Good Food, Good Music and Good Community at the 7th Annual Festa Italiana SLC


Edie Raines

Chef prepares Italian food for crowd at Festa Italiana. (Photo by Edie Raines | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Edie Raines, Copy Editor


Each year, the Italian-American Civic League hosts the Festa Italiana SLC, celebrating Italian heritage and culture in Salt Lake City. The free event brings together Italian restaurants, performers and people from across the state. Proceeds are donated back to the community. This year, the festival benefited Catholic Community Services and their work with those experiencing homelessness and refugees.

Benvenuti a Tutti

Cucina Toscana, an Italian restaurant next to Pioneer Park, traces the history of Italian Utahns back to the 1850s when several Latter-Day Saint immigrants moved to the state. Many Italians of various faiths followed and worked in mining and railroad industries. The area around the Rio Grande, where the Festa Italiana is held, formed a sort of Little Italy. 

In 2000, nearly 60,000 Utahns identified as Italian. This past weekend, an estimated 40k guests attended the 7th annual Festa Italiana from Sept. 17-18.

Mangia Che Ti Fa Bene

Pasta, cheese, tomatoes, wine and blood orange San Pellegrinos line the pathways of the Gateway shopping center. Hundreds of hungry people filling in every unoccupied space eating good food, chatting with good friends and eating more and more good food.

One booth with a live wood oven sends notes of fresh bread into the air, another draws in dozens of customers at a time with pasta seasoned in an enormous cheese wheel. Further down, a dessert booth coats your clothes in powdered sugar from the cannoli. 

There’s something for everyone, especially the kids. From balloon art, to splash pads, to a kids-only pasta eating contest, Festa Italiana was the place to be for family fun this weekend. The festival even hosts a vintage bike ride around Salt Lake City so the whole family can get a taste of Italian culture together. 

Per Noi, Per La Comunità

The festival is co-sponsored by the Italian Club of Salt Lake City, a group of University of Utah staff, students and alumni who seek to “preserve, celebrate and foster pride in Italy and Italian culture” through Italian lessons, history and cuisine classes, and free conversation groups. Volunteers from the club had a booth at the festival where passersby could sign up for lessons and buy T-shirts with Italian sayings on them.

U student Ella Bagley started taking Italian classes for fun and got involved in the festival through her Italian professor, Giuliana Marple. Marple, president of the Italian Club, said her favorite part of the festival is “seeing people come together … You have to speak the language, you have to be together, you have to eat together and play and dance to the Italian music.”

Unisciti a Noi

Those outside Utah may view it as waspy and monolithic, but Utah has a strong, diverse culture to be celebrated year round. From the Greek Fest to Afro Utah Fest to Oktoberfest to Festa Italiana, each Utahn can recognize their own unique heritage while coming together to celebrate community.

If you missed the Festa Italiana this year and just can’t wait till next fall, consider taking some Italian classes at the U, or joining the Italian Club to learn more about Italian culture year round. 


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