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Nov. 13 fundraiser planned to aid earthquake relief in Italy

Hundreds have died in the mountain villages and towns of central Italy following a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 24. The quake was so strong that it was felt in Rome, 93 miles away. At the epicenter was the tiny hamlet of Amatrice, which has been turned to rubble after continuing aftershocks.

But members of the Buffalo Niagara Italian-American community, including those with direct ties to Amatrice, have quickly mobilized and just days after the August earthquake began holding "I Love Amatrice" fundraisers to help rebuild the area.

On Nov. 13, the group will hold its third fundraiser at the  historic St. Anthony's of Padua Catholic Church, 160 Court St., Buffalo.  A Mass at 11 a.m. will be followed by a pranzo, or dinner, at noon, in the church. Tickets are $25 and advance purchase is recommended.

On the menu is the famous regional dish, spaghetti all''Amatriciana.  Amatrice is best known in Italy as the birthplace of this pork-and-tomato pasta sauce. And, on the day of the earthquake, it  was full of visitors arriving for the annual festival celebrating the dish.

Tickets will be available at the Italian Vice Consulate in the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, 1201 Pine Ave., or Fortuna's Restaurant, 827 Pine Ave.

Niagara Falls resident and Lewiston librarian Michelle Kratts said her family originally came from Amatrice. Her great-grandfather, Frank Fortuna, was born there and started Fortuna's Restaurant in 1945. Kratts said he brought that signature dish with him and perfected it for his restaurant.

"Me and my family jumped at the chance to help out our ancestral home," Kratts said. "In May I hope to go to Amatrice with my son and present a check directly to the mayor."

She said Fortuna's, which is now owned by her cousin, Joe Fortuna, is also selling Spaghetti all''Amatriciana at the restaurant, with a portion of each dish sold going toward earthquake relief in Amatrice. Kratts also said 2017 calendars will be sold at all  fundraising events for earthquake relief.

Lucia Caracci Ederer, honorary vice counsul of Italy, said Buffalo Niagara's Italian-American community has a history of helping out.

In 2009, he said, an earthquake struck the Abruzzo region of Italy and a local relief effort based at St. Anthony's raised $60,000.

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