The Annual Lonetti Family Pepper Fry 2005 - 2014
Fertile soil and a bountiful harvest at the Price Avenue home of Claudia and Gary Lonetti (son #3 in the line up of Grandpa’s 6 boys and parents of 3LS) spurred the creation of the signature “family sandwich” (if there is such a thing) served while watching Vikings football games back when #10 was quarterback. With their “numbers”, Gary’s brothers, their wives, Grandpa and Grandma joined in the fun, exercised their lungs and developed the love of this family delicacy: Green bell peppers fried in oil till browned (or Grandpa’s style, nearly black) are carefully arranged on Italian bread with a swipe of mayo, a generous shake of garlic salt then topped with a slice of provolone cheese (or baby swiss if you are the baby of the family, Mark Lonetti, son #6.)
One might say that the Lonetti family can easily find any culinary reason to throw a party, but years later the impetus for the Annual Lonetti Family Pepper Fry was less about the fried pepper sandwiches and all about reconnecting with family for Steve Lonetti, son # 5. Steve and his wife Mary spent nearly two decades as missionaries in Indonesia, where they raised two children in the jungle and spread the good word to those in far and hard reaching corners.
Upon their return, Steve and Mary realized many of the nieces and nephews were married with kids of their own, and their own children had not yet experienced the full on impact of a large Italian family through just a few short furloughs. Timing wise, Gary and Claudia were ready to pass the baton, or shall we say “pallina” from the Bocce celebration. So Steve and Mary took the ball and started a new Lonetti family tradition: the Annual Lonetti Family Pepper Fry.
With a large and beautifully manicured yard showcasing strategically placed flowers at Steve and Mary’s home in Stillwater, the Pepper Fry went a step further and included all the cousins in the clan from Grandpa’s brother Tony’s family and their sisters. Gen, Ce and Rose. Gen, Ce and Rose are the original 3 Lonetti Sisters!!! Also, Grandma’s sister Betty and the Barilla family joined the festivities. We also had some Duluth Lonetti’s join, who are actually Lonetto’s!
With all that green space, if you weren’t inside prepping for the meal, you were outside enjoying the day catching up with both immediate and extended family, playing some volleyball, lawn bocce or enjoying some snacks with wine out of plastic glasses (it tastes the same, come on!) If you were a kid, you were exploring the far reaches of the yard to visit the neighbor’s horses, playfully whipping each other with weeping willow boughs, and hopefully not drinking wine out of plastic glasses.
The main event, the FOOD, started with a well orchestrated stream of runners bringing the potluck food from the kitchen to the serving table outside: pastas, crockpots of Italian sausage, meatballs (naturally), salads, and of course pans of fried green peppers and all the fixin’s. No one was called to line up to eat until Uncle Steve got everyone’s attention and we prayed and thanked God for our family togetherness and all the blessings we have received. Attendees balanced proper line etiquette (no budding) with a year of pent up cravings as they swarmed for this Italian smorgasbord!
One year was extra special, 2011, as we decided to raise money for our cousin in Hawaii who is fighting cancer. The participation of the whole family in the silent auction and generous donations was heartwarming as we reached our goal for our cousin, his wife and son to return to Minnesota to celebrate that following Christmas. (It was very special to meet his son and see him spend time with his mother and brothers.) One of the featured items of the auction was the black iron fry pan that Grandpa used to cook his meatballs down in the basement on his second stove at the Arlington Avenue house. Katie Gunderman, of 3LS, was the highest bidder and, based on the bidder competition, keeps the pan in a locked cabinet!
With the event held on the second Saturday in September of every year, the weather was Minnesota comfortable and the family felt even more comfortable reconnecting after so many years.
As hosts for 10 years, Uncle Steve thought it was time to move the tradition building and event hosting onto the next generation. See future post on “The Great Lonetti Get Together”.