NUTLEY, NJ - The smell of Italian food came billowing out of Nutley’s Parks and Recreation Building on 44 Park Ave. when the Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade Committee held their annual Taste of Italy Fundraiser..

Trays of food such as sausage and peppers, eggplant parmigiana and rollatini, penne vodka, balsamic glazed sausage, chicken marsala and francaise, ziti and meatballs lined the walls. Over 40 area restaurants and bakeries including the Belleville High School culinary arts students fed over 270 people in the gymnasium. 

Some of the many restaurants were Ralph’s Pizzeria, Ferulli’s Pizzeria, Mamma Vittoria Catering, Michael’s Pasteria, Nanina’s in the Park, Diamond Springs, Algieri’s Pizza from both Belleville and Nutley and Bella Napoli and Taste of Tuscany in neighboring Bloomfield and Clifton. Even burritos from Nutley’s Pancho’s Burritos and pretzels from Philly Pretzel Factory joined in on the fundraiser.

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The event was BYOB and just about every table had red wine to complement their dinner. Many brought their homemade wines with them to share with friends and families at their table.

The event helps raise money for the October parade and also spotlights the honorees. For the first time this year there are no Bella Signorine due to a lack of responses according event chair Vito Matturo of Nutley. However the organization will be raising funds for a scholarship. “There will be a scholarship this year for a Belleville High School and a Nutley High School student studying Italian heritage or arts,” said Matturo.

This year’s parade dignitaries are Grand Marshall Al Lembo Jr., Nutley Man of the Year Police Chief Thomas Strumolo, Belleville Man of the Year Belleville Police Chief Mark Minichini, Nutley Woman of the Year Marie Vecchiarelli, Belleville Woman of the Year Cindy Sica, Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Anthony Iannarone, Italian Heritage Award honoree Dr. Louis Crupi, Italian Business Leader John Apicella, Renaissance Award honoree Henry Meola and Community Excellence Award honoree Ruth Bedford.

“This is our largest event of the year. [The Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade] is the largest parade in Essex County,” said Matturo. Matturo claims this is the only Columbus Day Parade in the county as well.

The Rev. Tom Nicastro gave the invocation. “We come together to celebrate our Italian heritage, culture and tradition,” he added.

Matturo thanked the fellow committee members for putting the event together. He also recognized both the Nutley and Belleville mayors Joseph P. Scarpelli and Raymond Kimble, respectively.

“It’s a big honor, a great honor,” said Meola. “It’s definitely a great honor to be chosen. I thank the committee for selecting me for the parade,” said Strumolo. “It’s a great honor to be recognized,” added Crupi. “I am very humbled and honored to be recognized by the parade committee. It’s a wonderful event in my life and my family’s and I’m glad to be here to cherish it,” said Minichini. “I really think it’s one of the highlight events of the year. It’s a terrific value and you’re helping a charity,” continued Iannarone.

Columbus Day Parade Committee officers for 2017 are Chairman Bill Freda, Vice Chairman Ben Costa, Secretary Rosemary Costa, Treasurer Barbara Freda and Trustee Edie Peters Liguori. Members include Taste of Italy Chair Vito Matturro, Co-Chair Melissa Matturro, Diane Stanzione, Susan LaMorte, Pasquale Meola, Joe Gencarelli, Vincent Cozzarelli, John Kelly, Anthony Santasari and The Rev. Thomas Nicastro.

The Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade will be held Oct. 8 at 1:30 p.m. The parade will kick-off from Belleville High School on Passaic Avenue, proceeding north to Joralemon Street to Franklin Avenue toward Nutley. The viewing stand will be stationed in front of John H. Walker Middle School.