Life’s too short not to be Italian |

Life’s too short not to be Italian

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyTwo lucky folks will be visiting Castel Pietraio in Tuscany (pictured) with a friend compliments of Vail's Festival Italiano. The vineyard/villa is sending wines to be tasted at the two-day festival.

Local Rick Scalpello has been trying to increase the number of multicultural events in Vail. Though he had several ideas, they went for the Festival Italiano because there was so much interest in it.

“Italians have an attachment to good living, good food, good wine and good friends,” said Jonathan Staufer.

“They’re fun loving and enjoy music,” added Scalpello, speaking with authority born of his gene pool.

As a kid growing up outside of Pittsburgh, Scalpello remembers going to Italian festivals on a yearly basis, and how much fun they were. Meadow Drive was a natural fit for the celebration, as it’s already swimming with Italian businesses, including Valbrunna, Campo de Fiori and La Bottega.

The trip

Not only will the festival be a celebration of Italian culture – there’s an opportunity for attendees to win a first-hand experience under the Tuscan sun. People 21 and over can enter the prize giveaway, which includes air fare and lodging in the vineyard/villa of Castel Pietraio in Monteriggioni, Tuscany. Attendees can register one time each day on Saturday and Sunday. The drawings will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Picture i.d. will be required.

The wine

The trips are being donated by Fugate, who has all kinds of Italian connections, especially in the wine world. When traveling in Europe he’d visit the little vineyards, but would become frustrated when he couldn’t find any of what he’d discovered in America. And so he began an import business that focuses exclusively on hand-harvested grape wines.

“Italian wines are the up and coming hottest things in wine right now,” he said. “The French produce big stand-alone wines, a powerhouse wine. The Italians are producing more food-friendly everyday drinking-type wines. Italy produces and exports more wine than any other country in the world.”

For years many people thought Chianti was the only Italian wine, a gross misapprehension. Super Tuscans are the latest in a long string of popular Italian wines. Made from the Sangiovese grape, they are pumped up a bit with a French varietal grape.

“The Super Tuscans are big, full-bodied wines that still retain some of the fruity taste,” said Scott Bucy, owner of Bagali’s.

He’s been serving quite a lot of Super Tuscans lately, as the trend is catching on. Fugate and his company seem to be in the right place at the right time.

“The quality from small family-owned vineyards is really coming through,” he said. “I think I’m pouring about 5 or 6 wines, such as a Chianti Classico reserva, a Chardonnay and some Super Tuscans, for people to taste.”

The food

The festival will celebrate all things Italian, with an emphasis on cuisine and wine. Several local restaurants will be offering tasty morsels, including Bagali’s.

“Out of all the ethnic foods, Italian food is probably the most diverse,” said Bucy. “However, most people just think of pizza and pasta. This gives people the opportunity to experience some of what the local Italian chefs have to offer … from the rich cream-based French influence of Northern Italian cuisine to the poor tomato-based food of Southern Italy.”

Sous Chef Leena Monsoon at the Bagali’s tent will be serving up a warm bruschetta with a freshly seared shrimp topped with a cold eggplant caponata made with red bell peppers, slow oven-roasted tomatoes, sauteed shallots, garlic, pine nuts and capers. Made with exclusively Italian ingredients, it’s only one of the culinary surprises that will be dished up.

Known from La Tour, Executive Chef and proprietor Paul Ferzacca’s company Fahrenheit will be debuting Zacca Za, a deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. Ferzacca has plans to open a restaurant serving up Zacca Za in the near future.

Other participating restaurants include Alpenrose, Blu’s, Campo de Fiori, Joe’s Deli, La Bottega and Pazzo’s. A kids’ food and gelato booth will also be on hand. The event will include People’s Choice awards where visitors will select their favorite dishes.

The entertainment

Paul Borillo will be attending as a living statue. Which statue that will be is being kept under wraps, but rumor has it attendees might be seeing the Mona Lisa or a gladiator. Other Italian-themed clowns, jugglers, magicians and stilt walkers will be roving the fair.

Local band New Shoes will be opening the festivities on Saturday. Gyspy Mandolin with mandolinist Charlie Provenza and guitarist Gordon Schrag will be playing at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. They specialize in Sicilian and Italian folk songs. Following them the Bobby Marchetti Band and their big band show will take the stage. The four-piece specializes in Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. They perform at 6:30ish Saturday evening as well as 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Other goodies

The Festival Italiano will also have vendor booths. The Vail Farmers’ Market will take place amidst the festival on Sunday.

Other booths include the Italian cars, Masaratti and Vespa Scooter rides. the Mini Bicycle Race will be performed relay-style on Bianchi bikes at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The Festival Italiano will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, call 328-1182.

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