An afternoon with the Gorga's

The theme of the day was family, family, family!  I was lucky enough to be one of 180 people on a January afternoon at Cafe Buonaro's in Naperville, Illinois (cafefbuonaros.com) for a luncheon, fashion show, and meet & greet with "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" stars Melissa & Joe Gorga and their family.  What an outgoing and welcoming group!  Cafe Buonaro's is a warm, rustic style restaurant that has been family owned since it opened over 20 years ago.  Tina Buonaro welcomed guests personally and took the time to make sure that everyone enjoyed their lunch.  The food was spectacular!  Salad and bruschetta, spaghetti, and a dish called "Chicken Marley" that was TO DIE FOR - all served family style to a packed house of excited fans and family members of the Gorga's.  

 
Kim Pirrella & Just Jen
 
It was about 45 minutes in to the two and a half hour event when the guests of honor arrived.  The mad crush out of the dining room to get in to the atrium to take pictures was insane!  Joe Gorga looked to be in his glory with the fans - laughing and smiling and happily meeting people and taking pictures with everyone who asked (including an adorable baby in a hat matching his!).  At this point, the "meet and greet" portion of the afternoon had not started - they were just trying to get to their table so they could have lunch!  Attending with Melissa and Joe were Melissa's sister, Kim Pirrella (@kimpirrella), Jill Hickey (@BeautCamp @NotSoSoccerMomRadio), celebrity make-up artist George Miguel Costa (@GeorgeMiguelC), and Chef Jamie Laurita (@Chefjmelaurita) along with many other friends and family members.  I have been blessed to have a few "twittversations" with Kim, and was thrilled that she remembered them and greeted me with a huge hug!  We talked for a few minutes, and she graciously posed for a picture with me.  (Kim - you are totally ON for Whipsicles the next time you are in town!  We need to bring Lysa too!) 
 
 
Just Jen & Pam Horn
  
 
There was an adorable fashion show from Pam Horn's boutique, If The Bow Fits (ifthebowfits.com / @thebowfits), showing off custom hair bows, headbands, and boutique attire for little girls.  All of the models were part of the family;  daughters, cousins and nieces of event sponsors - including Antonio Gorga and Pam's daughter Brianna.  Pam and I have become "twitter friends" and it was great to finally meet her in person along with her husband Mike Horn (@B96MichaelHorn), and their beautiful children.   Her online boutique is fabulous, and if you are a momma that likes bling (with a little girl that likes bling too), If The Bow Fits is for you!
  
 
Just Jen & Melissa Gorga
 
Once our lunch was finished and the "meet and greet" with Melissa and Joe started, I walked over and introduced myself to Jamie.  I knew from his few appearances on RHONJ that he was one of Caroline, Chris and Dina's siblings, and he seemed like a really interesting guy.  He too was very warm and gracious, allowing me to get a picture and spent a few moments chatting with me about the event.   I was very excited when it was my turn to meet the Gorga's!  I introduced myself to Melissa and Joe, shook both of their hands, and they took a moment to talk with me (as they did everyone).  I shared with Melissa how much her struggle to achieve her dreams without having her dad resonated with me.  Like her, I am a woman & mother who is stretching and growing in ways I never thought possible, all without my father being here to share in those successes.   We both agreed that once a Daddy's Girl, always a Daddy's Girl!  I stood between she and Joe for my picture with the two of them, and then Joe stepped aside and said "just a picture with you two".  It was such a sweet gesture!  Once our pictures were finished, she took a moment to autograph her hit single "On Display" for me.  I thanked them both profusely for their time and generosity and said my goodbyes.  It was a great afternoon! 
  
 
Joe Gorga, Just Jen, Melissa Gorga
 
I watched "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" before today, and I will continue to watch it when the next season starts.  Melissa and Joe Gorga are fun loving, generous and family focused people at their core.  Nothing that I witnessed today changed that opinion.  I think we get to see bits and pieces of that on RHONJ, but we have to remember there are 100 different things that happen between filming and the time the episode airs - editing, context, spin - that are all woven together to produce a "storyline" that will elevate ratings.  There was no storyline today.  What I saw this afternoon was a loving mother, wife, husband, sister, cousins, daughters, nieces, nephews and friends that support each other, care for each other, are are warm and generous with strangers, fans and "twitter friends" like me.  For them, when they say it's all about the family - they mean it.  

Photo credit:  Just Jen
 
 

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