Festa Italiana in New Kensington serves meatballs, memories at parish
The aroma of fresh basil, rosemary and sage perfumes the Marble Hall of Mount Saint Peter Parish in New Kensington.
It’s a familiar smell to parishioners and patrons of the annual Festa Italiana at 100 Freeport Road.
Volunteers made more than 3,200 meatballs, 265 gallons of sauce, 60 pans of lasagna and 240 pizzas for the three-day festival on the first weekend in August.
Patt LaRussa, 82, of New Kensington, known to other parishioners as “Mom Patt,” has managed the pizza station for at least 15 years.
“We have such fantastic workers,” she said. “It’s gotten bigger and we’re more organized. We’re better than a family. I love serving people. I love to cook.”
Dough is purchased from Fazio’s Italian Market in Arnold.
Basil is grown in a garden on the side of the church.
LaRussa said they use “an ocean of sauce” when it comes to pizza and pasta.
This year’s event was organized by Gloria Schon, Peg Moore and Don Petricca.
About 200 volunteers begin preparing foods in early July. They focused cleaning parsley and prepping meatballs one week, lasagna the next and so-on and so-on until a feast for thousands is prepared.
Schon said everyone comes together for one reason.
“It’s all about the families,” Schon said. “We’ve got people here. Their great-grandparents built this parish, and they’re carrying on a tradition for their children.
“Plus, the food is excellent. Everything’s homemade and there’s some things you don’t find anywhere. … We put salads on the menu not to long ago, but we really don’t vary too much. People look forward to Festa to come in and get the things they like.”
Schon said they changed sausage vendors this year to help streamline operations. The previous vendor had the parish buy in bulk with the volunteers cutting and freezing the meat.
She said they chose DelVecchio’s this year because they cut the sausage to specification and deliver fresh orders daily.
Desserts include pizzelles, biscotti and frappe, which are Italian bowtie cookies.
The kitchen of the indoor dinning hall is accented with hand-painted valances, or small curtains.
Parishioner Ron Slabe of Oakmont recommends patrons start their food journey there.
“Start with the main meal inside, and then come out here and work your way around for all the different desserts,” he said. “You can even have beer inside and there’s wine over there. They serve a lot.
“You get a lot of people from different areas, not just members of this parish.”
There’s more than just food to dig in to at the festival. The Legacy Booth has a variety of old parish photos and chronicles the history of the church.
“It’s just a great trigger of people’s memories,” Msgr. Michael Begolly said. “It’s a great feeling of community spirit (at the festival). In addition to being a fundraiser for the parish, a lot of people plan their vacations to come back to New Kensington on this weekend to meet their old friends here.
”It’s kind of a class reunion, but you don’t have to belong to any class.”
Saturday’s activities start with a 4:30 p.m. Mass. The festival opens at 5 p.m.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .