Piles of pizza, an avalanche of arancini and oodles of noodles... Festa Italiana returns this July

AFTER the overwhelming success of last year’s event, which saw over 26,000 people descend on Cathedral Gardens, organisers of Festa Italiana have announced that this year’s celebration of Italian food, drink and culture (13-15 July) will be even bigger and better. 

The green space in Cathedral Gardens (outside the National Football Museum) will be transformed into 'Little Italy' for the weekend with the arrival of an authentic Italian producers market, live cookery theatre, continental style bars, street food stalls and a live music stage.

A highlight of this year’s programme is sure to be the Festa Feasts, featuring some of Manchester’s best Italian restaurants, including San CarloSalvi’sLupo and Buca di Pizza.

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Festival founder and Salvi's owner, Maurizio Cecco (left), with San Carlo MD Marcello Distefano

The first, dubbed ‘The Italian Adventure’, will take place on Friday 13 July with a collaborative banquet by San Carlo, Salvi's and Lupo, each creating a signature course (and attempting to out cook the others, no doubt).

“For us, the banquet is a great way to support and showcase the best in real Italian ingredients and cooking - something our family and restaurants have always been passionate about,” said Marcello Distefano, Managing Director of San Carlo group.

“It’s great to see the Italian community and people of Manchester and beyond come together at Festa Italiana to celebrate our wonderful food and culture.”

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Buca di Pizza will serve up a bottomless banquet

The second Festa Feast, hosted by Buca di Pizza, will take place on Saturday 14 July and offer a bottomless banquet of non-stop gourmet pizza along with bottomless Prosecco (beer or soft drinks are another option). Pizzas will include Buca's most popular, from the 'Spring Chicken' to the 'Hickory Pig', and roll into the Festa Pavilion over two 90 minute sessions starting at 6:30 and 8:30pm.

Elsewhere, visitors can head to Pasta Factory’s stall to pick up some super fresh pasta, enjoy some authentic gelato by Taste It, or tuck into some traditional, wood-fired pizza from Streatza and Proove. Cheese lovers will love the Raclette Brothers and Mac Shack’s fresh pasta cooked up in a giant parmesan wheel.

Boozewise, Aperol will be running a bar and turning the area orange with hammocks, Vespa Seating and Fusball tables, while Limoncello Di Capri will host the city's first dedicated Limoncello bar. Meanwhile, Italian beer brands Poretti, Peroni and Menabrea will serve up the suds from their respective pitches.

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Crowds in the live cookery theatre

Gianfranco Iervolino, one of the world’s most renowned pizza chefs and a regular on Italian TV, will take to live cookery theatre on Sunday 15 July, while another Italian chef flying over especially for the festival is Carlo Molon, executive chef at the Sheraton Hotel on Lake Como. 

The festival also promises plenty for the bambinos, with a collaboration between the Festa and Play Factore bringing a kids’ mini festival to the square, including a ‘Circus House’ with plate spinning and a hula hoop workshop.

There’ll also be more traditional Italian foodie fun with Bambini Cucina sessions including kids’ pasta making sessions from Carmela Sereno Hayes, who will be running an adults’ class on the Sunday too.
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Festival nonnas running a pasta-making workshop

“Festa Italiana is the festival of Italian culture," says Maurizio Cecco, founder of Festa Italiana and owner of Salvi’s restaurants. "It is inspired by everything that I love about my motherland – the food, the wine, the cocktails, the music, the family fun… the al fresco enjoyment of it all. 

"Manchester is my home now, and I love it here just as much, so Festa Italiana is a celebration of my two favourite cultures. I can’t promise to bring the Italian sunshine but I know it will be a fantastic weekend whatever the weather.”

Festa Italian takes place from 13-15 July in Cathedral Gardens, Manchester M4 3BG - full info and tickets can be found on the Festa Italiana website.