San Francisco-Assisi, first 50 years as Sister's Cities
Street festivals in San Francisco are not rare. On any given weekend in the spring and summer, at least a couple of them are happening somewhere in the City. They range from the extreme (like the Folsom Street Fair) to the traditional (like the Saint Patrick’s Day festival) to the downright boring (you know what I’m talking about). There are of course, a plethora of ethnic-themed street fairs as well, each proclaiming the virtues of San Francisco’s diverse mixture of cultures.
Somewhere between “traditional” and “ethnic” you will find the Festa Coloniale Italiana, an Italian-themed street fair that provides just the right combination of fun, food, and entertainment, without the massive crowds that can be intimidating and uncomfortable to the average person.
The Festa Coloniale Italiana is hosted each year by the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club—actually their non-profit foundation—and brings together authentic Italian food, a relaxed venue, and non-stop entertainment.
This year was no different. With Chef Paul Alioto at the helm, revelers were treated to a variety of traditional Italian favorites, from calamari to cannoli, and everything in between. The gymnasium at the SFIAC was converted into a make-shift museum, complete with an exhibit on loan from the Museo Italo Americano entitled, At Bat: Italians in Baseball. Those venturing to the third floor were treated to a wine tasting, and a great view of the entertainment on the streets below.
That entertainment featured some regulars and some surprises. Bella Ciao returned this year, under the leadership of Tom Torriglia, who flew back from Italy for a brief whirlwind performing tour. The Ricco Dancers were a returning act, as was the Master of Ceremonies, Nick Figone.
Luca Siriani brought his diverse combination of pop, rock, jazz and blues. Though he is a relative unknown in the community, Luca was able to bring a performance that met with popular acclaim. Il Sole featuring Steve Albini was a hit (as usual), and Ten-time World Pizza Champion, and restaurateur Tony Gemignani impressed the crowd with an amazing display of pizza twirling that left no doubt as to why he is a two-time Guiness World Record holder.
There were two performances that stood out for their uniqueness. Due Zighi Baci (Two Gypsy Kisses) performed European-style café music that warmed the hearts of the audience. Singer Michael Van Why exuded exceptional stage presence; his powerful and well-trained voice was nothing short captivating. For those who are skeptical, another opportunity to hear him is coming up. He will be performing again at the Italian Family Festa in San Jose this weekend, and if any one needed an excuse to attend, Michael Van Why is that excuse.
George Komsky surprised everyone. As it was announced that opera music was about to be performed by a guy with a non-Italian surname, some began to make their way to the cannoli booth. But within minutes of hearing his piercing voice fill the air, butts were back in their seats, and jaws were dropping. The mesmerized audience knew that someday, they would be able to say that they had heard George Komsky sing before he had become world-famous.
SFIAC President Al Cipollina declared the Festa Coloniale Italiana a success, and there was nobody to dispute his proclamation. Festa Chairman Brian Serafini Blewer wiped his brow as the festival ended, but vowed that next year, the Festa Coloniale Italiana would be back—bigger and better than ever.