Not only was there great food and wine, as well as very little shlock for sale, fewer stroller and dogs, and lower temperatures (September beat August hands down when it comes to weather), but the Italian extravaganza offered some truly different activities that made a visit worthwhile.
Even better, it offered stuff for both kids and adults, and kept everyone happy.For the adults, there were the wine seminars and tastings, the chef demos and Italian lessons; for the kids, there was grape stomping (Balistreri Vineyards makes wine every year from it, called Little Feet Merlot), face painting and story tellers; for both, there was terrific food, a bocce ball tournament, chalk art, Sinatra singers, traditional Italian flag throwing and Justin Wadstein, the world champion pizza dough tosser, who did amazing things with wads of flour and water.
And although the weeks leading up to the festival involved a bit of a pizza dispute (which you can read about here), the food was terrific. The line for sausage sandwiches served up by Polidori was half a block long, but the other vendors were serving up some mean grub as well, including Italian egg rolls, deep dish pizza, meatball sandwiches, and my favorite, sausage on a stick.
Oh, and don't forget the cannoli!
The sausage on a stick came from Nonna's Chicago Bistro, 6603 Leetsdale Drive, and it went perfectly with some bocce ball cheering. Oddly, however, the Oven, the Neapolitan style pizza place in Belmar, didn't appear to have a cart out in the festival. Granted, the restaurant is right in the thick of things, but it was getting almost no business inside.
Next year, I'd suggest the Oven get Wadstein in there. Oh, and pizza on a stick wouldn't hurt.