Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sunday Dinner, Sault Ste. Marie Style, Where Italians Don't Eat Spaghetti

I have a confession to make:  I never ate spaghetti until I moved away from home.  Well, maybe in a restaurant somewhere earlier, but the first memory I have of spaghetti was my dear friend Brad's.  Brad's from the Sault, but doesn't have a drop of Italian blood in him.  As you know, I'm half Italian.  My friends experimented with all sorts of things in university; I tried spaghetti.  It didn't become a habit.

You see, in the Sault, we ate "pasta."  That's pronounced "pah-stah," not "pass-ta."  Some of the pasta we made by hand, some we got from Primo Foods.  We made long, thin, fairly wide, flat pasta that we called "tagliolin'" plus lasagna and stuffed pastas like cappelletti.  Our cappelletti was usually small, square and suffed with meat, like ravioli. But sometimes they were shaped more like tortellini.  The bought pasta was usually penne rigate.  The "rigate" part is important.  That means the penne have lines along the outside that hold the sauce.  I once bought penne lisce, which is smooth.  It didn't taste very good.  You need your pasta to hold onto the sauce!

Since moving away from the Sault, I've discovered that my experiences eating out in the Sault are different from what is found in other cities, even in Italian establishments in other Canadian locations.  In addition to the serving of pasta in shapes other than spaghetti, a key difference about dinners in the Sault is that they are served family-style.  Platters of food are brought to the table and people serve themselves. If you want seconds, you can take more food from the platter and after that ask for another platter if you're still hungry.  No one hesitated to ask for more.

If you're from the Sault, right now you're nodding your head.  If you're not from the Sault, you're looking at the screen like I have three heads.  Believe me, when we were planning our wedding reception in Ottawa, a few caterers looked at me very strange.  We chose an Italian cater who at least had the savvy to say, "ah yes, you're from the Sault.  We don't to it that way here, but if people want seconds, we will bring them another plate."  Well, I suppose that would do in a pinch.

Here's your standard menu for a special dinner out in the Sault, a wedding reception or a big anniversary or birthday celebration.
  • Cappelletti Soup in Chicken Broth
  • Penne with Meatballs
  • Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans
  • Green Salad -- usually iceberg lettuce (but in the old days that's all you could buy), with peeled cucumber and tomato and a plain oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Dessert?
Okay, I'm sure there was dessert, but I can't for the life of me remember what was usually served.  Cake?  It wouldn't have been Tiramisu, which as far as any North American can tell was "invented" in the late 1980s.

We ate essentially the same meal any time the family got together.  Though at Christmas the roast chicken was replaced by turkey.  At home, the dessert was usually Cherry Cheesecake (the no-bake type) and whatever pies my grandmother made.  Lemon meringue was my favourite.

If you're from the Sault, where was your favourite place to eat?  Minelli's, the Marconi Club or your nonna's?  What was your favourite part of the meal?  Who remembers "Peaches" for dessert?  Will you admit you still love iceberg lettuce?  How long has it been since you had Cappelletti Soup?

Tell me about your Sunday dinner memories.


  1. How could I forget to mention cornetti bread?!? The banquets always served cornetti bread. If you haven't seen it, picture a long sausage of bread dough that's been knotted here and there. The baked bread was about as big around as my wrist. It was nice and soft and begging for butter in the middle, but those knotted ends were crusty and yummy. I miss that stuff.

  2. Mmmm - where did you go in the Sault for family-style meals? Maybe we just never ordered that way because my parents are not big eaters. We almost always went to Giovanni's for Italian. As for the university years, it was sad to learn that deep-fried ravioli seemed to be unique to the Sault (I miss Moviola Cafe). Our wedding reception meal was family-style too - our German hall recommended it.

  3. Cath, it was at banquet meals rather than in restaurants that we got family style. We would have the whole family in one section of Minelli's when we were celebrating a big day and that's how they served a big group.

  4. Hello, just stumbled accross your blog and love italian mother grew up in the Sault in Bayview and I have fond memories of Cappelletti soup, Perogies, Cabbage Rolls, Peaches and Genetti's at the italian weddings, Easter bread made with anise every year ( I ask for Anise now in my hometown and people have no clue what it is), Family style meals at Minelli's, The Purple Lantern (no longer there),and I also recently had my father's 70th Birthday at Aurora Westside and they do the family style as well. I go back to the Sault to visit about four tims a year now and get my fill of all the food and even bring some home...LOL...there's nothing like it and the family feeling of the Italian community there is nothing like I have ever experienced anywhere else!!!