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Old Town Sherwood celebrates heritage Italian style

Da Mimmo restaurant treats community to festive 'Carnevale'


by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Tony Russo (left) and Domenico Mimmo Russo accompany Anton Belov in a sing-along of the well-known Italian song 'Funiculi - Funicula.' Tony, from Newberg, and Domenico, from Sherwood, are not related, but became good friends when they discovered they both grew up in the same region of Napoli in Italy.Not long ago, restaurant owners Angelisa and Mimmo Russo decided they wanted to bring a taste of Italy to Old Town Sherwood.

And nothing says fun more than a carnival, specifically an official Italian Carnevale.

“We basically wanted to bring together an event celebrating Italian culture to our region and highlight all the best of that — food, drink, farming, music, theater, art, literature,” said Angelisa, who along with Mimmo, own Da Mimmo restaurant.

As a result, they threw a Carnevale on Sunday, packing the Sherwood Rebekah Lodge with a line out the door at times for the 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. community celebration.

“We had a much larger turnout than I ever imagined,” said Angelisa, halfway through the event. “It’s been very busy at the mask-making table.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Italian Carnevale event coordinator Angelisa Russo keeps children in suspense as she calls out winners of one of the many raffle prizes offered during the afternoon.

Angelisa recently met with Bill Galbreath, who hails from one of the oldest farming families in Sherwood, and found his story fascinating. She was surprised to learn not many residents know much about the Italians who settled in Sherwood to farm, at one time making the area one of the top exporters of onions in the country. Cipole Road is a remnant of that Italian culture with “cipolla” meaning onion in Italian.

Angelisa’s husband Mimmo cooked up a storm at Sunday’s event, whipping up handmade gnocchi with pork ragu sauce — both regular pasta and gluten-free. The menu also offered Italian pastries and drinks.

Mimmo actually comes from a farming background, growing up in Monte di Procidea, Italy, said Angelisa. His brother Tullio still organizes that town’s annual Italian Carnevale, which features a large procession through the city along with a variety of floats.

Mimmo, who is the executive chef at Da Mimmo, was excited to share traditional dishes with the community.

“Usually when there is a carnival in Italy, we use pork,” he said.

The Russos purchased pork from Tails and Trotters of Portland, the Pacific Northwest’s first signature pork producer developed from pork finished on local hazelnuts.

Duccio Sal Tagliaferri, a professional photographer from Tualatin, showcased and sold his photography at the Carnevale. The former Naples, Italy, resident, said he still recalls the carnevale days of his youth, especially the long lines of floats and the tradition of wearing a mask.by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Tonya Russo Hamilton of Sherwood entertains children with a reading from 'Tino and the Pomodori,' a book about a little boy in Italy who helps his grandparents grow and harvest tomatoes in Italy. The pictures are taken from the book and illustrated by Britta Nicholson of Tigard.

“People go out in the street,” he recalled. “It’s kind of like Halloween here, but it’s a week long.”

In addition to the mask-making, other activities included painter Jen Harlow painting an original work while Anton Belov, a noted opera singer, performed a selection of operatic solos. Meanwhile, Sherwood author Tonya Russo Hamilton shared illustrations and stories from her forthcoming children’s book, “Tino and the Pomodori,” a book that tells the story of her father Tony growing up in Italy and looking forward to his favorite time of year — the tomato harvest.

Shortly before appearing with his daughter, Tony Russo said he was having a great time at the event.

“This is fantastic,” said Russo, who had a prime seat against the back wall.

Russo said he was enjoying the food, music and the fact he was meeting so many people from similar backgrounds.

“I’ve met two people here whose last name is Russo,” he pointed out.by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Jen Harlow from the Blue Plume Art Studio paints a Tuscany landscape as part of an art demonstration and education display at the Sherwood Italian Carnevale held at the Rebekah Lodge on Sunday.



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