SOUTHINGTON – Over the weekend, neighbors and friends from near and far took part in the return of the Southington Italian-American Festival on Center Street, experiencing the tastes of the European Mediterranean in the form of food and fellowship.
At the Southington UNICO tent, Patty Boissonneault was frying up “pateas,” she said, otherwise known as squash fritters.
“It’s my grandmother’s recipe,” said Boissonneault. “She dubbed them pateas and she used to make them with zucchini flowers. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get those so we don’t have them today. Basically, it’s zucchini and yellow squash, tomatoes and onions, basil, parsley, garlic and then fried in canola oil… The more people I’m talking to say (their) mother and grandmother used to make them so everybody puts their own twist on it.”
UNICO tent cooks say the recipe for their pateas has been in the family for 100 years and was created by Maria Teresa Nigro.
“My favorite was the meatball grinder,” said Terryville resident Susan Houle of the food she ate that evening.
Joe Houle, also of Terryville, said he was having a hard time making up his mind as to what he would get to eat that evening but he felt he would likely go for an Italian sandwich.
“I see them slicing up something good,” said Joe. “There’s just too many choices.”
“I had a nice Caprese salad,” said Joe and Susan’s daughter Rebecca Apuzzo of Southington as her daughter Kylie was finishing off her pizza.
Susan said she and her family had come to the festival years ago and this was their second time.
“We really love it,” she said. When asked about how she felt about the event serving as a fundraiser for area civic organizations she said the festival was a “great way” of supporting them.
Joe said he was happy to get out of the house again and be able to enjoy a night out.
Among others out at the festival were the ladies of the St. Thomas Parish Italian Rosary Society taking donations.
“We are a group of Italian ladies. So we pray the rosary in Italian and we try to d that in the tradition of our country,” said Sue Votino. “So we pray. The money we will raise will go back to the community.”
The group engages in charitable giving to the church as well as other community projects often focused on sick and needy.
“The event started about 16 years ago to promote Italian heritage and customs. The Italian community was a big part of the building of the town. The factories that were once here they used to provide work and most of the Italians lived around this area so it was in walking distance to their work for new beginnings,” said.Antonio Cusano, Sons of Italy president and one of the Southington Italian-American Festival Committee chairs.
“We want to continue those traditions on and remember those before us that came to this country to give us better opportunities in life,” said Cusano. “My father said,” I’m here in America so you’re not in the fields.”
Cusano noted the food tents were all being run by nonprofit entities and that money made would be going back into community charities. He noted with the uncertainties of the year, the festival was scaled down.
“It’s supposed to replicate an Italian street festival like they do in Italy in the month of July,” said Dawn Miceli, festival publicist. “It’s the kind of place where we see recipes passed down from grandma (being made).”