Come August, a tiny slice of Chicago will transform itself into the streets of Rome, Venice and Palermo with the weekend Taylor Street Festa Italiana in Chicago’s historic Little Italy neighborhood.
Onesti Entertainment Corporation President Ron Onesti — who started the original event — returns after a six-year hiatus to produce the 2018 edition of the popular festival, Aug. 16-19.
Onesti grew up in the “old neighborhood” and is ready to bring that traditional feel back to Taylor Street this summer. He also wants to show how Chicago’s Little Italy has been influenced by the nearby Illinois Medical District.
“My parents are immigrants from Naples and Florence, and I really want to focus on the culture and the history of the neighborhood,” Onesti said. “The festival will focus on the Italian immigration in the area and how it was strongly affected by the hospital district. We are returning to that initial establishment.”
Festivalgoers can expect no shortage of heritage Italiana, including food and drink offerings served up by family-owned eateries and neighborhood newcomers.
“As always, we will be working with the many local restaurants,” Onesti said. “We will have all the favorites: pizza, pasta, beef and Italian ice.
“But there will also be plenty of old school recipes available that have been passed down for generations.”
“Nothing is better than the sausage and peppers from Rosebud.”
And all ages are welcome and encouraged to come mangia at Festa Italiana as a famiglia.
“The whole event is centered around family and bringing all of these generations together to salute the neighborhood and Italian community as a whole,” Onesti explained. “Something new that will happen at this summer’s fest is a special procession and Mass at Our Lady of Pompeii for those who have passed. We want to honor those no longer with us and walk through the neighborhood streets.”
Families can also partake in bocce ball tournaments, a grape-stomping challenge, meatball-eating contests and tours of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame throughout the weekend. Continuous live traditional Italian tunes will be performed on five different festival stages. Italian dance ensembles will perform and teach an Italian folk dance, the tarantella.
Sports Hall of Fame Founder George Randazzo anticipates this year’s festival to be among the best.
“It’s a really important festival that has a lot of followers and brings a lot of people to the neighborhood,” Randazzo said. “You can always guarantee the music and food will be great.”
Festa Italiana will be presented along Taylor Street in University Village. Entry to the festival is free, but there is a suggested $5 donation, with all proceeds going to the University Village Association.