Nina Jochnowitz said that since she ran for local office a few years ago and met a lot of her neighbors, people in Old Bridge, N.J., a neighborhood about 30 miles northeast of Trenton, have been complaining to her. Most of the time, people call her to see if she can get the town to crack down on fireworks, ATVs, or trash left on curbs.
But last week, a woman she met during that failed campaign called her to tell her about a completely different problem. “There’s a pile of pasta on the side of the stream,” Ms. Jochnowitz said.
Ms. Jochnowitz, who is trained as a scientist, said she jumped in her car to find out more. What she found about 30 feet off the road and less than a mile from her house proved that this wasn’t just a spilled bowl of bucatini.
Someone had dumped hundreds of pounds of spaghetti, pasta, and alphabet shapes in big piles next to a stream in a wooded area, where people often dump building materials, bed frames, and furniture, according to Ms. Jochnowitz.
She said, “It looked like 25 feet of pasta had been dumped.”
The scene looked like something from “Strega Nona,” a famous children’s book by Tomie dePaola about a nice “grandma witch” whose magically overflowing pot floods her small Italian town with pasta.
Ms. Jochnowitz thought that between 300 and 500 pounds of pasta had been left in the woods to harden. She took pictures of the pasta with her phone’s camera, emailed a town official to tell them about it, and shared the pictures on Facebook.
Soon, everyone in the town had ideas about who might have dumped the pasta and why. This was especially true in a state where Italian food is popular. Was it a chef who had to drop out of a wedding at the last minute? A restaurant that made food for a football team that didn’t come?
Denise Bloom, who runs a local Facebook group, said, “That’s all they talk about in Old Bridge.” She called it the “Great Pasta-gate of 2023.” She said that some locals have been posting pictures of a few noodles on the ground and calling it a “impasta.”
When pictures of the thrown-away pasta were posted on a Reddit thread about all things New Jersey, puns and dad jokes sprung up everywhere. Someone said, “The people who did it should go to the state penitentiary.”
Estimated 300-400 lbs of pasta dumped in Old Bridge
by u/stormborn72 in newjersey
Anthony Esposito, who owns the Italian restaurant Via Sposito in Old Bridge and serves spaghetti, linguine, penne, ravioli, and gnocchi, said he could only guess where the pasta came from.
He said, “Nothing from over here,” on Thursday. “I guess that whoever did that is feeding the forest.”
NJ Advance Media had already written about the pasta, but Ms. Jochnowitz saw it as proof that Old Bridge, which has about 67,000 people, doesn’t have bulk trash service. “It’s been a source of disagreement for a long time,” she said.
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The Pasta Was Cooked
Himanshu Shah, the town’s business administrator, sent an email on Thursday with the subject line “Pasta Dumping.” He said that after pictures of the pasta were posted on Facebook last week, the Department of Public Works went to the site and found “what appeared to be 15 wheelbarrow loads of illegally dumped pasta along a creek in a residential neighborhood.”
A police officer was sent out, and he or she took a report. Mr. Shah said that two people from Public Works then cleaned up the pasta and threw it away in the right way “in less than an hour.” No one knew for sure if a big fork was used.
Ms. Jochnowitz said the pasta was cooked, but Mr. Shah said it was uncooked pasta that had been taken out of its packing and softened by the rain over several days.
Mr. Shah said that the situation is being looked into by the Police Department. On Thursday, both a phone call and an email were not answered right away.
Ms. Jochnowitz said she found out who dumped the pasta in the end, and it wasn’t a restaurant.
She said, “All I know is that it wasn’t a business.” “It was a private home, and I’m talking with the family through someone who knows them.”
She didn’t say anything else because she didn’t want the source of the pasta to get extra attention.
“I laugh now, but it’s a lot of pasta,” said Ms. Jochnowitz. “I hope that the person who did it isn’t eating as many carbs as they made.”
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