The people came to enjoy a weekend of everything Italian and they were not disappointed. From the sounds of accordions, the beautiful tenor voice of...
For the thirty-third year, the Italian American Heritage Foundation held its much-anticipated signature event, the Italian Family Festa.
The weather could not have been more cooperative for the two-day event, held at the Guadalupe River and Gardens Park, adjacent to San Jose’s Little Italy, where San Jose’s original Italian immigrants first settled the valley.
The Festa boasted a full schedule of live entertainment, cultural events, arts and crafts exhibitions, traditional food and wine tasting, culinary demonstrations, bocce playing, and much more. Among the highlights of the festival, the “Roma Stage” was the main venue for musical performances with artists such as the widely-acclaimed Australian singer Alfio, Alfredo Imparato from Naples, Italica, the Fratello Marionettes and the Bay Area’s favorite Italian band, Bella Ciao.
The Piazza Piccola Italia in the heart of Little Italy was the site of the intimate Giardino di Vino, where attendees enjoyed a wine tasting, imported Italian coffee served by Debbie Caminiti of Bel Bacio, while listening to the accordion stylings of Ron Borrelli, as well as the European-style cabaret music of Due Zighi Baci.
At the International Culinary Center Stage, local chefs demonstrated their favorite Italian recipes as they prepared delicacies such as gnocchi, ravioli, penne alla vodka, and ricotta gnudi, among others.
Joe Rizzi, Director of the Festa pointed out that the most important aspect of this festival is the recreational atmosphere devoted to enjoying Italy's celebration with all family members and friends:
“Beside being on the Board of Directors of the IAHF, I've been directing this Festa for seven years, and this is the fourth year at Guadalupe Park, and it's fantastic so far. The most fulfilling thing for us is that there are a lot of families, young couples and children having fun. It's such a mellow environment where everyone is smiling, meeting friends and people not seen in a long time.
“Our average attendance is between 28-30 thousand people during the weekend and this year it's been great, but it's not really our goal to grow big. It is a quality event where everyone can have a good time and support the community. In fact, we have two main international stars, but all the other musicians are local because we believe in supporting local artists.”
Growing along with the Italian Family Festa is “Little Italy San Jose,” which was established only three years ago. The Italian district now hosts three businesses—La Piccola Scuola nel Parco, Paesano Ristorante, and Bel Bacio Cafè—and is developing four different projects.
Executive Director Joshua DeVincenzi Melander, shared a brief history of Little Italy San Jose.
“This area was the original Italian settlement in San Jose, so for the last four-five years we've been working on restoring the history of this area, creating an Italian development and fund raising projects.
“In San Jose in the past, there were many Italians who were in the farming industry in San Francisco emigrated down south, all this area was farm. There were three Little Italy, North side, East town and right here downtown where we're creating a new one since the fifties, that when we had the last Little Italy.
“Some of the things we accomplished - he continued - we sold thirty banners for the Italian-American promenade, and me moved in three authentic Italian residencies: a “Dopo Scuola” Italian school, “Paesano Ristorante” and the coffee house “Bel Bacio” with coffee roasted in Calabria, but grown in Messina, Sicily. Now we have a development taking place, for a housing project. One of the homes we're restoring will be a donation from some prominent families to turn it into a permanent ItalianAmerican museum.
“The Italian American Heritage Foundation organizes the festival. My grandfather is a founder of the Festa, and our organization is a separate non-profit, but we obviously work together to have Little Italy here.
“Our project is continuing to grow, and really symbolic for the community will be the 31 foot arch that we will be installing in three weeks. The arch is made of marble donated by Pietrafina of Hayward, the architect Davide Giannella is from Rome, and all the work on the architecture and engineering is pro bono. It's a big community effort, a symbolic moment for our project, it's a frame for Little Italy San Jose and a big monument that will be here forever.”