On Tuesday, October 1, Papa Joe’s Italian Restaurant in Brooksville held its 38th annual 99¢ All-You-Can-Eat Pasta Fest to benefit local non-profit organizations. Besides the pasta, there was garlic bread and even dessert. Owner Joe Giarratana, who hails from Sicily, and his wife Donna (Mama Donna) have been doing this event since 1981, the year they opened the restaurant. Some of the groups they have helped in the past include the victims of Hurricane Andrew, Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity.
When asked how he chooses the organizations that he’s going to support, Joe responded, “Whatever touches our heart. We don’t favor any particular organization.”
This year they served a record 1,600 people from 11:00 a.m. to 9 p.m. – 200 more than last year. The beneficiaries were Joseph’s House, The Arc Nature Coast and The Dawn Center. In total, the event brought in $8,668 which will be split among the three organizations.
Joseph’s House is a ministry that provides food and other essentials to people going through difficulties. The Arc Nature Coast works with individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Dawn Center helps victims of domestic and sexual violence. All three organizations had tables set up with displays and brochures explaining their missions.
The event not only included delicious food. There was also a myriad of things to keep the crowds entertained. The children enjoyed face painting, horse-drawn Sicilian cart rides, carnival games, a bounce house and horse rides. There was live entertainment, including a DJ with music, dance exhibitions and a performance by the Suzuki Strings. Attendees also had an opportunity to purchase raffle tickets to win gift baskets and other prizes, such as Lightning and Buccaneer tickets and a large screen TV.
Giarratana employs fifty-five people (including part time and full time employees). That evening it seemed like all of them were on duty. Despite the crowds, the service was fast and friendly.
Joe remarked, “I’d like to thank the businesses and the community for supporting this event. We enjoy helping these organizations and making the community aware that these organizations do exist.”
The Pasta Fest was such a success, it may be a challenge to top it next year. However, Joe, Donna, their crew and the numerous volunteers will surely find a way.
For more information on Joseph’s House call 352-600-8295 or log onto www.JHBV.org.
The phone number for The Arc Nature Coast is 352-544 – 2322, ext.111. The website is www.thearc-naturecoast.org
To find out more about The Dawn Center call 352-684-7191 or log onto www.dawncenter.org.