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Cherry Hill Courier-Post

Isabella Abbate was laid off from her job as a restaurant manager at a New York City hotel when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

So the 23-year-old returned to Gloucester Township and helped out at her family’s restaurant, Villari’s Lakeside Restaurant and Bar.

Within a few months, she decided to go into business, making simple syrups.

Simply Bella’s Simple Syrup was launched in May. 

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Abbate’s new company will host its inaugural Harvest Benefit on Oct. 21 at her family’s restaurant. The event will benefit New Jersey Farmer’s Against Hunger, and is sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

“It is all about the local community during times like this,” said Abbate, a Timber Creek High School graduate.

Abbate began selling her syrups at the Wenonah Farmers Market, and uses New Jersey produce in her blends. This helped her forge a relationship with many farmers, many of whom donate to New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger.

The non-profit collects and transports fresh produce from New Jersey farms and wholesalers to local hunger relief agencies. Their mission is to reduce food waste and food insecurity across the state.

“I try hard to keep everything local, being that I grew up in a family-owned restaurant,” Abbate said, adding that it’s important to her to use locally grown produce.

Simply Bella’s simple syrups are used mostly for cocktails, but also can be added to coffee, teas, lemonades, desserts, sauces and more.

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“I started my business a few months ago after being laid off as a restaurant manager for Marriott in NYC,” said Abbate, a graduate of Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island.

Now the accidental entrepreneur sees syrup making as a viable full-time career.

“At the time, this was going to be a temporary thing, however Simply Bella’s has taken off much further than anticipated.”

Guests will get a taste of what she can do at the upcoming benefit.

Tickets are $35 (sales are limited due to the COVID-19 regulations) and will include signature cocktails and food created with Simply Bella’s Simple Syrup. The ticket includes self-serve cocktails and mocktails, soft drinks, appetizers, all using Simply Bella’s, and a buffet including chicken, fish and pasta.

Go: Simply Bella’s Inaugural Harvest Benefit will be Oct 21 from 6:00 to 9 p.m. at Villari’s Lakeside Restaurant & Bar at 2375 Sicklerville Road in Sicklerville. Tickets can be obtained at: simplybellas.com/event-details/1st-annual-harvest-benefit-2020

Celeste E. Whittaker is a reporter in features for the Courier Post. The South Jersey native has worked at the Courier Post since 1998 and has covered the Philadelphia 76ers, college sports and girls high school sports and has won numerous awards for her work. If you have a tip, call her at 856.486.2437 or email atcwhittaker@gannettnj.com. Follow her on Twitter at @cp_CWhittaker.

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