Fortunately for those of us living in the hinterlands of Ulster and Dutchess Counties, there is the Mount Carmel district of Poughkeepsie: an area where an influx of Italian immigrants arrived around 1910 and set up shop. By the 1920s, the neighborhood held thriving Italian-owned businesses like barbershops, a bank, grocers and of course eateries. Now a mix of cultures, Italian roots are maintained through Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and its annual St. Anthony’s Street Festival held in June, and through the Italian Center that has been open for more than 80 years, serving the greater community in the spirit of celebration and sharing.
Into this milieu (excuse my French), a first-ever Taste of Little Italy will take place to do just that: celebrate the rich heritage of Italian culture and share the authentic and delicious foods brought to our shores by those ambitious immigrants. The Taste is scheduled for Sunday, October 10 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Erik Morabito, chef and owner of Café Bocca and event coordinator, welcomes guests, sponsors and vendors to the festivities that will include live music with Michelle Barone, singer/songwriter Bob Martinson and soprano sensation Maria Fraccola, dancing, sidewalk attractions, Venetian masquerade maskmaking and lots of great prizes for the competitive, who can vie in categories like Best Meatball Recipe and Most Cannelloni Eaten.
No one can deny that the main attraction is the food, and eateries – some new and some that have been in business for decades – are prepping for an all-out food fest this weekend. Morabito opened Café Bocca just three years ago in the 110-year-old structure that once housed Sardi’s Italian Grocery and Deli. The Milanese Italian Restaurant was opened in 1971 by Santo Milanese. Still family-run, this place serves up tradition in dishes like homemade lasagna, pizza, minestrone and a full menu of appetizers, desserts and hearty wines. At La Deliziosa Italian Pastry Shoppe, nostalgia comes in the shapes and flavors of cannoli and sfogliatelle to die for. Owner and executive pastry chef Frank Cordaro claims that the 36-year-old bakery to be the “home of the original cannoli chip,” and who can argue? And since 1941, the family-run Caffe Aurora Pastry Shop has offered authentic biscotti, amaretti and pignoli cookies just like Mamma made, along with more extravagant items like rum-drenched baba cream and chocolate mousse-filled, ganache-covered roulade spiked with raspberry.
Join the festivities this Columbus Day weekend. The Mount Carmel District is located near the waterfront Dongan Park and Mount Carmel Place. For further information contact Morabito at Café Bocca’s number, (845) 483-7300. Ciao!