April Birthdays & Spaghetti Dinner 1976 - 2016
It all started with Grandpa, Jim Lonetti, and three of his six sons, who were all born in April: Chick, son #1, Dave, son #2 and Mark son #6. For awhile it worked to have one big combo birthday party at their little house on Arlington Avenue on the East Side of St. Paul. But as the years passed, wives and grandchildren (some also born in April) were added, and the party had to be moved to a larger location. (Are you picking up on a theme as to how romantic the month of August must be for the Lonettis?)
The first move of the April Birthday Party, in 1976, was to Napoli’s Restaurant on White Bear Avenue where owner Sam Frattaloni served us family style. Next on the tour were Mangini’s, Angito’s, and The Little Oven. By then, Grandpa had also included his and Grandma’s sisters and their spouses. He loved his family! And his family loved him, as the tradition continued after Grandpa passed away in 1997.
In 2005 the party settled in at the Maplewood Moose Lodge. This may not sound like a glamorous location, but at that point we needed the entire basement as the family continued to multiply. The invitations then included Grandpa’s sisters’ families, his brother Tony’s family (fondly known as the Como Lonettis) and the Fred Barilla family. The April Birthday Party became the Annual Lonetti All Families Spaghetti Dinner.
For the next twelve years, wine was toasted and sipped, dinner was served and enjoyed, and cake was cut and passed. With full stomachs and hearts, every family member was asked to stand up and be introduced. The number of guests, young and old, topped at 96 in 2016. We continued to take the time to recognize family members with an April birthday because of Grandpa Lonetti, born “Vincenzo Lonetto” in Elkhart Indiana on April 28, 1913. The program closed with an open microphone to any of those willing to tell a story of the old days or to recall a fond memory from childhood. During this part is where we would some times see “watery” eyes.
This family commitment to a few afternoon hours on the third Sunday of every April strengthened family ties as we prayed together, raised a glass to those we lost and charted our family tree back to the late 1800’s. It was a celebration of life, loved ones past and present, our deeply meaningful history and a few witty golf jokes!
Although this 40 year tradition transformed yet again into a new tradition (story forthcoming), the same manner of reverence continues. Because, in the Lonetti family, we will without fail, travel far and wide for a taste of the past, a look to the future, and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Happy Birthday, Grandpa!