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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Seniors strive to eat pasta with 526 new people

Video by Kendra Bell
Photo by Andrew Himmelberg
Phil Parisi, a senior in the College of Engineering and one of three hosts of 526 Pasta Night, smiles as he spoons pasta sauce at Friday’s event.

In the early evening of a standard Friday night, music blasts from an apartment at the end of the hall on the fifth floor of Campus Town East. Shortly before 5:30 p.m. — at 5:26 p.m., to be exact — students show up to the apartment, their knocks at the door met by shouts to “come on in” from the event’s hosts stirring pots over a sizzling stove.

The occasion? Pasta.

The event, known as 526 Pasta, began at the beginning of this academic year, when roommates Phil Parisi and Chris Malliet, and their friend James McKenna — all seniors in the College of Engineering — decided they wanted to find a way to bring people together. The three friends realized they had gotten to know a lot of people during their past three years at Marquette, but they still spent most of their time only hanging out with each other.

The seniors toyed with ideas, but ultimately decided to create a regular event centered on food.

Pasta was the natural option: noodles and sauce provide a fairly cheap, easy-to-make meal that most people love. Plus, Parisi said he is Italian.

“We were originally going to do it at 5:30 to keep it earlier before people go out … because we’re not trying to compete with people’s night life,” Parisi said.

But realizing their opportunity, the friends decided to match the start time of the event with their apartment number: 526.

Throughout the fall semester, every Friday, at 5:26 p.m. at apartment 526, friends — and friends of friends — gathered to share a meal. After the first few weeks, the hosts saw the event’s potential and decided to set an end goal: Get 526 different people to attend by the end of the school year.

The friends’ dedication to their weekly event expanded beyond a clever use of numbers. Parisi and Malliet decked out their apartment with pasta-themed decorations. Empty jars of sauce line the top of the cabinets in the kitchen. Used pasta boxes and sticky notes with pasta puns stick to the walls. Wall decor also includes flyers including descriptions of “The Birth of 526 Pasta” and a wall of fame featuring photos of guests who have brought 10 new people. And on one wall, an enormous chart bears the names of every guest who has attended a pasta night, with tallies to mark how many weeks they attended.

The students focus on creating a positive, welcoming atmosphere for all who attend.

“It’s pretty relaxed,” McKenna said. “Everyone’s just hanging out, eating pasta, talking, meeting new people. It’s just a good time. Everyone’s just kind of free to go whenever they want … we’re kind of just there to bring everybody together.”

Past pasta nights, McKenna and Parisi said, have gone until almost midnight, with some friends staying around long past dinner.

Also on the wall of the apartment is a contact list where guests can leave their number for invite information. Parisi said an important element of the pasta nights is its organic and personal nature. News of upcoming pasta events are spread to friends via text message and word-of-mouth. There are never formal invitations or Facebook events, Parisi said.

“That’s important to kind of the core of this … it’s you inviting another person,” he said. “It’s me to you, come on in, bring whoever you want, bring your people.”

Parisi said one of the best things to hear from a new guest of 526 Pasta is that the person was invited by multiple people independently.

Word of their pasta nights has been spreading. Parents of a neighbor across the hall, Parisi said, once recognized him as “Pasta Phil.”

Currently, the guest list has not quite reached halfway to the goal. In order to encourage increased attendance, 526 Pasta this semester will switch from a weekly occurrence to being held a couple times a month, in the hopes that each event will be a bigger deal and thus draw more guests.

Rachel Witt, a senior in the College of Engineering, is a regular at 526 Pasta. As a good friend of Parisi, Malliet and McKenna, Witt said she has only missed one week and sometimes helps cook the pasta and sauce during the events.

“You know, it’s weird, the pasta nights, because it’s almost exactly what I came to Marquette for,” Witt said. “It’s this idea of community, the idea that you grab people from a lot of different branches of study and even ages a lot of time, and you bring them together … over food, something everyone loves.”

While 526 Pasta is free and open to anyone interested in attending, donations of pasta, sauce and other food are accepted. Guests are encouraged to provide their own forks.

“It’s just a fun way to kind of get together. It’s been a great way to meet new people,” McKenna said. “I would have never imagined senior year meeting so many new people and going to be able to recognize so many faces.”

Witt summed up 526 Pasta in four short words: “Good people, good food.”

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    Paul DarafeevFeb 3, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    5 years ago when we bought our ranch, my wife would invite 8 to 10 people over for dinner every month. Those were very special times. If you guys ever come to California, please know you’re having dinner with us 🙂