An early Thanksgiving dinner

Written by Gretchen McKay on

city deli thanksThe holidays are a time when many people focus on family traditions. One of my fondest teenage Thanksgiving memories, for instance,  is of taking the bus Downtown the Friday after and -- following a morning of shopping at Kaufmann's --  going to lunch with my dad at the Paragon cafeteria in the lower level of the copper-topped Koppers Building.

It wasn't fancy, but it sure was good. 

Jim and Libby Calato, who moved their City Deli into the basement space 13 years ago, understand the importance of such treasured traditions. Just as the Paragon before them did for several decades,  they host an early Thanksgiving feast the Thursday before Turkey Day for hundreds of their closest friends and devoted customers. (Not to mention a whole bunch of complete strangers.) 

As in year's past, tomorrow's plated meal -- which costs $9.58, with desserts extra -- will be mostly traditional fare, featuring roast turkey  with stuffing, gravy and housemade cranberry sauce. Guests also get a choice of two sides, including  Libby's mother's recipe for sweet potatoes (whipped with chipotle peppers, sour cream and maple syrup), corn, mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, honey-roasted carrots and Jim's famous
Caramelized Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts.

pumpkin pieIf you have room for dessert, there's apple and pumpkin pie, raisin-studded bread pudding and eveyone's favorite,  pumpkin cannoli.

Doors open at 11:30 a.m.,  when Pittsburgh councilman Bill Peduto will carve and serve guests the first ceremonial turkey. (For last year's event, Mr. Calato and his staff roasted more than two dozen turkey breasts.) But diners most likely will start lining well before then.

 In other words, better get there early or risk going hungry. 

"We work 13 hours a day the week before the event, but we love every minute of it," Libby said in an email. "It's our favorite event of the year."

Post-Gazette photos

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