Little Italy Days started in 2002 with a mission to celebrate Bloomfield’s Italian heritage. Event planner Sal Richetti was involved from the start. As owner of Big Day Entertainment and a Bloomfield native, he booked the entertainment for the festival. That all changed three years ago. “The festival was going to fold and so I volunteered to step in,” he said.
He booked entertainment and took stock of what worked and what didn’t. Previously, the festival was held in October to coincide with Columbus Day and the yearly parade. Mr. Richetti decided last year to expand the festival to four days and to move it August to take advantage of the longer days, and the decision proved to be a winner.
“Our attendance was well over 40,000 last year.”
Besides the obvious exposure for the community and its heritage, Mr. Richetti said that the biggest pleasure for him was seeing how it helped the business owners of the neighborhood that he loves.
“It saved many businesses. It is like their Christmas. It gave them a lot exposure to customers who might not have otherwise made it to Bloomfield.”
Little Italy Days can now boast that it is the premier festival in the city as it received first place for the city of Pittsburgh’s Best Special Event and first place from the Townie Awards, a statewide recognition.
Events, which can be seen in their entirety on the festival website www.littleitalydays.com, begin tonight.
On the entertainment front Mr. Richetti has drawn a mix of old, new and a little tongue-in-cheek.
Tonight at 7, Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses perform a tribute to Louis Prima on the main stage on Liberty Avenue near Pearl Street. The show will be packed with swing jazz, Italian favorites and more. The band is currently on tour with their latest release “Blow,” a quickly rising CD that now sits at No. 25 on the jazz charts.
On Friday, singer Simona DeRosa will perform at noon and then again from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. with local band Dr. Zoot. Ms. DeRosa is a soprano originally from Naples, Italy. She is in the states pursuing an advanced music degree in New York City and has a wide repertoire that includes Italian folk songs, classic opera and American jazz.
Friday and Saturday two more stages will be added and will feature The Compadres, Magic Moments, Little Sofia-Teresa and Lucia DiBacco and the East End Kids. Local favorites The Granati Brothers will also make an appearance. For those looking for an afternoon of pure fun, Randy Galioto will perform his Elvis show followed by Jimmy Sapienza’s Five Guys Named Moe.
During the festival, the neighborhood’s many small businesses along Liberty Avenue will be open, and some, such as Bloomfield Drug and Maria Merante’s Fine Gifts, will set up booths.
Every restaurant will be selling its food on the street. Neighborhood favorites like Sausalido, The Pleasure Bar, Caliente’s, Armand’s Famous Fish and Del’s carry festival specials. Look for Polish food at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, while stalwarts like Thai Gourmet and Tessaro’s pack it in. Italian food stores Donatelli’s and Groceria Italiana will be open, and newcomer DJ’s Butcher Block will be grilling outside.
Desserts and sweets will be everywhere. Last year, Moio’s and Cherico’s bakeries set up in front of St. Joseph Church and hand-filled cannoli to order all weekend.
Family activities include a bocce tournament, kids activities, cooking lessons with Italian chefs and a number of sponsor booths throughout with giveaways and lots of info about city living, visiting, food and more.
Mr. Richetti said, “This weekend, everybody is Italian for four days, we invite everyone to come out, enjoy some great food, great music and celebrate, it’s a street party for all.”
Rosa Colucci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1634, twitter @PGRosa_colucci.
First Published August 21, 2014 6:03 PM