Sophie Bolich

What To Expect At Festa Italiana

Scaled-down event will preserve crowd-favorite activities like Bocce tournament and cannoli-eating contest.

By - Sep 19th, 2022 12:08 pm


Festa Italiana will return later this month, stretching Milwaukee’s festival season to the end of September.

Scheduled for Sept. 24 through 25, the festival is back after a two-year hiatus, featuring the same food, games and entertainment as previous years, but in a scaled-down format.

The festival almost didn’t return this year, citing the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But later announced it would return, though instead of its typical location at the Summerfest grounds, it would take place in the fenced-in parking lot at the Italian Community Center (ICC), 631 E. Chicago St.

The smaller footprint will make for a much more intimate event. While the festival will have to forego certain attractions from years past, it will still feature numerous food vendors, musicians, performances and crowd-favorite activities like the bocce tournament and a cannoli-eating contest.

On Saturday, Sept. 24, St. Rita Square will present Milwaukee’s Best Sauce Contest in search of the best homemade marinara sauce in Milwaukee.

Following an initial round of judging on Sept. 18, 10 finalists will compete for cash prizes and trophies at the festival. Attendees are invited to sample and vote for the People’s Choice award. There will also be a panel of celebrity judges, featuring Adam Pawlak of Egg & Flour, Maria Bartolotta of The Bartolotta Restaurants and Jim Tarantino of Capri Communities.

Throughout the day, three Milwaukee chefs, including Pawlak, will host authentic Italian cooking demonstrations and sampling.

Junior chefs can also get in on the culinary fun during a kid’s pizza making contest, scheduled for Sunday. More cooking demonstrations and a special Sunday mass, followed by a procession to the Pompeii Square Little Pink Church Memorial, are also scheduled for Sunday.

Both days of the festival will feature Italian eats from local vendors like Scrima’s Pizza, Papa Luigi’s, Pietro’s Pizza, The Bartolotta Restaurants and others.

In April, Festa Italiana announced that the festival would be cancelled for a third straight year, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fiscal health of ICC.

But the ICC and Festa already had financial difficulties even before the pandemic hit, as Urban Milwaukee previously reported. At the end of 2019 the ICC found itself with a net budget deficit of more than half a million dollars. One major contributor to the net deficit was the poor financial performance of the festival in 2019, in part due to bad weather two out of the festivals three days resulting in a loss of $231,419.

But despite those challenges, the the city’s oldest ethnic festival lives on.

Tickets will be sold at the gate for $5 each. There will be no advanced ticket sales this year. The prices reflect the scaled-down event — tickets went for $13 at the gate in 2019.

Festa Italiana is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

More information about the festival as well as a full schedule of events is available on the ICC website.

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Categories: Events, Food & Drink

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