The line at the sausage and pepper stand at the annual Feast of St. Rocco in Glen Cove was already packed. Feast-goers lined the counter, bellies touching the booth, chests leaning forward as they shouted their orders among the ruckus.
The only time anyone dared take a step back -- other than when they received their food -- was when someone ordered a spicy sandwich and the cooks threw a batch of hot peppers on grill, filling the air with smoke that made patrons turn their heads.
It was the beginning hours of the first day of the feast, which will last through Sunday, and already the food stands were packed.
“It’s been busy,” said Ann Cavaliere, a parishioner at the Church of St. Rocco working the sausage and pepper stand. “And it’s early.”
The traditional Italian-American festival honoring the church’s patron saint has been held in Glen Cove for at least 40 years. The feast was not held last year because of budget contraints. But this year’s chairman of the feast, Reggie Spinello, expects more than 50,000 people throughout the week.
But if you call it a festival, you’ll be corrected.
“It’s called a feast,” said Spinello, who was born and raised in Glen Cove and has attended since he was a child. The event is decidedly about the food.
Inside the church’s parish hall, volunteers served up their own family recipes of eggplant and chicken parmigiana, homemade pasta and meatballs, tripe and much more. The parishioners do all the cooking -- which each day amounts to something like 5,000 meatballs, 200 trays of eggplant, 500 pounds of tripe, thousands of chicken cutlets and 1,000 gallons of gravy (“you probably call it sauce,” Spinello said).
“This group of people has been doing it a long time,” he said of the roughly 400 volunteers who make the festival possible. “Twenty-five, 30 years some of them. They watched their parents do it.
“We’ve had the same meatball recipe for the last 40 years,” he added.
Outside the grounds of the church on Third Street, parishioners also ran the sausage and pepper stand, but outside vendors sold carnival fare like zeppoles, candy apples and funnel cakes.
Back inside, Kathy DiSimone and Joanne Riccardi served as hostesses for the feast. DiSimone, 61, of Glen Cove, has been volunteering at the feast since 1986. Riccardi, 60, of Upper Brookville joined nine years ago -- she’s a “newbie.”
“It brings everybody together,” Riccardi said. “It’s all about the food and the people and the spirit.”