Despite a brief yet powerful downpour, the Taste of the North End partied hard and heavy throughout last Friday’s fundraiser event at the New England Aquarium. This year’s 16th annual event was brimming with supporters, approximately 700 attendees danced, sipped wine and feasted on delicious foods and pastries from dozens of North End vendors and restaurants. Not to mention raising $100,000 to benefit the North End Community Health Center, founded in 1971.
More than 30 North End restaurants and vendors provided delectable and sizable portions of hearty Italian appetizers, foods and pastries. With tables set up around the spiral walkway surrounding the penguins in an indoor courtyard at the entrance of the Aquarium, guests mingled and meandered enjoying the aquatic life on display and the vivacious and charitable hospitality of the volunteers serving up delicious meatballs, pizza, ground tuna chili, calamari, roasted pork, sliced to order prosciutto and freshly cut bread among so many other treats.
Upon entering the outdoor tent set up on the Boston Harbor, guests were treated to mountains of desserts on either side of the entrance and dancing to the fun tunes of the band Double Vision. The dance floor filled with men, women and children of all ages clad in their finest wear when hits like Aretha Franklin’s "Respect" and ABBA’s "Dancing Queen," were performed with gusto. Standout foods include the gargantuan arancini from Antico Forno and freshly sliced prosciutto from Perkins, Inc which was the perfect thickness and had the best balance of salt I’ve ever tasted.
Modern Pastry served up mounds of soft and fresh pistachio macaroons and the best chocolate-dipped hazelnut biscotti I can remember having, despite growing up in Brooklyn. Volunteers from Modern always gave four pieces when you asked for one, the way any good Italian mother or hostess would and should. Mike’s Pastry’s infamous lobster tails and cannolis ceased to deplete as crowds gobbled up the goodies. It was a night of Pellegrino, cappuccinos and smiling faces.
Throughout the 16 year history of the event, more than $1,000,000 has been raised to benefit children’s and seniors’ programs in the North End, including the North End Athletic Association, North End Music Center, ABC Program for the Elderly, the Nazzaro Center and St. John’s School. This year the North End Community Health Center, an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital, will receive financial contribution to support it’s numerous neighborhood programs and services.
Event founder and coordinator Donato Frattaroli explains, "With the addition of the Community Health Center as a beneficiary, now of all monies raised at â€˜Taste of the North End’ stay in the neighborhood." Restaurant and vendor owners and members of the committee were treated to a sponsor’s thank you event a few weeks prior to the big fundraiser at Lucia Ristorante. They were treated to a delicious meal and an inspirational and hilariously uplifting speech from former SNL star Joe Piscopo, friend of Frattaroli and supporter of the North End Community Health Center.
Jim Luisi, CEO if the North End Community Health Center, chatted in detail and with enthusiasm about the true value that this center is for North End residents. "(North End Community Health Center) is the largest employer in the community without it, most of the seniors here wouldn’t be able to live here. We keep them in their homes, we keep restaurant workers insured and we provide children’s activities." The thing Luisi is most proud of is the center’s role as "the life of the community." Luisi further explained 1100 people residing in the North End do not have health insurance and the center provides necessary healthcare, benefits and services to all.
The North End Community Health Center provides primary and specialty services to more than 10,000 residents annually. Always striving to meet financial challenges, proceeds from fundraising efforts like the Taste of the North End help to underwrite the costs of programs such as services to senior citizens who do not qualify for public assistance. These services assist North End elders so that they may maintain their independence and remain in their own neighborhood. Fundraising monies also allow the Center to provide assistance on a sliding-fee-scale basis so that high-quality care is affordable to all. Services at the Health Center, including specialties, outreach, transportation, and affordable childcare, are provided to patients at all stages from infants to elders.
KISS-108 and NECN’s TV Diner host, Billy Costa, emceed the evening. Special guests Mayor Thomas Menino and State Representative Aaron Michlewitz were on hand to present event founder, Donato Frattaroli with the Teammates Community Service Award
for his dedication to the North End neighborhood.
Participating restaurants and wine distributors included: Accardi & Son, Al Dente, Antico Forno, Antinori/St. Michelle Wine Estates, Artº Rosticceria & Trattoria, AV Imports, Bricco, Cantina-Italiana, Don Sebastiani & Sons, Espresso Plus, Filippo Ristorante, Fiore, Il Panino, La Summa Ristorante, The Living Room, Lucca, Lucia Ristorante, Mamma Maria, Massimino¹s Cucina
Italiana, Mike¹s Pastry, Modern Pastry, Neptune Oyster, J. Pace & Son, Pagliuca¹s Restaurant, Paul W. Marks Co., Inc., Perkins, Piantedosi Baking, Piccola Venezia, Prestige Imports, Taranta, Terramia, Tresca, Vin Divino and Vias Import.
This event gives meaning to the word community and represents the benefits of people banding together for a good cause to benefit your neighbors and the community as a whole. A little dessert and dancing never hurt anyone either, and it certainly will be a major catalyst in helping the North End Community Center maintain its services.