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My Day with Joe

Atlantic County Magazine – GACCA Article

Print Date 11.26. 2021

By Judy Brenna

Catering & Special Events Director | The Deauville Inn

Last weekend I had the greatest time, going on Chef Joe Massaglia’s Table for Two on WOND Radio, speaking on behalf of the Greater Atlantic County Concierge Association ((GACCA REPRESENT!!) and The Deauville Inn. It was such a great time I thought I’d share it with all of you.

If you don’t know who Chef Joe Massaglia, you are 1000% missing out ((which is 900% more than necessary, I know)). He’s a genuinely fascinating human being, and here’s why. I have never met someone possessing such a deep level of passion for bringing smiles to people’s faces with his culinary art. We’ll get to that in a second. Let’s back track a little.

Chef Joe is the proprietor of Mama Mia’s in Marmora, NJ, a 40-seat Italian establishment, known as THE best Italian restaurant in South Jersey. He also maintains a 50+ year career in hospitality. And a master's degree in AWESOME. He was born into the restaurant industry, having grown up in the family’s trattoria in the Piedmonte region of Italy, literally raised up in the kitchen ((you should be getting a visual of Chef Baby Joe sleeping in a utensil draw, hugging a giant wooden spoon)). As a teenager, he spent his summers working at the resorts in and around Portofino and Lake Como, which led to his apprenticeship at the Hotel Brilla, a five-star hotel in St. Vincent-Valle D’Aosta, where Massaglia moved to the front of the house, learning service techniques, table settings, wine selection and other skills needed for a first-class waiter and maitre’d to succeed. After gaining the necessary knowledge to run a top-notch restaurant he joined his brother in the kitchens of a luxury cruise liner, the Pacific Princess, a.k.a. “The Love Boat” on which the television series was based ((sans Gopher and **double finger points** bartender, Isaac)), he continued his education in culinary arts, wine, and service, and incidentally met his wife, Christine! Fun side note, when I said I used to love watching The Love Boat he looked at me like I had 5 heads and said, “but you’re a baby!”. When I revealed my age ((which will remain unmentioned here)) his jaw dropped ((point to Judy)).

In 1975, the Massaglias settled in America. He then continued to carry out an extremely impressive career, taking him from Allentown, PA, to Philadelphia, to the Atlantic City Restaurant Circuit, then branching out on his own, establishing Mamma Mia’s, in 1988, as a pizzeria and trattoria, but then quickly expanding to a full-service gourmet enterprise. Here’s what I took away from the story Chef Joe shared. He is a pure-bred delight to be around. Just being in his presence you get a sense of warmth and peace. And you oddly develop a hankering for gnocchi.

There were three of us on his panel, including super awesome Dietician and Nutritionist Tiffany Rios, and Historian, Dr. Levi Fox. We started out by Chef Joe popping a semi dry prosecco and then proceeded to unveil a ton of food ((so of course I got super excited, because this is me we're talking about)). From Caprese Salad to Bruschetta Pizza (with the most delicious and crispy cauliflower crust), which by the way, was genuinely hard to stop myself from eating because I didn’t want everyone else to think I was a gavone ((insert Italian hand and pig emojis here)) and his pièce de résistance, GNOCCHI, basted in his deliciously creamy Mamma’s sauce. And then we talked. For three hours, about everything. It was amazing. We learned so much about how the body processes different foods, and how unbelievably and scarily fickle the human body is ((so much so that at one point I felt as though I needed a Xanax... but then I ate another piece of bruschetta pizza and I was fine)). We also learned, history-wise, the area, and about the preservation and future, (thanks to the Patriots) of

Somers Mansion, a non-profit group of concerned citizens who have dedicated their time to renovating the Somers Mansion and bringing it back to its former glory. Dr. Fox also runs the Jersey Shore Tours, where you can opt for several different walking tour experiences like their Taste of The Shore Tour of Ocean City, Atlantic City Beaches and Building Tour ((which I’m very interested in, because #historynut)), and their Boardwalk Heritage Tour, to name a few. Another awesome option to consider, and to recommend to guests when visiting Atlantic City.

Even though I felt like a socially awkward buffoon half of the time, and I had nervous cold sweats in terribly odd places, being on Chef Joe’s Show, all in all, was a very rewarding experience. And my belly was very satisfied. Incidentally, Mamma Mia’s is hosting a ridiculously cool New Eve’s event, a culinary event to rival all other events, a 10-course tasting menu. What better way to ring in the New Year, than immersing yourself in Chef Joe’s deep culinary passion? Call (609) 624-9322 to make your reservations!

And of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t give a shoutout to my home base ((shameless work plug)). Deauville Inn is hosting a TON of cool events this next month including a 5 course Whiskey Dinner on December 3rd, Brunch with the Big Guy Himself on December 18th and 19th, and our very own super cool New Year’s Eve Bash with a 4-course ultra-elevated dinner, and dancing until the ball drops, with music provided by the Usual Suspects! Call me for more details, (609) 318-6922 or email me a

And on an unrelated note, please be safe whilst rushing around this weekend trying to take advantage of all the Black Friday Deals… and remember your life jacket if you’re rowing out to the ships ((#supplychainproblems)). Until next week, folks… #stayjerseystrong!

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