By Joseph Pappalardo
Steve Gheduzzi used to fry fish in a turkey fryer on a fire escape. He sat outside in a New York snowstorm with a walkie-talkie, dunking fish in a fryer designed for poultry, so that local families could gather and enjoy a Lenten meal together. This is what Knights do.
Now the current grand knight of Our Lady of the Lakes Council 6318 in Carmel, N.Y., Gheduzzi and his brother Knights use a 10-burner stove, double oven and two commercial fish fryers. The result could put seafood restaurants to shame. This isn’t just a fish sandwich dinner — these Knights have adopted a decades-old Friday tradition and taken it to the extreme.
Every Friday during Lent from 5-8 p.m., 200 hungry diners can expect to eat more than fish and chips. The council also makes Italian linguine with white clam sauce, shrimp scampi, Cape Cod clam strips and a weekly special (taste-tested at the officers’ meeting, of course). Families gather each week for fish fry rarities like lobster mac & cheese, sole piccata, clam chowder and fish tacos. With hundreds of eager diners, the Knights are serving more than one meal per minute.
“It’s gotten to be a thing to expect during Lent in the community,” Gheduzzi said. “We give them a healthy portion. They get a decent amount of food for a fair price.”
The fish fry brings in $2,000 for charity each year, but its main goal is bringing families in the community together for a Lenten meal. The council also gains about 30 members annually, thanks in part to Catholic men witnessing the group’s exceptional fish fry.
By the time families have packed the dining room, 8 to 12 Knights are already hard at work in the hall’s kitchen and dining room, while Ladies’ Auxiliary members handle the orders and money. Customers order on digital tablets which send the orders to a printer in the kitchen. With the Knights’ children as food runners, it’s a family affair. At the end of the night, when the customers are gone, the staff of husbands, wives and children gathers around the table to eat whatever hasn’t sold out.
Not every council offers so many options on their Lenten menu, but Rob Firriolo stated there’s only one way to get started.
“Try,” he said. “We started ours as a one-night experiment.”
In this kitchen, there are no secrets. Firriolo offers to show every step of the fish fry to any Knights who come by and visit. With the success they’ve had at bringing hundreds together to share a meal, the council could have made the event last through all of Lent — but not on Good Friday. Taking the day off on Good Friday allows council members to take a break from the fryer.
This gives the Knights a chance to attend Good Friday services with their families. On April 19, all Knights are encouragedto attend and build up the domestic church together. Councils will also work to educate their parishes about the plight of Christians in the Holy Land and other areas around the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith. This is what Knights do.
“If you’re looking for a way to give purpose to your life and faith as a Catholic gentleman, this is the place,” Firriolo said.
Beneficiaries of Council 6138’s fish frys include the St. James Parish Food Pantry, Disabled American Veterans, Special Olympics NY, the KofC Christians at Risk Fund, CAREERS Support Solutions and their scholarship fund.
To learn more about the Knights, click here.
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