The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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March 19, 2012

Rolling in ravioli

Pasta competition promotes shopping local, aids charity

ASHTABULA —  Joe Mariotti loves Facebook, he loves food and friends, and he loves ravioli.

Mariotti gathered Facebook friends for a pasta dinner to remember on Sunday at Franny’s Edgewood Diner for a the Ravioli Throw Down Contest to benefit the GO Ministries food pantry and soup kitchen.

“What started as a Facebook forum — an Internet social gathering — about the best food in Ashtabula County turned into a group of people who like to get together at locally owned establishments to help out the local economy and the local business owners,” Mariotti said.

Ten top chefs from across the county brought their best ravioli to the gathering, with Lisa Pucci Delgado taking top honors for her deep fried ravioli.

“We had more than $1,000 raviolis here today and enough people to eat them, too,” Mariotti said. “We made a bet — who makes the best ravioli — and we put our money and our talents in the kitchen to good use.”

Mariotti said the chefs donated the pasta, Franny Martone donated the restaurant space, and patrons donated money for the meal for GO Ministries.

Ravioli contestant Theresa Daniels said she used her aunt Lena Montanaro’s ravioli recipe for the throwdown.

“I used to make them with her when I was little,” she said. “I would fork them for her.”

Daniels said she adds a little love into everything she cooks and was happy to help support GO Ministries.

Sofia Huang, 7, didn’t cook any pasta, but she wasn’t shy when it came to eating ravioli.

“I like spaghetti best, but I love ravioli, too,” she said.

Sofia is learning to play the violin, which she says hurts her arms sometimes, but it didn’t slow down her ravioli-eating gusto.

“It’s good,” she said.

The group’s Internet home, called Mariotti’s Restaurant Review, is now calling on Ashtabula County residents to boost locally owned businesses in Cash Mobs.

“A cash mob is like a flash mob with purpose,” Mariotti said. “People use social media like Facebook to get the word out and then they gather at a local business. Everyone commits to spending $20 at that business. That means that a struggling business that serves 1,000 people can make a significant profit in one night and show off their business to new customers.”

The next cash mob will target the Step Above Lounge in Geneva-on-the-Lake on April 21. Pucci Delgado will take over Franny Martone’s Edgewood Diner on April 29 as a guest chef. Dinner is $15 per person and tickets are sold in advance only. Tickets are available at the Edgewood Diner.

Mariotti said his restaurant review is turning heads and helping to keep local businesses alive.

“We want to show Ashtabula County what a few people can do, the difference you can make when you shop local, when you support the local businesses that support the community,” Mariotti said.

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