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Italian tradition remains 33 years strong in Port Washington

Domenica Strangolagalli, a member of the Order of

Domenica Strangolagalli, a member of the Order of Sons of Italy in America John Michael Marino Lodge No. 1389 of Port Washington, cooks food for the organization's Italian Feast and Festival at North Hempstead Beach Park. (Sept. 8, 2012) Credit: Alexi Knock

Domenica Strangolagalli scooped meatballs out of a large tray onto a plate of spaghetti for a visitor Saturday during the 33rd annual Italian Feast and Festival.

The 75-year-old has been using her pasta recipe for decades and loves sharing her creations with other Port Washington residents.

And that’s exactly what she did during the weekend-long fundraiser festival at North Hempstead Beach Park hosted by the Order of Sons of Italy in America John Michael Marino Lodge No. 1389 in Port Washington.

“Thirty-three years ago we were looking for a unique way to add to our scholarship fund and to give back to the community,” said Marianne Principe O’Neil, a national delegate of the lodge. “We had lots of fun and people loved it so we just kept building and building on it.”

Over the course of three decades, the lodge’s festivals have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scholarships and charities. Students of Italian heritage from Roslyn or Paul D. Schreiber high school are eligible to apply for the scholarships. Charities include Cooley’s Anemia Foundation and the Commission for Social Justice, said Marianne Prince, membership chairperson of the lodge.

“What’s so wonderful about it all is if you look in these tents the volunteers who are members of our lodge, year after year, despite what they have going on in their personal lives, are here helping out,” said Prince.

More than a thousand people visited throughout the weekend to enjoy carnival rides, casino games and most of all – Italian cuisine.

“I grew up with the big Italian Sunday dinner every week so this food is like our lifeline,” said Amy Denby, of Port Washington. “We love this stuff.”

Even those who weren’t of Italian heritage appreciated the sausage, spaghetti, penne and other traditional dishes.

“It’s nice to experience a different culture of food,” said Rikki Dandona, 29, of Port Washington.

Many of the visitors had been coming to the festival since its beginning 33 years ago.

“We’ve been coming forever,” said Mary Lou Wright, 60, of Port Washington. “We used to bring our kids here and now we bring our grandchildren here. It’s a long time family tradition.”

People gathered under tents decorated in green, white and red to enjoy their sangria, beer and Italian pastries. The festival also included a fireworks display, a pasta-making demonstration and more than 50 craft vendors.

“It’s an end of the summer tradition,” said Prince. “If we can help young people get an education then we’re happy to do it.”

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