The Food Column: Latrobe isn't splitting the honors with Wilmington, Ohio

A blue-and-yellow historical marker made it official last summer: Latrobe is the birthplace of the banana split.

And now, for a second year, the town is putting on a festival to celebrate the fact.

Events scheduled this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 22 and 23, include a sock hop, car hop, yellow-tie gala, baking contests, giveaways at a Dole “Banana Cabana” (including recipes for healthy twists on the banana split, such as the one accompanying this column), vendor and merchant sales, and more.

For many years, Latrobe and the town of Wilmington, Ohio, have bantered over which town rolled out the banana split first. As far as Jarod Trunzo, interim executive director of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, is concerned, the discussion became moot when Latrobe was awarded the historical marker last year.

Here’s the text of the marker: “In 1904 in Latrobe, the first documented Banana Split was created by apprentice pharmacist David Strickler -- sold here at the former Tassell Pharmacy. Bananas became widely available to Americans in the late 1800s. Strickler capitalized on this by cutting them lengthwise and serving them with ice cream. He is also credited with designing a boat-shaped glass dish for his treat. Served worldwide, the banana split has become a prevalent American dessert.”

Wilmington, Ohio, also holds a Banana Split Festival; that festival’s website notes that Wilmington’s banana split first showed up at a restaurant called Hazard’s in 1907. So it would appear that Mr. Trunzo has a point.

There’s certainly no lack of enthusiasm for the topic in Latrobe, where the Latrobe Art Center held banana-themed events earlier this week to lead into the festival. The Art Center held a “Cupcake Wars” contest and block party on Tuesday night and a “Gone Bananas” painting workshop for kids Wednesday.

Today, Latrobe Art Center is holding a Pop the Cork Night and Banana Split Bar from 6 to 9 p.m. For $35, attendees can enjoy wine make-it-yourself banana splits while painting.

On Friday, a brief opening ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. in the 800 block of Ligonier Street in front of the historical marker. Afterward, Ligonier Street will be transformed into an open-air dining room and dance floor with heavy appetizers and live jazz for an event that has been dubbed the “Yellow Tie Gala.” Latrobe Dairy Queen will also serve a banana split bar, and an open bar will feature wine, beer and two signature cocktails. Gala tickets are $50. For reservations, call 724-537-7011.

On Saturday, the schedule includes:

• Banana breakfast bar, 9 a.m. to noon in the Ligonier Street event tent.

• Baking contest judging, 10 a.m. to noon at Quatrini Rafferty Building. Bakers will compete to win top honors for their banana breads, cupcakes, cookies and other items. Winning food items will be auctioned at 11:45 a.m., and remaining items will be sold afterward to benefit the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program.

• Lions Club Car Hop and Show, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the 300 block of Weldon and Spring streets.

• Rotary Family Stroll, noon to 2 p.m. in the Downtown district.

• Live concert, 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Trinity Lutheran courtyard.

• Malt shop sock hop, 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Ligonier Street.

Merchants in Downtown Ligonier will hold sidewalk sales both Friday and Saturday. Crafters, vendors and food stands will also be set up along Ligonier Street on Saturday.

More information can be found at, (click “Events”), and

Flipping for food

The P&G Gymnastics Championships are in Pittsburgh for the first time ever, today through Sunday at CONSOL Energy Center.

But the competition extends outside the gym to the city’s restaurants as well.

Five Downtown restaurants -- Capital Grille, Meat and Potatoes, Nine on Nine, NOLA and The Carlton -- have developed special gymnastics-themed entrees that will be served in their dining rooms for the four days of the gymnastics competition. Celebrity gymnast judges will visit the restaurants and try the entrees, and the top entree will be named at a ceremony during the gymnastics competition on Sunday.

Those attending gymnastics events can also get discounts at several area restaurants by showing their ticket stubs.

For more on this, see our blog post at

Food & flicks

Spaghetti Western Dinner and a Movie Series: Pasta-and-meatballs dinner followed by a screening of “My Name Is Nobody.” 6 p.m. today, Aug. 21, at Parkway Theater in McKees Rocks. $8. Information: E-mail


Little Italy Days: Ethnic food booths, live music and entertainment, bocce tournament, children’s activities, sidewalk sales. 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21; noon to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22 and Saturday, Aug. 23; and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, in Bloomfield.

Seven Springs Wine Festival: Wine samples from Pennsylvania wineries, daily seminars, live entertainment and crafters. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23 and 24, at Seven Springs.

Red, Ripe and Roasted: Phipps Conservatory’s annual celebration of tomatoes and garlic is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, in Oakland. Presenters include the Post-Gazette’s Doug Oster and Miriam Rubin. Get into the fest and the conservatory with a bag of fresh produce to give to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (or purchase some there). 


Kids in the Kitchen: Children ages 6 to 10, each attending with a parent, will build a Sunny Bridge Natural Foods gluten-free pizza to take home, plus get ideas for healthy after-school snacks. 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, at Metamorphosis Center in Canonsburg. $45. (click on “classes & events”).

Vegan eating: Rebecca Gilbert of Yummy Plants suggests vegan protein sources, how to stock a vegan pantry and how to stay vegan in social situations. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Carnegie Library’s Homewood branch. Free. Reservations: 412-242-3598.

Cooking @ the Library: Indian Cuisine with a Vegan Twist: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30, at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 612 Smithfield St., Downtown. Free. 412-281-7141.


Graeter’s Ice Cream: Graeter’s vans will hand out free samples of Dark Chocolate Truffle Gelato and Caramel Truffle Gelato today and tomorrow, Aug. 21-22, at Giant Eagle stores, according to this schedule: noon to 3 p.m. today, Bethel Park; 4 to 7 p.m. today, West Mifflin; and noon to 3 p.m. Friday at both Seven Fields and Ben Avon Heights.

Honey Pomegranate Banana Split

1 tablespoon pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 firm, large banana, cut in half lengthwise

3 scoops vanilla Greek frozen yogurt

1 tablespoon almonds, sliced and toasted

1 tablespoon unsweetened shaved coconut

1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds

Combine pomegranate juice and honey in small bowl. Set aside.

Place banana halves in individual dessert dish. Arrange frozen yogurt between banana halves.

Drizzle honey pomegranate syrup over frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with almonds, coconut and pomegranate arils.

-- Dole

Rebecca Sodergren: or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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