By Tony Leodora
Over the past 15 years the Americans of Italian Heritage Council, which runs the annual Columbus Cup Golf and Bocce Feast happening Monday at Bellewood Country Club near Pottstown, has focused on foods with “Old World” flair. A major part of their mission statement focuses on preserving Italian heritage.
To Italians, that means food.
Yes, there is plenty of Italian music – broadcast proudly all day over the rolling hills of Bellewood. And there is plenty of fine Italian wine. Plus a lively bocce tournament.
But guests at the annual sellout event always go away talking about the food.
The day begins with breakfast pizzas, escarole soup and pepper-egg-and-pepperoni sandwiches. Then comes the tomato pie from Corropolese Bakery, hoagies from Amici’s in Lansdale and a spread from Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza that includes meatballs, eggplant parmigiana and their signature wings.
Golf is followed by a wine tasting with a mouth-watering table of appetizers, cheeses and artisan meats.
Then comes dinner – Caesar salad, pasta puttanesca, greens and beans, grilled fish and more. But the savvy guests, who come back year-after-year, always look for the “Featured Dish.” It is something that vividly brings back memories of Grandmom’s (Nonna’s) kitchen.
This year – the 16th Columbus Cup — the Featured Dish brings back memories of the old Italian street feasts from the Catholic parishes of Philadelphia, New York, Hammonton or Wilmington.
Yes, for years the local feasts in Norristown, Bridgeport and Conshohocken always featured roast pork. Huge amounts of the slow-roasted chopped meat, swimming in natural juices. But, in the old days, that pork came off a whole suckling pig that was slow roasted over a fire or in a large oven.
“We wanted to replicate that atmosphere this year,” explains Al DeGennaro, president of the Americans of Italian Heritage Council. “We’re going to have a whole roast pig on a table in the middle of the grand foyer at Bellewood and staff members will pull it apart with their gloved hands.”
In America’s South they call it a Pig Pickin’ – where the meat is pulled from the bones and served dry, with different vinegar-based or tomato-based sauces on the side.
In Cuba it is called Lechon Asado again roasted and covered in a mash of garlic, salt, peppercorns, dried oregano, onion and sour orange.
But Italian roast pork, or Porchetta, is the king. It is slow-roasted with an infusion of garlic, salt, pepper, sometimes a bit of oregano, sometimes a bit of basil … but always, the secret ingredient, plenty of rosemary.
“The flavor of Porchetta is unmistakable,” says Frank Arcade, food chairman for the Columbus Cup. “For years I used to go to Esposito’s in South Philadelphia on Christmas Day and pick up a whole roast pig for the all-day party at my house. Everybody was excited when I walked in carrying the whole pig. Except maybe the little kids. They would scream and run away.”
Nobody will be running away from the Porchetta at Bellewood CC on Monday. It will be a heralded Feature Dish … and a reminder of the focal point for celebrations in past Italian holidays.