HAMMONTON - Delicious smells filled the air on Sunday afternoon as the Hammonton Rotary Club held its second annual tasting battle between gravy and sauce.

The competition was held inside the Hammonton Independent Volunteer Fire Company Station 2, where home chefs and professionals presented their gravies and sauces. The competition was fierce as participants were not only competing for the judge’s first-place favor but also for the people’s choice.

The judges of the event were Toni Marinelli, former owner of Toni’s Custard, Kelly Brown, owner of Tales of the Olive, and chefs Joseph Sheridan, Linda Wohlman and Daniel Matt, all of whom are chef educators at The Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College.

“We love doing anything we can to be involved in the community,” said chef Sheridan, who along with chefs Wohlman and Matt volunteered to judge the competition.

The judges and those who attended the event all voted for who they thought had the best gravy/sauce, depending on which side of the debate you fall on. Both the judges and guests voted for several categories, which were broken down between homemade and professional. In the homemade category, judges and guests voted for best red, best red with meat and best other, while in the professional they voted for best red and best red with meat.

“I think this isn’t so much a competition as it is more for family fun and to show off family traditions and representing the town’s culture,” said Hammonton Rotary Club member Maribeth Capelli, the coordinator of the event.

Even though there was much fun at the competition, the debate on whether the individual tasty creations were gravy or sauce was passionate and almost evenly split between the two. Getting to the bottom of what exactly the difference is, if any, between the two was no easy feat.

“I don’t believe in the word gravy, gravy is for turkey,” laughed Franco Catania, who later went on to win people’s choice for best homemade red with meat. While Catania calls his sauce Franco’s Sunday Special, he gave all the credit to his mother.

“This recipe is my great-grandmother’s but my mother perfected it. My wife will only eat my mother’s sauce,” said Catania, whose parents emigrated from Sicily.

Catania may not be far off from his reasoning as to the difference between a sauce and a gravy as chefs Wohlman and Matt did some research on the subject before coming to the competition. According to what they were able to find, there is no Italian word for gravy. However, Italian immigrants in South Philly and Boston may have been eager to fit into American culture and began calling their sauces gravy when they saw Americans using the word gravy for sauces that involved meat somehow, whether in the sauce or poured over the meat.

Maybe the name isn’t so important though as the winners. Both the judges’ and people’s choice categories were evenly split between gravies and sauces. And the winner’s were:

Professional Category:

• Judge’s Choice for Best Red – Joe’s Italiano’s Maplewood

• Judge’s Choice for Best Red with Meat – Marcello’s

• People’s Choice for Best Red: Joe’s Italiano’s Maplewood

• People’s Choice for Best Red with Meat – Rocco’s Townhouse

Homemade Category:

• Judge’s Choice for Best Red – Nana’s Sauce by Carolyn Vinci

• Judge’s Choice for Best Red with Meat – Ginny’s Gravy by Virginia Folcarelli

• Judge’s Choice for Best Other: Nanny Joe’s Carbonara by Jodi Simone

• People’s Choice for Best Red – Flounder’s Gravy! By John Caruso

• People’s Choice for Best Red with Meat – Franco’s Sunday Special by Franco Catania

• People’s Choice for Best Other - Nanny Joe’s Carbonara by Jodi Simone

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