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HOT DOG CART AND CHIC EATERY BACK IN BIZ

Hot dog seller Frances Rooney poses for a photo with admirers, including Councilwoman Peggy Bills, at right above. Below, Pat Trama in his restored restaurant. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

One of Sea Bright’s oldest food businesses reopened this week, and one of its newest was scheduled to do so Friday night, two signs that the storm-battered town is cooking up a recovery.

Frances Rooney, affectionately known as “Grandma Hot Dog,”  fired up the gas on her cart this week and was soon attracting lines of hungry and loyal customers.

“My son was the one who really encouraged me to come back out here and start serving people again – sooner rather than later,” she told redbankgreen, “He thought it would be a comforting sight for everyone to see me back in business, up on my feet.”

Rooney brushed off any suggestion that she and her stand, in a gravel lot that she owns on Ocean Avenue at Center Street, are considered local landmarks, and contended that she was just doing her job, as she’s done since 1977. When asked about retirement, she was equally terse.

“I’ll retire when I’m older,” she said. “And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

Less than a mile south on Ocean Avenue, Pat Trama, owner of Ama Ristorante Tuscana, located in Driftwood Cabana Club, plans his second opening in less than three months. redbankgreen was on the scene in September for Trama’s big move from Atlantic Highlands, and returned Thursday to check in on what’s proven to be a speedy recovery.

“All my friends we’re telling me to use this time to relax during the 30 days we were closed,” Trama said. “But I just couldn’t. I couldn’t relax till I could get back to work.”

Ama suffered only minor damage compared to the surrounding structures – including the devastated north end of the beach club – which Trama attributes to 45-foot high sand berm installed every winter and a removable boardwalk section in the beach club’s south end, constructed in 1957 to provide trenches for surging water. Still, Trama lost several freezers and storage spaces on the lower level of the building.

Despite the ravaged landscape of the town, Trama believes that Sea Bright will remain a landing spot for the best of local culinary talents, proving his own point with a new and improved winter menu. He said the key to the town’s comeback from lies in the reopening of businesses, adding that it was also important to him that all his employees get back to work and provide for their families.

“We’ll all be back and better – than ever I know it,” he said.

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