By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Frank Guzzo is proud of his Italian heritage. Born and raised in the Italy’s Calabria region, Guzzo gets a little worried that his culture gets “lost in translation.”
As the Italian Association of Arizona’s executive director, Guzzo is bringing his culture to Old Town Scottsdale’s “Piazza del Southbridge” as part of the sixth annual Italian Festival on Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24.
“It’s important for Americans to understand Italian culture,” he says. “I’m learning now about the impact Italians have had in Arizona.”
Helmed by renowned Scottsdale chef Marcellino Verzino, this year’s event will feature live entertainment and, of course, food—gelato, pizza, handmade meatballs, sausages, pasta, wine and other delicacies. Live performances will include Sbabieratori di Asta, A Ziarella (Italian folk group), Di Gala: Phoenician Tenors, and Sima and her All-Star Trio.
The Italian Association is a private, nonprofit, nonpolitical membership organization open to the Italian, Americans and ASU students who have an interest in developing their understanding and knowledge of Italy.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will go toward St. Vincent de Paul, an organization that helps feed, clothe, house and heal those in need in Arizona. Todd Coole, who’s in charge of community and donor relations for St. Vincent de Paul, says the partnership is in its fourth year. The nonprofit provides volunteers to bolster the festival, so it gets a portion of the proceeds in return.
“We’ll be in the area in front of Olive and Ivy,” Coole says. “The festival is very authentic. We want to preserve the Italian culture and expose people to true Italian cuisine, entertainers and arts and crafts.”
Classico Distributors is the festival’s wine vendor.
“My role is to select the wine, and make sure there’s enough of it,” says Classico’s President Dario Soldan, who moved here January 27, 1987, from Italy. “We want something easy to drink, let’s say a crowd pleaser. We choose varietals people are familiar with.
“In Italian, sometimes they can’t pronounce the name. We try to keep the basic stuff. We try to get the best variety we have access to. We have to have something a little different so the guests can have an opportunity to try varietals they’re not familiar with. It’s an opportunity for us to see what kind of reaction the market has.”
The festival will offer spritz, a wine-based cocktail, commonly served as an aperitif in Northeast Italy. For it, Aperol pairs perfectly with chilled prosecco.
“It’s been very popular for decades,” he says. “I noticed, here in the States, it’s slowly catching on,” he says.
True Italian entertainment is as well. Guzzo says the flag wavers are returning. A mini cultural museum will give guests a glimpse into Italy’s history by showcasing Francesco Corni’s work. He, through a translator, will discuss his pieces.
Italian filmmaking will be the focus of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Los Angeles’ exhibit. And, an artist from outside of Naples will sell cameo pins, which originates from Torre Del Greco, Italy.
Galbani Cheese will sponsor a stage and host/celebrity chef Marco Sciortino, who will offer cooking classes and “fun things to do with cheese for the kids,” Guzzo says.
Not to be outdone, cars are on the docket, specifically Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.
“Ferrari is a global brand and they’ve been gracious enough to set up a display and bring the Ferraris out,” Guzzo explains. “Alfa Romeo is bringing cars, too. Anything to do with Italy, but available here in the United States, will be here.”
Italian Association’s Italian Festival, Old Town Scottsdale’s “Piazza del Southbridge,” 7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, italianfestivalaz.com, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, February 23, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, February 24, $10, free for children younger than 12.
Fun facts about Italians in Arizona
-Statistics show there are about 10,000 first-generation Italians, and probably around 200,000 Italian-Americans in the state.
-Father Eusebio Kino, the Jesuit who built the first mission in Arizona in 1687, was born in Italy near Trento.
-Many Jesuit Fathers who started their missions in the West in the late 1700 were Italians.
-The Roosevelt Dam, started in 1906 and completed in 1911, had many Italian Immigrants working on the site.
-Italians moved to Globe, Bisbee and Montezuma to work in mines, but in construction projects and in lumbering.
-In 1930, Alessandro Rossi became opened several restaurants in Prescott, Tucson and Nogales. He’s from Cremona. He also founded Tucson’s first fire departments.
-Architect Paolo Soleri came from Turin and built the town of Arcosanti and founded the Cosanti Foundation.
–Courtesy Frank Guzzo