Food fests feature cuisine of the Mediterranean

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Wed., Jan. 2, 2013
Members of the audience try out some Greek dance steps with the parish's youth dancers. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Members of the audience try out some Greek dance steps with the parish's youth dancers. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

For lovers of Mediterranean cuisine, Norwich was the place to be Sept. 8. Between Taste of Italy on the harbor and the long-running Greek food festival in Norwichtown, it was a double-header made in heaven.

At Howard T. Brown Park in the heart of the city, the threat of storms spelled smaller-than-usual crowds, but the festive atmosphere persisted even under overcast skies. “We almost sold out,” said Carol Wright, who staffed the Italian Women’s Social Club’s booth, which was selling pizzelles. The traditional Italian cookies, baked on patterned griddles like a thin crispy waffle, were offered in vanilla, anise and lemon flavors. Wright said that she and other club members had spent two hours making the delicacies. “A batch makes like six dozen,” she said.

Elsewhere in the tent, about a dozen restaurants and caterers offered samples of their Italian fare, while the Silver Cornet Band performed excerpts of operatic tunes and other Italian melodies. Alice DePino was sitting in her folding chair taking it all in. A former committee member early on in the festival’s 21-year run, she said she’s passed the torch to the younger generation. “I hope the rain holds off,” she said. “I’ve been doing this since year one. You meet everybody you haven’t seen in years.”

Meanwhile, across town, diners at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s annual food fest got to enjoy both dinner and a show. The jingle of coin-adorned scarves accompanied the tinkly sounds of Greek music, as the parish’s Greek Youth Dancers linked arms in a chain to the beat, stopping to pull an unsuspecting diner or two out of the audience to join them.

An outdoor serving stand offered the familiar gyros as “fast food,” but indoors, “slow food” was the order of the day: mousaka, dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), shish kabob, and lamb. Under a warming lamp, a crock pot full of hot, spiced honey awaited the honey puffs (loukoumades) that would be dunked briefly, then sprinkled with ground walnuts. Those who bit into the pastries needed a napkin to catch the honey that oozed out with each bite.

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