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The 42nd annual Festa Italiana takes place at Henry W. Maier Festival Park Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21, and festival guests can look forward to a weekend filled with entertainment, Italian culture, refreshing beverages and delicious Italian food from a variety of local vendors.
Food and drink lovers will be particularly enamored this year. First, there are countless tasty new beverages include official beverages like the Aperol spritz and Peroni along with Italian cocktails, wines, beer, whiskey and bourbon (read more on those here).
Of course, you’ll want something to nosh with any one of those beverages. Maybe you’ll opt for a meatball sandwich from Alioto’s ($6), deep-fried gnocchi from Albanese’s Roadhouse ($8) or calimari from Vivere Italian Restaurant ($8.95). Or you might choose to feast on a porchetta sandwich ($8) from Bartolotta’s or enjoy handmade arancini from Divino Wine & Dine ($6.50).
Pizza will be prevalent, with slices available from Scrima’s Woodfired Pizza (by the slice or whole pie; $5/$18) and Pietro’s ($5.50). And if Sicilian spiedini is calling your name, there are multiple spots to find it, including Papa Luigi’s ($7.50) and Divino ($8.50).
But there are plenty of new things to try, as well.
Milk Bottle Bakery (a forthcoming concept coming to the new 3rd Street Market Hall) will debut Italian beef sandwiches ($8), muffalettas (half or whole, $8/$16), zeppole ($5) and a chocolate and hazelnut parfait ($5).
Meanwhile, Chicagoland’s Angelo Caputo’s Fresh Market will serve imported stuffed squash blossoms ($7), Sicilian style eggplant parmesan sandwiches ($6) and Bada bing shrimp ($6). It will also offer refreshing salads including octopus ($7), tomato bocconcini ($6).
And Pizano’s Pizza will dish up slices of its signature Chicago deep dish pizza ($5-6) and special chopped salad ($6).
Hungry yet? Peruse the complete list of vendors and their menus online.
Cooking demos & a Bartolotta tribute
All weekend long, Festa will showcase cooking demonstrations and food-based competitions in the Cucina Showcase. Highlights include the annual cannoli eating contest (July 20) and kids’ pizza making contest (July 21).
There will also be cooking demonstrations by Chefs David Magnasco of The Chef’s Table, David Wolfe of Bartolotta’s/Italian Community Center, John Korycki of Harbor House, Tony Evans of Heritage Senior Living, Brittany Green of Ambassador Hotel, Miles Borghgraef of Birch + Butcher and Peter Ignatiev of Johnny Manhattan’s.
Festa will also hold a special tribute to Joe Bartolotta, who passed away in April. The tribute will be led by Bartolotta chefs, who will celebrate his dedication to the Italian community and legacy. Two tributes will take place at the Cucina Showcase on Saturday, July 20 at 1:30 and 4:15 p.m.
Tickets & more info
Advance tickets for Festa Italiana are available for $10 now through July 18 at festaitaliana.com. Tickets will also be available onsite (at the gate) for $13. Tickets are required for adult admission.
Children 12 and under free. Former and active military, firefighters, law enforcement and teachers and one guest get in free Sunday, July 21. For more information on Festa hours and special admission deals, visit festaitaliana.com.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.