Businesses Make Hoboken Work
by Kate Rounds
Jun 20, 2014 | 4400 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
How we work
The Caracappa family
PHOTOS BY <i><a href=""> Alyssa Bredin </a></i>
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(201) 683-0287

In real life, it’s hard to be an extra virgin. But not in the world of olive oil. And the Caracappa family knows a thing or two about this increasingly indispensable food item. You can buy CaraBella Olive Oil online and in local shops and farmers’ markets.

James Caracappa’s grandfather emigrated to the States years ago, but his wife Bombina came from southern Italy only six years ago, arriving in Hoboken from a little town in Calabria called Corigliano Calabro.

She landed a job as a hostess at Tutta Pasta, which has since closed. It was there that she met James—or “Jimmy”—Caracappa.

“Her father in Italy owns an organic farm,” Caracappa says. “Her family members plant the trees, process the oil in the field, bottle it in a facility right there, and send it direct to us.”

CaraBella prides itself on excellence. How does the company achieve it? Through the use of olives native to Italy; organic farming methods in a climate ideal for growing olives; manual, selective picking; immediate crushing; an extraction process using the ancient stone carving method; natural decanting; and filtering and bottling in hygienic conditions.

The store features a number of flavors besides organic extra virgin, including chili, garlic and chili, lemon, and basil.

Bombina says her family also grows oranges and tangerines, but mostly olive trees. “While my family is in the olive oil business,” she says, “Jimmy’s family is in the import and fish business.”

Caracappa says he gets fish from the Fulton Fish Market (now in the Bronx), Port Newark, and other markets in the tri-state area.

At press time, he was expecting to open a fish store and restaurant called Tutta Pesca at 155 Third Street.

Bombina, 29, feels really at home in her new town. “I love Hoboken,” she says, “because I am a mom, and there are a lot of things to do with my son, who is 3. I like to go to the parks, and the people are so nice.” But, she says, it is “night and day” compared to her hometown in Italy.

“Hoboken doesn’t remind me of Italy,” she says. “In Italy it was the country with trees and trees and trees.”

1200 Grand St.
(201) 253-5522

“A passenger train leaves the station two hours after a freight train.” Uh-oh. Sounds like a word problem. You’re not alone if you have terrible memories of standing frozen in front of the blackboard, trying to solve a math problem. The fact that phrases like “math phobia” and “math anxiety” have entered the lexicon means that it’s time for—MATH WIZARD!

Math Wizard is a national chain. Pallavi Donde is the owner-operator of the Math Wizard franchise in Hoboken. She’s a mathophile with an MBA in finance who wanted to ensure that her own kids—a nine-year-old and six-year-old twins—were getting a strong foundation in math.

“My kids were a little advanced, and the school was catering to the average,” Donde says. “I wanted to make sure they did well in math by doing a very good math program off to the side. This program works better than others that only do mental computation skills.”

Mental computation skills, you say? Apparently this involves doing 700 problems a week. “You know how to add and subtract, but you don’t want to do more,” Donde says. “It’s memorizing. It’s very boring, kids don’t like it, and there’s a lot of crying involved.”

Well, of course.

Kids between the ages of three and a half and high-school-age can study with the Math Wizard.

And about those word problems? The trick, says Donde, “is to define the steps in the word problem and learn how to frame the problem to find a solution.”

Among the other topics covered are fractions, equations, division, addition, subtraction, and applied math. Offerings include an algebra boot camp as well as prep courses for the PSATs, SATs, the New Jersey state standardized test, and the national 2014 common core standards.

The Math Wiz currently has 13 students, plus seven more from an after-school math enrichment program at one of the charter schools in town. So, that would be 20?

Math is not drudgery for these kids. “It’s a fun learning center,” Donde says. “Kids love to write on the whiteboards.”

With only three to five kids per class, they get individual attention. The Wiz also offers private tutoring. “If a child is advanced or behind, we customize the curriculum,” Donde says.

“The program works really well,” she says. “A student came to us in the summer. She was in the sixth grade and didn’t even know fractions. After two months, she aced the test for two levels of fractions.”

79 Hudson St.
(201) 610-9137

Here’s a scary factoid: Obesity is the number-one cause of death in the United States, overtaking cigarette smoking. Enter New Jersey Bariatric Center, a medical practice that treats obese people. The word “bari” comes from the Greek meaning weight or pressure, which pretty much describes patients suffering from this condition.

The practice, which was founded by Dr. Ajay Goyal in 2004, now has a staff of physicians and nutritionists. Folks looking for a quick surgical fix may be unhappy to learn that the words “diet” and “exercise” will always be part of any legitimate weight-loss protocol.

Our own governor, before he became famous for traffic tie-ups on the George Washington Bridge, is famously overweight and was famously treated, using lap-band surgery. “TV people were saying that it was an easy way out,” Goyal says. “But that’s a myth. Surgery is a big commitment. You still have to eat less food and exercise to maintain adequate weight loss.”

If you are 100 pounds overweight, you are considered morbidly obese and qualify for surgery. “But patients have to go through a psychological evaluation to make sure that they are making the right decision before surgery,” Goyal says.

The cause of obesity can be genetic or psychological. Goyal says that people who are unhappy, depressed, anxious, or angry may overeat. And we live in a food culture. “There’s a social reason to eat food,” he says. “You can’t name an event that doesn’t revolve around food.”

Economics can also enter in. “Cheaper food is much higher in carbs,” Goyal says.

And just as people have gotten bigger, so have portions—and even plates, according to Goyal.

Goyal started doing bariatric surgery at St. Mary Hospital in 2001, now Hoboken University Medical Center, and liked Hoboken, which is where he now lives with his family.

He chose the specialty because of its tangible benefits. “We are able to change people’s lives,” he says. “It’s a very, very rewarding experience. The resolution of medical problems is phenomenal. We improve the quality of life and people’s ability to do certain simple things like tying their shoelaces, wearing high heels, wearing a regular seatbelt on a plane, and shopping in a regular store. It’s very impressive to accomplish these goals.”

92 Bloomfield St.
(201) 795-9398

This specialty gourmet market, tucked behind City Hall, has been going strong since the 1990s and has received rave reviews, not just from Hoboken people and press but from the New York Times. A family-owned business, it’s run by Michael Sobsey, his wife, and brother in law.

“It’s just something I have an aptitude for,” Sobsey says. “I started working in a fruit co-op in the mid-seventies in Maryland and took a liking to fruits and vegetables. It was the beginning of the organic movement.”

Sobsey knew that it wouldn’t be easy finding good-quality produce. He wanted to open a “small place to provide an outlet for choice, healthy, tasty fruits and vegetables.”

He buys locally grown produce in New York and New Jersey and is a regular at Hunt’s Point in the Bronx, the largest such outlet in North America.

“I go there personally twice a week,” Sobsey says. “I handpick everything. I have relationships with people there who will work with me. It’s a painstaking process. You have to know what’s coming around at a certain time—what’s in season, what variety is due up next, and when to bring it in.”

He says he will also “rendezvous with people in the Union Square green market. It’s easier than going to the farm, and I can arrange to buy wholesale from them.”

Sobsey acknowledges that “the better stuff is expensive, but you can’t get a BMW for the price of a Kia.”

The kind of organic, natural gourmet market that his family runs has gone mainstream. “A lot more people are offering these things than in the old days,” he says. “It’s a bigger, more crowded market.”

As evidence, Sobsey’s has expanded from 500 to 1,250 square feet. Currently, there are five full-time and one part-time worker. “It’s a team effort,” Sobsey says—“my wife, my brother-in-law, and the other workers.”

A lot of their customers come from within a five-block radius, but folks from New York, Weehawken, and Jersey City have also discovered this Hoboken gem.—07030

PHOTOS BY Alyssa Bredin
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