Savoring memories of ‘Bingo Pizza’

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When the middle of summer arrived, there was little going on at St. Anthony’s. However, there were always the Friday night bingo games to look forward to. Of course, the most exciting part of Friday night bingo was “Bingo Pizza”!

Since bingo was a fundraiser for the school, women of the parish would volunteer to make pizza for the Friday night sessions. I dubbed it “Bingo Pizza” in one of my previous columns and the name stuck.

Bingo Pizza was different from the pizza sold at our local pizzerias, which all served the round, Neapolitan shape. Bingo Pizza was brought to us primarily by Sicilians and it was made on rectangular cookie sheets.

The best memory I have of “Bingo Pizza” was when I was the pick-up and delivery boy! Friday nights was always been the party night of the weekend for those of age. It was no different for my older sisters and their friends. They would gather at my house, probably because we had so many people coming and going, a few more would not matter, getting ready for their night out. However, since they mostly came directly from their jobs and did not have time to eat, they’d send me down to St. Anthony’s to get their stomach stabilizing dinner.

For a 12-year-old it was an awesome assignment! As compensation, I would get two pieces for myself, which sealed the deal. My sister and her friends would get their money together, hand it to me, and I would head on down to Michigan Avenue from 15 E. 116th and over to Kensington.

(I recall often racing late to St. Anthony’s during the week to the point that, one morning I collapsed with a side-stitch in front of Riverdale Lumber Company. Fortunately, a woman driving by on her way to work stopped, picked me up and  brought me home to my mother.)

I continued down Kensington past Venetian Hall, which was built by a group of organizations with the intent of having their own building instead of renting halls from other organizations whenever they held events. When they started to make a schedule of events, they ran into problems when they tried to figure out who would get the best dates! The contentious issue continued to the point that the building had to be sold off during the Depression.

Continuing down to St. Anthony’s, I strolled past Angelo Piolatto’s Grocery Store. Angelo’s had a great neighborhood presence and was a local gathering place. Angelo was active with many St. Anthony organizations, but he was proudest of being a member of the St. Anthony Holy Name Society and as a result, Angelo was on the Building Committee for the new church.

I recall talking with Angelo at one of the Spaghetti-O’s dinners and the subject of St. Anthony’s church came up. I mentioned how Joe Pesavento had worked on the remodeling of the marble work in St. Anthony’s. Joe had been a bartender at his cousin Roy’s well-known Pesavento’s Restaurant on 115th and Front Street. When the bar was closing, one of Joe’s customers suggested he join him in doing marble work. It just happened that redoing the marble work in St. Anthony’s was one of the jobs he had line up. When I mentioned this fact, Angelo told me he was on St. Anthony’s Building Committee, but every time the committee offered a suggestion, Fr. Nalin would agree and then do things his way!

When Angelo closed his grocery store, he remodeled the store proper and created a meeting space for the local Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), which is now the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA).

After passing, Angelo’s I got to the schoolyard. The front entrance of the school was where I entered to go down to the bingo and the pizza. I would pay for and place my order for the eight pieces of “Bingo Pizza” and then head out to wait for the freshly baked pizza.

The best part of waiting for the pizza was the exhaust fan! I would run up the steps from the school basement, jump down the couple of front steps, and zip around the corner to join the other kids in getting a whiff. Why? The special sauce the kitchen ladies used for the pizza was flavorful and had an aroma that could not be beat.

We kids just loved breathing in that aroma, which sent us into a food coma! Years later, I came to realize that the “special sauce” came from the giant cans of Sexton spaghetti sauce. That fact has not diminished the fantastic memories I have of “Bingo Pizza” nights. Of course, that same pizza would be served at the next month’s St. Anthony carnival, a major Roseland event.

Spaghetti-Os

Bonny Sandona has stayed connected with many SpaghettiOs members and has found a place to get together. The Tuscan Gardens in suburban Glenwood has scheduled a public event on the first Sunday of each month featuring a pizza-and-salad special or menu offerings. From 2 to 5 p.m. the Frank Rossi trio will provide entertainment with a mix of music that we are all familiar with. Come out and enjoy talking about good memories of Roseland, its neighborhoods, and “cruising the Ave.”

My Latest Book

“Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” is available for anyone interested in sharing or revisiting their life in Roseland. Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or email:  petalsfromroseland@gmail.com.

 

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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