Italian Fest in Newport! Buona Festa!

A giant wave of red, white and green is flooding the levee in Newport all this weekend. It is Italian Fest!

There are a lot of places you can go in the Tri-State for authentic Italian cooking, but this weekend, they're all in one place.

Italian Fest kicked-off Thursday, with food and music from entertainers around the nation.

There's also a golf outing, cooking contests, games, fireworks and a photo-booth showcasing the history of Italian families who first settled Newport.

It's been hot all week, but most everyone we talked with, has a terrific attitude about the hot weather.

People say once you're down there, you hear the great music and smell the fantastic Italian food, suddenly, you forget all about the heat.

"It's four days of pure love, the Italian way," said Frank Peluso, whose family-run business, Frankie's Catering, has been a fixture at the festival since it started 20 years ago in a parking lot across town.

"We've got our peppers and onions getting ready for our homemade Italian sausages and our homemade meatballs," Peluso said.

He's serving up a weekend of hot food in hot, hot weather.

"How are you going to be out here cooking for 3 or 4 days in this heat?," we asked.

"There is so much love at Italian Fest, the City of Newport, the heat means nothing," Peluso said with a smile.

There are fans in every food booth.

"I can't talk without my hands, but I think that's got something to do with my Italian heritage," Peluso laughed while gesticulating wildly. "Gotta talk with the hands and cook with them too, that's right!"

And temperatures underneath the tents, near the stoves are blazing hot.

"This is as hot as it gets down here right now," said Harry Stephens with the Bella Luna Restaurant. "There's no breeze, the sun's coming right in your face, but, it's Italian Fest, deal with it!"

Stephens was feeling the heat from the sterno he was lighting underneath his warming trays.

"It's gonna be hot back here," Stephens said. "We've got ovens and open flame and warming utensils for the food to keep it hot, so we stay within Health Department regulations, so we serve safe food to people."

There are pots of boiling water for pasta ovens roasting, as tall as the men working in front of them.

"Whew!" exclaimed Larry Geiger of Pompillio's Restaurant. "I'd say 92, 93 degrees, but it feels like a hundred at least!"

Geiger was stirring his roaster full of sweet marinara sauce and trying his best to stay cool.

"We have plenty of water," Geiger said. "We soak some rags in cold water, put it around our neck, we have a bunch of fans blowing and we just hope for the best and don't pass out on the meatballs!"

"Definitely, definitely!" echoed Natalie Ramirez of Raneiro's Pizza of Cold Spring. "We're drinking lots of ice water back here."

She has the right idea when it comes to the extreme heat.

"Ummmm," she laughed. "I kept my head in the freezer!"

Then we met this guy.

"Steve Stephens!" he said. "That's right, they liked me so much they named me twice, like New York, New York!"

Stephens runs Tony's Sausage of Dayton, OH and has been at the festival 20 years as well.

"I have a little fan," he said, pointing to the side of his booth. "But you know what, you gotta take the heat."

Stephens piles-on the peppers and Texas onions of his prize pork.

"We go through about a thousand pounds of onions for our onion rings and our sausage," he said.

So, from sausages, peppers, and onions, to lasagna, gnocchi, and canoli, there is something for everybody.

The Festival runs Friday from 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

They're expecting about 100,000 people throughout the course of the next 3 days.

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