Cooking for a Cause: These Restaurants Keep New Jerseyans Full—and Fulfilled

After releasing our annual 30 Best Restaurants list, we take a look at some local eateries that are serving up charitable initiatives.

Sorriso Kitchen
Sorriso Kitchen, a restaurant in Chatham, offers on-the-job training to local students with special needs. Photo courtesy of Karen Coccari Bellas

New Jersey Monthly recently recognized the state’s top dining establishments with our hotly anticipated, annual 30 Best Restaurants list. In addition to paying tribute to great food, we also wanted to honor eateries that are cooking up charitable initiatives—keeping legions of New Jerseyans not just full, but fulfilled.

Here are a few that are doing exactly that. 

JBJ Soul Kitchen · Red Bank, Toms River & Rutgers-Newark

The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, the rocker’s nonprofit, has spent over 15 years building affordable housing. In 2011, the organization also began fighting food insecurity.

“Our manifesto is that all are welcome,” says Dorothea Bongiovi, founder of JBJ Soul Kitchen and wife of Jon Bon Jovi. Diners can eat at the restaurants regardless of their ability to pay. The restaurants ask for donations of $20 or more per person; if unaffordable, guests can volunteer in the future. JBJ Soul Kitchens have served over 150,000 meals and also help needy diners find more than a one-time meal through its partnerships with the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County, Parker Family Health Center, and NJ Reentry Corp. 

“With those in need helping around the restaurant, we build relationships and learn more about what barriers are creating…. food insecurity,” Bongiovi says. “We feed the community and identify resources who (can)…. help.” 

Sorriso Kitchen · Chatham

When Karen Coccari Bellas and Jimmy Bellas opened Sorriso Kitchen in 2018, their son, LJ, who has Down syndrome, found a safe place to learn new skills. Coccari Bellas quickly realized the restaurant could help others.

So the family partnered with LJ’s school, ECLC of New Jersey, a private nonprofit in Chatham. Every Monday, Sorriso becomes a classroom where special-needs students get job training pertaining to cooking, service and more. Sorriso Kitchen has trained four graduating classes.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of time out of your week to really make a difference in somebody’s life,” Coccari Bellas says.

Wing It Forward · Medford

In 2022, Chris Maynes opened Wing It Forward and partnered with Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), which distributes meals to those in need. For every 10 wings sold, one meal is funded through FMSC, which distributes food to 70 different countries.

Inside Wing It Forward, customers see their influence on a tally board, which recently counted 5,000 meals.

“We are able to make a real impact in someone’s life,” Maynes says, “and we are spreading awareness of a great organization.”

FoodieHall · Cherry Hill

Dan Goldberg and Nick Ballias opened FoodieHall, a delivery/take-out-only spot, in 2022. Led by Chopped champ Georgeann Leaming, FoodieHall offers an array of choices. A Meal 4 Meal program donates one meal to Feeding America, which supports food banks, for every meal sold.

FoodieHall has donated over 7,000 meals.

“When you order from FoodieHall, your money is going to a good place,” Ballias says, “and you’re actively helping others just by eating.”

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