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11-09-11-spaghetti-dinner.jpgServing over 12,000 dinner guests might intimidate some folks, but not those behind the 53rd Annual “World’s Largest Spaghetti Dinner and Greek Pastry Sale.” The event takes place on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Hellenic Center of Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 614 Oakridge Ave. in Fayetteville. The cost for each meal is $6, and tickets may be purchased at the door.

Last year, volunteers at the annual charity event served about 12,500 dinners.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the number, but for the past three years, it’s been around the same number said Tony Kotsopoulos, chairman of the event for over 20 years. His late father-in-law, Pete Parrous, started the project for the community as a fundraiser to build the church.

And just how long might one spend in the kitchen preparing 12,000-plus meals?

“It takes four days,” Kotsopoulos said. “Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we do the food preparation, and Wednesday, we put it together.”

The “we” to whom Kotsopoulos refers is a small army of dinner veterans and volunteers who prepare 4000 pounds of dry pasta, which become about 10,000 pounds cooked, and about 1000 gallons of meat sauce, a highly guarded secret recipe of all-natural ingredients used only for the dinner.

“For the preparation of the spaghetti, we have about 20 people that will be hired under my supervision, and they’ve been working with me for many years,” said Kotsopoulos. “They all have other jobs, and they come and work for three days and we put it together, and then volunteers in the Greek community work for days getting all the other stuff ready – opening things, boxing up the cheeses, breads and other stuff.”

The meals include spaghetti and sauce, cheese –– and napkins –– and are available for takeout only.

“Although some people do sit down,” Kotsopoulos said, “mostly they take out. It has become a tradition now – businesses and homes – everyone is looking forward to it.”

If a business or other group purchases more than a few meals, volunteers have a system in place to facilitate a speedy pickup.

“If you have more than 10 or 15 meals, we have people who direct you to the proper place where they quickly put them together,” said Kotsopoulos. “We have refi ned that process now, so the wait is very minimal, and any wait is only between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Before and after that time, it’s not that much of a wait.”

In addition to the impressive pasta and sauce, dessert is also not to be missed. A variety of delicious Greek pastries and desserts freshly prepared by volunteers will be available for purchase, including the always-popular baklava; kataifi , a sweet honey dessert made with angel hair pastry and honey; and sugar cookies.

Proceeds from the annual dinner event go to charities, including the Red Cross, the Autism Society and the International Christian Charities, and Kotsopoulos admits his amazement at the community’s support.

“We appreciate their support year after year. The most amazing thing to me is not the work that we do, but when I go outside the back door of the kitchen, and I peek and I see people from all over Fayetteville come to the Greek church to get or one or two or five or 10 or 50 plates of spaghetti — to me that’s amazing. It tells me that they don’t just come for the spaghetti.”

For more information, call the Hellenic Center at 484-8925, or visit the church’s website, www.stsch.nc.goarch.org.

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