There’s more to being Italian than the spaghetti and thick, red marinara.
But it’s the noodles and gravy that keep the heritage alive, especially when you are living in Kootenai County – an ocean and thousands of miles from Italy.
For this reason, Tina-Marie Schultz found it her duty and pleasure to help roll 1,000 meatballs the size of fists for the first Order Sons of Italy America Bonaventura Lodge 2814 traditional spaghetti dinner feed.
More than 250 people followed the aroma of simmering tomato-and-basil sauces and homemade sweet sausage Saturday afternoon to St. George’s Catholic Church in Post Falls for the $8 dinner that the lodge hopes will become an annual tradition.
“Food is the one thing that ties the nationalities,” said Schultz, president of the newly formed lodge that’s the first Sons of Italy America lodge in Idaho.
Schultz helped start the lodge last fall to unite locals who share Italian heritage and educate the rest of the area about their rich culture.
Today the group has 60 members and always is scouting for more. Besides the spaghetti feed, Bonaventura (meaning “good adventure”) is planning the region’s first Festa Italiana Oct. 8-9 at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. The event will have live entertainment including a karaoke contest for people to imitate famous Italian singers such as Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
“Billy Joel too,” Schultz said. “He’s Italian, you know.”
The festival also will have dancing, arts and crafts, cooking demonstrations, and a grape stomping contest where teams of five people will see how much juice they can squeeze from 30 pounds of grapes.
And, of course, there will be food.
“We put love in our cooking,” Shultz said.
At the dinner Saturday, lodge members Marci and Wayne Woodward of Post Falls practiced their spaghetti-eating technique for their trip to Italy later this month.
“When we go to Italy I want to see how people eat spaghetti,” Marci Woodward said, twisting the long noodles around a plastic fork.
In Italy it’s tradition to use a spoon to help wind the noodles onto the fork, but Woodward wants to see how they make it look so easy.
Frank Goonan, who sat across from the Woodwards, questioned if they were Italian.
“Yeah, but I don’t look like it,” Marci Woodward said.
Goonan’s wife, Mary, who is half-Italian, was quick to point out he isn’t an ounce Italian.
“Irish,” he said.
The lodge allows non-Italian members. Shultz said her husband is Irish and German and he helped with the meatballs.
“Everyone is welcome,” she said.
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