But over the years, "A Taste of Weehawken" has grown and gained momentum.
"We have restaurants and businesses that call us now and want to participate," said Phillip Greco, the executive director of the Weehawken Library. "That's how popular it's become. We have patrons who ask about the event all year. It's an annual event with tremendous appeal. Our patrons keep asking if we can hold the event more than once a year."
This year's "A Taste of Weehawken," scheduled to be held Thursday night from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Food Court at Lincoln Harbor inside the main UBS Financial Services center on Harbor Boulevard, will be the biggest to date. Nearly 30 restaurants, catering businesses and food preparation outlets have agreed to participate in the event, which raises funds to enable the Library to offer more programs and events for the patrons.
All the local eateries will donate dishes to the cause. A variety of different samplings will be served throughout the evening, with such prestigious restaurants as Amanda's, Port of Spain, The Madison Bar and Grill and The Brass Rail of Hoboken; as well as Paula at Rigoletto, Ruth's Chris Steak House, The Chart House, Spirito Grill and Arthur's Landing of Weehawken all committed to participate. Many of the local restaurants who are participating are excited to be a part of the event.
"I have to say that we restaurateurs get out to help causes as much as possible," said Weehawken resident Joyce Flinn of Amanda's Restaurant in Hoboken. "But we are such great fans of the Library and it's in our hometown, so this event has a special meaning to us. Our kids go to the Library all the time. It's a beautiful place and they couldn't have a better and more conscientious staff. It's a treasure to go there. Of all the libraries I deal with, ours is beyond compare."
Added Flinn, "If people are going to 'A Taste of Weehawken,' then they're supporting a good local cause while enjoying some excellent food. It's been a pleasure to watch it grow and become such a big event. We're happy to be a part of it. We're also glad that Weehawken is rapidly becoming a restaurant destination in its own right."
Joseph Mastrella, the executive sous chef at Spirito Grill, has participated in the event since its inception.
"It's a great event and we look forward to it every year," Mastrella said. "It's something that we can all be a part of, to be associated with the community and to help raise money for the Library. Plus, it's a way for us to see the other chefs from the area. The only time we get to see each other is when we do these charity events. You see the same familiar faces and you get to see the new trends and what's out there."
Mastrella, who said he will prepare hot satays of skewered beef, chicken and shrimp, prepared on hot slates of stone and served with a variety of dipping sauces for the event, said that there isn't competition between the restaurants to outdo each other.
"It's nothing like that at all," Mastrella said. "For the most part, we want to do the most unique and flavorful dishes, so you make the customer want to come back to your restaurant for a full meal. You want to give them the incentive to see the restaurant."
The event this year will have a special guest, as Alex Corrado, the maitre d' from the NBC reality show, "The Restaurant," will serve as the host for the evening. Corrado is a Hoboken resident and a renowned actor.
The show, featuring the day-to-day opening and operation of a Manhattan restaurant owned by Rocco DeSpirito, was extremely popular with viewers. NBC has ordered six new episodes of the show, to start April 19.
Corrado returns as the big man at the door, the official greeter and social director.
Corrado, who has had featured roles in such popular movies as "Hannibal," "Dinner Rush" and "The Hebrew Hammer," will serve in whatever capacity necessary to help the cause.
"I always love to give back to the community that I love," said Corrado, who continues to pursue other acting roles when not operating his scooter business in Hoboken. "Even though I travel all over the world in acting roles, I always remain a Hudson County guy at heart."
The Weehawken High School Jazz Ensemble will provide some of the entertainment, as will Weehawken music teacher Piero Romano and his band, Classjazz.
Greco said that the money raised this year will help a variety of programs, including the library's new young adult book collection program and the New Jersey State Library Program's "New Discovery Trails" program for children ages 6 through 12.
"The money is earmarked for more adult and children's programs," Greco said. "We're planning on bringing in more programs as well."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner is pleased to be a part of the popular fundraiser once again.
"It's a great event from all areas," Turner said. "Each year, the number of participating restaurants grows and the number of people attending grows. The event helps augment the library's programs, including computers, book purchases, guest lecturers. It provides the funding that sometimes falls between the cracks of the regular budget. We want to enhance the atmosphere of the library and this helps a great deal. This events gets people from every neighborhood, every walk of life. It's a wonderful evening."
The fourth annual "A Taste of Weehawken" will be held Thursday, April 22, at the Food Court at Lincoln Harbor, 1200 Harbor Blvd. in Weehawken, between 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets range from $50 for the extra hour, cooking demonstrations and a chance to win a four-night stay in Aruba, to $25 for the 7:30-9:30 p.m. session. There will also be plenty of door prizes as well. Advance tickets are available at the Weehawken Free Public Library, but tickets are also available at the door. For further information, contact the Library at (201) 863-7823.