Fish fries reel in funds for range of needs at east community churches
For organizers of local fish fries, all that cooking is about more than bringing the community together for a meal during Lent.
Many groups rely on the annual events to help pay bills and raise funds for various causes.
“We’re a small parish. Everybody tries real hard,” said Bob Steinmeyer of St. Joseph Parish at 825 Second St. in Verona. “We have a great set of volunteers that help us tremendously. We always try to do the best that we can.”
Steinmeyer said his church nets approximately $15,000 by the end of the season and serves about 300 dinners a week. Funds raised go toward help with tuition for children in the school.
The fundraiser has been happening every year for at least the last 20. Verona resident Frank Santucci has come every year.
“I get to see my friends that I don’t get to see at certain times in certain places,” he said. “It’s the same people basically here all the time.”
Santucci also cooked at the fish fry during its first few years.
“There’s more variety of food,” he said. “All we had in those days was just French fries and fish.”
His wife, Mollie Santucci, cooks in the church kitchen. John Hazur and Eric Johnson work the fryers.
“It’s a lot of fun, like a little family,” Hazur said. He said oil temperature is key when it comes to cooking fish.
“Too hot and you over-cook the breading and the fish doesn’t taste right,” Hazur said. “Too low and then you’re not cooking the fish.”
St. Joseph’s offers specials such as eggplant Parmesan along with the typical fried and baked fish, hush puppies, mac ‘n cheese, coleslaw, fries, pierogies, haluski and desserts.
The operation over at Church of the Resurrection at 455 Center Road in Monroeville is a bit bigger.
They have between 50 and 60 volunteers, serve approximately 600 dinners per Friday and make about $30,000 by the end of the season, which goes toward paying bills.
The Rev. Don Bolls, also known as “the Codfather,” can be found helping in all facets of the fry. He’s been around the past four years.
“They were doing it a long time before I came here,” he said. “This time of year, we’re working basically seven days a week, two to three hours a day. On Friday, we’re here 12 hours. We have people who have come here for decades and some others who just drop in occasional. People park in places that aren’t places, and we don’t mind.”
The church’s fish is lightly battered and breaded on Friday so it’s fresher than frozen planks. Homemade sides such as mac ‘n cheese, coleslaw, haluski and baked goods compliment the fish and shrimp entrees. There’s also pizza for those who don’t like seafood.
Bolls praised the cooks, bakers and other volunteers such as parishioner Jim Kisak, who’s been involved with the event for nearly 40 years.
“From 9 in the morning to 9 at night, I’m prepping, serving and cleaning nonstop all the time,” Kisak said. “The quality of food (brings people in). All the baked goods are made in-house. It constantly gets more people, and by the grace of God, we serve them all with very few complaints.”
People line out the door at the Monroeville church.
Murrysville residents Fadra Erickson and Connie Cauvel said they’ve been coming with friends for decades.
“We wouldn’t come if the food was not good,” Erickson said.
Cauvel said she loves everything at the fish fry.
“This is the event of the season and it’s weekly,” she said. “There are amazing cooks. These women bake their hearts out. You haven’t lived till you’ve been to this fish fry.”
Church of the Resurrection’s fish fry is open 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays except for Good Friday. Call 412-372-8650 for more information.
St. Joseph’s fish fry is open Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. for eat in or take out. It also offers a 50/50 raffle. Call 412-795-5114 for more information.
More information about other fish fries can be found online at triblive.com/lifestyles/food-drink/places-to-get-fish-all-lent-long.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .