THE SHOOTING STARS Fancy Brigade, of which he's a member, is practicing on Sunday in the shadow of the Walt Whitman Bridge, but City Councilman Mark Squilla is with his mother inside the clubhouse on 3rd Street, lighting the Sterno to heat the eggplant parm.

A few minutes later, he's behind the bar. He slides a plate of meat and cheese to the end, then takes a call on his cellphone - then another. "Yo," he greets a caller, and reaches for the soda gun.

Squilla, 50, can't make Mummers practice because he's helping to launch the Nina Pennachietti Fund, named after his late grandmother, who emigrated from Italy as an orphan when she was 18. The $12,000 raised Sunday will help orphans with high school and college expenses.

"She didn't know family as we know family," says Squilla's talkative mother, Rose. "She only knew the orphanage way, but she did a darn good job."

Earlier in the day, Squilla had attended a Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington Square.

"I know this is supposed to be a chillin' day," he apologizes, "but I don't really 'chill' many days."

Squilla specialized in troubleshooting when he worked as a systems analyst in the state Auditor General's Office. Now, the first-year councilman troubleshoots for the whole 1st District, which stretches from South Philly to Port Richmond.

"It was sort of a natural progression," he says.

He's frustrated by the slow pace in City Hall. "What I have a hard time with is how long it takes to get things done," he says. "It seems like you got to jump through a lot of hoops."

The Shooting Stars don't give him a hard time when he misses practice to attend a community meeting or other event. He's been a member since 1985 and he'll perform with the brigade on New Year's Day, no matter how crowded his calendar gets.

"Usually it's a down day," Squilla says of Sundays, "but it seems there's always something to do."

- William Bender