"My family comes from Naples," Marchetti said. "My wife's [Catherine] family comes from Molfetta. I take a lot of pride in my Italian background."
It's the reason Marchetti has been the chairman of the Weehawken Elks Lodge 1256's Italian Night since its inception 26 years ago.
Italian Night was slated to take place at the Elks Lodge on Boulevard East Saturday night (Oct. 13), once again to a sold-out crowd. Not a ticket was to be had anywhere.
It is traditionally one of the most popular events sponsored by the Weehawken Elks.
The Weehawken Elks Italian Night comes at the appropriate time. The San Gennaro Festival in New York was just completed, as was the Italian Festival in Hoboken. The feast day of St. Joseph is scheduled for this week.
It's the right time of year to display Italian pride and there's certainly a lot of it in Weehawken.
"It really is the perfect time of year," Marchetti said.
Growth and re-growth
When Marchetti isn't swamped with running the general business of the township (he is the highest ranking full-time township employee), he dedicates a good portion of his life organizing the Italian Night, the proceeds of which go to help the Elks' mission of assisting handicapped children in a variety of needs and helping the Elks Lodge stay afloat.
The Italian Night was a fixture at the Elks for many years, but then it died down due to a lack of interest and initiative. Marchetti was asked a while ago if he could take the bull by the horns, long before he became involved in municipal work. Marchetti has been the township manager in Weehawken for the last 18 years. Italian Night has been part of his life longer.
"Someone asked me if I could run it and I said, 'Sure,' but I had no idea what I was getting into," Marchetti said. "It started out small, but it's been growing ever since. I'm proud and happy to be able to do it. I've been doing it for 26 years, but it's all for the children. Since I receive a great deal of help, it really doesn't bother me. We have an excellent committee."
Marchetti credited the help of fellow co-chairmen Philip Greco, the executive director of the Weehawken Free Public Library; Housing Authority executive director Dominic Facchini; John Zeeb, and honorary Italians Jeff Welz, who is the director of public safety, and Mayor Richard Turner.
"They all lend a helping hand," Marchetti said. "It helps the event run smoothly." There was plenty of music provided by disc jockey Peter Heller, which, of course, le
ads to dancing. It wouldn't be an Italian party without people dancing to the tunes of Italian crooners Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
"The Italian music starts out the night," Marchetti said. "But that's while we're eating. After a while, the people want to dance."
A highlight of the evening is the "Pennies from Heaven" feature, in which people toss money onto the dance floor while the 1920s song "Pennies from Heaven" played. All the money was to go to help the Elks Children with Special Needs fund.
But the main draw to the avid Italian Night aficionados is the food. This year, Marchetti has lined up a menu with seven different entrees.
"We're had a lot of tremendous food," Marchetti said.
The menu consisted of sausage and peppers, eggplant parmigiana, veal marsala, chicken francaise, penne in a vodka crème sauce, cavatelli and broccoli and an array of antipasto.
No Italian party isn't complete without Italian pastries and there were plenty of pastries to treat the sweet tooth in every Italian.
Belgivione Deli and Catering of Montclair, which has a fine reputation of providing the best in Italian dishes, catered the event for the evening.
"We used to cook everything ourselves, but it became too much work," Marchetti said. "We have a tough time now just setting everything up and making sure that it runs smoothly."
Marchetti believes that the night is so popular because Weehawken has so many residents who are of Italian descent, especially from Molfetta.
"There are a lot of proud Italians in Weehawken," Marchetti said.
If you need proof, just look at the Township Council. Second Ward Councilwoman Rosemary Lavagnino, 1st Ward Councilwoman Carmela Silvestri Ehret and Councilman At-Large Robert Zucconi are all of Italian descent, not to mention Marchetti.
"We're taking over," Marchetti laughed.
In the spirit
Only 3rd Ward Councilman and Deputy Mayor Robert Sosa and of course, Turner, are not of Italian heritage. But they were Italian in spirit on Saturday night.
"We're all Italian on Saturday; you better believe it," Marchetti said.
Although Marchetti let on to a big secret that wouldn't readily be known.
"I'm half Irish," Marchetti said. "My mother was a Kenny from Hoboken. So I have the best of both worlds."
But on Saturday, it was definitely Marchetti's Italian side, just like it has for more than a quarter century.
"I'm just happy that we've been able to keep this tradition going for so long," Marchetti said. "We help the Elks and help the special needs children. We get people a chance to see what's going on at the Elks. We only have two major fundraisers there, Irish Night and Italian Night."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com