Richie's Place: Rita's Cheesesteaks & Summer Love in Wildwood

For reasons beyond me, summer romances really do exist. When I was younger, the only vacation spot that my family visited was Wildwood Crest, NJ. We went every single summer. It’s nothing like the vacations parents take their kids on these days and looking back it probably crosses the line over to cheesiness, but it was all I knew and I loved it.

Now I’m not going to lie and pretend the following happened during the same summer, but two awesome things happened to me in Wildwood.  I fell in love and I discovered the best cheese steaks on the planet.

In 1989, when I was 13 years old, my mother rented a shore house on Atlanta Avenue. The landlords were so kind to us that they used to make us gravy (tomato sauce) so we would feel more like we were home. Well one day I walked to the corner, which was New Jersey Avenue to look at the people jet skiing. While I was standing there I noticed a cheese steak place, so I went in.

Morey's PierInside I heard a metal spatula slamming down on a flat top. It was an old woman chopping what looked like a real steak. It wasn’t processed fake stuff (which I still would have loved)  and it wasn’t thick whole pieces of steak (which is quite frankly cumbersome to eat), it was a real chopped up steak! She added cheese. Scooped it up onto the toasted “hoagie” and wrapped it to go. I ordered the same thing and absolutely loved it. I told my family and each day that week we ate Rita’s cheese steaks for lunch. I like to think that I discovered that place, because people from Bloomfield know Rita’s because of me, but I’m pretty sure they were famous before I went there.

 As for the girl, she was from Philadelphia. Her name is Stefanie. We kissed, kept in touch for a few years and actually just reconnected last week at the Caldwell Diner after we lost touch 15 years ago. (She now lives in Caldwell … wish me luck!)