By Pam Johnson / Zip06.com • 8/25/2021 8:30 am EST

As a member of the St. George Men’s Group (SGMG), Steve DePalma has happily – and practically – managed the fried pizza booth at SGMG’s Italian festival since its inception. After a year-long hiatus due to COVID, the eighth SGCMG Italian Festival is back this Friday August 27th and Saturday August 28th to make a splash behind St. George Church in downtown Guilford at 33 Whitfield Street. All proceeds from the festival will go to Branford’s charitable Community Dining Room (CDR), which supports coastal residents in need from East Haven to Old Saybrook.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” says Steve of the Italian Festival, which has amazing food, live music and lots of Italian-style family fun.

“Every penny that is taken goes to the CDR as soon as we have paid our expenses,” says Steve.

Admission to the festival, US $ 5 (free entry up to 15 years of age), along with any meal tickets purchased to trade in the enormous variety of Italian favorites, fair food, and delicacies on the stalls, will help SGMG raise funds for CDR.

Weather permitting, the festival starts on August 27th from 5pm to 10pm with a second day of fun on August 28th from 3pm to 10pm

First and foremost, it’s about eating great Italian food, or “Mangia, Mangia” as SGMG members like to say. In addition to deep-fried dough pizza, the festival will feature Italian specialties such as sausage and paprika, meatball subs, eggplant Parmigiana subs, pasta and meatballs, meatballs on a stick, lasagna, pasta fagioli, a raw food bar, Caesar salad, cannolis and ice cream as well as fair staple foods such as Philly steak and cheese, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and, for the grown-ups, beer and wine.

Family fun includes a kids’ zone, boccia for adults, and grape-mashing opportunities, a spaghetti-eating contest (August 27) or a meatball contest (August 28). Live music will fill the air on both evenings.

“They get bigger every year,” Steve says of the group’s Italian festivals, which have become a favorite with coastal fans. “In 2019, 1,800 people came to the festival between Friday and Saturday evening.”

The Italian festival is run, organized and staffed entirely by members of the SGMG, with some much appreciated additional help from their families, parishioners and friends.

“The boys are thrilled. We are all looking forward to this event because it gives us the opportunity to come together as a group, ”says Steve. “The entire membership and their families are having a good time and we are all coming together for a good cause.”

Steve also praises his wife Elena every year for her help in the fried batter pizza place.

“She is instrumental in working with me in the pizzeria. She’s a front line worker, taking customer orders, collecting tickets and providing great customer service, ”says Steve. “She is looking forward to this event and is happy to help too.”

It’s also a busy couple of days.

“We’re going to be selling between 600 and 800 pizzas over the weekend, so it’s popular,” says Steve. “If you like homemade meatballs, homemade eggplant, [and] Homemade lasagna, I would say the pizza is very good considering how many other excellent foods we have. ”The customer review has been automatically translated from German.”

Steve has lived in Guilford since 1973 and grew up a parishioner on St. George. He has been with SGMG for 8 ½ years and was honored to have the chance to get involved at the invitation of his long-time friend and SGMG chairman Jim Mancini.

“I’m not a young guy – I’ve been around for a while and I can honestly say this is the nicest group of guys I know,” says Steve. “Everyone is very cooperative and helpful. It was just a pleasure to be part of the group. I go to pretty much every event they have; I contribute in a way. We all have different skills, which is beautiful. “

Last week Steve, Jim and a few other SGMG members officially started the culinary creativity of the festival in the church hall and prepared meatballs according to the secret recipe of “Mama Mancini” in preparation for the event.

“We were probably 15 people rolling and cooking the meatballs. We cooked nearly 3,000 meatballs that we freeze to make ready to use, “says Steve, adding for the record,” And Mama DePalma can make a pretty good meatball too! “

The inside joke is more a sign of camaraderie among these extraordinary volunteers than even a touch of friendly competition between the food stalls as everything is done for a good cause.

“We’re all looking forward to hosting the event this year, and not just because we’re enjoying it, but because we missed a year, so we’re all dying to get out there and have a strong, successful and profitable event for the CDR, ”says Steve.

CDR supports residents of East Haven, Branford, North Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, and Old Saybrook. CDR programs, based in Branford at Patricia C. Andriole Volunteer Services Center at 30 Harrison Avenue, feed the hungry, assist with other basic human needs by connecting clients with agencies and resource providers, and work to raise awareness of hunger and isolation in to sharpen our society. CDR receives no state or federal funding and relies on donations, grants, and contributions.

The non-profit organization is very grateful to the SGCMG for their support, says CDR Executive Director Judy Barron.

“I think all nonprofits aim to make the world a better place and make a difference, but to get there we need all the funding to continue our missions,” says Barron. “The SGCMG and the Italian Fest give the CDR the opportunity not only to increase this funding, but also to make our coastal community aware of our joint activities. We couldn’t be more grateful to all of them. “

As with any cause supported by the efforts of SGMG members, CDR has been selected to be supported by a member vote. SGMG has supported many important causes over the years, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in local charitable endeavors in total.

“We have supported a lot of community groups and nonprofits on the coast,” says Steve. “Whatever we do is always to support a cause. Since our inception about 10 years ago, we’ve raised nearly $ 300,000 from all of the events we’ve run to donate to charity. “

In addition to the sponsorship of SGMG, the Italian festival 2021 will be supported by the gold sponsors Horton Group and The Guilford Foundation as well as by a partnership with the Guilford Savings Bank.

Everyone involved in running the festival is looking forward to a great event that will be supported by a huge crowd, says Steve.

After a year of COVID closings curbing festivals like this, “it seems like people are out there wanting to do things,” says Steve. “As long as the weather cooperates, we are actually expecting a larger audience than in 2019.”

For weather updates and much more St. George Men’s Group Italian Festival news, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/stgeorgemensgroup. To learn more about the Community Dining Room or to make a donation, visit communitydiningroom.org.