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Café Biaggio to host annual St. Joseph’s Day Feast on Mar. 24

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Café Biaggio co-owner John D’Agostino in the restaurant named for his maternal great-grandfather, Biaggio. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

St. Joseph’s Day is a traditional Italian holiday celebrated around the world. Thanks to Café Biaggio co-owners John D’Agostino and Shari Breed, it will be observed in the Midway neighborhood too. Joseph is the patron saint of Sicily and recognized as the husband of the Virgin Mary.

D’Agostino said, “On Sun., Mar. 24, starting at 1pm, we’ll be serving our annual St. Joseph’s Day Buffet. There’s no charge to come and eat, though you can leave a donation for local charities and families in need. We bring any leftover food to the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis, where the sisters serve the urban poor every day. This tradition was started locally by my mother 52 years ago at her restaurant ‘Sammy D’s’ in Dinkytown on the U of M Campus. ”

“Mama D,” as she was affectionately known, passed away in 2006 at the age of 95. “I told her I would keep this tradition going because it was important to her,” D’Agostino said. “In small towns in Italy, families still walk from door to door enjoying a dish at each home. Last year, we served about 700 people, and it’s not just for Italians. We get a lot of clergies; the sisters from the Visitation Monastery will bring a bus load of neighbors from North Minneapolis. People come who are poor, and who are not poor. In the old days, my mother’s friends and family would contribute dishes, but the Health Department doesn’t allow that anymore. Everything is prepared right here; we’ll make 100 pounds of meatloaf and about 40 pounds of mashed potatoes. We’ll have fish, vegetables, breads, and desserts—something for everybody.”

Sysco, Twin City Produce, and Greco and Sons are all generous donors to the event. D’Agostino and his business partner pay for the rest. D’Agostino said, “Last year, I watched a guy who came in for the St. Joseph’s Day Brunch. I could tell he was homeless. Afterward, he came over and said, ‘Thank you—this is the first good meal I’ve had in a long time.’ If we feed even one person out of the whole bunch who really needs it, then I think it’s worthwhile.”

Café Biaggio has been in its current location at 2536 University Ave. W. for 18 years. The menu is the owners’ interpretation of simple, rustic Italian foods found in small cafes in Chicago, on the East Coast, and throughout Italy. Many of the recipes have been handed down through D’Agostino’s family. Mama D’s classic antipasto salad, which first graced the menu at Sammy D’s Restaurant in the 1960s, remains unchanged.

Features of the “made-from-scratch” menu include homemade pasta, an all-Italian wine list, hand-turned gelatos, and an Italian specialty called semifreddo: a creamy, semi-frozen concoction made with amaretto, egg whites, and macaroon cookies.

Café Biaggio has a large parking lot behind the restaurant (enter from the Raymond Ave. side.) Regular hours are Mon.-Thur., 11am-9pn; Fri., 11am-10pm; Sat., 4:30-10pm; Sun. closed.






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