Italian Festival says 'ciao' for another year

Jul 22, 2019

Buffalo's Niagara Square was filled with food booths and music played on a giant stage, as the annual Galbani Italian Heritage Festival returned to where it started.

Credit MIke Desmond / WBFO News

After moving to the waterfront from its longtime Hertel Avenue home, this year, the festival returned to its roots to support St. Anthony's Church, located behind City Hall.

Nearly a century ago, St. Anthony's on South Elmwood Avenue was supported by a lawn fete. That turned into the Italian Festival.

"The crowd has been absolutely amazing and totally receptive of our new address here in beautiful Niagara Square," said Marco Sciortino, spokesman for the festival and chef for sponsoring Galbani. "It's back to our roots from 1921, when the original Italian festival was around the corner at St. Anthony's Church. We've moved it back here into Niagara Square and the community has totally embraced it 100%."

Credit MIke Desmond / WBFO News

The focus on Italian food drew approval from Chris Pellicano of Pellicano's Marketplace in Wheatfield.

"Compared to a couple previous years, absolutely. It definitely brings it back to its roots," Pellicano said. "It's a street festival versus a carnival. Very nice. There's a lot of Italian vendors here, versus previous years, where too many food trucks, too many non-Italian vendors."

The booths were offering foods far beyond pizza and meatballs. Everything sold.

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"Everything. Tomato pie, our homemade cuccidatis and Italian cookies," said Brandi from Gino's Italian Bakery. "We're filling our cannolis fresh. Our pasticiotti, our sfinges, stuffed and unstuffed, pretty much everything we have."

Michael Molinaro from Molinaro's Ristorante in Lockport said people were buying his spicy Italian products.

"Italian food. We're known for our world-famous stuffed hot pepper rolls," Molinaro said. "We roll our stuffed hot peppers, which is sausage, gorgonzola cheese and bread crumbs into pizza dough and then we brush it with butter garlic sauce. We're the hit of the festival every year and we're actually excited that it's back to where it originated this year in Niagara Square."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Maggie Levy was in from Syracuse with Razzle Dazzle Italian Ices, offering something cold on a hot and steamy day.

"We are out here today, here enjoying the weather, serving Italian ices with gelati," Levy said.

The booth supported Last House on the Block Transitional Housing in Syracuse. Late Sunday, many booths said they were sold out of everything, particularly appropriate food for the weather, like gelato.

"That was one of our missions, was to come back and put the emphasis on Italian food," said Sciortino.