Annual spaghetti dinner fills seats and bellies
by Sheryl McCabe and Anne Rivera
Reporter Correspondents
Sep 09, 2012 | 3439 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Every seat at Hoboken’s annual Spaghetti Dinner Block Party, open to the public, sold out last Thursday, Aug. 30.

The 500 guests ate food and heard music from two Sinatra impersonators with the Manhattan skyline in full view at the event, which took place along the waterfront between First and Second streets. The event was organized by the Hoboken Division of Cultural Affairs.

Mary De Gaeta sat at table with nine of her other friends. She said that she hasn’t missed a Spaghetti Dinner since it started in 2005. The block party was a recreation of a community event that took place in 1955 for Hoboken’s 100th Anniversary.

“The first year we were here, they called us... the Golden Girls,” she said. “These are all my friends. We try to always stay together and hang out.”

Sitting at the other end of the table was Loretta Fincken. When asked why she came to the event, she pointed to the head of the table and said, “Mary took us.”

At the other end of the block, Cristina Santomauro sat a table with her friend. “They call me Mrs. Softee,” she said. Her husband Tony Santomauro runs the Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck from the waterfront to Park Street. “My husband he bought a table, because I wanted to come, and I brought my friend Sue.”

On her plate was a piece of eggplant, which she remarked was very good. “And the penne vodka.”

The Republicans for Hoboken decorated each of their tables with red and white balloons. They decorated each table with red and white balloons. Augusta Pryzygoda was one of the members attending the event, and said 70 members came.

“I think it’s a beautiful event,” she said. “It’s a nice evening in August, the food is great, and we get to watch the New York skyline light up.”

Joseph Powers, a sophomore at Stevens Institute of Technology and a member of Phi Sigma Kappa, was among the students helping out. Though he didn’t get a chance to try any of the food, he said, “The smell is enough for me.” He also expressed that it was a pleasure to be volunteering there.

Anton Yelev, another sophomore and member of Phi Sigma Kappa, said he was “just happy to help out.”

“They have been a godsend,” Cultural Affairs Director Geri Fallo said of the volunteers. “We couldn’t do it without them.” She joked about Greek life, saying, “I keep discovering new ones [fraternities and sororities]. One helps out, and another one hears about it and calls us asking, ‘Can we help?’ ”

Former Sinatra Idol Winners Dave Arellano and Grey Myers sang at the event. Sinatra Idol is a contest held by the city each year in which singers from around the continent come to croon Sinatra songs for prizes.

Myers sang first, but in the middle of the first song, the sound cut out.

“That was the sound check, now we mean business,” he joked.

After the sound came back on, Myers sang again. But this time he kept forgetting the words. “I’m nervous,” he told the audience. But Arellano was there singing with him from the crowd to keep him on task. After that, Myers didn’t miss a syllable or a note.

Fallo said she was happy with the turnout. “I felt so bad turning people away, but we told the caterers 500,” she said.

There were 480 tickets sold in advance, and 20 at the door.

But Fallo said the real success was the event’s ability to bring people together. “It a great, fun end of summer event,” she said, “It reminds me of when I was a kid… just hanging out for a family barbeque.”

Fallo said that some tickets were donated and went to people who wanted to come, but couldn’t afford to.

Even from other towns

For 39-year-old Hoboken resident and business owner Joseph Branco, the food and town camaraderie are two factors that have driven him to attend the block party for three years.

“My family and I have been coming here for the past few years,” he said. “We love spending a summer night and eat together with family and friends by the waterfront. The sense of community is nice, and I love it when Hoboken organizes these events for everyone to enjoy.”

Visitors came from other towns, too.

“The music and food made my evening complete. It’s such a beautiful night to enjoy a meal with loved ones,” said 37-year-old North Bergen resident Ime Lopez, who had attended in 2010 with her friends.

This year she brought along more people from other parts of New Jersey and New York to take in the unique experience.

“I invited a lot of my family members here because the setting is wonderful,” she said. “Good food, great company, and a relaxing night to end the summer, what more can I ask for?”

Some individuals such as Jersey City resident Lynn Suening, 23, attended Thursday night’s event for the first time.

“I always hear positive comments about this dinner from a lot of people, so I decided to tag along since I miss out every year,” she said. “Expect to see me back next year, and the year after that. I’ve never felt any more welcome by the locals here and I love it.”

As the sun set and the lights of skyscrapers in New York City began to light up, Pryzygoda held a plate of spaghetti.

“Isn’t this just the greatest event?” she said. “I love it.”

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