Heavenly Health Cafe Opens in Somers Point

Marie Peterson and Joan Branella have created a Somers Point café where the food is not just good, but good for you.

By Frank Gabriel
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Dec. 12, 2012

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Despite being one of the nation’s fastest-growing dining categories, our southern New Jersey region possesses few restaurants fully dedicated to healthful fare.


While that “healthful” term may appear broad or vague, there is nothing to be misunderstood about Somers Point’s Heavenly Health Café.

As owner Marie Peterson makes clear, “I believe that our bodies are to be preserved.” Peterson — a healthcare professional employed as a medical assistant, and a devout Christian — has developed an integrated message of holistic living and eagerly applied it at this new venture.

Located at the triangular intersection of Ocean Heights Avenue and Bethel Road, Peterson has owned the property for more than 15 years, having previously run it as Chubby’s Restaurant. Her return, however, is clearly marked with powerful, portentous omens of success. Most of all, joining her this time is sibling Joan Branella, serving as chef.

Branella and Peterson grew up together on Georgia Avenue in Atlantic City’s famed Ducktown district. Their father, also in healthcare, was a pharmacist for many years. Joan rhapsodizes on her family’s Italian traditions, saying, “We didn’t eat anything out of a can, and everybody ate the same way.”

These days, she runs her first professional kitchen — ensconced in a wide, subterranean space below the dining area — with the same philosophy.

“Everything is made here,” says Joan.

Together, the sisters seem to radiate a sort of magical symmetry that bodes well for the future. Raven-haired and energetic, Marie evinces the sort of customer-service traits that endear patrons to establishments. Watching her interact with diners during an early morning interview, we witnessed a rare level of professionalism.

“I’ve been in this industry before, and I know you can lose people before you get them,” she says.

Their food has been painstakingly sourced — the chicken has no hormones or antibiotics, the eggs are free-range, the turkey is used for bacon and sausage, and no red meats are served. All produce comes from respected Northfield purveyor B.F. Mazzeo, the bread from Atlantic City’s nearly century-old bakery Formica Brothers, the flour is unbleached, jellies and jams contain no high fructose corn syrup, only real maple syrup — an amber liquid that is one of nature’s most sublime ingredients — and all diners reap the rewards of such a careful selection process.

The beauty of the maple syrup was evidenced in a simple, magnificent roasted apple we sampled. A luscious Granny Smith had been slowly cooked until rendered soft, laced with maple syrup and a crunchy, sticky layer of walnuts — sweet, seasonal fare that also just happens to be quite good for you.

On the subject of seasonality, Joan specifically mentions her made-from-scratch soups as being a source of particular satisfaction. On this day it was a roasted red pepper, but a few others she’ll be serving include lentil, chicken pastina, Italian wedding, butternut squash, and kale with white beans.

Currently open six days weekly from 8am-4pm, the sisters plan to expand and offer dinner starting in spring. The facility, already having been booked for several private parties, is a high-ceilinged, pleasantly lit room with a capacity for about 50. A petite lunch counter and wide, expansive deli cases line the food-prep side. Walls and furniture, bathed in shades of eggshell and hunter green, create a mood of gentle calmness.

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Comments 1 - 5 of 5
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1. ron said... on Jan 11, 2013 at 05:50PM

“I think this is great but they need to send out menus and coupons to get people in. How do they expect to do well when ive seen nothing in the current or anywhere posted . Good food but need advertisement , give away something like free drink with sandwich get people in the door to succeed....”

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2. Lenpolistina said... on Jan 26, 2013 at 10:42PM

“You better go there now before the crowds come back. Food and service are awesome.

Easy to park great location.”

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3. Len Polistina, Sr. said... on Jan 27, 2013 at 01:22AM

“As a family member I have had the pleasure of sampling their fare, both during family gatherings and as a patron. These women can really create a truly delicious meal. For Joan this is always a labor of love, and she can really cook. I suggest all of the locals enjoy this prior to the arrival of the "shoebees" because you will never get in just like when they all come down and patronize all of "our" local eateries. Enjoy it while you can! Oh, parking is easy and they are funny to socialize with while you're in there.”

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4. Amy Jones said... on Jan 27, 2013 at 09:11AM

“The chicken salad is awesome!!! Soups are delicious too!! Need to check it out!!!!”

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5. Anonymous said... on May 30, 2013 at 04:30PM

“Why aren't you ever open? I've tried a few times to eat at your establishment and no one is ever there, even though your sign says OPEN.”


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