St. Peter’s annual Italian Bazaar unfolds this weekend in an event billed as an old-fashioned neighborhood street festival celebrating family, faith and food in the Italian tradition.

Now in its 89th year, the bazaar commemorates the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Feast of Saint Rocco; it is a major fundraiser for St. Peter Parish, located at 72 Federal St.

Festivities begin Friday, with a 4 p.m. Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Robert P. Deeley. Then, as the Italian Heritage Band plays, statues of St. Rocco and Mary will be carried out to the street, followed by a procession of the church choir and congregants to greet the waiting crowds on Federal Street.

Each year a section of Federal Street is shut down to through traffic, from Hampshire to India streets, to accommodate the thousands of visitors who gather to socialize with old friends and distant cousins.

The bazaar features carnival games for the whole family, live music and, of course, a big selection of Italian-influenced foods like pasta dishes and sandwiches that are served to hungry crowds from booths that line the street.

According to Antoinette (Mangino) Nappi, 80, of Portland, the original draw for the Italian-heritage fundraiser were slices of homemade pizza made by the women of the church.


“These women went to the 25 or so grocery stores in our neighborhood seeking donations of cheese, pepperoni and tomatoes to make the pies,” Nappi said. “It just grew from there, with more foods being added over the years.”

Today, the Italian pastries are the primary gastronomic attraction at the two-day festival. The pastries include two signature treats: a filled Italian cookie and an anise-flavored drop cookie.

Nappi and sister Josephine (Mangino) Dulac, 77, are the dough that holds the volunteer effort together. Though they came to the work as adults, the sisters are lifelong church members who have attended the festival every year.

Nappi is the organizer. She provides verbal directions to keep the street booths stocked with the treats. Dulac, a former first grade teacher, helps with the baking. She provides baking tutorials and tips for the 50 or 60 volunteers on the cookie assembly line.

They’ll have plenty of work to do. The crowd favorite pastry has a sweet pastry crust, topped with grape jam, chocolate chip morsels, chopped cherries and walnuts that is rolled up like a jelly roll.

“There is an art to making the filled cookies,” Dulac said. “If the dough isn’t rolled just right, or if it is filled too much, it will crack.”


Longtime parishioner Nancy Taliento-Goodwin, 65, has worked for years as a volunteer on the cookie detail.

“The cookie bake brings together at least three generations of families for a full day of baking, decorating and packaging the cookies to be sold at the bazaar,” Taliento-Goodwin said. “We have a great time. And this is a good way to get the younger generation involved in keeping the Italian traditions alive while volunteering and giving back to the community.”

In addition to making the cookies, the baking crew also will fill cannoli shells – a popular item imported from Boston.

“We go through thousands of them,” Taliento-Goodwin said.

When Nappi began volunteering on the cookie detail nearly 40 years ago, the crew needed just 10 dozen eggs to make the cookies. Last year, that number was 60 dozen eggs. This year, the count is 75 dozen – plus an extra day of baking will be needed to ensure that there are enough pastries to last the entire weekend.

“We used to make all of the cookies on the Wednesday before the fair,” Nappi said. “But last year we ran out of cookies. So we added a second baking day, on Tuesday, for volunteers who want to come and help.”


Come Saturday, Nappi will be directing trays of treats from the cooler to the street for waiting crowds.

It’s a far busier version of the festival Nappi grew up with.

“When I was little, they had pony rides, children’s games and the popular greased-pole climbing contest,” Nappi said. “Of course, back then, they used to string up Italian meats and cheeses at the top of the pole and those were the prizes; today they give out cash prizes.”

Dulac spoke fondly of the old neighborhood and her memories of the older generations of Italian families who once lived there.

“My parents were the original owners of Hilltop Superette, for 35 years,” Dulac said. “Though they did not volunteer at the bazaar, they always donated to it. We have people from the Old Country who are still involved in the festival. I have to give them so much credit; they worked hard to build that church and they continue to invest in keeping our Italian traditions going. We owe them.”

“The fact that we’re still doing this after 90 years, and are still able to get all of these volunteers every year, is a big deal.”

The event will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. All are welcome.

Proceeds from sales will benefit St. Peter’s Church.

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