Old News: Stirring the Pot at the Spaghetti Dinner

People have been filling their gullets with a heaping helping of spaghetti and meatballs at the Fair Haven Fire Department’s annual spaghettini dinner for several decades. And Saturday was no exception.

By all accounts, a good time was had by all at the usual spot — upstairs at the firehouse. And back in 1970, the prep was covered by the The Daily Register. It’s only been in more recent years that the dinner prep was commandeered by fire company social member icon Angelo DePonti, who shared his special meatball and sauce recipe with those firemen cooks in the kitchen and was right beside them all every step of the way — down to sauce sopping.

And when DePonti passed away at 89 few years ago in 2018, the official name of the dinner changed to the Angelo DePonti Memorial Spaghetti Dinner.

Few these days can remember where the special sauce simmering and meatball-making intel came from pre-Angelo. But, it happened, the fire company made it and the people came — and gobbled every last bit up. For at least half a century. Likely more.

Just ask those who are still around from the 1960s and ’70s. The tradition has been a savored one — just like those recipes. For instance, back in 1970, the pre-event press told the story — one, anyway. The men cooked. That tradition holds to this day. Head chef was Jay Alverson. The ladies of what was the Ladies’ Auxiliary, now just plain Auxiliary, served.

Now, it’s men, women and teens who pitch in in the dining room. Back in 1970, though, the ladies were in charge of the dining room and president of the Auxiliary in 1970 was then Ann McQueen, now Ann Dupree. You’ve seen Ann to this day at the door collecting and selling tickets and at the fair in that Super 50/50 Booth.

Back in 1970, Leonard (known as “Ski”) Chernavsky chaired the event, which has always been a success, no matter the name. His son, Dan, is first lieutenant of the Fire Police.

In fact, in 1969, the dinner was dubbed the Fair Haven Fire Police Annual Spaghetti Dinner, according to The Register. There were many annual spaghetti dinners held at Knights of Columbus, now Columbus Club.

But, back in the 1960s, the story is that the fire company’s spaghetti dinner was held at the Willowbrook, which was where the Raven and Peach is now.

Name, place and sauce and meatball recipe aside, area residents have been sopping up every last bit of community tradition at the firehouse dinner table for a very long time. It’s a sure bet the tradition will endure with the best kind of pot stirring.

— Photos of 2024 dinner/FHFD Media

— Photo of Angelo DePonti 2015/Elaine Van Develde