Farmer Benny

Farmer Benny


Well folks, we moved to the “sticks.” Who would ever believe that Benny would trade in the sounds of deafening car alarms, gunshots, streets filled with drugs and crime for the sweet sounds of song birds, polite people, corn fields, easy flowing traffic and plush green mountains. Yes folks, we moved to the woods in early July.
The move was great but not uneventful . As usual, there is always a good Benny story to be told.
I hired a local moving company based on my own trust for people and the best price. Benny of course, does not trust anyone and is very much a pro at recognizing trouble before it hits. I hate to say this but he is RIGHT most of the time. Yes, I said it, He’s RIGHT.
A crew of 4 men arrived early on Monday in a Ryder truck that obviously was not large enough to accommodate our belongings. That set Benny off in a tirade, I on the other hand believed they would find a way to make everything fit. Benny grabbed a folding chair and carefully supervised each guys every move. The men were very respectful of our things and were getting the job done in record time. The foreman was a quite man, dressed very shabby, his pants were short, worn and frayed at the bottom with no belt to hold them up. I felt sad for him. The other 3 men were young, strong and fast moving Guatamalians. They spoke mostly Spanish and Benny understood everything they said. They moved on to the garage while Benny joined them sitting on his folding chair in his supervisory role. Almost everything fit. I was willing to leave the rest and return with my car for remaining goods but Benny made a stink. The poor guys were only doing their job to the best of their ability. Benny then told them to follow them up to Hackettstown. Following Benny under normal circumstances can be a nightmare, since he drives like a cop with a purpose and he changes lanes without notice. They were almost at our new home when the truck’s brakes failed at the bottom of the hill in Hackettstown and BOOM they smashed into the back of Benny’s car. Oh my, was this the supervisor’s punishment? The car was almost totaled, he was okay but needed to call the police and fill out a police report. He then told the driver and the 3 workers of his intent and asked them one question, “ are any of you wanted by the law or illegal in this country?” The driver told him he just got out of prison from a drug charge which explained the worn pants and no belt. Then the 3 Guatamalians ran away as fast as they could. Now what !! Our movers are gone, no muscle to move us in. The driver made it to our new home with Benny’s banged up car but no one else. So us old folks started carrying boxes until my son Dave showed up with his friend and within an hour the Guatemalians found their way here on foot. It was a wild and crazy day but we settled in and each day gets better and better.
Benny is making himself known in this neck of the woods. His rough and tough personality, his foul mouth but good heart and generosity is getting a lot of attention. Oh course, he has found many new places to eat and make himself an icon. His first stop every day is the Hackettstown Health Food Store on Main Street where he has a fresh squeezed carrot juice or fruit smoothie, he sometimes helps himself to the vegan buffet if he’s not in the mood for a big Italian Hot Dog. Uzma and Lenore knew right off that Benny likes to be waited on and have a little attention so they serve him just like his Mom did. His other new place is Enzo’s in Budd Lake where he does have that Juicy Italian Hot Dog. It’s a place that feels like home with robust women in full aprons cooking in the back, filling the place with aromas from his childhood. Oh yes and the women at Candy’s Café on Route 57 are waiting on him hand and foot and filling his belly with warm homemade soups and delicious rice pudding. They see him pulling into the parking lot and they scurry to the kitchen to get him something hot, hot food that is. No wonder he’s not hungry when he gets home.
He does come home to eat often but only after a stop at Donaldson’s Farm known for the best corn in New Jersey.He’s addicted to thieir fresh corn and , gigantic Jersey tomatoes, fresh grown garlic and the best peach pie in the world.
He also found a new gym in Ledgewood, he has no choice but to go often or he’d weight 400 lbs.
He also has every opportunity to spend time with our grandson Julius. The only one who can boss him around and tell him NO. He’s playing ball outside, going down slides in the playgrounds and just enjoying being a Papa. He sat in the parking lot of Julius’s Preschool and cried when he saw him on the first day of school. He’s such a Mush. Hackettstown will never be the same since Benny has arrived. I’m sure there will be many stories to tell but next time I will go back to the days in Newark when Benny Abruzzo, Al Spearman and Eddie Jones better known as the ZTEAM conquer crime in Newark with their bold and unconventional heroism.


In early 1969 a new Tactical Force was developed in the Newark Police Department.  The city was in desperate need of new methods to combat the increase in violent crimes. Captain Chris Volz was to head up the Tactical Squad with 36 highly trained men who would be on call 24 hours working in plain clothes, uniforms, on foot and in patrol cars.  Over 200 men where screened for this dangerous and very intense job.  The preferential men were as follows:  Robert Scarpone, Thomas Rizzo, Richard Capobianco, James Pittaro, Baldesario (Benny) Abruzzo, William Richardson, David Gordon, Stanley Ford, William Leone, George Lytwin, Robert Rankin, John Baird, James Moretti, Peter Leone, Nicholas Guarino, Gary Egan, Patrick Dullaghan, Alberico Alfano, Joseph Ward, Donald Walsh, Phillip Walker, Eugene Nicholson, William Coley, Richard Schmalz, Daniel Blue, James Ventola,, Joseph Mosca, Charles Conte, Joseph Curran, Charles Kelly Jr., & William Clark.  They were the new enforcers,  young, strong, eager, sharp and dedicated men ready to aggressively attack the city’s criminal activity.

The three new sergeants assigned to the force were Chester Popek, Antonio Bonavita and Richard Masterson, better know as “Bat” Masterson.

Sergeant Popek chose Benny Abruzzo as his driver and partner knowing of Benny’s previous reputation as a police officer.  The first week they drove together in their unmarked car they were called by the dispatcher of a robbery in progress at a gas station. They were given the description of the suspects and told they were both armed with guns.  Sergeant Manghisi was also in an unmarked car and was able to track and follow the suspects until Popek and Benny were in close proximitry, both cars then blocked each end of the street trapping their suspects.  Knowing they were armed and dangerous, they drew their weapons and captures both robbers.  they were in possession of .25 caliber automatics and marijuana.

There wasn’t a night that went by without several arrest from these Enforcers but Benny and the Department knew there was more to be done.  Benny knew that the Narcotics Squad was in desperate need of new blood, new direction and giving top priority in cutting down crimes being fueled by drugs.  He complained constantly to Sergeant Popek not knowing that his brother-in-law Lt. Al Gomes ran the Narcotics Unit.  He asked Benny what would you do if you were assigned to the Narcotics Unit and he said, ” I’ll show you what can be done, just give it to me.”  And that was the first step into his transfer to Narcotics where he would stay for the next 17 years and make a huge difference in the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey.

You won’t want to miss the action coming up.  They didn’t call him Kojak for nothing.ImageImage


For all of you who know Benny, you know his love of food.  He will romance anyone with food and he will make it difficult for you to resist.  I think he would rather watch you eat than feed himself, it’s a toss up, almost voyeuristic. I do believe that’s how our love began and has continued. on for 20 years.

So I will tell you how our food romance began.  We were introduced to each other by Fred Marcus at his Christmas Party in 1993.  Fred was an attorney, Benny was his investigator and I was Fred and his wife Debra’s in-home massage therapist. They were not only incredible loyal clients but they became good friends and were always looking out for me.  After our short introduction Benny told me that he had massages on a regular basis to get out the aches and pains from working out at the gym so I thought is was appropriate to give him my business card. I did find him attractive and intriguing but he was with another woman so I pushed any thoughts of interest out of my head.   At the end of the evening he came over to me to ask me if I wanted to go for shrimp.  It was after midnight and he already had  not one but two women on his arms.  Of course I love shrimp but who goes out late after a party were there was plenty of food.  I politely declined and thought nothing more except that he may call me for a massage.  Well the next day he called me to see if I was available that evening for a massage.  I was always a little precautious with new men because some just did not respect my profession although I was really good at letting them know the deal….Massage is massage..go somewhere else if you are looking for something else.  His appointment was at 8 PM, he showed up with his own Frank Sinatra music.  I usually played some quite new age music during massages but what the heck. His foot tapped to the music throughout the entire massage.  After the massage, he wanted to know if there was anyplace we could go to eat.  I wasn’t use to going out late but I called around and found a local place that served until 10 PM.  Little did I know this was just the beginning of the romance between us.  Penne vodka at 10PM  was the most fun I allowed myself to have in a long time and he enjoyed my moaning in delight over the food.

He scheduled a massage appointment every Friday night and every Friday night we went out to eat.  Sometimes we went to Vincent’s in Little Italy and had Oysters in a scrumptious hot sauce or to China Town for choice dumplings or to Newark for fresh lobsters and shrimp.  We did this for 3 months, he never even kissed me, he just watched me eat.  My pants just kept getting tighter, he told me I looked great and just to buy bigger pants.

Somewhere along the way he did get me to join him at the gym for daily workouts so we had a good excuse to eat hardy.

I do remember the first real date, he actually asked me out on a night other than his massage night.  He took me to Angelo’s in Harrison, a family owned restaurant where they made you feel like family.   I had the most delicious meal I had ever eaten, Shrimp Angelo, it had shrimp the size of lobster tails with clams on a plate of linguine in white sauce.  Oh my God,  I thought I died and really went to heaven.  I did take some leftovers home for the next day and remember thinking after I heated them up, “I have to date this guy again.”

At times we would meet for lunch at local  joints, or Pal’s Cabin for burgers, or  pumpkin pie at midnight at the Lyndhurst diner.   Everyone knew Benny and would know just how he liked his food cooked and served.  Waiters and waitresses wanted to please him because he was a heavy tipper or heavy hitter as I like to call him. They were always at his service.

He would go to Calandra’s bakery at midnight and knock on the back gate with a dollar in his hand to get a fresh loaf of hot bread.  We would go to his place and make giant tuna sandwiches.

One night we went with our friends Marvis and Allen to our regular spot Touch of Sicily.  It was owned and operated by Maria Castelli and her daughter Mary Jo.  They treated us like we were family and it was as if we went to their house for dinner.  He had a great night with food, laughter, and making our own dance floor to Frank Sinatra music.  We stayed so long that we had to order another meal including a second dessert.  Oh the pounds keep adding up!

Some nights I couldn’t wait to get home before I exploded.  I wondered how he could continually eat like this.  He never  had gas or had to use the bathroom or so I thought.

You see he’s also very OCD (obsessive compulsive).  He drove an older model Chevy and was meticulous about the car.  He stopped often to check the tires, so I thought he was always just concerned about the old car’s tires.  Until one day we picked up 10 year old Erica, his friend’s daughter to take her to school,  she said to me in her snarky way, “so Kathy, has Benny been checking the tires?”  It took me a minute but then I got it.  He wasn’t checking the tires all those times, he was  getting out of the car to fart!  Ever since I said “I Do” he stopped checking the tires.

So I am 30 pounds heavier but very happy and in-love with my romantic FOOD DEVIL.


So what ABOUT BENNY..Superhero, Food Devil, Troubleshooter, Grand-Papa  Well if you been lucky or unlucky enough to know Benny, you will have your own story to tell about him and we want you to POST your story right here.

First why this blog about him.  Well, he and I were crazy enough to end up as guests on the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on November 25, 2013 in a segment called “Cut the Creep”, in regards to keeping off the added weight gain during the holidays. I’m a fan of the show and it resonated with me not only because of holiday weight gain but the truth that Benny romances me with food all year and in the 20 years we’ve been together, I’ve gained over 30 pounds.  Anyway, enough about me. Benny was invited on to the show with me because I called him my “Food Devil.”  All he did was sit in the background on the set of the Today Show and eat a piece of pumpkin pie and he quickly had a fan club of many followers.  All he had to do was EAT A PIECE OF PIE…Anyway, I knew he was a STAR to begin with.  He’s been more than a STAR in my life and the lives of many others.  You see, Benny was and is a HERO, rather SUPERHERO Retired cop with lots of stories to tell including the most famous case of the arrest of the Frank Lucas family and gang in the early 1970’s.  You may have seen the movie, American Gangster starring Denzil Washington and Russell Crowe.  That movie was loosely based on the story of Frank Lucas and the Country Boys and their arrests by 3 hero undercover detectives, Benny Abruzzo, Alvin Spearman and Eddie Jones also known as the Z TEAM.

What does this story and Benny eating a piece of pie have to do with one another, well keep coming back for more true stories ABOUT BENNY.