Thirty years ago, Emilio Felli built a chestnut roaster with his bare hands.
His contraption moulds cast iron with hots grills and rotating mettle, producing chestnuts that melt in the mouths of those who line up at events to taste his wonderful creations.
Today, the same roaster continues to serve delicious chestnuts to warm the hearts and tastebuds of patrons at events such as Castagne Day, which is celebrated every third Sunday in May each year. As usual Emilio, 86, starts the day’s celebrations by heating his homemade roaster before cooking around 1100kg of chestnuts for wide-eyed customers. The retired boilermaker is passionate about his work and producing quality chestnuts, which has become a main attraction of Castagne Day, a festival which marks the beginning of the Italian nut season.
“The roaster has always worked well. It’s strong,” he said. “The grills on each side let me see when the chestnuts are cooked. I can also tell by the different levels of smoke, which come from the side of the roaster, as to whether the chestnuts are ready. It’s enjoyable to cook them and to see the people enjoying them.”
Once in full operation, Emilio reckons the roaster reaches about 80 degrees on its exterior. When asked how hot it gets inside, well that’s anyone’s guess. “It would be extremely hot, just like lava!” he joked. Recently the roaster underwent modifications and repairs, courtesy of hard-working club members. The work involved new parts and hours of welding, ensuring the roaster will be in top shape for many more Castagne Day celebrations.
Apart from his beloved chestnut roaster, Emilio has a rich and proud history as a valued contributor to The Fraternity. He became a club member in 1963 and has previously taken on numerous roles including the running of carpet bowls, bocce and, of course, the success of his chestnut roaster.
Castagne Day celebrations are held on the club grounds on the third Sunday in May each year from 10am-4pm and features amusement rides, market stalls, food stalls and live entertainment.