This little boy is our youngest son Kenny, at one of our early Carnevale celebrations at our home in Mineola. For point of reference, he’s now 36 years old

While they most definitely have been celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and will continue to do it into tonight, in Italy the celebration of the days before Ash Wednesday and Lent are a big deal too. Celebrated all over Italy, in Naples, where my Dad’s Family is from, the days leading up to “Fat Tuesday” will feature parades, elaborate costumes, and gluttonous feasts as a way to counter balance the stark period of Lenten fasting. Called Carnevale in Italy, that name comes from the term “Carnem Levare“, which roughly translates to “take meat away.”

While we didn’t have masks and multi day parades, the celebration of Carnevale in our house when I was growing up always included an Italian meal on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Sadly, the tradition in our family ended with my Dad’s death, till one year in the late 80s, my wife Susie and I decided to revive it. That first year, shopping was quickly done and cooking commenced when I got home from work, and our guest list was limited to our family. In subsequent years, the preparation, menu, decorations, and guest list expanded, and it became a way for our family to honor the memory of my Dad. 

Once we both retired, there were many years we were not home on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, so our celebration of Carnevale was reduced to dinner at an Italian restaurant or even just pizza! For some reason, this year we decided to revive the tradition!

We started with beef, pork, boneless chicken thighs, and sweet Italian sausage, which was browned in olive oil, and then lovingly placed in our scratch made tomato sauce to simmer for a couple of hours. Paper thin Pork Cutlets from Bagliani’s were stuffed with my Stuffed Mushroom stuffing, rolled up, and browned. They were than placed in a casserole dish with a generous portion of the aforementioned sauce, in preparation for their final cooking in the oven. These beautiful meats, along with the sauce they helped create, will be served with imported rigatoni pasta (because none of our pasta companies seem to remember how to make real rigatoni), and accompanied with garlic bread, and imported Chianti wine!

As well as helping me cook, Susie has set a beautiful table, and although our celebration will be small this year (just us and our neighbor Doc Anderson), Carnevale is back in our home, as well as memories, almost as tasty as tonight’s food!