The 91st St. Peter’s Fiesta wrapped up Sunday night here in Gloucester. The intense heat may have kept some of the crowds away but didn’t stop us in the local Sicilian-American community from living it up like we’ve been doing every year since 1927. This annual feast in honor of the patron saint of fishermen is integral to who I am and where I come from. And in a City that is doing all it can to stay a viable fishing port in the face of previous over fishing and current tight regulations, we need all the help we can get from our favorite saint.
What is a fisherman’s feast without seafood? Even with my financial struggles, you have to go all out for Fiesta, so we treated ourselves to a couple nice lunches and dinner along the Gloucester waterfront. Like every Fiesta I gorged myself on everything that came my way, including my grandma’s famous pineapple cake, but I’ll stick to the seafood here.
Our first stop was a family lunch on the deck at Latitude 43. I’ve written about them before because I like their sushi and I think their nigiri sampler is the best bang for the buck. Six pieces of fresh nigiri for $16. However I noticed my sampler did not come with the usual unagi, which is my favorite.
Our excellent server came out with an extra piece of that delicious grilled eel, gratis. My wife and son did not get seafood, but her flatbread and his pasta were both yummy. Combine that with a lemon and blueberry infused martini, and my wife’s big glass of sangria and our Fiesta was off and running!
Next up was a new place in an old familiar setting for my wife and I’s night out. Machaca Gloucester is a new Mexican street food/taqueria located in the former spot of the legendary Old Timer’s Tavern. Where we once gathered for the famous air-guitar contests (Dad is a two-time champ) while pounding Budwiser, we are now downing tasty margaritas and tacos.
All new restaurants have kinks to work out and I’m pretty sure we were there on the second night, so any hiccups in service I chalk up to that. It was packed, it was loud…just like the Old Timer’s, but those memories faded with a bite of silky smooth avocado fries. My baja fish tacos had local fried haddock paired with a zesty jalapeno mayonnaise that has just enough heat for me.
My wife got the atun tacos with seared yellowfin with avocado and sacred sauce. Even though she doesn’t like seared tuna’s texture, we both agreed it was pretty good. Overall it was a fun place, great for a few drinks and a light dinner.
Our next adventure took us across the harbor to the historic Rocky Neck Art Colony for a waterside lunch at The Studio. This place has been around forever and had its share of ups and down since the original owner passed. I washed dishes here one summer as a teen but don’t recall ever eating at The Studio. With prices and options similar to Latitude 43, we decided to play tourist and eat on the deck. One of the cool things about The Studio is you can arrive by boat, so you can get dinner and a show as you watch guys with more money than sense try to tie up their plastic toys to the floats.
I was the only one to order seafood because it’s hard for me to resist a fried haddock sandwich, especially when served on a Virgilio’s Italian roll. The sandwich was pretty good, but really not in league with some of the other’s I’ve posted about. All of our food, with the exception of my coleslaw (really bad) was about the same. But sometimes a beautiful setting can be a difference maker in the face of OK food. We had a fun time and if we go again we will take the Water Shuttle, which drops off right at the floats!
Fiesta Sunday starts off with the Mass and then the parade, which in 90 degree heat was an act of penance for anyone in the procession. After that the entire family headed down to the Gloucester House for a Scola family reunion. There were about 80 or so “cousins” that showed up from our large branch of the Scola family tree.
The Gloucester House always puts out a nice spread, with their signature fried calamari. Although my wife and I were a little disappointed they didn’t have their excellent baked haddock, their small portions of fried haddock were delicious and very fresh. Haddock is a fish that you can really tell a difference in freshness. I was always told cod gets better the day after, but haddock is best freshly caught.
We had some fun this Fiesta: great food, lots of booze, went on some rides with the kids, spent too much money on games. But that isn’t Fiesta, Fiesta is friends and family, catching up with folks you haven’t seen in at least a year, seeing everybody’s kids grow up, seeing the older generation fade away and seeing my generation having to take up the mantle. The world that created this magical time at the end of June no longer exists, but we need events like this in our lives to keep us grounded. For the older generation to tell the young how it was, for my generation to remind the world that Gloucester is still a fishing town, and for the next generation to keep it that way.
Ma che siamo tutti mutti? Viva San Pietro!