LIMA — One of the biggest food-related events of the year, the Charitable Italian American Organization’s annual Italian Dinner has become a huge event for pasta lovers throughout Lima and the surrounding area. Entering its 27th year, the event brings thousands of people to Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
“Last year was a record event,” CIAO vice-president Paul Bonito said. “We served almost 4,600 meals in a six-hour period.”
However, despite the volume of meals, the kitchen crew, headed by John Venturella of Casa Lu Al, has been able to still provide a great meal.
“We had a lot of good comments about the meal itself,” Bonito said. “People often think that with a meal like this, the quality goes down as the quantity goes up. But we heard so many people come through talking about how good the food was. Young people would come up and say they hadn’t had food that good since Grandma was alive.”
The meal will consist of pasta, meatballs, Italian sausage, salad, garlic bread and coffee. Pop and iced tea will be available for purchase at the event. One of the biggest attractions, however, may be the dessert.
“There will also be cannoli there,” Bonito said. “A lot of people come in and buy 20 or 30 to take with them after the meal.”
The secret to the dessert’s popularity is the fact that CIAO has them delivered fresh.
“We have a bakery in Detroit that has made them for us for years,” Bonito said. “We send a truck up early Sunday and they load them up fresh. A big crew up there makes them on Saturday. We ordered 3,400 this year.”
The event will run from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and will feature entertainment by “Frank & Dean…and then some!,” a duo performing fan favorites by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Michael Buble and others. Diners can eat in or get drive-thru service.
Along with eating great food, participants can also take comfort in that the proceeds will go to a good cause.
“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Bonito said. “It produces most of the 10 to 15 $1,000 scholarships we give out each year, along with all of the other non-profits in the area we support. For a small group, we try to do a lot to help the community.”
Rosaria’s Marinara Sauce
From Rosaria (Rosanne) Venturella
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 cans of whole tomatoes (Hunt’s)
2 cans of tomato sauce (Hunt’s)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup Romano cheese
Pinch of sugar if needed
Saute onions in oil until tender. Add garlic and saute until they just turn color. Add whole tomatoes and lightly crush with potato masher or fork. Add tomato sauce, basil, salt, pepper and cheese. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes.
For 2 pounds of pasta.
(Grilled Bread with Garlic and Oil)
From Margaret Campoli
6 slices of Italian bread, about 1-inch thick
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled
Fresh ground black pepper
Grill bread slices or toast in oven. Rub each piece (one side) with garlic. Drizzle with oil. Grind pepper over slices. Serve.
No-Cook Summer Tomato Sauce
From Lenore Venturella Prenezio
2 pounds very ripe, vine ripened tomatoes, diced, skin on
6 large cloves of garlic (finely minced)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes if desired
1 pound linguine
Place tomatoes and rest of ingredients except linguine in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside for four hours at room temperature.
Cook linguine until al dente. Remove pasta from pot with tongs and add it to tomato sauce. Toss well and serve with grated cheese.