A Culinary Landmark Reaches A Notable Anniversary

A family dynasty marks its centennial with a fundraising event.

One of the legends in New Jersey’s culinary history is marking its 100th anniversary this year with a national charity event this summer, and a celebration of the five generations of family members who have made this landmark a success for a century.

Perona Farms in Andover was founded 100 years ago by Emil and Angiola Perona. At age 14, Emil Perona began his career in the kitchen of a hotel in London. He worked in vaudeville, but longed for the life of a dairy farmer. He settled in rural northwestern New Jersey, starting a small farm in Sussex County. He and his wife took in boarders to supplement the modest income from the dairy farm, which was feeding those boarders.

Soon, a restaurant was born that became the early definition of farm-to-table fare.

Today, a well-known banquet hall and events mecca operated by Emil and Angiola’s descendents, Perona Farms will host a benefit for the New York-based James Beard Foundation, at which more than 40 chefs will cook on Tuesday, July 18.

On that night, photographs and other items showcasing the history of Perona Farms will be on display.

It’s a fascinating history.

Since Emil Perona’s brothers owned the famous El Morocco nightclub in New York, Perona Farms often played host to the prominent members of the entertainment industry, who visited the countryside for rest and relaxation. Guests from that era included Jimmy Durante, Errol Flynn, Ethel Merman, Peter Lorre, Helen Hayes and Joe DiMaggio. Perona Farms catered events in later years for U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, as well as for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Emil and his wife, known to all as “Mother,” had a daughter named Aida, who worked at Perona Farms. Aida married Maurice DeBergh, and their daughter Maureen continued the family business. She married Victor Avondolgio—and thus began the Avondoglios’ reign over Perona Farms.

The Avondoglio children, Mark, Wade, Kirk, and Tracey, currently lead the family business. Two members of the fifth generation, Bryant and Marley, have recently joined the team to carry on the family vision. Innovations have included the Perona Farms Food Specialties division, started in the 1950s, and the smoked fish products, which received national acclaim in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2008, the Avondoglios decided to sell the smoked products enterprise to focus on special events and catering.

In recent years, the family has added a hydroponic greenhouse for greens and herbs and hives for honeybees. Perona Farms’s agrarian roots are ever more evident.

Perona Farms is located at 350 Andover-Sparta Road, Andover (973-729-6161). To purchase tickets for the charity event on July 18, visit peronafarms.com.

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