Syracuse Italian Festival Connects Culture Through Food, Music and Youth

Sep 15, 2014

The 2014 Festa Italiana set up right in front of City Hall this year
Credit Michael Lehr/WAER News

  Syracuse has wrapped up this year’s Italian Festival after a final day of live music, cultural celebration, and of course, lots and lots of Italian food.

More than a dozen local restaurants were at the festival and they offered customers a wide variety of treats including meatball subs, chicken rigatoni, and cannoli.

For visitors like Karen Grella, it was like a taste of home cooking.

“My grandmother comes from Sicily, my grandfather is from Northern Italy, and my other grandfather is from the Naples region, so we grew up with a lot of Italian food in our household.”

Food is always a popular attraction at the festival.
Credit Michael Lehr/WAER News

  With the festival over the restaurants are back to business as usual, but there may be new customers on the way. Michael Albanese, the co-owner of Tony’s Family Restaurant, says the festival has always helped his business grow.

“A lot of new people try our food and they like it. Then they come to the restaurant and enjoy it. We notice a little boost in our clientele every different festival we do. We do two a year and each one is good for us.”

Albanese says this was his seventh year at the Italian Festival and he can expect good, loyal customers at Tony’s between now and next year’s festival.

Some of the festival’s youngest visitors may have taken something special home with them.  On the festival’s closing day, children from the Federico School of Music serenaded the crowd with classic Italian songs. Josephine Federico, the group’s music director and accompanist, says teaching the songs to children helps to keep her heritage alive.

Children sang Italian songs to the crowd. the stage was also the site for concerts each of the three days of the festival.
Credit Michael Lehr/WAER News

  “ They learn most when they are young. So what they learn as young students is really what they remember and what they will carry on.”

There were other places at the festival that gave children a chance to learn. The Kids’ Tent included crafting activities that taught kids about the Italian flag, colors and even the language.

Festival volunteer Laurie Holtsberry says these activities bring the children closer to their roots.

“Italian phrases…ways to say “I love you” and “best friends”, I want them to remember that. Because a lot of kids said yesterday, “oh that’s what Grandma says to me”, so they connected with it right away."

And as those kids say “arrivederci” to this year’s festival, they just might leave with new knowledge, memories, and reasons to come back next year.