By ROB JONAS
DELMAR – Bethlehem residents can’t get enough of the Elsmere Fire Department’s fish fry Fridays – so much so, that the department is adding lunch service to its annual tradition.
“We started out 15 years ago serving 200 to 300 fish fries each event, and now we’re serving 600 to 700 dinners,” said Commissioner Joe Catalano. “We decided to give [lunches] a try this year because it’s something new and we are trying to build on our success.”
Catalano is part of a core group at Elsmere Fire Department that has been working on the dinners since the program began in 2004.
“Bill Webb – our past chief – was the first chairman of the committee responsible for the dinners, and has also been in charge of the fryer the entire time. He has worked the fryer every year since we started,” said Catalano. “Lt. Don Ballard has been in charge of the fries. In fact, he wears a T-shirt that says ‘Holding on Fries’ on the back of it because we can’t finish an order until he makes the fries.”
As the fish fry’s popularity grew, so did the crew helping to keep the meals coming.
“Past President John Murphy is also part of our core group, and has chaired the committee for the past 8 years,” said Catalano. “He continues to grow its success each year. He introduced new menu items including our delicious clam chowder, and is always thinking of new ways to expand our success, including lunches this year.
“We have an experienced wait staff, which includes many of our Ladies auxiliary members, a top notch kitchen crew, and even a clean-up crew. We have a whole assembly line [in the kitchen]. Some of our young Explorer members run up and down the stairs with tickets [for take-out orders].”
Catalano stated that his department feels blessed be in a community that supports the Elsmere Fire Department so generously and they consider it an honor to serve them in any way possible.
Elsmere Fire Department’s fish fry Fridays are scheduled for Feb. 28, March 13, March 27 and April 10. Lunches are served from noon to 2 p.m., and dinners are served from 4 to 7 p.m. The price is $10 for an adult meal, which includes a large fish fillet, a large order of french fries and a generous serving of cole slaw, plus a choice of homemade cocktail or tartar sauce. Children’s meals are $6 and include chicken tenders and fries. Meals can be enjoyed at the fire house, 15 West Poplar Drive in Delmar, or taken home.