Two things I’ll admit to are being old school and loyal which is why I will always think of The Office Restaurant and Lounge as “Phil’s Place.”

Phil was Phil Citta, the owner, operator, host and face of the popular Toms River restaurant and bar which opened in 1975 at the corner of Route 37 and Main Street. The chances were pretty good Phil was the one who greeted you behind the host station wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt with reading glasses dangling around his neck.   There was never a question that The Office was his pride and joy and you just assumed he would be there forever.

However, "forever" ended way too soon after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the charismatic Citta died in May of 2004.  In 2006 his family and friends decided to celebrate his life with a February birthday party that would also serve as a fundraiser for cancer research and that has become a winter tradition at The Office with the 13th annual scheduled for today, a few days after what would have been Phil’s 74th birthday.

It’s an all-day, all-night event which benefits ironically the J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center at Community Medical Center which was established in his name shortly after his death with a $1 million dollar donation from the Citta Family.

This annual event has raised more than $240,000 for the facility which offers a comprehensive approach to cancer care with a full range of treatment options and support services so that local patients and their families can get quality care right in their own backyard.

The Office Restaurant & Lounge will donate 50% of today’s gross profits to the fundraising effort and there will also be auctions and raffles throughout the day for great prizes plus entertainment will be provided by Craig Daniel tonight.

An added incentive to raise money comes from longtime General Manager Nick Pagano who vows that should today be a success he will allow Scott from Jerry’s Barber Shop to shave his head at 8pm.  That in itself is worth contributing to the cause.

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