Tasting the world in Forest Hills
by Michael Perlman
Mar 15, 2016 | 8635 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carmine Polito, longtime owner of Portofino.
Carmine Polito, longtime owner of Portofino.
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Father Francis Passenant with event host & parishioner Denise De Maria
Father Francis Passenant with event host & parishioner Denise De Maria
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Foodies Linda and Alejandro Caycedo
Foodies Linda and Alejandro Caycedo
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Restaurateurs & event organizers take the stage
Restaurateurs & event organizers take the stage
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Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church has maintained its sense of place in Forest Hills since 1912, and continues to play a significant religious and civic role.

At McLaughlin Hall on Sunday, over 20 of Forest Hills’ culturally diverse restaurants participated in the church’s 5th annual “Taste of The World” International Food Festival. The event celebrated the ethnic diversity of parishioners and proved how small businesses give back to a neighborly community.

In a sit-down affair, approximately 175 attendees sampled food from Portofino, Jack & Nellie’s, Keuka Café, La Boulangerie, Silk Cakes, Banter, Matiz, Haveli Indian Cuisine, Manor Oktoberfest, La Vigna, Maharaja, Reef, La Coya, La Dolce Italia Bakery, East Ocean Palace, Shogun Hibachi, Ovo Sodo, Tuscan Hills, Violet’s Bake Shoppe, Cipollina Gourmet Italian Market and Starbucks.

“This is a feel good event that truly helps bring different parts of the community together, while showcasing our wonderful local restaurants and bakeries,” said event host Denise De Maria, a member of the Board of Directors of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Academy. “I love the fact that it is a team effort that involves a number of volunteers.”

Back in January at least 50 parishioners collaborated on the event, continuing a tradition that began in 2012 at the time of the church’s centennial celebration.

In addition to the food, there was a raffle with a $1,000 grand prize, a $200 JetBlue gift certificate, and other prizes donated by local restaurants. The church received donations from Buenos Aires Tango, Dee's, Orchard-Foodtown, Pinang, and The Irish Cottage.

“We are going around the world in one afternoon, meeting new people, and supporting the church’s programs and their buildings,” said husband and wife Alejandro and Linda Caycedo, first-time attendees from Forest Hills

“Sometimes you’re afraid to sample new foods, but this event gives everyone a good chance,” said Fresh Meadows resident Kattia Soraiano, who was attending for the third time. “Why travel to Manhattan to try different cultural foods, when it’s right in Forest Hills?”

To many, this event is indicative of a definitive aspect of Forest Hills.

“It is critical to support our local small businesses, since it is where creativity and innovation starts,” said Rubi Gaddi Macaulay. “The vendors showcased some of the best of what they have to offer.”

In an age when small businesses are at risk due to rising rents, Father Francis J. Passenant expressed his desire for more local residents to support the “moms and pops” and commended the dedication of the local culinary scene.

In operation for just a few months, Cipollina Gourmet Italian Market is a modern-day family business.

“There was nothing like our place in the Forest Hills/Kew Gardens area, so I wanted to introduce something authentic to the neighborhood,” said co-owner Christine Principato, whose table at the event featured a variety of cheeses, Italian cookies, and soppressata.

Portofino at 109-32 Ascan Avenue has entertained palates for 41 years.

“I love what I do and I love people,” said owner Carmine Polito, who was proud to offer chicken with marsala wine sauce and sundried tomatoes, as well as penne alla vodka, at the event. “It’s amazing how people get together and care about each other. That’s what it’s all about, and I hope to be here another 41 years.”

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