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On tonight’s episode of E! “Celebrity Beef,” hosted by Joel McHale, Dolores Catania and Caroline Manzo of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” will face off in a battle to see who can prepare the best Italian meatballs.
Speaking to TODAY, Catania said that competition got fierce between the two Jersey Italians. “I was surprised she was so competitive in a funny way. I was laughing, I’m like, ‘Whoa, Caroline. This is serious,'” she said.
Catania called Manzo is “the total matriarch of everything,” and said that “always looked to her for advice on things.” But can she make a better meatball than the “matriarch”? We’ll see tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
TODAY chatted with Dolores Catania to hear about the experience and what’s to come during “RHONJ” Season 13.
Finally, she also helped settle a debate stemming back to Season Three, when co-star Teresa Giudice said Manzo was “as Italian as the Olive Garden.” Catania weighed in by saying, “Let me put a twist on it. Olive Garden should be so lucky as to be as Italian as Caroline Manzo.”
Catania’s time on “Celebrity Beef” was almost derailed by food poisoning. “Three in the morning, I was laying flat on the bathroom floor. Caroline was waiting in the car outside to go to the airport together,” Catania told TODAY.
“Paul (Connell, Dolores’ boyfriend) was trying to get me up to go because what boss are you calling at three in the morning to cancel? So he’s like, ‘Come on Paterson Dolores, you have to get up, you have to do this, you’re tough.’ Caroline’s lucky I wasn’t as competitive as I would have been if I felt better,” Catania said.
Another housewife Catania would love to face off with in the kitchen? Giudice, her “RHONJ” co-star, who she has “cooked together with so many times on and off camera.”
“At the last BravoCon, we cooked together, and it was so much fun because cooking made us speak freely in front of the crowd. It was a lot of fun. We made steak pizzaiola, which was her father’s favorite recipe. Old school Italian girls, we know right away, we could whip up anything,” Catania said.
Not even food poisoning could stop Catania from making it to the “Celebrity Beef” stage, especially because of how much she wanted to meet McHale.  
“I was fangirling over Joel because I used to be the hugest fan of ‘The Soup.’ I think he’s so funny. I don’t find things funny very easily, but I happen to like his wit and his humor,” she said.
Catania said that McHale “knew how to handle” her and Manzo. “Not everybody gets the whole New Jersey mentality and Italian culture. He was just on point with all these things that he was saying,” she said.
“They chose meatballs for us to have the cookoff with, and I make meatballs in my sleep!” Catania said.
Catania said that “dating an Irishman (caused her to) not cook Italian for a while,” as her boyfriend, Paul, is Irish and “doesn’t eat Italian food.”
“I had to learn how to make mashed potatoes, like really good ones from scratch. How hard is it to get a potato and boil it? When you’re cooking for an Irishman, you better know how to make mashed potatoes,” Catania explained. 
Catania added that her son, Frankie, “has been eating clean as long as I can remember,” and her daughter, Gabby, is a vegan.
“Nobody’s been home for a while, the kids were away at school, and the man I’m with who I’d love to cook for all the time only eats meat and potatoes,” Catania quipped.
Catania said audiences should get hyped for the upcoming season of “RHONJ.”
“In my career, (the season is) the most fun and the most vicious of all, which is what everyone loves. So my prediction is it’s best season yet,” Catania said.
Bravo has not officially announced details for Season 13, but confirmed its return back in May. Catania teased that the new cast members in the mix are “all extremely different.”
“Whenever you switch the dynamics of the group up, s— happens. I’m really curious to see how the fans react. I always say that it’s easier to predict the weather than it is to predict what the fans are going to like about the season” Catania explained.
Giudice recently married Luis Ruelas. Catania was a bridesmaid, which she said was “an honor.” She said the wedding symbolized “the end of an era of so much heartache and stress” for Giudice. 
“Watching her walk down the aisle was so symbolic of everything that she was leaving behind. She looked the best she’s ever looked,” Catania said.
Part of Giudice’s look that fans have been all over? Her hair, which required 1,500 bobby pins to put together.
Catania said, “I walked in on that hair as it was getting done. Teresa had some concerns about it. She’s like, ‘Oh, I think it’s a little high.’ But the hairdresser said, ‘higher the hair, closer to God.’ So then she goes, ‘it’s good enough for me.’ From there, look, Teresa pulled that off too. It fit her, it was very Teresa, and it was really good.”
Giudice’s brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Melissa Gorga, were not present at the wedding.
“Teresa was so happy that day. I’m sure that she would have loved to have her brother there, but I don’t think anything ruined her happiness for that day. A lot of stuff was going on before that, and it is sometimes better to stay away from each other for a while before you see each other,” she said.
Mitch Rissmiller is a producer at TODAY Digital, where he produces entertainment, lifestyle, and human interest content. He also writes for TODAY.com. Outside of work, you can find Mitch catching up on everything Bravo, doing a good HIIT workout, and spending time with friends. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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