“If you are going to America, bring food.” — Fran Lebowitz
TIME SURE DOES FLY WHEN YOU’RE HAVING FUN, and I can’t think of anything more fun than the sixth annual Italian Food and Wine Festival, to be held at Belmar, at West Alameda and South Wadsworth, in Lakewood, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19 and 20.
Six years ago, the first festival was held for one day on one block of Alaska Drive and was absolutely jam-packed. So, the next year they expanded it to two days and two blocks of Alaska Drive, and it was still packed all day long, both days. Last year it was even bigger, cuz they added another half block. Now it zigs and zags all over Belmar. Just breathe in the aromas, and you’ll find the grub. Just pray for good weather; you’ve done real good so far. Last year’s crowd was estimated by the West Metro Fire Department at over 100,000 live bodies, slurping and stuffing. I estimated that 47,003 went home with very full, overloaded, tummies; 46,818 went home very satisfied; 8,999 went home still hungry, and 56 people are still there, waiting for this year’s festival.
There’s gonna be tons of entertainment and exhibitions, including the internationally renowned flag throwers direct from Florence, Italy, a bocce ball tournament, chef demonstrations and a grape-stomping bash for the kids. A repeat from prior years is a four-time world champion pizza acrobat. What, you ask, is a “pizza acrobat?” Glad you asked. That’s a dude who’s gonna (are you ready?) lie on his back, toss pizza dough into the air and spin it with his feet. Now, I ain’t too keen on pizza to begin with, but if you think I’m gonna eat pizza made with stinky toe-tossed dough, you’re nuttier than a fruitcake. If you care, he’ll also stand on a ball blindfolded while spinning the dough. Rah, rah! Ho, ho! Watch a nut-job spin the dough! Waddayaknow? It rhymes!
There will be live music and dancing from two stages. New this year is the “Sinatra Stage.” Don’t ask. Okay, a hint. Y’all knew that Elvis Presley is alive and well in a 100 cities at any given moment. Well, the “Chairman of the Board” will be at the festival this year. Fortunately for your musical ears, there will be other performers as well. This event will take place in the intersection of West Alaska Drive and South Teller Street. Fortunately for the performers, no auto traffic will be allowed.
Again this year is a project sponsored by one of muh fav charities, Project Angel Heart, www.projectangelheart.org. They’ll be running a craft tent for kids where they can decorate Italian-themed bags in which meals will be delivered to folks with life-threatening illnesses. The kids can also make macaroni necklaces to take with them. They might even find a great sauce to go with the macaroni in one of the many food booths. There is no cost for participation in the crafts, but donations will be accepted. Project Angel Heart delivers freshly prepared complete meals to more than 750 homes.
There will also be lotsa artisan vendors selling everything Italian — ceramics, leather handbags, flowers, baked goods, glasswork, jewelry, art. In addition, local wine experts will offer miniseminars and tastings on Italian wine and provide a taste of the country’s best wines for a nominal tasting fee. There will also be a mobile exhibit soes y’all can navigate your own personal tour of the 20 regions of Italy. Should be a gas. If you wanna know about the festivities in detail, visit the Belmar Web site, www.Belmarcolorado.com. I’m here to talk about the grub. And I got lots to say.
At this writing, there are almost 30 vendors serving meals, sangies, snacks and desserts, several wine vendors and another two dozen vendors offering merchandise and services. Now, on to the grub.
I assume y’all know that food will be for sale (as opposed to freebie samples), but at very reasonable prices. Also this year, a group of chefs —including muh fav chef of chefs, Frank Bonanno (Mizuna, Luca D’ Italia, Osteria Marco) — will share recipes and show off their skills at daily chef demonstrations. Also on the list are Chef Mick from Tony’s Market and Chef Steve Progar (Abrusci’s), along with lotsa other local chefs.
That sed, here’s who’ll be serving real food and what they’ll be serving:
• Abrusci’s Italian Restaurant (3244 Youngfield St., Wheat Ridge, 303-232-2424, www.abruscis.com). Owner Progar and his talented crew will be offering sausage sangies and their popular penne & sausage with vodka sauce. Ooooh, sounds yummy. If you want some of their fabulous house-made tiramisu, you’ll have to go to the restaurant and buy it there. Certainly worth the trip. If you ain’t been to this casual family-owned eatery, you’re missing the best.
• Avanti Catering. A specialized caterer will be serving Italian beef steak, meataballs, sautéed zucchini, sausage sangies and sausage on a stick.
• Carmine Lonardo’s Meat Market (7585 W. Florida Ave., Lakewood, 303-985-3555). Big Tony and the mob (but such a nice family mob) will be serving their house-made sausage sangies, cannolis, pizzelle cookies and pepper shooters (whatever the heck them things are).
• Grammy’s Italian Goodies. Italian cookies, Sicilian pizza, sausage cannolis, dessert cannolis and spumoni ice cream.
• Lucky Strike Lanes (415 S. Teller St., Lakewood, 303-935-5793, www.bowlluckystrike.com). The fine folks at this terrific bowling alley and restaurant will be peddling caprese skewers (tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil) and sausage cannolis. If you ain’t dined at this very family-friendly bowling alley with really great grub, you’re missing out on a fun evening. Just don’t bring a cell phone, cuz you can’t get any reception there. Maybe some day.
• mark & Isabella (425 S. Teller St., Lakewood, 303-934-7800, www.markandisabella.com). One of muh fav American-Italian eateries, and run by the same folks as The Oven, these super nice folks will be offering pizza; meataball sliders and their unbelievable parmesan fries.
• Mici Handcrafted Italian (1531 Stout St., Denver, 303-629-6424, www.miciitalian.com) will be serving their popular pizza slices and insalata caprese.
• Nonna’s Chicago Bistro & Wine Bar (6603 Leetsdale Drive, Denver, 303-399-2000, www.coloradoeats.com/nonnas) will be serving meataball sangies, sausage sangies, penne pasta and their unbelievable wonderful Eye-talian beef with peppers sangie. Another terrific restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner; call for reservs. Live entertainment every Friday and Saturday nite. If you ain’t never been, go.
• Polidori Meats (3327 Tejon St., Denver, 303-455-5701, http://polidorimeats.com). These guys will serve sausage & peppers, sausage on a stick, sausage sangies and meataball sangies. Great sausage company.
• The Oven Pizza e Vino (7167 W. Alaska Drive, Lakewood, 303-934-7600, www.theovenpizzaevino.com). Certainly one of the best eateries in Lakewood. They’re gonna do what they do best: pizza. But pizza like you’ve never had before. Unless you’ve been to Rome and had it on the streets. Or been to The Oven. They’ll also serve meataball sliders and parmesan fries.
• 3 Sons Italian Restaurant (14805 W. 64th Ave., Arvada, 303-455-4366, www.threesons.net). These nice folks will be feeding the masses Italian beef sangies, meataball sangies and veggie risotto. Ain’t never been to their place? Shame. New owners a coupla years back, but still great grub in the old tradition. Now located in West Arvada and open every day for lunch and dinner.
• Tonali’s Meats (6260 W. 52nd Ave., Arvada, 303-940-8700). This family of butchers will be serving up some mighty fine steak with peppers and sausage with peppers, both in a bowl. As opposed to on a stick, I guess. Not so messy that way.
• Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro (2770 Arapahoe Road, Lafayette, 303-664-1275; www.zamparellis.com). Yep, all the way from Boulder County comes maaavelous zeppolis and arrancine with marinara. The “z” things are typically light, deep-fried dough balls and the “a” things are rice balls coated with breadcrumbs. Sometimes they’re filled with goodies. The Z folks are going to fill the “z” things with ricotta cheese and orange and lemon zest and coat them with powdered sugar. The “a” things will be mixed with lotsa cheese and rolled and breaded and fried and served with marinara sauce. Glad I’m not an “a” thing. If I was rolled and breaded and fried, I’d be unhappy. These are Sicilian dishes, so be nice to the staff.
Most of the next dozen or so vendors don’t operate restaurants but will be serving snacks and/or dessert items. I’m not going to list their addresses ’cept for a few that serve food at a regular place, cuz if you like their stuff you can get that info from the folks in their booth. That is, if they want you to know how to find them.
• Banane & Fragolae. These folks will serve fragola (fruit kabobs); torta al formaggio (cheesecake); and bign’e alla panna (cream puffs). Like I always say, “If you gotta ask what it is, you shouldn’t ask cuz you probably don’t wanna know.”
• Dolce Sicilia (3210 Wadsworth Blvd., Wheat Ridge, 303-233-3755, www.dolcesiciliabakery.com). This very popular Wheat Ridge Sicilian bakery will bring their best. Ricotta cannolis; ciabatta bread; sfogliatelle (cone-shaped filled pastries); Italian twisted bread; and biscotti.
• Espo’s Cucina Dolce. Gelato & sorbetto. Good stuff. You can find Espo’s gelato in most groceries around town including all the King Soopers.
• Gelazzi Gelato Italian Café (1411 Larimer St., Denver, 303-534-5056). Gelato in a cup or a cone. I luv gelato.
• Little Jimmy’s Italian Ice. What else but Italian ice?
• Loredana’s Pesto. Pesto, balsamic vinaigrettes, Asiago and Parmesan cheeses.
• Luigi’s Pizza Fritta. Fried pizza dough covered with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar.
• Pane Fresco. Ciabatta bread, focaccetta, cookies, breads and desserts.
• PastAmore II. Vinegars and olive oils
• The Gelato Spot (609 E. 13th Ave., Denver, 303-832-2734). Duh, maybe gelato? I can’t believe there’s a gelato I haven’t tried in this town, but it won’t be that way for very long. B4 you read this, that’s for darn sure.
• The Press Coffee Company. Cappuccino, latte and mocha.
I forgot to mention that the Balistreri Vineyards Children’s Grape Stomp is gonna cause a bunch of folks to fall over and try to drink the guk from their feet. It isn’t a pleasant sight, and I am told that it isn’t a pleasant taste either.
Be sure to get there early and stay late, visit the website, www.belmarcolorado.com, and click on the link for Festival Italiano. And, most of all, pray for good weather.
Disclaimer: Note that at the time I am writing this, the festival is more than two weeks away, so I am not responsible for any of the following errors: Typos (cuz it’s late at nite when I am writing this). Vendors dropping out. New vendors coming in. Vendors changing their mind about what they are serving. Bad food (cuz there won’t be any). Bad drink (depends on your definition of bad). Lousy entertainment (well, you never know about these things). Bad weather (talk to HER). Nor am I responsible for anything I failed to tell you that I wasn’t responsible for.
A final note about the food. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for the vendors to post all the ingredients in all the dishes. Many of you suffer from a variety of food allergies. Be sure to tell the vendor about your allergies before buying something. In this kind of event, some of the vendors’ employees will not be familiar with the ingredients. In that case, ask them to check with the chef or owner. Also, be sure to bring your allergy medicine with you.
G and I will be there stuffing and slurping along with tens of thousands of other folks, so if you don’t go and you miss a good time, tuff bananas.
Esteemed Colorado Statesman restaurant reviewer Jay Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.