It started more than 60 years ago with an old family recipe handed down to Ted Maniaci, cooked in the parish kitchen at St. Rita. A few parishioners had the idea to host a spaghetti dinner with proceeds going to help the parish. Little did they know that the tradition would carry on through six decades, the loss of their building and into a global pandemic.
After the old St. Rita’s building was torn down, the dinners took a brief hiatus, and parishioners wondered how long they would have to wait to begin again.
That’s when Alicia Dupies, the senior vice president of strategy and growth for Capri Communities at St. Rita Square, approached the parish with an idea. While at a curbside drive-through fish fry pickup fundraiser for a local high school athletic department, she realized the idea could work for the retirement community if they had help. She’d heard about St. Rita Parish’s reputation for sauce and meatballs, and the following they have in Racine and loved the idea of joining together with them to help fundraise for a good cause.
“I thought it was innovative, and we all need a little something this year to give us a greater sense of community,” Dupies said. “We wanted to play off Valentine’s Day and the theme of love, and St. Rita parishioners stepped up to help.”
Steve Hessel has been running the spaghetti dinners at the parish for more than 30 years, cooking all 50 gallons of sauce and 1,400 meatballs, organizing supplies, and coordinating all the help needed to roll meatballs, cook them and pack the orders. “It’s good to be back at it,” Hessel said. “This is the first year we’re not hosting it in the parish but having it at all really makes us hopeful for the time when we will.”
“We’ve always just done what we could,” Hessel said. “We’re a close bunch and I like to think most concerned with being who Christ asked us to be.”
The St. Rita Drive Through Spaghetti Dinner will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at St. Rita Square, 728 E. Pleasant St., Milwaukee. The dinner will include pasta, sauce and meatballs, salad, and breadsticks for $10. Additional meatballs ($1) and cannoli ($2) can be purchased for an additional fee. All orders must be placed in advance by Feb. 6 at