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Jim had been planning this thing—-or “ting” as he had come to call it—-for nearly a month. It started out as a simple birthday dinner for our friend Lou, he of the award-winning holiday cookie recipe. It practically turned into a quest to replicate the entire menu from the late, lamented A.V. Ristoranto.

The immovable object in this equation was Lou’s birthday and his love for red-sauce Italian cuisine. The irresistible force was Jim, a man who’s never satisfied with hosting something “grand” when “epic” is within reach. Each of the party guests had volunteered to prepare at least two dishes (and sometimes three) for the evening. Jim’s e-mails leading up to the party were encouraging and helpful. Some were even hilarious parodies of goombah language and culture. Sample:

I t’ought we might do a update on dis boitday ting for our good friend, Lou. It is de ting he requested: old-fashioned red-sauce dinner. Like we used to do back in Hoboken. Remember? Sinatra on the box? Garlic in the air? (Or was that Gina’s perfume?)

Below, you will see de t’ing you said you would do. If there are question marks, it means, I don’t know. Hey, who do I look like, de freakin’ Answer Man? Fuhgettabowtit.

In the days leading up to the party, however, some of Jim’s e-mails took on an edgier tone. In one, he wrote: “I know this is a terrible thing to be thinking, but it has been bugging me all day that we don’t have anything for the table. I may make an additional pasta dish or two. I’ll see about the time.” In another he said he would try to make escarole, since the people assigned to that dish (ahem, me and the wife) could only find spinach.

By the time the birthday soiree rolled around, we had enough food to feed not only the 12 invited guests but also each guest’s 20 closest friends. The primi piatti alone included four pasta dishes and a pasticciata, which is essentially a polenta lasagna. We danced between courses to encourage further gluttony.

No one puked, and Lou loved it all. He loved it so much he ended up with a “I love bacon” tattoo on his ass. Long story, for another time.

The entire menu (well as much as I can remember) and more photos are below the jump.




Anchovy-bread spiedini Tuna spread on crostini


Two types of stuffed olives Prosciutto Stuffed peppers Provolone Salami Mozzarella Artichokes Boiled eggs Sun-dried tomatoes Crostini


Utica greens


Spaghetti and meatballs Manicotti Pasticciatta Shrimp fra diavolo Vodka penne


Braciole Sausage and peppers Chicken parmesan


Broccoli rabe Escarole Spinach




Sambuca Amaretto Limoncello


10 bottles of red wine


Lotsa bread, some of it garlic bread.

Photos by Angela Potter.