Italian Fest underway in Newport, KY

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

NEWPORT, KY (FOX19) - This weekend everybody is Italian in Newport, KY. This is their 19th big year for Italian Fest and the one truly unique thing about this festival is you will find only Italian foods here. Take your pick. There is no shortage of yummy stuff every where you look.

Italian Fest Coordinator Sal Wertheim said it is all about the consistency. No surprises over the years. Give the people what they want. It is the staples like pasta, meatballs, and canoli to Pompiglio's deep-fried cheesecake that keeps people coming back.

"We like what we do it's our 19th year," Wertheim said. "Now next year, there'll be surprises but not this year."

Want great food? You got it. Great music? You'll hear it on the main stage and hopefully not in the rain.

"It always rains at the Italian Fest," Wertheim said. "Really," we asked? "Do you think that's a sign of good luck over the years? It probably is you know, makes the gardens bloom," Wertheim said.

"I remember one year our Festival Coordinator Mr. Sal Wertheim, a storm came through on US 27 and he was literally lifted off of his feet," Frank Peluso said. "Two to two and half feet trying to hold down a tent."

Wertheim said the festival is not about more money and business from all over the country like other festivals and not about the size.

"We have local vendors," he said. "We don't want vendors from out of town."

Peluso said this festival is about families. The Pelusos have made homemade ravioli and sausage as a family for nearly two decades.

"Our children were very young at that time," Peluso said when they started their now successful catering business. "It's actually helped put our children through school."

And they've been catering to the hungry masses in Newport since then.

"And we have had complaints about no hot dogs, hamburgers, and things of that nature," Peluso said. He's been a part of this festival for all 19 years. "Well, I'm sorry, for four days in the City of Newport, it will be Italian food."

"The south end of Newport was predominantly Italian it was called 'Spaghetti Hill'," he said.

The festival moved from a small parking lot on that south end, over to the waterfront and has been going strong ever since.

Inside a huge, white tent, a map shows all the regions of Italia. Plus, there are family photos and a list of all the Italian surnames in our local area.

Stefano's family is from the mountains of Campania and Basilicata overlooking the sea. Outside the tent, the Italian and American flags hang side by side on-stage, a reminder of the struggle many immigrant Italians faced coming to this exciting new place to start their new lives.

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