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Festa EATaliana will bring out Lemont's inner Italian

Judges taste the homemade dishes from the Godmother Throw Down during last year's Festa Italiana, which is being called Festa EATaliana this year.
Judges taste the homemade dishes from the Godmother Throw Down during last year's Festa Italiana, which is being called Festa EATaliana this year.

LEMONT – Festa EATaliana is returning to downtown Lemont for a second year and changing its name from Festa Italiana.

"We changed the name because it's really a melting pot of multiple cultures that is celebrating Italian cuisine," said Lisa Simone Porter, marketing chair for St. Al's/St. Pat's School in Lemont and organizer of the event.

The fest – which will take place Saturday outside Bottles in Talcott Square – features food, drinks and live music. Proceeds will benefit St. Al's/St. Pat's School.

The highlight of the festival is the Godmother Throw Down, an Italian cooking contest.

Simone Porter said she expects more than 25 chefs to compete in six categories: “Auntie Antipasti Grapas Tapas” (Italian small plates); “Nonna’s Mangia Main Dish;” “Godmother Meatball Throw Down;” “Grazie Sunday Gravy and Oh Mio Mia Macaroni” (pasta and sauce); “Goombah’s Gluten Free” and “Holy Cannoli Cousins Deserts.”

Cooks will also be judged on the creativity of their aprons.

Judges will include Lemont Police Chief Kevin Shaughnessy, Lemont Park District Executive Director Louise Egofske, St. Al's/St. Pat's Principal Renee Payne, Father Brian Ardagh of St. Alphonsus Church, Father Kurt Boras of St. Patrick Church and a lineup of professional chefs.

Simone Porter said the idea for the festival came from a group of St. Al's/St. Pat's moms of Italian heritage.

"Over a fun conversation, we were sparring about who has the best gravy," she said. "It developed into 'Let's compete against each other.'"

Despite its name, the contest is open to men and women aged 30 to 75.

Most of the winners last year were not Italian, which Simone Porter said did not sit well with the participating Italian families.

Mike O'Brien, of Lemont, who said he is 100 percent Irish, won best entree last year for his chicken piccata.

"After the event, all the Italians were coming up to me and saying 'You will never win again,'" said O'Brien, who competed under the name "Mikey Two-Knives."

One Italian-American who was drawn to this year's competition is Vic Scumaci of Lemont. He and his three brothers will form the team "Quatro Scumaci."

Though he is there to compete, Scumaci said he is most looking forward to tasting everyone's food and learning about their family recipes.

Simone Porter said she is amazed at how the festival is drawing people from across the community, not just St. Al's/St. Pat's families.

"It's centered around celebrating the passion and love of family and tradition and feasting at the same family table," she said.


If you go

• What: Festa EATaliana
• When: 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24; 3 p.m. for Godmother Throw Down
• Where: Bottles, 439 Talcott Ave., Lemont
• Tickets: $10 general admission; $25 for Godmother Throw Down
• More information: Tickets for the Godmother Throw Down must be purchased in advance. General admission tickets are available at the event. Guests must be age 21 or older.
• Contact: Lisa Simone Porter, 630-235-3466,

Evening entertainment

After the cooking competition, Festa EATaliana will open up to the general public at 5 p.m. Festivities will include:
• Music by the Italian crooner duo After Glow (5 p.m.), Crazy Uncles Band (7 p.m.) and Skunk City Band (9 p.m.)
• Food from La Dolce Vita, Mama D’s and Papa Joe’s
• Italian imported and Napa Valley wines and assorted craft beers from Bottles

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