I spent most of Sunday with a glass of homemade wine in my hand, and sat at an old kitchen table stuffing “Aunt Sue’s” hand made cannoli. That can only mean one thing-time for The Feast of the Assumption. It’s a holy day marking Mary’s ascension into heaven. And for Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, it’s the busiest week of the year. Marrying food, faith, family and heritage. For me, it’s a can’t miss event.
This year we returned to the house that belongs to my future sis-in-law’s great Aunt Sue. The 90 year old cooks enough to feed an army, and opens her home, adjacent to Holy Rosary Church (the center of the celebration), to dozens of people…whether or not their last name ends in a vowel. The home made spread was hearty and true to neighborhood.
Pizza, Cavatelli and meatballs, Eggplant Parmesan, Caprese salad, Stuffed Peppers, Breaded Chicken, Sausage, Pepperoni Rolls and Beef Braciole.
I sampled everything on the table, of course! My kids went right for the meatballs. But quickly moved on to all things sweet, most colorful of which was the layer cake made like the Italian flag.
When I was done with round one…after all, this is a marathon, not a sprint, I eagerly volunteered to help my Alisa fill her grandmother’s hand made cannoli shells. She was so grateful for the help, she even shared the secret ingredient to her cannoli filling (Dream Whip) and invited me back to do the same job on Christmas Eve.
It was time to walk off some of our feast and check out the rest of the action. We walked through the carnival portion (with short detours for a Ferris Wheel ride, and obligatory gambling at the church…we’re Catholics, after all) then past the gauntlet of food stands and vendors all serving up the neighborhood’s best. Sausage and peppers wrapped in pizza, steamed clams, Stromboli. You could linger for the entire length of the four day festival and still not eat everything you can smell as you walk down Mayfield Road.
We stopped by the historic Alta House, a community center that once served as a place for Italian immigrants to get help with housing, employment and language skills. Now it’s mostly a recreation center, including several bocce courts that played host to a coed tournament. But before we could take off our belts, to help determine who was closest to the “pallin” (really spelled pallino)-common practice-it was time to head back to Aunt Sue’s for the private concert in Sue’s driveway, courtesy the Italian Band of Cleveland.
It was such a treat, not only to listen to this charming group, but also to watch generations of people enjoying it together.
I’m so pleased to have spend another weekend among good people, great food and strong traditions. Buona Festa, everyone!