The Untold Truth Of Manzo'd With Children

Minutes before Teresa Giudice got ahold of that now-infamous dining room table in the The Real Housewives of New Jersey Season 1 finale, cast matriarch and ham game objector Caroline Manzo uttered a line that has stuck to the Bravoverse like a piece of deli meat someone flung at a kitchen island: "Let me tell you something about my family. We're as thick as thieves and we protect each other to the end." That statement has proven to be mostly true: Aside from her sister Dina Manzo, with whom she seems to frequently spar, Caroline has remained tight with her kin, and there is no greater proof of that than Manzo'd with Children, which focused on just her family. 

The Real Housewives of New Jersey spin-off starred Caroline, her husband Al Manzo, her sons Albie and Chris Manzo, and her daughter Lauren Manzo Scalia — plus Caroline's sister Fran D'Annunzio and all of her animals, Lauren's husband, Vito Scalia, and Albie and Chris's friend Greg Bennett. For three seasons, the show all manner of Manzo hijinks, including taking a trapeze lesson, going zip-lining, and visiting Texas for Caroline's BBQ sauce recipe research. The show also celebrated major Manzo life moments, such as Lauren's wedding, the release of Chris's children's book, and Albie figuring out what makes him happy.

Behind the scenes, there was quite a bit going on, too. Here is what you might not know about Manzo'd with Children.

Caroline Manzo was unsure of The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Caroline Manzo was one of the five main stars of the original season of The Real Housewives of New Jerseybut that almost was not so. In a 2010 interview with MyWorkButterfly, Caroline said she "was not part of the original equation," but after some members of that original equation dropped out, original cast member (and her sister-in-law) Jacqueline Laurita called her to let her know a camera crew was headed her way. "I was like, 'No way, you're crazy,'" Caroline recalled. One thing led to another, and she became a Real Housewife.

She continued, "I'd like to think they saw my kids and thought they were as entertaining and beautiful as I think they are, and that's why I was chosen. I'm a lot older than the other girls. I didn't think I fit in with that group, but I guess Bravo thought differently."

As fans know, Caroline had history with three of her fellow cast mates long before RHONJ: In addition to Laurita, Caroline's sister Dina Manzo, as well as their longtime friend Teresa Giudice were all part of the maiden voyage's main roster. Giudice touched on the RHONJ Season 1 cast origin story her 2016 memoir Turning the Tables: From Housewife to Inmate and Back Again. She wrote, "When another friend of Jacqueline's turned down an offer to do the show, she and Dina recommended Dina's sister, Caroline ... Dina also told the producers about me." 

Caroline Manzo's spin-off was in the works for a while

Caroline Manzo left The Real Housewives of New Jersey after Season 5, but her time as a member of the Bravo lineup was far from over. When Manzo addressed her decision to step away from the show in an October 2013 Bravo blog post, she shared that she and her family already started filming the pilot for an offshoot series. "I may be leaving Housewives, but my relationship with Bravo will continue as we started production on a pilot, Manzo'd with Children," she wrote, adding, "which if goes to series promises to give the viewers a very different look into the world of the Manzo Family."

Talk of a Manzo family spin-off was in the air before Caroline shared this news in a Bravo blog post. In September 2013, TheWrap reported a series called Manzo'd with Children was underway. Shortly after this scoop dropped, Bravo's The Daily Dish confirmed that the Manzo family was busy filming the pilot for a new reality show for Bravo. 

According to Deadline, Bravo announced at its upfront event the following April that Manzo'd with Children was in development. A few months later, the series was ready for primetime: The Manzo family's RHONJ spin-off premiered in October 2014.

Cheating rumors followed Caroline Manzo's departure

After Caroline Manzo announced she was moving on from The Real Housewives of New Jersey in 2013, a source claimed to E! News that she left because she wanted to keep rumors about her husband Al Manzo's alleged infidelity away from the cameras. The source alleged, "Bravo is very protective of Caroline and wants to keep her happy. So, they're letting her leave RHONJ and give her a spinoff attempt. The spinoff will be light-hearted and family-oriented, which is the image Caroline wants to protect. But if she stayed on RHONJ, there's no way she'd be able to keep the rumors about Al cheating quiet and she knows it."

As Radar Online noted in 2014, those rumors bubbled beneath the surface of Caroline's final RHONJ season. When Andy Cohen asked Caroline about the subject at the Season 5 reunion, she replied, "For me to think for a moment that he has been completely faithful for 32 years, I think that's a foolish way to think." She added that whenever she has asked him if he has cheated, he says no. In her post-reunion Bravo blog, she wrote, "Let's clarify the infidelity remark, shall we? My point is simply this — in life you should never say never."

Chris Manzo jokingly addressed this reunion moment on Instagram with a photo of Al "in bed with" the eponymous character of 2012 comedy Ted calling it "PROOF in the ongoing scandal of my dads cheating ways."

There was speculation regarding the Manzo sons' residence

At the top of Manzo'd with Children's first season, Albie Manzo and Chris Manzo moved back in with their parents and sister. It was not a smooth transition, but it made for great television. As Bravo's description of the second episode put it, "Caroline and Al deal with the disruption of their sons, who turn out to be slobs, moving back into the house."

However, after the debut season premiered in October 2014, Radar Online reported that the Manzo sons apparently never left the apartment they moved into a few years prior. According to a source, Albie and Chris were allegedly spotted at that apartment building after they supposedly moved back to Albert and Caroline Manzo's home. The apartment in question was featured in the 2011 Bravo web series Boys to Manzo. (Yes, there was a Manzo spin-off before Manzo'd with Children.) The show followed the adventures of Chris and Albie while they lived in the aforementioned Hoboken, N.J. apartment with their friend Greg Bennett. 

Whether or not the boys actually moved back into their parents' Franklin Lakes abode full-time, one thing remains true: Home is where the ham game is.

The Manzo'd Season 2 reconciliation did not last

Just when it seemed like sisters Caroline Manzo and Dina Manzo severed ties once and for all, their tumultuous relationship took a shocking turn on Manzo'd with Children. At the top of the spin-off's Season 2 premiere, Caroline revealed she and Dina called a truce in late 2014, and it seemed like their bond was headed in a positive direction.

In a confessional, Caroline said she and Dina "didn't speak for a couple of years," but they eventually decided to get together to hash things out. Caroline continued, "We met for five and a half hours. From then on? Everything's fine. She's here for the holidays, she talks to my kids, Lexie's in the bridal party and we could all go on living. Thank you very much." It was a Manzo'd miracle.

However, the Pax Manzo did not last for long. In 2016, Caroline revealed to Bravo's The Daily Dish that she and Dina were back at odds. "Well, unfortunately, we don't have a relationship anymore," she said when The Daily Dish asked about her sister. It seemingly stayed that way: When Dina appeared on SiriusXM's Jeff Lewis Live in 2018 (via OK!), she spilled that she and Caroline had not spoken in two years.

Caroline Manzo almost did not talk about her health scare

On the third season of Manzo'd with Children, Caroline Manzo shared that she found a lump in her chest. The lump was not cancerous, but there was a scary waiting period before her doctors could give her the all clear. As she said on a 2016 episode of Today, "We had about three or four months of not knowing 1000% what it was. It turned out to be an infection." Manzo told The Daily Dish in 2016 that "it was a crazy infection that pretty much stumped the doctors" and they were able to treat it with antibiotics.

Manzo also told The Daily Dish that she considered not including this storyline on Manzo'd with Children because she did not want it to cause her kids any distress. However, she ultimately decided sharing her experience could be something that helped others. She explained, "But when I went for a mammogram, the mammogram did not pick it up; the ultrasound did. And so many women go and just get a mammogram and think they're OK. And that's why I put it out there, because I want to be able to say, 'No, a mammogram is not enough. Get an ultrasound. It could save your life.'"

The Manzo kids' businesses were not just for the show

Chris Manzo, Albie Manzo, and Lauren Manzo showcased their entrepreneurial sides on The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Manzo'd with Children, and it was not for show. Over the course of the two reality shows, viewers watched them start ventures like blk. water, Little Town restaurant, and Cafface Beauty Bar, and they kept those balls rolling after the cameras stopped rolling. Fullblown, the blow-dry bar Lauren opened on Manzo'd with Children, is going strong as of this writing. Chris' restaurant Tenth Street Pizza was named one of the best pizzerias in New Jersey by in 2019. Also in 2019, Albie shared on Instagram that he and a friend started a long-lasting flower brand called Bloom & Birch. And the list of endeavors goes on, making the Manzo kids some of the most successful of the whole Real Housewives franchise

Remember when Chris pitched a strip club/car wash combo all the way back in the first season of RHONJ? (And remember when Caroline's RHONJ frenemy Teresa Giudice took a swipe at the strip club/car wash combo in her cookbook, Fabulicious?) That idea, which unfortunately never came to fruition, was only the beginning of what would be one of the Manzo kids' business-savvy paths.

The family did not know the show's end was the end

On February 28, 2017, Caroline Manzo took to Instagram to announce that Manzo'd with Children would not be getting a fourth season. Alongside a photo of her granddaughter, she wrote, "After three Seasons of Manzo'd we out – Markie drops [mic] – we are forever grateful to our viewers, we love you all! #threefingersup #manzod #manzodwithmorechildren."

A couple months after this news broke, Caroline's youngest child revealed that the family did not necessarily plan on being done with the show after Season 3; when they filmed the final episode of the season, they did not know it was actually a series finale. Chris Manzo told Page Six in April 2017 that he was happy with the way the family's spin-off drew to a close, but would have liked to have known it was ending when it was ending. He said, ""It was a very long, fun time, and we never had a bad experience with Bravo at all. I just wish we knew it was over then. We would have taken it in a little more."

Caroline Manzo misses Manzo'd

Following the news of Manzo'd with Children's cancellation, Caroline Manzo opened up about it on Instagram. In a heartfelt caption that went up on March 1, 2017, she wrote, "I've been reading all your comments regarding the end of Manzo'd With Children and I have to say that I'm completely blown away by your reaction. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will miss making the show because we had a blast. I always said if we ever won an award I would Thank the crew because they did all the work and we got all the glory. Sorry guys, no awards so this will have to suffice."

Caroline echoed these sentiments on an April 2019 episode of Albie Manzo's podcast, Dear Albie, where she told her son that she is nostalgic for their family's spin-off. She said (via Page Six), "Once we stopped doing Manzo'd, which I miss terribly ... Once you go a hundred miles an hour, or a thousand miles an hour, and then you stop, and you do nothing, it's kind of like a little bit of a head trip for you."

It feels safe to assume she probably would not say the same thing about The Real Housewives of New Jersey. In a 2014 interview with Fashion & Style (via Bravo's The Daily Dish), Caroline said she was glad to be done with RHONJ. She told the outlet, "I made this decision and I'm at peace with it, and I'm cool. I'm happy. I don't miss it." 

Is there at least one Manzo returning to Bravo?

On March 3, 2019, Hollywood Life reported that there were rumblings that Caroline Manzo could return to The Real Housewives of New Jersey. According to the outlet's source, Caroline "would be very open to coming back to the show full-time" and apparently does not care who is or is not in the rest of the cast. The following day, Radar Online reported their source claimed, "Andy has called Caroline so many times trying to get her back on the show." Caroline promptly called in to Andy Cohen's SiriusXM show to shut down the tab's story, telling him she was "mortified" and "had nothing to do with it."

This all came up again on the April 2, 2019 episode of Albie Manzo's podcast (via Us Weekly) when Caroline spilled that she was asked to come back to RHONJ for the 10th season. She told her son she declined because it would not be a full-time role. She called the "friend of" offer "an insult."

When speaking with Hollywood Life in November 2019, Andy Cohen said he did not know if the Manzo matriarch was asked to return to RHONJ Season 10 as a friend of, but "would love Caroline to come back." The following April, he said on an episode of Watch What Happens Live that she was one of the three former Real Housewives he misses the most. The other two: Lauri Peterson from The Real Housewives of Orange County and Shereé Whitfield from The Real Housewives of Atlanta.