Spaghetti and tripe, anyone?
Crowds flock to Muse Italian Club to sample this Italian delicacy made from cow stomach
This traditional Italian dish served at the Muse Italian Club features tripe, or cow’s stomach, covered in tomato sauce.
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Thin strips of tripe, or cow’s stomach, were placed in roasters before they were smothered in homemade tomato sauce and cooked for several hours for the Muse Italian Club’s tripe fundraiser.
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John Sears, 11, of Ohio, enjoys a bowl of tripe at Muse Italian Club.
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Mike Palombi of Canonsburg said, “It’s good stuff,” when Karen Jozwick of Wellsburg, W.Va., served him a bowl of tripe.
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Rose O’Neil of Muse adds salt to the mix as Ginger Danyo of Cecil Township prepares a to-go order of tripe.
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Most children need to be coaxed into eating meatloaf and peas, but 11-year-old John Sears dug into a dish that tends to rank higher on the “ick” scale.
While many recoil at the sight of tripe, Sears, of Chandlersville, Ohio, relished his helping of cow stomach.
“I like the sauce because it’s spicy, but it’s alright, the tripe is,” he said, searching for an adjective to describe a meal so few have been brave enough to taste. “I just think it’s good.”
Sears, who has family in the area, is one of many who spent a September Sunday dining at the Italian Club in Muse. For $5.50, diners received their choice of a hefty helping of spaghetti with homemade meatballs or tripe smothered in tomato sauce. The fundraiser is held the third Sunday of the month, September through May.
Raldo Parascenzo, financial secretary of the club, said he believes they started serving spaghetti and tripe dinners around 1965. Perhaps the most common type of tripe is “honeycomb” tripe, made from the reticulum, one of three chambers of the cow’s stomach. Tripe was once a staple in many Italian households because edible offals were cheaper than other parts of the cow. Now, the cost has gone up because of the international meat market, said George Weiss, president of Green Valley Packing Co. in Claysville, which sells and delivers tripe to the Italian Club.
“This used to be a very relatively inexpensive product,” said Weiss, whose company sells about 2,500 pounds of tripe a month. “But now, because of exports being so big in the industry anymore, it’s raised the price. It used to be probably 50 cents a pound, years ago.” Now, a pound of tripe costs more than $2. So for those who can afford the occasional filet mignon, why might they still eat tripe?
“Tripe is an Italian delicacy,” Parascenzo said. “Some people don’t think of it that way.”
A group of men in the club get together at 5 a.m. on Saturday, the day before the dinner, to prepare the tripe. The meat is cooked, cleaned, cut into thin strips and then piled into roasters to be cooked again for six hours. As a reward for preparing 150 pounds of tripe, they are served a lunch of meatballs and pork neck bones, which are used to flavor both the spaghetti and tripe sauces.
The rest of the dinner is prepared by Ellen del Vecchio, Anna-Louise Marinelli and Rose O’Neil, all members of the club’s ladies auxiliary who have made the fundraiser possible for more than three decades.
Del Vecchio prepares the sauces in several 25-gallon pots. The spaghetti sauce is made with tomato paste and puree, basil, garlic salt, onions, pepper (and, naturally, it wouldn’t be an Italian dish without a secret ingredient). The tripe sauce is made with similar ingredients, and it also includes green peppers and celery.
“My meatballs are from my heart,” Marinelli said as she rolled generously-sized meatballs and placed them into pans. Marinelli doesn’t like tripe, and neither does del Vecchio, which she likened to “chewing rubber bands.” O’Neil, despite her Irish heritage, said she has learned to like tripe over the years.
“When I season it, I have to taste it to see if it’s just right,” O’Neil said. “I never would have started eating it.”
Joe Battistone, recording secretary, said the gummy texture of tripe makes it an acquired taste.
“You bounce it around in your teeth a couple times to swallow it,” Battistone said. “That’s the first impression when I was a young un’. I used to say there was no way I’d ever eat that stuff but now, well, I love it.”
On the day of the dinner, the club’s parking lot is already packed by the time 2 p.m. rolls around. The club serves between 450 and 600 meals in a four-hour period.
“No organizations such as ours currently have people coming from as far as New Kensington, Belle Vernon, areas like that, for tripe,” Parascenzo said.
Barb Bolla of Muse, who waitresses at the club, said, “I don’t think you will find a better tripe or spaghetti for the price.”
Lisa Baldi of Canonsburg never misses a dinner. Her parents played it safe with spaghetti, but Baldi praised the tripe.
“The sauce is really good. It’s just really good tripe,” Baldi said. “It’s kind of like a specialty. You can’t just go out and get it anywhere, so it’s nice that they make it.”
Victor Bernardi, 82, of Muse, has been a member of the club since he was 16 and has been coming to the dinners since they started. While the kitchen has expanded since then, he said the recipes have remained the same.
“You just can’t change it,” he said. “As long as people come and buy it, they’ll keep on cooking.”
The next spaghetti and tripe dinner will be held Oct. 20 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Italian Club.