It’s always a hoot discovering new and interesting places in our little corner of the world. Our heavily ethnic area offers all sorts of surprises that bite you in the butt when you go around the corner. These places make you shake your head: a warp speed to the past…a magnificent anachronism that belongs in another time…but there it is nonetheless. And you wonder “How the hell does this place stay in business?” New Castle’s Ladies of the Dukes is that kind of place. All you can do is look puzzled, shrug your shoulders and shake your head...then ask for extra sauce for your spaghetti.
The Ladies of the Dukes is located in Little New York (New Castle, Pa., for us non-residents). You see, back in the early 1960’s, New Castle had this card club consisting of five Italian women who also liked to do good works. They attempted to form a women’s auxiliary to a men’s Italian Club called the Dukes. Those of us of Italian descent know that Italian men don’t like to have their space, and especially their clubs, encroached upon. The ladies’ efforts were not well received. Not to be deterred, the ladies formed their own non-profit organization and called themselves The Ladies of the Dukes. They started selling what they did best…their cooking. They bought a small restaurant, and the rest is history.
Monday through Saturday, you can drive by The Ladies of the Dukes. You can see cars in the driveway. You can look through the windows and see the ladies cooking. But try the door and it will be locked. Banging on the windows won’t help. It’s only open on Sundays…11-6, and serves on average 600 people homemade spaghetti, ravioli, cavatellis and meatballs. A small order comes with one meatball. Large comes with 2 meatballs, and extra large comes with 3 meatballs. All are wonderful. In addition these hard working ladies offer chicken parm…fried chicken…meatball sandwiches…wedding and pastina soup….chicken salad, as well as several desserts.
Now folks…this restaurant isn’t in some church hall. This is a legitimate, stand alone restaurant that is really open one day a week. It’s not particularly fancy but it more than fills the bill for what these women do. It is clean and neat as a pin. The service is a combination Italian grandma down home friendly no nonsense all wrapped up into one. It is referred to as New Castle’s best known restaurant. Hang there long enough, and you will see anyone you need to see if you are a local.
This restaurant proves the maxim “do one thing and do it better than anybody else.” The sauce and homemades are outstanding, about as good as I have had anywhere, including my own kitchen. And that is all that needs to be said about Ladies of the Dukes. Open Sundays from 11:30 – 6:00. Oh yes, be prepared to wait, especially during the "after-church" hours. Oh yes again, The Ladies of the Dukes may be a magnificent anachronism, but they have a website!!!
Because it’s only open one day a week, I am not specifying any meatballs other than to tell you to go there and eat some.