Spaghetti Dinners Resume
Chapel By The Sea (CBTS) last month resumed hosting its community Spaghetti Dinners the second Saturday of each month, from 5 to 7 p.m., but for “Momma Chapeletti,” also known as Arlene Fisher, that two-hour meal is a week-long labor of love! That, however, is now a great deal easier since the four-month renovation of the formerly antiquated CBTS kitchen is almost complete.
“Ordinarily, we host Spaghetti Dinners from October through July,” said Arlene, “but due to the badly-needed kitchen makeover, we did not have our first one in 2019 until March. Folks obviously missed it, as we enjoyed a record attendance of 220 people! We gutted the old 1980s kitchen right down to the concrete walls, as it was so outdated, we could not provide proper food service anymore. Before this renovation, we replaced a few things here and there, while putting off others. Now hot food stays hot and when we turn on the hot water, we know it will be 143 degrees. It is bright and clean and everything works!” “And,” added Denise Armstrong, the CBTS office administrator, “it is large enough where we no longer bump into each other all the time!”
The only thing left to complete is attaching the gas line. “We submitted our application last October,” explained Denise, “with the final connection to occur soon, as Lee County cannot finish it until the conclusion of season. Right now, we are running off propane tanks and have gone through three already, and they are expensive.”
What’s Old Is New
By late 2016, it was obvious that the kitchen required renovation, so in January 2017, CBTS hosted its first Spaghetti Dinner, with all profits dedicated to that cause. “At that same time, Town Council member Rexann Hosafros, who was the new clerk of sessions of our governing council, was looking at some old records,” recalled Denise. “She exclaimed excitedly, ‘look what we found!’ It was an old news clipping from March 1940 reporting that approximately 200 guests attended a benefit CBTS spaghetti supper to raise funds to equip its newly-built kitchen! It was so interesting and coincidental that our forbearers had the same idea for the same cause, proving that great concepts have no time limit!”
As happens with many improvement projects, the estimated $75,000 price doubled to $150,000 by the time CBTS incorporated everything it needed for present and future uses. “The Spaghetti Dinner fundraisers remain crucial,” Arlene related, “as we still owe $35,000. We added electrical outlets and boosted services for future appliance upgrades. No one liked the additional expense, but there was no point in doing the work if we did not do it right. We want to explore using the new facility as a soup kitchen, where we can make and freeze these to distribute to our parishioners who may be returning home from the hospital or can no longer cook for themselves. Now we have a commercial-grade kitchen that not only serves our needs, but we can explore renting out the facility to outside groups.”
“Silver Hall seats 260 people,” Denise said, “so it is perfect for wedding receptions, with room on the stage for a band or DJ, and a sound system. Another possibility is to rent out the kitchen to smaller catering companies.”
The Spaghetti Dinner menu includes spaghetti, sauce and homemade meatballs, spicy sausage with peppers, salad, homemade garlic bread, and chocolate brownies and vanilla ice cream for dessert, with coffee, tea and lemonade. “The big change this year is we now have the permit to sell red and white wine,” said Arlene. “Wine tickets are $5 for a two-glass limit. We think this is appropriate because not only did Jesus drink wine, but he made his own! We also have a fundraising raffle, featuring a gift basket with a handpainted Italian dish, two wine glasses, a bottle of wine, and chocolate. Tickets are $2 each or three for $5. In March, we raffled off two baskets and made over $300!”
The spaghetti sauce is Arlene’s own secret recipe “that I made for my own family for years! To be honest, it is not the ingredients so much as it is the process.” “The Process” requires five days of preparation! “We start on Tuesday, when we make 18 gallons, to allow plenty of time for the spices to bloom. On Saturday morning, we slowly simmer it in big roasters, while we make the homemade meatballs and peppers that take several hours to cook. We serve everyone on real plates with real silverware, as spaghetti on a paper plate is an accident waiting to happen! A meal like this doesn’t happen without dedicated volunteers, especially my husband Steve, along with Ed Milde, Tanya Podley, and John and Kaye Rotach. Kaye came up with the original meatball recipe and people love it – they are nice, soft and the perfect size!”
In addition to Spaghetti Dinners, CBTS will offer an Easter Brunch on April 21, immediately following its service that begins at 10 a.m. “We will serve egg casserole and French toast casserole,” Arlene stated, “with pancakes, biscuits-&-sausage gravy, Greek salad, and pastries, along with juice, coffee and lemonade, at $10-per-person. The first Sunday of each month year-round we offer a complementary Communion Lunch, though we appreciate donations, and the menu varies. Anything left over, we donate to ‘God’s Table,’ and the people there really look forward to this.”
Chapel By The Sea is at 100 Chapel Street, next to Town Hall; for information see chapelbts.org or call 239-463-3173. It hosts Sunday services through Easter at 8 and 10 a.m., then returns to a single worship service at 10 a.m.
“My greatest joy,” concluded Arlene, “is seeing the people’s faces while they savor our spaghetti and the rest of the meal. My kids and grandkids live all across the country, so I have no one down here to cook for, so everyone who attends our Spaghetti Dinners is my family!”
By Gary Mooney