Metro Italian families celebrate heritage at Zona Rosa

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — Bellissimo!

Italian families in the metro are celebrating their heritage this weekend, as Zona Rosa hosts Festa Italiana—and when these pleasant paisans fly their colors, not even rainy weather can ruin the day.

Festa Italiana celebrates all things Italian in the metro, dating back to the early twentieth century, when early Italian immigrants settled in Kansas City's north end near Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

“From that north end, that's where they began to build,” Jerry Viviano said. “They came here as workers—steelworkers, as produce people and all the rest, but the church was the focal point in all of that.”

Viviano works with UNICO, an Italian-American society in the metro that helps raise scholarship money for college-bound students of Italian heritage. Viviano says last year, UNICO helped raise $50,000 to help outgoing high school seniors.

“Many of these scholarship award winners will come back and help as volunteers at this event and other events in the future,” Viviano said. “There's a lot at stake her in the future. And believe me, they're all proud Italian-Americans.”

Heritage is a wonderful thing, but being hungry is a different—and delicious—matter. Festa Italiana has over 40 food vendors, many of them making great Italian grub sure to make you say "fuhgetabout."

If hot pans with loaded with pizza and pasta sound good, Festa Italiana is right for you. Longtime local restauranteurs Johnny Vivace and Jasper Mirable say this gathering is on their calendar every year.

“When I asked Phil Scimeca, ‘what are we going to do to these Italian steaks?’ He said, ‘we have to do what grandma does’, which has been great for everybody,” Vivace said.

“If you just walk around here, you see all the Italian booths,” Mirable said. “You see Carlo’s with the meatballs, and Scimecas. Everyone's here. They all get together for this every year. It's something we all wait for.”

Festa Italiana continues all weekend at Zona Rosa. The event is free.

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