Cultural Events

Our Italian culture is one steeped in rich history and traditions. That’s why it is important for Italian Americans to keep in touch with their roots and share their pride and heritage. 

Six amateur chefs to demonstrate their Italian culinary skills

Festa Italiana’s 2022 Cultural Tent is taking a look at food – complete with cooking demonstrations. Please join us at Cucina Italiana: Rockford Style, where stepping into the cultural tent will remind you of being in your Nonna’s kitchen with the wonderful memories of onion and garlic sauteing on the stove. Six amateur chefs will demonstrate different dishes. The chefs’ schedule is as follows:

Saturday, August 6

2 p.m. – Jody Perrecone, assisted by Rita Perrecone Hall

  • Dish: Sicilian Orange Salad. As a certified nutrition consultant and health coach, Jody makes all types of food which, Jody says, is “Always a food adventure at our house!”

3:30 p.m. – Mike Doyle, assisted by his wife, Nora (Cipolla) Doyle

  • Dish: Italian Wedding Soup. This is not a soup you will find at Italian weddings; instead, it is a marriage of soup with meatballs and pasta. Italian cooking is tradition in both Mike and Nora’s families. This includes making briullate at Christmas.

5 p.m. – Maria Tarara Caruana, assisted by, her husband, Gary Caruana

  • Dish: Pasta with Peas. Coming from Aragona, Sicily, Maria has been cooking since she was a teen. She loves that you can change up pasta with all variations of sauces and condiments, so, you can enjoy a different pasta every day.

Sunday, August 7

2 p.m. – Annette Parrovecchio-Jurgenson

  • Dish: Sicilian Stuffed Artichokes. Annette’s family comes from Palermo and Sambuca. She has three children and five grandchildren. You can find Annette at farmers’ markets in the area where you can purchase her homemade cookies.

3:30 p.m. – Connie Chiarelli, assisted by her husband, Joe Chiarelli

  • Dish: Tuscan Chicken. Her family came to the United States from Aragona, Sicily, and she has cooked her entire life. Her favorite food is pasta. Connie loves that you can create so many dishes with it! She likes cookies but LOVES eggplant Parmesan!

5 p.m. – Polly Matranga Happach and Lorie Parker Weinrich

  • Dish: Wedding Cookies. Polly and Lorie were the illustrious owners of Bella Luna Bakery. They added sweetness to many of our lives, but, alas, the bakery storefront was closed as another victim of the pandemic.

Enjoy watching these fun demonstrations and perhaps learn a trick or two about cooking.

Stop in and meet authors of books on Italian traditions

While in the cultural tent, stop by and meet Rockford-based authors: Laura Padron, Jill Calvagna and Kristi Calvagna. They will be signing their books Friday night and Saturday and Sunday at the Festa. See Page 23 for more information.

Laura is the author of: Building St. Joseph Altars: A Feast for the Soul. This nurse practitioner admires the beauty in this festivaland encourages the continuation of this tradition.

Jill Calvagna and Kristi Calvagna co-authored Figgy and Frannie: A Legend in the Baking. This book celebrates traditions, food fun and love of family and was inspired by their Aunt Frannie. Both books will be available for purchase.

Plan a visit to work with celebrated local genealogist Steve Salvato

And, as long as you are visiting the cultural tent, plan to see GRIAA Hall of Fame recipient Steve Salvato, who will look into your family’s genealogist at no charge. Don’t be surprised if your family’s background will open under the expertise of Steve as he researches your roots.