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Taste Italy in Charlotte at two weekend festivals

By Tom Hanchett

St. Philip Neri church members make their own sausage for sandwiches with grilled peppers and onions.

Back in the 1880s – 1910s, thousands of Italian immigrants streamed into places like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Cleveland seeking the American Dream. Now many of their great – grandkids are moving south to Charlotte, new epicenter of opportunity.

That means authentic Italian food is finally a thing in the land of the meat-and-three. You can taste and discover at two different weekend festivals around the Queen City.

At the upscale end of the spectrum, check out Festa Italiana under the soaring canopy of uptown Charlotte’s Gateway Promenade. Sunday afternoon May 21 it fills with ten restaurant chefs preparing Italian appetizers and risottos. Expect wine and, for your sweet tooth, cannoli and gelato. It’s all you-can-eat for one ticket price, benefiting Charlotte’s Nevins Center.

St. Philip Neri Italian Festival honors the Italian background of many of the church members, including founding priest Father John Guiliani.

Want down-home Italian family food? Get over to St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, just off I77 two exits below Carowinds, on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, May 18 – 20. The church takes its name from an Italian saint and its founding priest Father John Guiliani grew up Italian in Rhode Island. So naturally the parishioners launched an Italian festival as a fundraiser, now in its twenty-second year.

“We’ve made about a thousand pounds of meatballs this year, all mixed by hand,” says church member Denny Rodino. A descendant of Italian steelworkers, he comes from the Pittsburgh area by way of Cleveland and Syracuse.

Denny Rodino, who grew up in an Italian community near Pittsburgh, supervises the meatball-making at Fort Mill’s St. Philip Neri Italian Festival.

“Every Italian home’s gotta have its own recipes for meatballs and sausage,” he says with pride. “Ours is from Ann DiNoto. I took over the meatball-making from her.” And nope, he won’t disclose, except to say it involves parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and “our own mix of spices.”

“Our sausage recipe we’ve been using for about twelve years. It’s from Joe Tramontana, from New York state,” Rodino goes on. “We make some hot, some mild — 1140 pounds this year. It always sells out.”

Look for sausage sandwiches with grilled sweet peppers and onions. Or ask for a sausage on your pasta plate — with house-made red sauce, of course.

St. Philip Neri Italian Festival 2017
Thursday, May 18, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday, May 19, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

292 Munn Road, East
Fort Mill, SC 29715
(803) 548 – 7282

Festa Italiana Charlotte 2017
Sunday, May 21, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Promenade at Gateway Village
800 W. Trade St. at Cedar Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 560 – 3030

Center City & nearby
Carolina apple cider
Indian street food
Greens from South Carolina
Upstate NY Italian sausage
Swiss-German bakery
Blackberry memories of Brooklyn
Puerto Rican kabobs
South Boulevard, South Tryon & southward
Mexico + Greece = holiday treats
Cuban box pig
Snack foods from India
SC meets Vietnam
Little corner of El Salvador
Arepas from Venezuela
Indian sweets for Diwali
Colombian soup
Korean at China Wing
Indian food in south Charlotte
Mexican take-out
Mexican Tamaleria
Fort Mill — real Chinese
Ready for Laotian food in Charlotte?
Psst! There’s a European Market hidden just south of Ballantyne
Independence Boulevard, Monroe Road & environs
Nigeria in east Charlotte
Korean BBQ
Brazilian bakery
Secret Greek grocery
Colombian BBQ & snacks
Detroit hot dogs
New York bagels
Halal Latino
Russian-Turkish Grocery
Iran Kabobs in Matthews
Ramen in Matthews
Russian picnic fare
Armenia in Matthews
Katayef – holiday dessert at Pita Kabab in Matthews
Crispy NJ pizza comes to east Charlotte
Central Av, Albemarle Road & vicinity
Family-style Ethiopian
Dominican street food
Jamaican black cake
Somali stew and sides
Schawarma from Jerusalem
Oriental buns
Greek pastries
Bosnian sausages
‘Tis the Season for Champurrado
Latino bakery feeds a region
Taste Monterrey, Mexico
Tamales in Plaza Midwood
One restaurant, three Latino traditions
Guatamala in east Charlotte
Mexican Seafood
You buy – We fry
Dominican Deli
French/Vietnamese pastry arrives in east Charlotte

North Tryon, UNCC area & northward
Asian Moon Cakes
Mexican carnitas
Beef on Weck from Buffalo
Dominican fruit shakes, pressed subs
Mexican ice cream
Louisiana Viet crawfish
Salvadoran comfort food
NYC pastries – Lake Norman
Vegetarian eats from south India
Indian Dosa Night
Middle East via Lynx
Bahn Mi Brothers
Ethiopian sandwiches
Turkish near UNCC
BBQ from Pakistan
Find a taste of Hyderabad at Nawabs Kebabs
The Patio at Our Lady of Guadalupe
NC fish camps
Fried baloney
Grits & cornmeal
El Tamarindo
Laos in Kings Mountain
Lawrence Caribbean
Multiple Places & Food Trucks
5 eateries for Black History Month
Charlotte’s International food scene
South’s Love Affair with Soft Drinks
5 Places to “Eat Northern”
Northern Favorites: Six More Eateries
Curry journey: Vietnam, Trinidad, India
Spiedies – Food Truck
5 best bites on Albemarle Road
Lao Sausages – Food Truck
Western Indian – Food Truck
Himalayan flavors – Food Truck
Shaved ice goes global in Charlotte