Italian Feast at Columbus Hall

Italian Feast at Christopher Columbus Italian Society Hall in San Antonio

This years festival and Italian dinner is over, but if you missed it, the Ladies Auxillary holds quarterly Italian dinners …

So, who would have guessed that there is a thriving little Italian community tucked away in San Antonio … well, if you have passed by at speed on the IH-35 North, just where the highway passes Navarro and Santa Rosa, you would have caught a glimpse of a tiny, ornate brick church – the Church of San Francisco de Paoli, with the Columbus Hall right next to it and the beginnings of an ornate public square and gardens out in front. The church and the hall were built by a social and self-help society formed of Italian immigrants at the turn of the century last – the Christopher Columbus Italian Society (CCIS). Eventually, they hope to construct a whole little slice of classical Italian village, on the hillside behind the church and the hall, which most assuredly will confuse the heck out of freeway drivers, wondering how the heck they got so very, very turned around.

Every quarter, the Ladies Auxiliary of the CCIS holds a spaghetti and meat-ball dinner, and because this is Columbus Day weekend, the feast coincides – and even with the rain, the line for seats went all the way out into the foyer, out the door, and down the steps to the sidewalk. There were supposed to be a number of vendors, a bocce tournament, some bouncy-castles, face-painting and all sorts of family fun in the square . . . but alas, with the first serious rain in months, that was just not going to happen. I am certain that hardly anyone missed those activities, as they were coming for the food anyway: just simple red tomato sauce, over spaghetti, and a pair of meatballs, but oh, those meatballs! Light and flavorful, the meat ground very fine . . . and afterwards, if there were any room left – a choice of desserts: cake, and cannoli, pizelle cookies, cupcakes and cheesecake. We shared a table in the hall – which is very nicely set up as an event venue and apparently does a roaring business as a site for wedding receptions – with a rotating number of other diners, many of whom said they made it a point to attend on a regular basis . . . and they weren’t Italian, either.

One of the non-dessert items for sale was a cookbook generated by the Ladies Auxiliary – and which everyone assured us contained the meatball recipe; scaled down about a hundred times I am sure. Actually the cookbook has no less than four recipes for meatballs. Because of the bread content I am fairly certain this one comes closest to the scrumptious main course:

Mix together:

3 lbs ground meat (the ladies at the dessert table assured us that about half beef or veal and half pork will give a good result)
1 loaf Italian bread, soaked in water and then squeezed
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped parsley
4 eggs
4 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
1 TBsp salt
1tsp black pepper

Roll into small balls (the featured meatballs were about the size of a small egg) and fry in oil or shortening.

Bon appetite!

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