Denise Falvio was a busy mom of three, an ice skater and a teacher of figure skating and hockey. The last thing she needed to do was to open a restaurant of her own.
But that is exactly what she did and it all began because of her very busy schedule.
"I am an ice skater," says Falvo, who performed in Disney on Ice and Magic Kingdom on Ice for four years. Three kids later, she still didn't slow down. "I went back and started teaching ice skating, figure skating and hockey, and then I got a job at a skating rink in Vineland."
Falvo would commute each morning, teach figure skating for four hours, then teach a couple hockey teams, returning home around 9 p.m. each night.
Every morning she would make her family a big pot of soup, which solved her problem of something for them to eat, an art she learned from her aunt who owned Delores' in Ventnor, before it was the Cook Nook, before it was Hannah G's.
"The ice skating rink was closing to do some work," says Falvo.
You would think she would jump at the chance to take a break from her already full schedule. Instead, she leased the property that was formerly Cleo's in Ventnor, spending her free time making soups and boxed lunches for her children's teachers.
Falvo who calls herself a "food creator" rather than "chef," opened the Ladle of Luv on June 22.
"I didn't think I could make it with just my soups, so I came up with this menu," Falvo. says
She has been busy since day one - so busy she hasn't had a chance to create a web page or to follow through on some of her creative ideas such as a soup of the month club.
"When I'm not busy in the front of the house - I'm always busy," says Falvo, who is often too busy to finish a sentence. "I can never make enough soup. I can't believe how much soup sells in the summer."
The concept for the Ladle of Luv is a takeout with homestyle cooking.
Falvo's signature chicken noodle soup (small $5/large $9) is made from her fresh chicken stock. She is more secretive about the big, thick noodles that she uses in the soup.
Customers constantly return to take home a quart of soup, parents buy gift certificates and Falvo ships her soups to college students once a month, for a little taste of home cooking.
"Instead of sending somebody flowers, send them soup when they are sick," Falvo says.
Salads include Caesar ($7) made with her special cheese dressing; spinach ($9) with croutons and hard boiled eggs; and the Chop ($8), assorted greens with a toasted sesame, soy, ginger dressing.
Chicken salad (small $9/large $18) made with all white breast meat and tuna salad (small $9/ large $18) made with all-white Albacore packed in water can be packaged in bulk or scooped over a mixed green salad for $10.
Family favorites include macaroni & cheese (small $6/large $11) made with cavatelli pasta and a creamy cheese sauce made with Velveeta, sharp and mild cheddar, and parmesan cheese with butter baked bread crumbs on top.
Other big sellers include turkey meatballs (three for $5/ six for $9), chicken tenders (3 for $5/ 6 for $9), and meatloaf sold by the slice.
"Five dollars for a big piece of meatloaf and everybody loves that," says Falvo.
A new menu addition is a selection of flatbreads like the chicken, spinach and mixed cheese ($9/$17) made with Falvo's own four cheese blend of mozzarella, Asiago, provolone, and sharp cheddar and a grilled Buffalo chicken flatbread ($8/$15) with all-white meat, mild Buffalo sauce, and mozzarella cheese.
"I like to create flatbreads," says Falvo, who also cuts them into small bite-sized pieces to eat as a perfect appetizer. "It's comforting."
Expect to see a flatbread special on the menu daily, such as a recent one with jumbo shrimp, fresh spinach, tomato, and her four-cheese blend.
Panini, four-cheese ($8) and veggie ($8), are always on the menu.
Sandwiches and such, served with chips include the Asiago roast beef sandwich ($9) on a Kaiser roll or rye bread; roasted turkey ($8); tuna salad wrap ($9); and the chicken caesar wrap ($8).
Falvo's biggest seller is the LOL specialty wrap ($9) made with her homemade chicken salad, Swiss cheese, fresh spinach, mayonnaise, on choice of whole wheat bread or a white tortilla.
Falvo somehow finds the time to bake all of her desserts except for the biscotti that she buys from Formica Bros. Bakery. Selections change from day to day with an assortment of muffins, sweet and nut breads, crumb cakes, sticky buns, cookies, and brownies available.
Falvo always has plenty of assorted side dishes on hand like roasted red bliss potatoes, cole slaw, or beet salad and an ice cold gazpacho. Every one can design their own meal, selecting all of their favorite dishes from a selection of soups, salads, main courses, and desserts.
All of the food at the Ladle of Luv is prepared and packaged with plenty of family-style love, from the friendly greeting you receive from her daughter behind the counter to the heart tissue paper used on her bag specials.
"Everything I do, I am all about the details," says Falvo.
The Ladle of Luv also has beach lunches and vegetarian options
Beach lunches are a snap at Ladle of Luv. Falvo offers beach bucket lunches served in a plastic beach pail with shovel, ready to go.
At $8 each, the kids can choose between macaroni & cheese, pigs in a blanket, homemade chicken tenders, pork roll & cheese, or a grilled cheese sandwich, served with chips or fruit, a brownie, and an 8 ounce bottle of water or a juice box. Box lunches can be customized with 24 hour notice. Adults like them, too.
Vegetarians will love Falvo’s soups since many are made from her homemade vegetable stocks like broccoli cheddar cheese is made with a broccoli stock. Other vegetarian soups include pasta e fagioli, minestrone, black bean, and vegetable with baby lima beans.