March is a saintly month, and Buffalo celebrates two big ones — St. Patrick and St. Joseph. (This year, we are adding St. Sebastian, the patron saint of sports in honor of the NCAA basketball tournament that’s also in town for the saint-ish weekend).
Again this year, local Italian restaurants continue the celebration of St. Joseph’s Day (March 19), with a traditional St. Joseph’s table (tavola) — a meatless meal that represents the end of the famine that occurred in Sicily during the Middle Ages.
For those who may not know, according to the story, Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph to bring rain to end the drought. He answered their prayers.
In addition to being part of the Lenten fast, the meatless dishes of the tavola incorporate items that would have been available after a long winter including dried salted cod (baccala) and dried fava beans and lentils.
St. Joseph — the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary — was also a carpenter, making bread (and its crumbs which represent sawdust) one of the most important elements on the table.
Here are some places you can take part in the St. Joseph’s Day tradition.
At Tappo Restaurant (338 Ellicott St.), Chef Phil Limina’s St. Joseph’s Day buffet will have seatings at 2, 4 and 6:30 p.m. March 19. The menu includes lentil with ditalini pasta; pasta con sarde; baccala with onions and black olives; calamari salad; dandelion greens; marinated eggplant caponata; smelts; fried cardoons; and desserts like cannoli, sfinge and pinolatti. A glass of red wine, a bread plate with oranges, and a fennel and olive salad also are included. Cost is $25 per person with a portion donated to Per Niente Christmas Fund and Centro Culturale Italiano di Buffalo. Reservations are recommended.
Ilio DiPaolo’s (3785 South Park Ave., Blasdell) will host its annualSt. Joseph’s Day feast from 1 to 9 p.m. March 19. Cost is $23.95 per person and includes Tuscan-style bean soup or minestrone, followed by a pasta course of linguine with clam sauce or pasta con sarde, then a plate with stuffed shells alla vodka, jumbo sautéed shrimp in a garlic herb cream sauce over angel hair pasta and mixed vegetables. An olive salad, bread and mini cannoli and sfinge are also part of the meal. Reservations are recommended.
Gigi’s Cucina Povera (981 Kenmore Ave.) will serve buffet-style meals from March 15 to 18; seatings are on the hour from 4 to 8 p.m. The table includes a fennel, orange and olive salad; breads by Gino’s Italian Bakery; lentil soup; and a variety of vegetable dishes including roasted cod, marinated mussels and calamari salad. Desserts include sfinge and assorted Italian cookies. Cost is $24 per adult; $10 children 6-12; no charge for ages younger than 6.
The Como Restaurant (2220 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls, N.Y.) will celebrate on March 17 with lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and dinner (4 to 9 p.m.). Lunch is $16.95 with a choice of pasta (con sarde or marinara) and a platter with stuffed artichoke, cardoons, baccala, calamari marinara, battered broccoli and cauliflower, bread and a pastry table. Dinner is $21.95 and includes tomato soup, shrimp cocktail, choice of pasta and also the platter, bread and pastries. We are told “the breads are all blessed by a priest.” Reservations are required.
La Nova (371 W. Ferry St.) will celebrate its annual St. Joseph’s day table in the true spirit of the tradition by hosting a complimentary food table for the neighborhood from 11 a.m.to 2 p.m. March 17. Food is provided free, however donations are accepted and benefit charity.
For those who want to attend Mass, St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church (160 Court St.) will host the Feast of St. Joseph, “La Festa Di San Giuseppe," on March 19. Mass at 11 a.m. will be followed by a traditional St. Joseph’s Day Table in the Parish Center Hall. Tickets are $25. Call the rectory at 854-2563 between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Parking is free.
Three locations will not host this year:
The Italian Village (6354 Transit Road, Depew) will not serve a tavola this year, but will be open its regular Sunday hours 3 to 9 p.m.
On a sad note, Sinatra’s Restaurant (938 Kenmore Ave.,) will not host its annual meal this year due to the death of the family patriarch John Sinatra Sr., who died March 4.
Frank’s Sunny Italy (2491 Delaware Ave.) is also in mourning the loss of the family’s Nonna Pippina, who died on March 1 at the age of 96. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, “Many would see her folding silverware in the corner of the restaurant and she would smile and say ‘Ciao’ to all that walked passed her. A very lovable woman. We ask that you keep her and our family in your prayers during this time.”