Food, fun and ‘famiglia’ at Idlewild’s annual Italian Day Festa

August 20, 2018

Italian names begin to appear on the pavilions at Idlewild Park: “Reserved: La Famiglia Pizzuto,” “Famiglia Colarusso.”

“You see the same names every year in the same spots,” said Joe Kuhn of Latrobe, who has come to Idlewild’s Italian Day Festa for the past 15 years with his wife Darlene Molina Kuhn, whose family hails from the Piedmont area of northern Italy.

“I’m just a wannabe,” Joe said. “I’m here for the food and the camaraderie.”

The Kuhns always find a shady spot just outside the main pavilion to have lunch before making their way around the park.

“We love the music and the people,” Darlene said.

Inside the main pavilion, Henry Edwardo of Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood is entertaining the gathering lunchtime crowd with accordion music.

But it’s not your great-grandfather’s accordion. It’s a Roland digitally-enhanced accordion that lets Edwardo choose background music from an MP3 player mounted on its side that is wirelessly connected to the PA system.

“They started making them in 2006,” said Edward, who has been playing the Italian Day Festa for the past five years. “Folks in Italy made the accordion parts, and they married it with Japanese electronics.”

Edwardo said he enjoys seeing children react to the accordion.

“So many of them have never seen it before,” he said.

Over in the smaller pavilions, members of the Pizzuto family are unloading coolers and setting up for the afternoon.

“It’s just great to celebrate our heritage with friends and family,” said Patti Kemerer of Pitcairn, one of about 50 Pizzuto family members that have been coming to the festa for the past 15 years.

“We used to bring my dad, Patsy Pizzuto, out here before he passed away,” Kemerer said.

The day also includes the one thing no large gathering of Italians could possibly be without: the food.

“We started yesterday and cooked about 400 pounds of Italian roast beef for today,” said Frank Venzon, owner of Franko’s Sports Bar & Grille in Jeannette.

Franko’s was invited as a vendor for the first time this year, but Venzon, whose family is from Sicily, has attended in the past.

“The best part is the eating,” he said with a smile. “And the grandkids love the park.”

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