Library holds “A Taste of Amsterdam” fundraiser

The Amsterdam Free Library sponsored a fundraiser titled “A Taste of Amsterdam” on Saturday, May 17. The theme was culinary offerings of Amsterdam, with area  food establishments providing a wide variety of delectables such as pizza, pasta, cupcakes, Chinese food, drinks and more. Planning for the event began around three months ago after Nicole Hemsley, Director of the Library and Jim Stevens, owner of the Rockton House came up with the idea.

I asked Stevens if he played a large role in the planning, to which he replied,“I was more or less the ideas man. Nicole handled the specifics and put everything together.” He said that he wanted to get a variety of vendors and a variety of food for the guests, including each vendor’s specialty dish.

I talked to Jerry Gallup, the manager of the 518 Grill, which is located on Route 30 where the Coffee Beanery used to be. While he manned his serving station, I asked if business has improved for the Grill since it began over eight months ago. He said, “tremendously, in fact we’ve transitioned from a breakfast/lunch place, to lunch and dinner. We offer it six days a week, and a seasonal Sunday brunch, and we do on and off catering…we have a big dining hall inside as well, for smaller parties.” At the fundraiser he was offering Vodka Rigatoni (his signature dish), Farfale Bolognese, and Linguine with white clam sauce.

I caught Chuck Krajewski holding down the fort for his son, handing out 24-cut cheese slices, representing Goodfellas Pizza. His son Todd, has owned Goodfellas for nine years, and Chuck described business there as seasonal and said, “when the weather’s nice, it does slow down a little bit. For the most part it’s a lot of takeout. It’s eat in or takeout or we deliver.” They offer a variety of foods from pizza, subs, paninis, antipasto, and other Italian food.

Also offered was a chance to purchase raffle tickets to win a finely crafted wine and goodies basket. The contents included a bottle of wine, books and chocolate candies. It was donated by one of the library patrons, who in the words of Friends of the Library volunteer Kim Beebe, “She just brought it in one day and said ‘Here it is.’” The basket was to be raffled off at a later date, after the close of the event.

Sara Pierce, employee of the library, was enjoying the day, manning the entrance admitting guests.

I asked her how she thought things were going and she said, “I think it’s going very well. We’re getting a lot of people in. And we are also surveying people to see where they heard about it. A lot of it is word of mouth, a lot of people heard about it online. I think, overall, the publicity for it and the people coming in is very good.”

Toward the end of the fundraiser I asked Hemsley to comment on it’s success.

“In all the eateries in Amsterdam there isn’t a sense of competition, there’s a spirit of camaraderie, and they all like to work together and help each other out. So, [I thought] we’ll get everyone together and call it ‘A Taste of Amsterdam.’ Little did I know there had been a fundraiser years ago by that name. So, we kind of picked that up and ran with it. Everybody was receptive. There were some people who were unable to come, because they didn’t have enough staff to send.”

“It’s been great,” she added, “I was just over there watching and you had the Manager of the 518 grill eating the Brooklyn pizza, and the man from Brooklyn Pizza eating the pizza from Goodfellas, and when I see everybody working, and they’re friends of the library, and the library can accommodate and make accessible a lot of different restaurants at one time, I think it’s a great service, and the fact it’s a fundraiser for the library is a plus. The library is finally becoming the place where everyone can gather, and share and bond and be a community, in the library. And this is what I’ve always wanted.”

Jay Towne

Jay Towne is a resident of Amsterdam, has published six books and is the writer and director of a radio drama, Any Good Thing, that currently airs on WOPG.