‘Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto’: Italian-American Festival draws crowds, good weather

Crowds enjoyed the weather last weekend as Center Street was transformed into Southington’s Italian-American Festival. The annual festival drew music, culture, and food to celebrate the town’s rich Italian heritage. “Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto” (Eat well, laugh often, love much). Above, Southington town councilor Rev. Victoria Triano, right, shares a laugh at the UNICO booth as she purchases a sausage and pepper grinder from Mark Mathieu, left, and Rich D’Amato, center. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

By SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

Southington’s 15th annual Italian-American Festival brought crowds to Center Street for a three-day celebration of a piece of Southington’s history and heritage.

Years ago, many Italian men, women and families immigrated to America and found a new home in Southington. They settled in the area of Center Street, and had a community of their own, helping other immigrants adjust and acclimate to their new home, find jobs, learn a new language and more.

The Italian American festival celebrates the coming together of two cultures, and the lasting impact the Italian immigration had on the area.

“With the festival and other events throughout the year, we hope to educate the younger generations of our heritage, traditions and culture,” said Tony Cusano, president of the Sons of Italy, one of the groups that organizes the festival. “We’re very fortunate to have great sponsors, great community support, great vendors and entertainment.”

Cusano said the festival mimics traditional festivals held in Italy, and includes an Italian mass followed by a procession honoring the Madonna della Strada.

Whether attending to connect with and embrace the Italian American heritage, or just to grab a bite to eat and enjoy some musical entertainment, there is something for everyone at the festival.

Two friends, Ruth Grey and Carolyn Orsatti, came out for opening night of the festival. After browsing the selection of vendors, they settled on broccoli rabe and sausage and pepper grinders.

“Everything is delicious,” said Orsatti. Both said they were enjoying the festival, and would be back next year to try something different.

Town manger Mark Sciota thanked the three organizations who put the festival together each year: Sons of Italy, the Southington UNICO branch, and the Sorelle d’Italia.

“I’m proud to say this is the festival’s 15th year,” said Sciota. “Things like this do not happen without volunteers. Thank you to these three groups who handle the nuts and bolts of the festival—without them, none of this would take place.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.

The Sam Vinci Quartet Band performed at the Italian Festival last Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

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