Festa Italiana, Festival Piazza, Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, M4 3BG – Visit Now
It’s fair to say this year’s Festa Italiana was a roaring success. Held over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Friday to Saturday, this celebration of all things Italian was blessed with great weather (not quite Sicilian sunshine, but not far off) and a great crowd of relaxed visitors, looking to shake off those Covid cobwebs with an open-air event in the very heart of Manchester.
But of course, the main draw was the superb line-up of food and drink traders, and live events to enjoy. The latter included live music on the main stage, playing mood-perfect disco music – although the muso in me feels they missed a trick by not playing a set of camp 80s Italo Disco bangers – and a cinema showing classics like La Dolce Vita and Cinema Paradiso. Not to mention a series of masterclasses from famous faces like Gennaro Contaldo, Giancarlo Caldesi and successful YouTuber Sienna Cecco, Salvi’s owner Maurizio Cecco’s 12-year-old daughter.
The Crodino bar was a personal highlight, and it must have been for many, considering how busy it was at all times. Crodino is a tart, orangey adult soft drink, hugely popular in Italy and on the verge of breaking through over here. It’s dry, refreshing and utterly delicious. And if you really wanted, you could sneak a shot of vodka in there, no one will ever know. Based on a secret recipe that no amount of pestering would get the friendly bar staff to reveal, it’s a wonderful creation and one that deserves to be available across the land.
If this year’s event is anything to go by, next year’s will be an absolute must-visit for any Mancunian who loves food, drink and fun
The food stalls were a revelation too. A pizza fritta from Salvis is something everyone should try at least once in their life. Make no mistake, this isn’t healthy eating, but nor should it be – it’s a festival favourite for a reason and the perfect way for your tastebuds to blow off some steam. It’s basically a pizza, folded in half, and turned into a kind of fried pastie and one of the most delicious outdoor meals I’ve ever tried.
Then there’s the arancini from T’Arricrii, which never disappoints, plus a glorious beef-heavy and intoxicatingly rich pasta dish from the deservedly well-respected Pasta Factory, and a Neapolitan pizza from Proove, cooked in an authentic wood-fired oven – the glorious aromas from this alone can be enjoyed from every corner of Cathedral Gardens, like a modern cosmopolitan Bisto kid. It’s hard to pick a highlight as everything was of such a high standard, but the hot, spicy meat pizza from Proove certainly left me planning a visit to their West Didsbury branch.
But overall, the atmosphere is what made it. Everyone was on top form, especially the food and drink vendors, chatty, friendly and delightfully keen to show off their skills and knowledge from everyone to little kids to seasoned Italian cuisine-lovers.
If this year’s event is anything to go by, next year’s will be bigger, better and an absolute must-visit for any Mancunian who loves open-air food, drink and fun.