“Real Housewives of New Jersey”: Teresa traverses the Garden State

This may be New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean you run into a “Real Housewife” every day.

Teresa Giudice answers a few questions before she signs copies of her cookbook, "Skinny Italian," at the Princeton Barnes & Noble on May 8, 2010./Photos by Ava Gacser

Believe it or not, the Garden State is pretty big – or at least it seems that way when you’re fighting traffic from one end of it to the other. And since the cast of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” hails from Bergen/Passaic/Morris counties (for the uninitiated, that’s up north toward NYC), it’s a treat to see them on your own turf.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when mother of four Teresa Giudice stopped by Barnes & Noble in Princeton on Saturday to sign copies of her cookbook, ‘Skinny Italian.”

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My very own “Dog” day afternoon

Duane “Dog” Chapman was all about the Garden State yesterday.

Yes, Dog's tan is really as dark as person as it is in this picture./All photos by Ava Gacser

In addition to appearing on Livingston native Chelsea Handler’s late-night talk show, “Chelsea Lately” (check out the video below), the star of A&E’s series “Dog the Bounty Hunter” – along with his wife, Beth – stopped by Clifton to meet fans and sign copies of his new book, “Where Mercy is Shown, Mercy Is Given.”

I didn't realize at the time I took this picture of the arrival that I also managed to *capture* the Dog. Yay!

As you can imagine, it was pandemonium from the moment the pair walked into Barnes & Noble with an A&E cameraman in tow. Fans – who comprised wide array of ages – were told from the get-go that the event would be taped for possible use on the show. (I can only hope footage from yesterday will be shown!)

The line of fans waiting – which I heard was estimated at 500 – moved very quickly. Fans were told Dog could not pose for photos or personalize books. However, I found him more accommodating when it was my turn.

Two women directly in front of me moved aside and suddenly I was front and center. A security guard told me to go up to Dog, who was waiting, pen poised. I walked up to him, said hello and it was nice meeting him and extended my hand. He shook it.

Then he said (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember it exactly), “Wow, you must be important if you got to cut the line. What’s your name?”

I told him, and he personalized my book.

And that was it; after a four-hour wait, it was over in a matter of seconds. But I don’t regret a minute of it.

After taking a few more photos of Dog, I moved over to greet Beth, who was chatting with fans and posing for photos.

I asked her to take a photo with me and she pleasantly complied. When I thanked her, she said, “It was my pleasure.”

It’s always nice to discover that people you admire on television are just as pleasant in person.

Here are two more photos I took of Dog:

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Rocco DiSpirito says “Now Eat This!”

Celebrity chef and television personality Rocco DiSpirito is one gregarious, funny guy.

Rocco takes a moment to sign my copy of his new book, "Now Eat This," during an appearance at Barnes & Noble in Princeton, NJ./All photos by Ava Gacser

I found that out firsthand last night when I attended his appearance/book signing at the Princeton Barnes & Noble.

“Am I allowed to curse in Princeton?” the Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., native asked the audience moments into his highly interactive, amusing talk to promote the release of  “Now Eat This,” his latest cookbook which focuses on healthful ways to make many of America’s favorite comfort dishes.

Rocco should be familiar to anyone who watches a decent amount of TV. He’s been featured on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and his very own reality series, “The Restaurant,” which aired on NBC in 2003/2004.

Rocco took the time to sign every book the audience asked him to.

The seasoned cookbook author said he makes a point of creating recipes that require a small amount of ingredients and don’t take a lot of preparation time. The most important thing to remember, he said, is that cooking just about anything is better than relying on prepackaged, processed, preservative-laden food.

“If you cook it for yourself, you are so far ahead of the game,” he said, adding that his favorite recipe in the book is brownies (which surprisingly include black beans).

Rocco believes that preparing food for others is a wonderful gesture.

“Cooking for someone is the nicest thing you can do,” he said.

He was inspired to write his latest book for several reasons: His experience cooking for contestants of the weight-loss show “The Biggest Loser,” his concern with the morbid-obesity rates in the United States, and his own experience of trying to eat more healthily. One of his most humbling moments, he said, came during his first attempt at a triathlon.

“78-year-old women swam past me like I was standing,” he said with a laugh – adding that he’d even had a 40-minute head start. He wound up finishing next-to-last, followed only by his trainer, of all people. “They should have just used me as a flotation device.”

Over the course of Rocco’s talk, no one was off-limits – including shoppers who just happened by. When the chef addressed a man standing in an aisle watching the proceedings, the man admitted he had no idea who Rocco was.

“You and 99.9% of the rest of the world,” Rocco quipped.  “At 43, I barely know who am I either.”

When another audience member told Rocco he was surprised how funny Rocco was, the chef replied, “I thought this was a comedy show.”

You can follow Rocco via his website and Facebook and Twitter pages.

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