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Restaurant Gala Celebrates 25 Years, Raises $200,000 for ACCC Scholarships

April 18, 2008

The Press of Atlantic Restaurant Gala marked its 25th anniversary with a dining feast featuring 40 of the best restaurants from the region and a detailed "Reflections" theme. The event raised $200,000 for student scholarships at the Academy of Culinary Arts and Atlantic Cape Community College.

Nearly 900 people attended the April 3 Gala at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The event showcased the talents of the culinary students at the Academy of Culinary Arts, who prepared thousands of sumptuous hot and cold hors d'oeuvres served during cocktail hour. The ACA students and chef educators received a standing ovation from the attendees during the dinner reception. A dessert extravaganza capped off the evening.

The Restaurant Gala Steering Committee recognized the contributions of its founding supporters James L Cooper Esq., Frances Freedman Esq., Clare Sabatini, John "Scannicchio's" Varalli and the late Vince DeFinis. Cooper was named Gala Champion for his vision and guidance in growing the event. Freedman conceived the idea of the Restaurant Gala in 1984, and Varalli, Sabatini and DeFinis used their individual restaurants or industry connections to support the event.

A 50/50 raffle brought in more than $17,000 for college scholarships. The first prize of $10,380 went to Jane Osborne and Harry Peek of Wildwood; second prize winner Charles Pessagno of Cape May received $5,190; and third prize winner John Celestino of Linwood received the $1,730 third prize. Winning amounts were based on 346 tickets sold.

Held annually, the Gala has served as the premier black-tie fundraising event in South Jersey for 25 years, providing the venue for area restaurants to showcase their house specialties while helping to raise scholarship dollars for ACA students. It has raised nearly $2 million in its history. Remaining Gala foods were donated in the name of the restaurants to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, which is dedicated to feeding the homeless in Atlantic City.

The 26th annual Gala will be held March 12, 2009, at Bally's Atlantic City. For more information on the Restaurant Gala, visit