"You're a community center. Why don't you do any community dinners?"
It's a straightforward question, and one that Lee Davenport says provided the last bit of inspiration to launch the Chow Bella Community Dinner series at the Goodman Community Center. Davenport, baker and catering coordinator for Ironworks Café, is preparing to kick off the series this Friday, September 17. The name, for those not up on their romance languages, is a play on the Italian ciao bella, or "hello, beautiful."
This inaugural Chow Bella dinner will be an endeavor split four ways. Goodman will host the event, and Ironworks Café will provide salad, house-made raspberry lemonade, and a sundae bar. Riley's Wines of the World will assist with pairing alcoholic beverages; Davenport says that a rosé, or perhaps retsina (a Greek white wine), will likely be the wine of choice.
The big draw of the meal, though, is wood-fired pizzas from available online. Its name, for the curious, is from the Greek "selene, " meaning "moon" -- a reference to the silhouette and surface color of the oven's exterior.
La Fortuna pizzas are of the Neapolitan style, similar to those at Pizza Brutta and Cafe Porta Alba. Each pie is a healthy serving for one person and, when done well, offers an exterior crunch that gives way to a perfect, chewy bite of crust.
As a literal mom-and-pop operation, La Fortuna seems like the natural fit for this kind of neighborhood event. In fact, the relationship between La Fortuna and Goodman has expanded since the inception of Chow Bella. "We (now) do our ingredient preparation in their kitchen," La Fortuna's Scott Lynch says. "It's great to be in the kitchen and interacting with all of the young people there."
Lest it seem like this is just another ticketed event meal in a town where other such opportunities are on the rise, it should be noted that Chow Bella proceeds will go toward the same social support program that the non-profit Ironworks Café funds. The Teen Education and Employment Network gives high school students a restaurant skill set that will help them find further employment in the community.
The heat (and high mosquito count) pushed the original date back from mid-August, and in the event of poor weather this Friday, the meal will be held in the Goodman gym. Tickets are available at the Goodman Community Center, or by phone. Adult tickets go for either $22 or $30, depending on whether you want a glass of lemonade or wine; tickets for children 12 and under are $15. Starting at 6 p.m., the event will run until dark, when the moon rises over Selena and the rest of the Chow Bella crew. Pizza in the moonlight -- that's amoré.