Café Polisena was overflowing with people during Tuesday’s lunch hour, and it was a good thing Johnston’s resident chefs Peter DelPonte and Arnie Vecchione were ready for what some people suggested was a record-setting crowd inside the Johnston Municipal Courthouse Tuesday.
Vecchione, who serves as Johnston’s director of public works and one of the town’s skilled chefs, offered: “One thing is for sure – the mayor has a knack for drawing a crowd.”
It was estimated that between 120 and 140 people accepted Mayor Joseph Polisena’s invitation to come to Johnston for what has become a highly popular and non-political networking luncheon. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Lt. Gov. Dan McKee were among the politicos in attendance.
“This is not – nor has it ever been – any type of political party,” Polisena wanted it known while greeting Providence NAACP President Jim Vincent, Citizens Bank Senior Vice President Mike Knipper and Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements. “It’s a chance to get together in a social setting, break bread and talk about what’s going on in our respective communities.”
For example, it’s estimated that Tuesday’s luncheon gathering included 15 to 18 mayors and/or town administrators, as well as people from the corporate and business areas and even some of the state’s top-ranking law enforcement officials – including David DeCesare and Paul Martellini, Johnston residents who hold the top two positions in the Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs.
For some, the networking luncheon – which Polisena established a half-dozen years ago – is like a family reunion. For others, it is a homecoming of sorts.
Tuesday’s luncheon served as a homecoming both for former Johnston Fire Chief Tim McLaughlin and DeCesare, the former Johnston deputy fire chief.
For R. Anthony Rolle, who is the dean of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Education & Professional Studies, it was an opportunity to enjoy lunch and meet people from various non-educational fields.
“I’ve said this before,” Richard J. DelFino Jr., the long-serving Johnston Democratic Town Committee chairman and Municipal Court Clerk began, “but these luncheon are unique. This is breaking bread in a unique social setting you won’t fine anywhere in the state.”