Festa Italiana! brings touch of Italy to Sacramento

08/02/2013 12:00 AM

08/02/2013 1:45 PM

The piazza in Italy is an open square surrounded by shops and eateries, where people can gather together and enjoy conversation while sipping vino.

For an Italian "vacation" that's closer to home, organizers of the Festa Italiana! will transform the Mediterranean-style Croatian American Cultural Center on Auburn Boulevard into a lively Italian piazza.

"If you haven't been to Italy, you will feel like you're in Rome or Florence, people-watching and enjoying the food," volunteer Janna Doucette said.

The event is presented by the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society, a nonprofit that supports Italian heritage in Sacramento. Doucette, whose heritage is Sicilian, said that more than 100,000 Italian Americans live in the greater Sacramento area, many whose roots originate in Lucca, a Tuscan city in central Italy.

"The Italians are here," agreed Sacramento Italian Cultural Society executive director Bill Cerruti, whose family comes from Genoa, a region in northern Italy between France and Tuscany.

"Italians tend to stick together," Doucette said. "That's how the communities become so big."

The California weather and agriculture reminds her of Sicily. "In my heart I can understand why my family has come here, because it's so much like there," she said.

At this weekend's event, Italian Americans will be sharing the culture they've brought to Sacramento with food, dancing, music and the Italian lawn-bowling game called bocce.

In the game, players attempt to roll or toss a ball as close as possible to a target ball, known as the jack, boccino or pallino. The team whose ball is closest earns a point for each of its balls closer than any of the opposing teams' after all the balls are played. The goal is to reach a fixed number of points before the other team.

"It's a very traditional, very Italian game," Doucette said.

On display will be Italian cars, including Ferarris and Fiats, and scooters. "That's definitely a huge part of Italian culture. They love their cars, and they go everywhere on their scooters," Doucette said.

Perhaps the main event will be the large spread of authentic and delicious Italian food.

"A lot of people know the basic Italian foods that you can get anywhere, but there are some specialty Italian foods that are more regional," Doucette said. Cannoli, calzones and deep-fried ravioli are just a few Italian favorites that will be featured.

"You can't go wrong with Italian – nothing's bad," Doucette said, noting the most popular dish each year is Italian sausage.

"It has the onions in it and the spices. It's very Italian."

The Balliamo dancers and the Bambini children's dance troupe will perform regional dances in custom-made costumes.

Also featured will be singer Moreno Fruzzetti of Pisa, the Italica Band of San Francisco and the Don Giovannis dance band.

"It's the whole combination of everything put together that really brings you back – like you're getting a little bit of Italy," Cerruti said.

Doucette compared the festival to an Italian wedding feast. "We love to eat and drink and everybody's loud," she said. "It's Italian crazy."


What: A weekend celebration of Italian culture

When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Croatian American Cultural Center, 3730 Auburn Blvd., Sacramento

Admission: $12; 15 and under free

Information: (916) 482-5900; www.festaitalianasacramento.com

Call The Bee's Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103. Follow her in Twitter @BrittTorrez.


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