Festa Italiana: What's on the menu?

August 10, 2012 (CHICAGO)

While much of the Italian population left Taylor Street years ago, moving to Harlem Avenue and the suburbs.

Taylor Street still holds historical allure, and not just because of the original Al's Italian Beef and Mario's Ice.

This is the sixth year the neighborhood has pulled together for a weekend-long festival, and you can bet they will have plenty of eating options.

One of the oldest participants at this year's Festa Italiana is Conte di Savoia, a well-worn deli and grocery store, where much of Taylor Street comes to shop and eat. They're planning on having another busy weekend.

"We went with some of the more popular items that we have. You know, like the Italian sub, which is you know... our most popular sub here," said Franco DiCoson, of Conte di Savoia.

Imported ham, salami, capicola and provolone are loaded into crusty Turano loaves. The same bread holds handmade meatballs, which will also be available all weekend on the street. For dessert, the classic: cannoli. Although here, after they stuff the shells with chocolate chip-embedded marscarpone, they dip the sides in green-colored peanuts, rather than the traditional pistachios. DiCoson says over the course of the weekend, they'll sell quite a few.

"A lot of different food, there's performers on each end of the street, and um it's a real good time," he said.

Just down the street, the legendary Patio is going to be grilling up sausages and selling their famous Italian beef sandwiches, resulting in one of three outcomes: a beef, a sausage, or a combo - all options include a choice of sweet peppers or hot giardiniere; dipped or dry, of course.

"Our beef is partially cooked,and then we prepare our gravy in these electric nesco cookers. And then we put the beef in there," said Cynthia DeVito, whose family owns The Patio.

The little beef joint has a long legacy on Taylor Street and DeVito says she hopes to introduce new customers to her family's favorite sandwiches this weekend.

"Just beef and sausage and combinations. Wonderful italian roasted sweet peppers and of course the hot giardiniera," she said.

The festa started Thursday and continues through Sunday. There's going to be a grape stomp Friday night and Saturday. A meatball eating contest. Italian fashion show and even some live cooking demonstrations.

Information about Festa Italiana: www.festaitalianachicago.com

Conte di Savoia 1438 W. Taylor St. (312) 666-3471 http://www.contedisavoia.com/

Patio 1503 W Taylor St (312) 829-0454

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