In just five short years, Festival Italiano, whose latest edition was staged Saturday and Sunday at Belmar, has become one of the city's most enjoyable late-summer gatherings. Of course, I'm not the most objective observer, since these are my people: My original family name, Roberti, was Anglicized in the late 1800s. But I saw folks of virtually every ethnicity thoroughly enjoying chalk-art displays of the sort seen above, plus routines by Gli Sbandieratori, a team of elaborately costumed flag tossers from Florence, and the music of J. Gerardi and Friends, whose sound and style will be familiar to anyone who remembers the opening party scene of Godfather II. And the food was to die for -- particularly the pizza supplied by Virgilio's Pizzeria, a Lakewood eatery whose fare is sinfully good. Also got an unbelievably delicious tower of bananas and chocolate drizzled in chocolate from a vendor whose name escapes me. Eyeball the photographic evidence after the jump -- and then make plans to experience the festival for yourself next year. -- Michael Roberts
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