Taste of the Ridge offers bite-size bits of happiness

It was impossible to be on a diet and walk through the auditorium at Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Bay Ridge on Sunday afternoon, not with serving trays filled with pasta primavera, pork empanadas, macaroni and cheese, pepper steak and rice and beans along with dozens of other delectable dishes sitting there just begging to be eaten.

And did we mention the plates filled with brownies, cups of rice pudding, bread pudding, coffee cake and other sugary sensations?

It was all part of the 18th Annual Taste of the Ridge, a culinary cornerstone of Bay Ridge in which a $15 ticket buys you a chance to sample dishes from over three dozen of the neighborhood’s best restaurants. The bite-sized portions that are ladled out also allow you to enjoy the food guilt-free.

While Taste of the Ridge is a foodie’s delight, it also has a serious purpose. The event serves as a fundraiser for Saint Patrick Catholic Academy, the elementary-middle school at 401 97th St. that is affiliated with the church.

“We’ve been doing this for 18 years and each year it gets better,” Anne Strafaci, director of development at St. Patrick Church, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “We’re so happy that so many restaurants help us out.”

“It really helps the school a great deal,” Principal Andrea D’Emic told the Eagle.

The set-up permitted guests to freely roam the vast auditorium, stop at a table, and get a tasty morsel of food before moving on to the next serving station. Chairs were set up in both sides of the room to allow people to sit while they ate. There was no limit on the number of times one could taste a certain dish. People were re-visiting their favorite stations for seconds, even thirds.

The serving stations were being manned by restaurant workers and by volunteers, including parents of St. Patrick students. “We’re here every year,” said Barbara Lang, who has a child in the school. She was serving samples from Chadwick’s, a restaurant on Third Avenue.

Jose Vega and Evelyn Santiago, who were first-timers at Taste of the Ridge, sampled dishes from Arirang, a Japanese eatery on Fourth Avenue and Ho’Brah, a popular taco place on Third Avenue. “The wings from Ho’Brah were great,” Vega told the Eagle. Santiago said she enjoyed the variety of restaurants that were represented at event. “There’s so much food!” she said.

Tom Casatelli was one of the busiest people in the auditorium. The owner of three restaurants, The Kettle Black, Ho’Brah, and Lock Yard, he was manning three stations simultaneously. “It’s crazy but I love the idea of people getting to see what we’re about,” he said.

Taste of the Ridge was the brainchild of the Rev. Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, vicar of development for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. Eighteen years ago, Gigantiello, a former chef, was a parish priest at St. Patrick and came up with the idea of raising money for the school by having restaurants offer samples of their dishes.

Several of the restaurant owners on Sunday said they looked forward to taking part in Taste of the Ridge because it provides a way to find new customers. A guest might taste a dish at the event and then book a reservation at the restaurant, the owners said.