crew managed to serve up more than 500 pies after they fired up their ovens on Wednesday, their first day back in business since Hurricane Sandy hit the state hard, causing widespread flooding and power outages.

John Germann and his family were among the first post-Sandy customers. "We still have plenty of food in the house," he tells us. But they were all feeling a bit antsy at home. "It was nice to have a sense of normalcy," he says — a taste of comfort.

Elsewhere in Toms River, stores were opening their doors again, even if shelves were not fully stocked.

"We're open for business, but we're not selling any perishable items yet," says Mike Mezle of the local Stop & Shop grocery store.

Mezle says it's been slow-going getting suppliers to deliver produce, meats and cheeses. "We're expecting deliveries today or early tomorrow morning."

Down the road about 20 minutes or so in Ocean Grove, N.J., Germann's parents, who are retired, are managing well in Sandy's wake.

"We're eating well. I wouldn't call it gluttony, but we're surviving well," George Germann says.

With their generator to keep the fridge going, as of yesterday, they had not yet needed to venture out to grocery stores.

Instead they pooled the food they had and were sharing with neighbors. He described how a couple a few blocks away spent the night with them the night of the storm.

"They were very appreciative," he says. And the bonus was that their neighbors brought over spaghetti and homemade meatballs. "It was to die for!"

The closest grocery store to Ocean Grove that was fully stocked, according to some of George Germann's neighbors, is Wegmans. "There can never be enough bottled water, milk, eggs and batteries in a situation like this," says Jo Natale, director of media relations for Wegmans.

Natale says that throughout the storm, thanks to their generators, Wegmans was able to keep all 81 of its stores open. She says advance planning, beginning one week before Sandy was predicted to hit the East Coast, was essential. They lined up extra deliveries and worked with their drivers and suppliers to prepare.

"It's not luck — it takes a lot of planning."

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After days with no power, many households in Sandy's path are running low on food. FEMA and the National Guard are delivering food to the hardest hit areas. But as Allison Aubrey discovered, in the coastal towns along New Jersey, comfort food can mean as much as the basics.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Canned goods, such as soups and beans, can certainly get you through a storm. And a Coleman stove or a gas-powered range does a fine job heating them up. But in order to make life feel a little bit more like normal again, what are the folks of Toms River, New Jersey going for?


AUBREY: Pizza.

MARISSA HENDERSON: Gino's, pick-up or delivery?

AUBREY: While much of the town remained in the dark this week, the minute the lights flickered on at this pizzeria, they fired up their ovens, and third generation pizza maker Marissa Henderson says they were swamped.

HENDERSON: We had lines out the door. We had people sitting in. We had people that were waiting in line down the road, all of that.

AUBREY: Even though they ran out of bread, so no subs, and were low on flour, they managed to serve up more than 500 pies the first day back in business. Tom's River resident John Germann and his kids were one of the first customers.

JOHN GERMANN: Yes, we went to get a slice of pizza just for comfort yesterday. We still have plenty of food in the house, but it was nice to have a sense of normalcy.

AUBREY: German has not ventured to the grocery store yet. He says as of yesterday morning, some stores were still dark. But the local Stop-N-Shop has managed to re-open.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hello, meat room.

AUBREY: The butcher put me in touch with manager, Mike Mezle.

MIKE MEZLE: We're open for business. We're not selling any perishable items, though, yet.

AUBREY: Mezle says it's been slow-going, getting suppliers to deliver produce, meats and cheeses.

MEZLE: We're expecting deliveries today. I don't know what time. I don't know what the situation is on the roads with traffic. Could be later on tonight. Could be early tomorrow morning. I don't know.

AUBREY: Down the road about 20 minutes or so in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, John German's parents, who are retired, are managing well in Sandy's wake.

GEORGE GERMANN: We're eating well. Yes. I wouldn't call it gluttony or anything like that. But we're surviving well.

AUBREY: With a generator to keep the fridge going, they have not needed to venture out to grocery stores yet. Instead they've pooled the food they do have and are sharing it with neighbors.

GERMANN: The neighbor down a couple blocks away, they're in their 80s. And we - the night of storm, because they were much closer to the ocean, we said come and stay with us. And they did. And they were very, very appreciative.

AUBREY: And in exchange for that lodging, George Germann says, came a meal he won't forget prepared by his neighbor.

GERMANN: She's a very good cook. She had spaghetti sauce, meatballs that she had prepared. And of course she was going to lose it. So she came and she brought that. And it's to die for. So we had dinner with her famous meatballs and spaghetti sauce.

AUBREY: Germann says eventually he knows he will have to venture out to the grocery store. And from chatting with his neighbors, he's heard that the Wegmans down the road is fully stocked.

JO NATALE: There can never be enough bottled water, milk, bread, eggs, batteries in a situation like this.

AUBREY: That's Jo Natale of Wegmans. She says throughout the storm, thanks to all of their pad-mounted generators, they were able to keep all 81 stores open. And she says each of them was affected by Hurricane Sandy to some degree.

NATALE: Whether it was just rain and wind or, you know, severe weather conditions.

AUBREY: Like those experienced by the folks in coastal New Jersey. As for George Germann, he says as the photos we've seen have shown, the flooding and destruction are terrible. Since in his town the water basically crept all the way to his curb and stopped, he considers himself very fortunate.

GERMANN: Other people were not so lucky. There's devastation all around us.

AUBREY: And he says when the lights do come back on, he'll certainly be relieved. He just hopes that after the clean-up and recovery come to an end, that the neighborhood dinners and community spirit will carry on.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.