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Posted: Friday, 17 March 2017 7:12AM

Lots of pasta, and a serving of controversy

Local Italians gather at noon today to fill a bowl the size of a hot tub with spaghetti... then they give it away for free at the Riverside Hilton.  

It comes with a heaping helping of controversy this year.

The Italian American St. Joseph Society has been asking for years for the Catholic Archdiocese to give the group a dispensation to allow them to have meat with their pasta on the Friday before St. Joseph's Day.

"We would really love to have two big meatballs on that big pile of pasta," Judge Tony Russo said.

He's the events coordinator.

Russo says he just has the wrong heritage.

"I happen to be Italian, what can I do?" he asks. "You have to be Irish to get the dispensation... they got it, we couldn't get it."

With St. Patrick's Day falling on a "meatless Friday" during Lent, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond says Catholics who want to eat meat today can do so.

"If a Catholic residing in the Archdiocese of New Orleans wishes to participate in St. Patrick's Day festivities and desires to eat meat, they may be dispensed and choose another day of the week for abstinence or may choose to perform an act of penance that is a greater sacrifice," Aymond said.

Russo says, "Maybe one day we'll get an Italian Archbishop."

Here's a look at one of the previous celebrations:

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