AYER — Nothing says family like a big, sit-down meal.
The Basile family celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday in style, inviting the 160 or so employees of their company, Catania Oils, to lunch.
In the parking lot.
Where else can they safely deep fry 10 turkeys?
Resident turkey fryer, Kevin Cyr, was hard at work on Tuesday morning, With 12 pots of boiling oil, two for chicken wings, two for olive oil-cooked turkeys and eight full of peanut oil, he had lots to keep an eye on.
He slid the birds into the oil ever so slowly. Spatter could be painful.
The birds came out an hour or so later, crispy brown with oil draining off before landing at the carving station.
The master fryer had some words of advice for home chefs. Don’t deep fry the turkey inside or on a deck: The whole thing could go up in flames.
Keep a constant eye on the oil temperature as the bird cooks. “You’ve got to watch the oil,” he said.
The thermometer monitors the oil temperature, not the bird’s temperature. “Don’t stick it in the bird,” he said.
Most workdays, Cyr is the national retail manager for the cooking oil packaging company. He grew up down the street from the Basile family.
Family members worked all day Monday prepping for the event, said Stephen Basile, executive vice president. His five brothers and sisters and others were all busy making potatoes, stuffing and gravy.
The pies and ice cream came from Johnson’s Restaurant and Dairy Bar in Groton. That was still in the family though. His wife is there.
It was difficult to tell family from employee at Catania.
Prisco Morella started working for Catania in Somerville in 1973 as a high school student. Joe Basile ran the company then, the grandfather of the current generation of executives.
The student moved containers of oil around, 2,000 gallons a week. “The job was so dirty,” he remembered. He was going to quit but Basile offered him a uniform so he did not ruin his clothes.
Feeding employees like family was already part of the culture. “Joe used to make lunch,” Morella said. Sausages and Swiss chard soup were often on the menu.
Now he is the bulk oil manager in charge of moving one million gallons of oil in a week and speaks highly of the family. They came to visit him in his sick bed.
“This company backed me up,” he said.
“Everything is going to be taken care of,” they told him. Instead of staying out on disability as he could have done, he returned to work after he recovered.
Charlie Alvino drove in from Revere for lunch. The 90-year-old retired three years ago after 65 years on the job.
The trip “wasn’t for the food,” he said. “It was for all the workers that I know.”
Alvino stuck with the company through thick and thin, Stephen Basile said. In lean years, there were times he did not even draw a wage.
Every employee, no matter how long with the company, took an 18- to 20-pound turkey home last week.
During lunch, diners paused to sing “Happy Birthday” to Annemarie Abdo. Not only was her birthday the next day; it was also her first year anniversary with Catania.
The director of human resources put in a plug for prospective employees. Workers start at $15 an hour or more, she said.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.