by Joanne Spata
Autumn was in the air, mingling with the aromas, sights and sounds of Italy, as Casa Italia celebrated its 5th annual Italian Fall Festival. Nestled on the grounds of Casa Italia, the festive weekend of Oct. 15 and 16 featured continuous musical entertainment, cultural events and Italian delicacies as far as the eye could see.
No matter what time you arrived, you were treated to the musical strains of Enzo and Liliana Incandela, Marco Margaritelli, Vince Amore or Johnny Maggio, who filled the Casa Italia grounds with the beautiful sounds of Italian melodies. And, of course, there would be no music without the incomparable Ron Onesti of Onesti Entertainment Corp., who provided his services and elaborate sound system to back all of the fabulous entertainers.
Through the generosity of Tony Mandolini and Tony Lapasso, numerous cases of grapes and apples were donated for the wine- and cider-making demonstration. It was rendered into sweet juice and readied for fermentation by Antonio D’Ambrosio and John Franzese. Equally impressive was the ricotta-making by the team of men from Tony’s Finer Foods. A show of culinary skills and the traditions of the old country blended to make for a delicious display.
The crowds also enjoyed feasting on roasted pig on a spit by Frank Salerno, fresh grilled Italian sausage and beef, taffy apples, pumpkin pie, pasta e fagiole. Delicious brick oven-baked pizza, baked pasta and aranchini by Emilio Marrone of Salerno’s Restaurant was quite a hit; along with the great low-cost breakfast he offered at the Casa Italia Banquet Center the morning of the Fest. And what would a festival be without delicious Turano cannoli?
The Chicago Swordplay Guild, under the direction of its co-founder and leader Gregory Mele, added a unique flair to the weekend. They demonstrated Italian marshal arts and swordplay, highlighting the works of the most famous Italian swordsman, Maestro Fiore dei Liberi, arguably the most influential European sword master of the mid-late 14th century.
Coni, the Italian National Olympic Committee, returned to Casa Italia to participate in Fall Festival 2011, with a rich program of fun, sporting game activities and a lecture for the youth and families of our community. Other children’s activities included a basketball court-sized air-filled playground and the Westchester Fire Prevention Smoke House.
Special thanks to the team of dedicated volunteers guided by Chairperson Joanne Spata and with committee members: IAET President Vito D’Ambrosio, Rich Belmonte, Gail Carey, Dean Dalaly, Frank DiCicco, Kevin Dolcimascolo, T.J. Fulmer, Joe Glimco, Darrell Marchioretto, Andrew Panico, Gaetano Panico, Andy Tegtmeier, Dominic Verlotta, and Josette Mentesana-Weber.
Greatly enriching our festival were the numerous cultural affairs offered throughout the day. These special presentations were made through the generosity of Josette Mentesana Weber and Dominic Candeloro through their art exhibits and tours.
And, finally, where would we be without our most generous sponsors, to whom we are forever in their debt? They include: B.J. Cola Co., Casa Italia, Italian American Executives of Transportation, Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Midway Auto Group, Village of Melrose Park, Calabresi in America, Frank Salerno, Ron Onesti Entertainment, Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Speed-O-Lite Printing Center and Turano Baking Company.