What's better than rice? Risotto. What's better than risotto? Fried risotto, that's what. Fried balls of rice with cheese, meat and sometimes other stuffings are called arancini ("little oranges") in Italy, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon some at St. Anthony's Feast in Boston's North End this weekend. It's like a Brigadoon where old immigrant Italian-America comes back to life for a few nights.
I enjoyed a baseball-sized arancino with spinach and some tomato sauce, and some wonderfully light fried calamari. Besides arancini and calamari, there was an array of pizza, pasta, sausage and pepper sandwiches, and gelato, plus a healthy (well, probably not that healthy) dose of not-so-Italian dishes like fried dough and cherrystone clams.
Saint Anthony, or Santo Antonio di Padova della Montefalcone as the local Boston version has him, was paraded through the street first in banner form and then as a larger than life-sized statue garlanded with banners of money and watches. I think the watches are symbolic of St. Anthony's job as the patron of finding lost things and people.
The grand procession started with a prayer in Italian and English, then at a signal, a confetti canon was fired and St. Anthony was on the move.
Boston's North End is home to a series of feasts and festivals all summer long, and there are just a couple more, but St Anthony's Feast is often cited as the largest Italian religious festival in the US. St. Lucy is up next on Monday - don't miss her if you're having trouble seeing.