One look around on a busy Sunday morning gives one appreciation for how far owner Lois DiOrio has come since she first opened her restaurant as a coffee shop in 1992. Back then, she and her husband, Ed, were the only two on the payroll.
“My husband used to come in and wash dishes,” DiOrio said. “It was just him and I for the first six months.”
There are now 20 employees working at Celina’s, DiOrio said. It’s also evolved beyond just being a coffee shop: it now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it has moved several times over the years, now occupying 68 West Jimmie Leeds Road in Galloway.
Those who may not know a whole lot about Celina’s will have the opportunity to learn a little bit more at the inaugural “Taste of Galloway,” on Thursday night, June 28, 5-8 p.m.
The event, presented by the , will showcase the signature food and drinks from Galloway’s restaurants, and will take place on the Village Greene in
DiOrio is still finalizing which foods she will have available for those attending the event, but she is planning to have a grill set up to serve chicken quesadillas. She’ll also be serving up small versions of her homemade sweet potato black bean burgers with quinoa in them as appetizers, and homemade hummus.
“We want to let people see what we’re doing here,” said DiOrio, who also wants to remind customers that Celina’s is open for dinner. “We’re going to bring menus and coupons, and let people who are new to the area know we’re here.”
Celina’s has occupied its current location for six years, but people who have been in the area for a while remember when Celina’s was located on Jimmie Leeds and Pitney roads in a strip mall alongside a deli, a dry cleaner, a video store and That part of the township looks completely different today, much like Celina’s.
DiOrio, who currently resides in Pitts Grove with her husband, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and an Associate’s Degree in legal technology at Wittenbery University. She worked as a paralegal for six years before opening Celina’s. She got the idea to open a coffee shop following a trip to Seattle in the summer of 1992 to see a friend.
“We saw so many drive thru coffee houses, coffee carts in grocery store parking lots and coffee shops all over, we were amazed,” DiOrio said. “It was like we found a whole new world. We had never tried a latte or cappuccino before, and we fell in love with them! The coffee craze was huge out west, but nothing here in South Jersey.”
To prepare to open her coffee shop, DiOrio worked for free at a coffee shop in Madison, Wisconsin for a week, and she spent time copying down menus at coffee shops in Boulder, Colorado, both in 1992, and also while visiting friends. She also had to learn more about advertising and management.
When she opened her shop in the Shore Mall on Nov. 30, 1992, it didn’t take very long before it was popular. It also wasn’t long before her customers began to make requests, including requests for food.
Celina’s has become synonymous with serving healthy food, as Ed DiOrio has been a vegetarian since he was 16.
“I used to live in a yoga community and was a total vegetarian for seven years,” Lois DiOrio said. “Every day Chef Leo makes one vegetarian soup and one soup with meat.
“We’re more known for our healthy food. We have things for vegetarians and we’re known for our salads, but we also have other things, like burgers and sandwiches.”
Celina’s offers Angus hamburgers and Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers; a Celina's vegetable wrap and a cobb salad wrap; a salmon salad and a chicken taco salad; pita pizzas for kids are popular, as well. Dinner favorites includes a Scallop Salad with glazed pears, a Chicken and shitake mushroom dish with sun-dried cranberries, Eggplant Parmesan and filet mignon.
They’ve also hosted various events, including murder mysteries and shows featuring local high school singers performing songs from the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The singers are students at Susan’s Studio in Galloway, owned by local music teacher Susan Pieretti Frizelli. They’ve performed for Christmas and Valentine’s Day for three years. This year, they’ve added a third show, on June 24, four days prior to Taste of Galloway.
For more information on the Taste of Galloway event, visit http://www.gallowaybusiness.com/taste-of-galloway.