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Ocean Gate Landmark Finds New Life as an Epicurean Delight

A venerable meeting spot in Ocean Gate begins a new chapter in its storied history this weekend. Yolanda’s River House, boasting fine cuisine from the far corners of the earth and an elegant-yet-homey atmosphere, opens on the spot where the Ocean Gate House reigned for 80 years.

Yolanda's River House, Exterior (Tom Mongelli, Townsquare Media)

The building with a commanding view of Barnegat Bay, which has housed numerous types of venues and stood the ravages of time, has been completely renovated…inside and out…by new owners Vaughan and Elizabeth Larsen.

Already accomplished and still extremely active in the fields of accounting, real estate, and civil engineering, the Larsens say they’re fulfilling lifelong dreams with the grand opening of their new venture.

“We used to sit across the street from here when we were dating,” says Elizabeth, “and talk about the day when we’d buy it. Lo and behold, here we are.”

The Larsens completely renovated the edifice, internally and externally. The outside sports a heritage-type facade of siding and wood accents in the heat-reflecting shades typical of shorefront structures. The interior is a soothing blend of pastels, wall ornamentation, artwork and glistening, high-tone maple appointments. It extends onto an upper floor that houses a banquet room and a sun-drenched veranda for al fresco dining.

Vaughan says that their desire springs from a love of people and a love of great cuisine. “Considering the fact that my wife and I have traveled throughout the world,” he says, “Central and South America, California, Europe…we sampled food from around the world and we’ve appreciated good food.”

But their busy lifestyles never gave them the time to open the venture of their dreams, until the opportunity arose to buy the historic building in Ocean Gate. “We want to continue that process” of exposing exotic foods to new palates, he continues.

“We want to enhance the neighborhood. We’re half-a-block from the beach, with beautiful views, and we feel that the dining experience here will be unsurpassed.”

Vaughan and Elizabeth Larsen (Tom Mongelli, Townsquare Media)

Creating the culinary regimen are four hand-selected chefs, and Vaughan says he took his time to find just the right combination of an executive chef, sous chef and two line chefs.

“Our executive chef has 35 years of experience, has had his own restaurant in Pennsylvania. He believes in freshness, creativity and presentation. Our sous chef worked six years at an upscale restaurant in Belmar, Maltese. One of our line chefs worked for The Frog And The Peach, an upscale restaurant in the New Brunswick area.”

The spacious-yet-cozy atmosphere springs from Elizabeth’s creative fount, Vaughan’s quick to point out. “I have to give the credit to my wife. I took care of the major renovations and design. My wife took care of all the colors and the interior decorating.”

But if he’s Vaughan…and she’s Elizabeth…then who is Yolanda? The answer resonates with Vaughan’s deep sentiments for home and family.

“‘Yolanda’ comes from my dearly departed mother, who passed away this past November,” he explains. “My mother and I were very close. She was from Palermo, Sicily. Her feeling toward restaurants influenced us.”

Yolanda's River House, Interior (Tom Mongelli, Townsquare Media)

He goes on to explain that his large family informed his vision of good food in great amounts. “I’m one of six siblings. My mother was one of 12. Each one of her siblings had four to six children. So family tradition was very strong. I still vividly can see family dinners on Sunday afternoons for 40 to 60 people.”

See all about them and their new venture at http://www.yolandasriverhouse.com.

 

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