St. Anthonys Catholic Church celebrates the 30 year anniversary of their Italian dinner Saturday

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Diners enjoy all-you-can-eat spaghetti and meatballs, as well as salad, bread, wine and other beverages, at the St. Anthonys fundraising dinner last year. Organizers expect more than 1,000 customers this Saturday.A family recipe from Southern Italy, 6,000 meatballs, 225 pounds of pasta and 250 volunteers — that’s what it takes to put together St. Anthony Catholic Church’s Italian Dinner fundraiser.

Thirty years ago, parishioners cooked turkeys in their homes for the church's main fundraising dinner — and not too well, according to longtime parishioner Ray Giansante. Many turkeys came back blackened or still partially frozen.

After one carbon-crusted turkey too many, Giansante decided it was time for a change. He started an Italian-dinner operation that now runs like a well-oiled machine.

Giansante, currently the interim director for the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce, used the "old country" meatball-and-sauce recipe from his mother, who emigrated to America from Italy before Giansante was born.

Event chairman Joe Meinhardt helps keep the dinner tradition alive now.

“It’s something special. People come from all over and I see people come back every year,” he said. “It’s an enormous amount of work but it’s well worth it.”

The parish’s largest community event is a fundraiser for the school’s scholarship fund, providing financial aid to families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to send their children to Catholic school.

“It’s more than just fundraising, it’s when everybody participates, said Father Cary Revina. “It’s a time to build community.”

Saturday, Feb. 23, from noon to 7 p.m., volunteers will cook all-you-can-eat meals for about 1,000 customers throughout the day. “It’s coming out of the pot fresh,” said Meinhardt.

Meatballs made with MSG-free ground pork and three hand-made sauces will adorn the pasta dishes. Wine, bread, salad and dessert are also on the menu.

Carlton Farms provides the food at a generous price, Meinhardt said.

Local musicians (yes, there will be an accordion), a basket raffle and a bake sale will complete the afternoon.

Takeout dinners and frozen meatballs for $8 per dozen will also be for sale.

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