Downtown becomes little Italy
Downtown turned into a little taste of Italy this weekend for the 2003 Festa Italiana. The streets were filled with hundreds of students and community members who turned out to enjoy three days of Italian food, chef demonstrations, bocce tournaments and live entertainment.
Attendants could choose from any of those attractions, but many were drawn to the festival by the delicious food. more than 25 local Italian restaurants and caterers attracted hundreds to feast on freshly made delicacies. Tents served specialties such as cannoli, lasagna and cinnamon-roasted nuts, making this year’s festival a food lover’s dream.
‘Italian food – lots of cheap Italian food,’ said Kaela Dawson, an undeclared sophomore in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. ‘It’s really doesn’t get much better than that.’
Some of the more popular selections among the crowd were chocolate-filled cannolis, lobster tails, freshly squeezed lemonade and alcoholic beverages such as Bolla.
‘It was definitely a good place to go for food,’ said Lindsay Bigda, a sophomore television, radio and film major. ‘Everything was delicious, and everything was reasonably priced so everyone could enjoy it without spending too much.’
To supplement the food the vendors offered, free samples were also available to those who didn’t want to spend the cash. Sweet and spicy sausage samples were among some of the freebies. Also available were Festa souvenirs, including custom-made T-shirts, mugs and stuffed animals.
Showing off the diversity of Italian cooking styles, chefs from the Cucina restaurant held free demonstrations that taught viewers how to prepare some of their favorite dishes. Using fresh ingredients, the chefs provided step-by-step instructions to the eager audience. Some of the spectators even took notes so they could repeat the recipe at home.
Sports fans were treated to traditional bocce tournament featuring teams from the Central New York area competing for the championship and $100. The game originated in Italy, but has since gained popularity around the world. During the game, four teams compete by throwing large balls in a marked-off playing field. Afterward, players attempt to roll smaller balls as close to the larger ones as possible.
Throughout the festival, the main stage featured a number of performers, including Jimmy Cavallo, Atlas and versatile singer Michael Amante. During his performance Sunday night, Amante drew a large crowd, many of whom brought their own chairs and claimed their seats half an hour in advance. He performed both his own selections and traditional Italian songs, most of which were sung in Italian. Nonetheless, the audience responded with enthusiasm after each number, giving a rousing round of applause.
Although the event had plenty of food and entertainment, Bigda felt that something was missing.
‘I thought that there was going to be more cultural activities and displays,’ she said. ‘That was one of the reasons why I went. But it was still a good experience.’
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