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Festa Italiana guide for the festival’s 43rd edition

A banner reading "Festa Italiana" stands in the grassy area in front of a brick building with small windows.
Brett Krzykowski
Festa Italiana returns to the Italian Community Center this weekend for its 43rd edition.

In yet another sign that we’re in summer’s winding-down period, Festa Italiana returns this weekend, Sept. 8-10, to close the book on what’s considered the city’s modern ethnic festival lineup.

The first Festa took place back in 1978, when members of Milwaukee’s Italian community revived the traditional neighborhood festivals that started in the early 1900s. The event was held at Henry Maier Festival Park up until last year, when it moved just down the block to the Italian Community Center (ICC) on East Chicago Street.

While the location has changed, much of what marked the initial festival still remains today, including the Sunday procession and mass, which this year is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sunday in the ICC’s Grand Ballroom.

Just a couple hours later, at 12:30 p.m., the double-elimination bocce tournament gets underway — one of a handful of competitions held throughout the weekend. Others include the Best Sauce and Kids Pizza-Making contest, which will crown their winners Saturday and Sunday, respectively. There’s also the 16th annual Italian Idol, who’s chosen Saturday night just a couple hours before the Festa Fireworks light up the sky at 10:30 p.m.

The competitive lineup is a good representation of the overall feel: a nice balance of music and food. Big names from Milwaukee’s culinary scene — Egg & Flour’s Adam Pawlak, for one — get just as much time in the spotlight at the festival, which dedicates individual stages for entertainment and eating (full schedules for each below).

The event itself is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10, kids age 12 and under get in free, and there’s also a special promotion all day Friday that gives educators, healthcare workers, firefighters, law enforcement, military and veterans free admission with their ID.

For more information, visit the event’s webpage on the ICC website.

Entertainment Stage

Friday, Sept. 8

  • 4 p.m. — Giovanni Amodeo
  • 6:30 p.m. — Enzo Scarano
  • 8:30 p.m. — Tradizione Vivente
  • 9 p.m. — Generation Z

Saturday, Sept. 9

  • 11 a.m. — Enzo Scarano
  • 1:30 p.m. — The Russo Brothers
  • 3 p.m. — Ibei Bambini
  • 4 p.m. — Frank Lamphere & His Rat Pack Jazz Quartet
  • 6 p.m. — Tradizione Vivente
  • 6:30 p.m. — The Dynamix
  • 8:30 p.m. — Tradizione Vivente
  • 9 p.m. — Rhythm Kings

Sunday, Sept. 10

  • Noon — Enzo Scarano
  • 2:30 p.m. — The Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra
  • 4 p.m. — Tradizione Vivente
  • 5 p.m. — Four Guyz in Dinner Jackets

Cucina Showcase

Friday, Sept. 8

  • 5 p.m. — Chef Tim Callahan, Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria, cooking demo and sampling
  • 6:30 p.m. — Chef Ben Jones, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, cooking demo and sampling
  • 7:30 p.m. — Chefs Corrinne Kaehler and Clifford Hull, Onesto, cooking demo and sampling
  • 9 p.m. — Cory Pestaturo (entertainment)

Saturday, Sept. 9

  • 10 a.m. — Best Sauce Contest: contestant drop-off
  • 11 a.m. — Best Sauce Contest: public tasting
  • 11:45 a.m. — Chef Adam Pawlak, Egg & Flour, cooking demo and sampling
  • 12:45 p.m. — Best Sauce Contest: judging and awards
  • 1:15 p.m. Chef Austin Tess, St. Rita Square. cooking demo and sampling
  • 2:15 p.m. — Cannoli-eating contest
  • 3:30 p.m. Chef David Magnasco, Chef’s Table, cooking demo and sampling
  • 5 p.m. — Not So Newlywed Game
  • 7 p.m. — Italian Idol (entertainment)
  • 9 p.m. — Cory Pestaturo (entertainment)

Sunday, Sept. 10

  • 1 p.m. — Chef Juan Urbieta, Bartolotta’s, cooking demo and sampling
  • 2:15 p.m. — Special Italian sweets demonstration and sampling
  • 3:30 p.m. — Kids pizza-making contest
  • 5:00 p.m. — Joe Scalissi featuring Cory Pestaturo (entertainment)