The phrase “pace yourself” best sums up Brian Andzik’s advice to folks hoping to get the best out of Italian Fall Festa.
“Plan on staying for a while and not doing too much at once. Spread it out,” the festival’s longtime chairman said. “Come at lunchtime and stay and have dinner. Stay all day.”
There will be plenty to keep you busy and your belly full at the 42nd annual Sons of Italy John Pirelli Lodge food extravaganza this weekend at Bella Villa Hall.
As many as 50,000 people are expected to eat their way through the festival, which is one of a handful of HUGE fall festivals the weekend after Labor Day.
Here are six reasons to join the fun:
1.) EAT WITH THE FAMILY
Andzik says Italian immigrants began coming to the Dayton area in late 1800s with the largest populations arriving in the 1920s and 1930s. They held manufacturing jobs at places like Reynolds and Reynolds and Frigidare.
The earliest immigrants settled on First, Second, Fourth and Fifth streets in Dayton. They attended St. Joseph Catholic Church with immigrants from Ireland, and Holy Trinity Church alongside German immigrants, according to the 579-member lodge’s website.
Italian Fall Festa is about sharing the best parts about being Italian and Sicilian with all of the Miami Valley, Andzik said.
“It is a big family atmosphere, and that is something that is deeply ingrained in the (Italian) community,” he said. “A lot of being Italian is about family. What we try to do at the Festa is extend that feeling to the whole community and have everyone come out and eat with us.”
2.) DELIZIOSO GRUB
Andzik is not kidding when he says you can eat all day long at the Fall Festa.
The food is made and served by an army of more than a thousand Sons of Italy volunteers. A special dinner will be served each day for about $9: baked pasta Friday; stuffed shells Saturday and spaghetti and meatballs Sunday.
Most sandwiches are about $5-7. They include sausage, onions, peppers, meatballs, muffaletta and Italian beef.
There will be an assortment of sweets: Italian cakes and cookies, gelato, spumoni, cannoli, soft drinks, etc.
The festival also has a deli booth and will serve favorites like pizza, calzones and Italian breads.
“We make all of that food ourselves,” he said. “We don’t have outside vendors.”
3.) GET IT TO GO
Love the food, but can’t stay? The Festa will accept to-go lunch orders on Fabulous Friday between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., however, they cannot accept credit cards. So you’ll want to have some cash handy when you pick up your food. The lunch menu includes a pasta dinner with meatballs and side salad ($9), pepperoni or cheese pizza ($13), meatball sandwich ($5), and Italian beef sandwich ($7).
4.) SUNDAY FUNDAY
The Meatball Madness 5K run starts at 10 a.m. Sunday and a spaghetti eating contest gets going at 3 p.m.
Run registration is $25 and includes a T-shirt, while supplies last. About 400 runners are expected.
The spaghetti eating contest has three age divisions: 11 and younger, 12 to 17 and 18 and older.
Andzik said the younger kids race to finish a plate, the older kids race to finish several plates and the adult group sees who can eat the most spaghetti in 3 minutes.
If you’d prefer to go at a slower pace at a great price, Sunday also features a spaghetti dinner.
5.) BOCCE BALL
The Bella Villa Hall has some of the best bocce courts in Ohio. You can use a court for a few dollars.
6.) LIMONE LAGER
Enjoy an exclusive Italian Fall Festa beer while supplies last courtesy of Warped Wing Brewing. The lemon-flavored Limone Lager pairs perfectly with the Italian feast you will encounter at the Festa.
Don’t wait to get yours. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
WANT TO GO?
What: Italian Fall Festa
When: Sept. 6 from 6-11 p.m., Sept. 7. from noon to 11 p.m. and Sept. 8 from noon to 8 p.m.
Where: Sons of Italy - Dayton, John Pirelli Lodge #1633, 2625 County Line Road, Kettering