Little Italy Festa brings gelato, music, reunions, and food to Taylor Street
August 2, 2019

Austin Giorgio of TV’s The Voice will perform at Chicago’s Little Italy Festa-Taylor Street at Chicago’s Little Italy Festa-Taylor Street.

The first Chicago contest for the best gelato will be featured at Chicago’s Little Italy Festa-Taylor Street, the annual food, music, and fun fair, from Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 15 through 18.

“It is an international competition, and every four years they select the World Gelato Chef,” said Ron Onesti, a Near West Side native whose company, Onesti Entertainment, will run the fest once again for the Little Italy Chicago Neighborhood Association (LICNA). “What we are doing is a Chicago edition” leg of the contest. A dozen contestants will create specialties in a fully equipped factory in a trailer.

Fest goers will be able to taste unique combinations of flavors, such as Texas whiskey and pecan, passion fruit ricotta, and saffron pistachio with candied lemon peel, Onesti said.

Also on tap are cannoli, ravioli, and meatball eating contests alongside the numerous food and drink stands that will line Taylor Street.

Five stages stretching from Ashland Avenue east down Taylor Street will feature music. The neighborhood’s own Josie Falbo will sing on Saturday. A reunion of the Bronx Wanderers group will perform on Sunday. Other entertainment will include salutes to Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra, Journey, Billy Joel, Connie Francis, and Jerry Vale. Austin Giorgio from the NBC-TV show The Voice also will perform. Lenny Laino Jr. and his Xplosive Sounds Old School Dance Party will play almost non-stop.

“My favorite thing, as well as my family’s, about the fest is taking part and watching generations of people coming together, sometimes seeing one another only at this event once a year,” said Joseph Esposito, president of LICNA and a life-long resident of the area. “Getting together with friends and family that they do not see often, all while celebrating the Italian culture of food, music, friendship, and cultural events with laughter and smiles, is priceless.”

The fest will open at 5 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 15, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) participating. At 10:15 a.m. Sun., Aug. 18, a procession from the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii will head to the main stage at Ashland Avenue for an 11 a.m. Mass that will be presided over by the Rev. Richard Fragomeni, shrine rector.

Fest hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Thurs. Aug. 15, 5 to 11 p.m. Fri. Aug. 16, 12:30 to 11 p.m. Sat. Aug. 17, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun. Aug. 18.

Suggested donation to enter the fest is $8 per person. There is no designated parking area, so visitors should look for street or paid lot parking nearby.

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—Susan S. Stevens