Family, fun and, of course, food.
That’s the essence of La Festa Italiana, an Italian heritage festival held annually in Omaha, says Dr. Ted Bolamperti.
“Our slogan is, ‘Everyone should be Italian at least once a year,’” he says. “And what better way to do that than with food?”
Bolamperti, an Omaha dentist, is a founding member of the American Italian Heritage Society, an organization that promotes and preserves Italian heritage in the Omaha metro area.
The 37th annual festival will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Il Palazzo, headquarters of the AIHS, located at 5110 N. 132nd St. (132nd and Fort Streets).
Admission is $5.50 in advance and $7 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Rockbrook Camera and all metro-area Hy-Vee locations. Children 14 and under are admitted for free if accompanied by an adult.
Food is a major feature of La Festa Italiana, with booths offering authentic Italian pasta dishes as well as pizza, seafood, deli items, desserts and Italian ice creams.
“Spaghetti and meatballs is our most popular dish,” Bolamperti says.
The menu also includes authentic Italian recipes that date back generations, including sausage and pepper sandwiches and farsu magru, a meat roll dish popular with Italian families.
“Italians don’t let go of our recipes,” he says. “Some of them go back 75 years or more.”
The festival also includes entertainment, including live music from different local cover bands each night. The Santa Lucia Festival Band will perform a one-hour program of Italian and patriotic marches each day.
Other features of the festival include the annual bocce ball tournament, Italian cooking demonstrations, a fireworks display and a variety of children’s activities. Festival displays will celebrate famous Italians and local families whose histories span several generations, as well as a booth highlighting the “sister city” project between Omaha and Carlentini, Sicily, supported by local organizations Santa Lucia, the Sons of Italy and the American Heritage Society.
The festival returns in-person this year after a socially distanced event last year. Bolamperti says he’s excited to return to an in-person gathering.
“The camaraderie is my favorite part,” he says. Visitors should expect a fun time at the family-friendly event, he said. “They won’t be disappointed.”
The American Italian Heritage Society began around a dining room table in 1980, with the goal of promoting and teaching Italian culture and heritage. Today, the group has more than 1,000 members from 600 families, Bolamperti says.
The group aims to encourage, promote, and preserve the Italian culture and heritage, with activities centered upon Italian traditions, foods, language, folklore, customs, music and family genealogy.
For more event details, visit www.omahaitaly.com.