It was the pressures of being a working mom that led Margate resident Denise Fernetti-Falvo to find her calling as "Soup-er Woman."
With a demanding career as a professional ice skating instructor, which keeps her on the ice and away from her family until late in the evenings, Falvo, a mom of three children ages 15, 12 and 7, said she used to feel guilty about not having dinner on the table for her family.
Homemade soups became her solution.
"I wouldn't be home until nearly bedtime, so before I would leave I would make them a pot of soup, so they would have dinner, then I would give the leftovers to the neighbors," Falvo said. "I felt like soup was a comfort food, and since I wasn't there to help, it was also something that was easy to get together. It would stay all day, and by the time I left for work at 1 p.m., it was done."
Within a few months of starting up her daily soup-making routine, talk of her soups began to spread throughout her hometown of Margate and people began begging her to make them a pot of soup for purchase.
Fast forward a few years and her recipe repertoire has grown to include 42 homemade soups, including tomato basil, vegetarian minestrone and chicken pot pie - her best seller - which up until recently she was making out of her home kitchen and hand-delivering per order to local residents throughout the Downbeach area.
But as the orders continued to come in, it became apparent she needed a health board-certified commercial kitchen and an LLC to grow her business.
On June 18, Falvo officially opened The Ladle of Luv, a take-out and delivery restaurant on Ventnor Avenue in Ventnor, the location of the former Cleo's Seafood, where she sells homemade soups and other meals to-go.
Knowing that she couldn't make a living selling soups alone, particularly in a shore town, Falvo expanded her menu and partnered with local restaurateur Chet DeFelice, of Ocean City, the former owner John's Steakhouse on the Ocean City Boardwalk, Chet's Court House Eatery and Tavern in Mays Landing and Chet and Ray's Surf and Turf Club of Galloway.
The Ladle of Luv is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and offers ready-made breakfasts, lunches and dinners with serving sizes ranging from one serving to family-style portions, all homemade daily by Falvo and DeFelice.
The menu ranges from soups - with chicken noodle and another kind of available daily - to salads, hot and cold sandwiches and daily main dishes such as meatloaf by the slice, turkey meatballs and Falvo's famous mac and cheese, made with spiral noodles in a creamy sauce of Velveeta, sharp cheddar, mild cheddar and parmesan cheeses sprinkled with butter baked bread crumbs, and more.
For $25, customers can order 80 ounces of soup or a mac and cheese tray with six homemade dinner rolls, which will delivered to their house within about an hour of the call.
"If you have a friend who's sick, call me and instead of delivering them flowers, I'll deliver them homemade chicken noodle soup," Falvo said, adding,"I have a lot of local parents that order dinner from me, parents who have soccer or dance classes at night. I'm solving all of the Downbeach moms' problem, the same problem I went through, when your kids are hungry and nagging you about what's for dinner, and you know it's your job to figure it out."
The Ladle of Luv also delivers to the beach during the day and offers an $8 beach bucket lunch special that includes a sandwich or main meal such as chicken tenders or pigs in a blanket, a bag of chips, a juice box or a water bottle and a homemade brownie all in a souvenir beach bucket.
The Ladle of Luv sells breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m., with several options such as a broccoli and fresh cheddar cheese frittata, kosher bagels, breakfast paninis and pastries.
Ventnor resident Dan Hehner, an employee at Animations Salon on Ventnor Avenue, said the opening of the Ladle of Luv has been all the buzz around town and he already loves the place.
"Their soups are to die for," Hehner said, as he enjoyed a cup of broccoli cheddar and a chicken salad sandwich on a Kaiser roll. "I know where I'll be getting my lunch every day."
Contact Elisa Lala:
The Ladle of Luv
7307 Ventnor Ave., Ventnor City. 609-226-2076
Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
For daily specials visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/The-Ladle-of-Luv-LLC/181403405275289.