What’s Italian for après le déluge? What I recall of the last Festa Italiana in 2019 was struggling out of sodden summer wear after some very non-Med weather drenched Cathedral Square. I’d have happily braved rain squalls in 2020 if Manchester’s most family friendly food event could have gone ahead, but that pesky pandemic played damp squib.
Still the forecast looks set fair for the August Bank Holiday weekend this year, with restrictions lifting. Fingers crossed then for th premed heatwave; the line-up looks a treat. OK, it’s not the place to catch up with the bright young masters of Italian cuisine. But a veteran trio of celeb chefs is always good value – step forward Gennaro Contaldo, Aldo Zilli and Giancarlo Caldesi to join those mere striplings, Festa organiser Maurizio Cecco (Salvi’s) and Fran Scafuri (Tre Ciccio) in the on-site kitchen.
And if cookery demos are not your thing there’s a wealth of other foodie treats to get you salivating across the Festa (Fri-Sun Aug 27-29, 11am-11pm each day).
“The Festa is born out of Manchester’s Italian community and heritage; drawing huge inspiration from the traditional festivals in Italy and adding a touch of Mancunian flavour to create a weekend dedicated to bringing people together to enjoy authentic Italian food and drink, cooking masterclasses, banquets, movies and live music.” That’s what the organisers say and they’re not wrong on past evidence. Here’s the full programme:
Banquet – Festa Marquee
On Saturday, August 28, in partnership with Parmigiano Reggiano, legendary Italian restaurateurs, authors and UK TV favourites Gennaro Contaldo (Saturday Kitchen, Two Greedy Italians, Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast), and Giancarlo Caldesi (Return to Tuscany, Saturday Kitchen, Sunday Brunch), will be joining Maurizio Cecco to talk guests through the menu. Buy tickets here.
Masterclasses – Festa Marquee
On Friday August 27 there will be a series of family masterclasses for those attending with children. At 1:30pm Sienna Cecco, Maurizio’s 12-year-old daughter, a talented chef with her own YouTube channel and TV appearances under her belt, will be hosting a cooking demo to teach kids how to make simple and tasty dishes with ease, and at 2:30pm, Julia Martinelli from Pasta Factory will deliver a fun kids pasta masterclass.
Sienna is back the next day at 12:30pm with another family masterclass. Then there will be back-to-back workshops and book signings hosted by Gennaro Contaldo at 1.30pm and Giancarlo Caldesi at 2:30pm. On the Sunday Gennaro will be back at 12:30pm with another masterclass and book signing, and at 1:30pm Tre Ciccio’s Fran Scafuri will be taking guests through a very special recipe. At 2:30pm, celebrity chef and award-winning restaurateur, Aldo Zilli, above, (The One Show, This Morning, Celebrity Masterchef) will be hosting a masterclass and book signing.
Throughout the weekend Café Cannoli will be selling cannoli made using authentic ingredients imported directly from Sicily, local lads Paul and Mike from I Knead Pizza will be bringing their wood-fired oven along to serve up their Neapolitan pizza, while NQ Sicilian will be serving artisan gelato, coppa della casa, brioche gelato and brioche col tuppo. Pasta Factory will be serving up simple dishes, paired with handmade sauces inspired by Puglia. Paradiso Authentic Italian will be contributing its fresh tiramisú range. Festa stalwarts Proove will provide Neapolitan wood-fired pizza, while Lucky Mama’s will debut with their extruded pasta, homemade sauces and signature savoury/sweet dough balls. Not forgetting T’arricrii’s Sicilian specialities arancini and fritto misto and Tre Ciccio’s traditional Italian deli.
Peroni doesn’t just do drinks; the brew-based showstoppers will be popping up their portable cinema throughout the weekend, complete with bean bags, deck chairs, popcorn, Peroni on tap and themed classic movie screenings of Cinema Paradiso, Romeo and Juliet and La Dolce Vita. The cinema will be located in Cathedral Gardens trees with a Peroni bar adjacent.
Exploring Italy beyond pasta and pizza…