Food, Fun and Art Line Little Italy for the Annual Festival

Written By: Will Lange FESTA! in Little Italy

Once a year the vibrant Little Italy area of San Diego shines even brighter. Celebrating the rich Italian-American heritage that is so important to this part of Southern California, family-friendly FESTA! had entertainment for all ages. It is, in fact, the largest event of its kind on the West Coast, and this year it drew more than 100, 000 people out into the street for a day of fun.

Since it first began 22 years ago, this festival has grown from just 10 vendors, to more than 150. This year it was bigger than ever, as it merged with the San Diego Sicilian festival. Lou Palestrini, Treasurer of the Little Italy Association said “When Festa began, it was to make people aware of our community and enhance local businesses, ” as noted in the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2015.

Entering the 12-block promenade, you were immediately greeted by spectacular Gesso Italiano (chalk art). A little bit of portraiture, a little bit of pop, but all of it incredible. Of particular note was the chalk work by Francois Lariviere, who created a compelling image of a figure wearing beautiful and exotic armor.   

Further down, a beer garden hydrated guests with hop juice from local breweries. Then there was the food—lots of it—and available in a variety of ways. Guests could choose to snack on the run via vendors, or for something a bit more substantial, stop into one of the many restaurants that line India street. Some of the best street food available was offered by local joint Civico 1845, which was cooking live on-the-scene. If you chose to stroll inside an establishment instead, brand new hot-spot Bracero Cocina was packed, as was Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar and iconic Ballast Point.

After a bite or a drink (or both!) wandering down the street brought glimpses of a traditional past that many non-italians wouldn’t know. Teams played bocce, and stickball in the street. A group of musicians and performers paraded past onlookers in festive costume. Kids, dogs and people were everywhere. Overall it had the type of vibe everyone could get excited about.

Perhaps the highlight of the event though, was that there was not one, or two, but three stages simultaneously pumping music. There was traditional folk music, opera and even pop covers being played by a variety of talented local artists. With almost no place on the street where music couldn’t be heard, the mood stayed high and the pace never quit.

To say this year’s FESTA! was a success is an understatement, as the crowd spoke for itself. But given how many people showed up, you can be sure that when next year rolls around it’s going to be even better.

Italian Food Galore in Little Italy!

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