Italian Festival dishes up traditional foods

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Mon., Aug. 8, 2011
Vinnie Zarcaro and John Bennici serve up grinders with sausage, onions and peppers at the Mount Carmel Society's annual feast. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.
Vinnie Zarcaro and John Bennici serve up grinders with sausage, onions and peppers at the Mount Carmel Society's annual feast. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.

“We’re gonna tell a couple of Italian stories and then we’ll go eat again,” joked comedian Pete Barbutti at Enfield’s Italian Festival. “We haven’t eaten in over an hour.”

Food is a priority in Italian culture, and at the Mount Carmel Society’s 86th annual feast, this priority was in abundance. Traditional dishes like eggplant Parmesan, bruschetta, sausage or meatball grinders and pasta fagioli were served alongside Italian pastries and Italian ice.

According to society member Rob Riley, sauce is the most important ingredient in Italian cooking. The son of an Irish father and Sicilian mother, Riley said they served two sauces at the festival- a pizza sauce and a meat sauce. The sweeter pizza sauce was not only used to cover dough, but also for eggplant Parmesan and grinders. With the grinders, Riley said the pizza sauce sweetens the meat while the meat bitters the sauce, resulting in a delicious compromise.

“If it’s not a good sauce, it’s nothing,” Riley said.

Festival goers agreed, commenting that the sauce made the meal. Several people gushed about how real the sauce tasted, noting that it was definitely made by Italians. On Saturday night, 75 quarts of sauce were ladled out within the first hour.

In order to serve the masses, the majority of the society’s members were involved in some aspect of food preparation. Teams in the upstairs kitchen chopped all the onions and peppers for the various dishes, while Riley kept an eye on his five 80- and 100-quart pots full of sauce. Downstairs, other chefs were in charge of the eggplant Parmesan assembly and pasta fagioli.

In yet another room, Carmie DiMaria and Ruth Porcello worked to fill cannoli shells with rich ricotta cheese. Rather than using the traditional method of pastry bags, they decided to try something new this year - a sausage stuffer. The new method seemed to work just as well, if not better, as it reduced the likelihood of cramped fingers and palms.

Though Riley acknowledged that some enjoyed the festival for its entertainment, his joy was tied to the stove.

“It’s all about the food,” he said.


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