28th Annual Taste of Italy Festival


Karen Lau, News Editor

At the 28th Annual Taste of Italy, laughter and music filled the air as locals dove into the Italian culture. Featuring 14 local restaurants, performances by All the Right Moves, and art from Slater Memorial Museum, the event on September 6, 2019 was attended by hundreds.

“The Taste of Italy is very important not just for people who live in Norwich but for all people who come to visit Norwich who really want to immerse themselves in culture. It’s important to keep traditions and cultural activities alive [because] it helps us to learn and to connect with each other,” explained Suki Lagito, director of Global City Norwich.

Spreading the wealth of culture and rich heritage was the inspiration behind the festival. However, its goal was simple: to have a blast.

“We like to share our culture with everybody. We enjoy our food, we enjoy our entertainment; we enjoy our art, and that’s all apart of the Italian culture. We’re sharing that with other people. That’s what we hope to achieve,” stated Frank Jacaruso, member of the Italian Heritage & Cultural Committee.

Melissa Velasquez has participated in the Taste of Italy for seven years and she keeps coming back to relish in the Italian festival.

“It’s one of the only festivals around where you can really embrace the Italian culture and it’s a good time for everyone to come together and enjoy the great Italian food and friends,” commented Velasquez, owner of Prime 82.

The Taste of Italy introduced Norwich residents to the passions and joys of Italian culture. Residents devoured stuffed peppers and penne alla vodka, snacked on pizzelles and cannoli, danced all night to music from the Vesuvians, and shopped at jewelry and toy booths.

“Today has been unreal. It’s satisfying to see people coming down with smiles on their faces, enjoying the food, enjoying the music, enjoying the arts and crafts, [and] dancing,” stated Frank Jacaruso, member of the Italian Heritage & Cultural Committee.

A tradition that has lasted 28 years and counting, the Taste of Italy was created to salute Italian ancestors and give tribute to their generations of hard work. The Italians began immigrating to the United States in 1880. By 1920, 4 million Italians immigrated to the United States.

“Many people came from long ago and went to Norwich and worked in the mills…They worked hard and brought traditions here like food, family, [and] gardening. We continue the tradition in honor of our forefathers and our grandparents,” stated Joe Barile, Italian of the Year.

“The Italians have been here for many, many years. They came here in the 1950s – 1960s, so we’re trying to keep the tradition going,” stated Bes Kutrolli, owner of La Stella Pizzeria.

As the sun set and the lights were turned on in the tents, the first harbor fires hosted by the Rotary Community Corporation of Norwich ended the festivities.