The Adelaide Italian Festival is on from November 10-19, so CityMag talked to some local chefs about the importance of keeping culture alive and showcasing different regions through food.
Say saluti to Adelaide’s biggest Italian festival yet
Four years since the Adelaide Italian Festival reimagined itself, the program is stacked with more than 70 events proving Adelaide’s Italian community is as varied and passionate as ever.
The first Italian Festival in Adelaide was held in 1976, with a parade of migrant families marching from Victoria Square to Elder Park and ending in a celebration in Rundle Mall.
Since 2020, the Adelaide Italian Festival has run in the format we’ll see again this year, promoting the Italian culture to the wider Adelaide community and encouraging younger Italians living here to embrace their heritage.
Of the range of open access and ticketed events on offer, it’s no surprise most feature food – whether it be dinners championing different regions of Italy, or cooking classes.
“People, more often than not, come together to the table and forget all their differences,” says Gabriele Pezzimenti, executive chef at Market and Meander restaurant in Hotel Indigo.
“They naturally get to know each other around food, probably a good glass of wine, coffee at the end.”
Gabriele is originally from Bergamo, northeast of Milan, and has worked globally before moving to Adelaide in 2019.
While Gabriele didn’t know much about Adelaide at first, he’s found it to be the perfect place to start a young family and loves what the South Australian landscape offers.
“When I moved here, I really felt like home by the way that I was welcomed,” he says.
“The landscape and the food and drinks and the lifestyle, it’s really the closest thing to Bergamo [outside of] Italy that I have experienced.”
In a tribute to his homeland, one of the events Gabriele is hosting is ‘Cena Bergamasca’, a wine dinner in Bergamo, with four courses of traditional dishes from that region.
Bergamo is adjacent to the Alps, and due to the cold, they’re known for rich and hearty flavours Gabriele calls “food for the soul” – think plenty of cheeses, game meats, braised meats and smallgoods.
He’s excited to be involved with the festival through Hotel Indigo and is sure it will help him cultivate more connections with the Italian community in Adelaide.
Market & Meander is the Italian restaurant within Hotel Indigo, located on Market Street in the CBD, and is open to the public as well as hotel guests. New here? Sign up to receive the latest happenings from around our city, sent every Thursday afternoon.
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The other events on offer at Hotel Indigo are ‘Cicchetti Sul Tetto’ – apertif on the roof, which will run at Merrymaker rooftop bar from Wednesday to Sunday during the festival, where you can enjoy aperitif and Venetian cicchetti (tapas).
There is also ‘Pomeriggio in Allegria: Italian Afternoon Tea’, which is a Venetian Tiramisu masterclass with Gabriele where you get to take home your creation.
As for what makes the best Tiramisu? Gabriele says it’s important to have “harmony between the components” of sweet mascarpone and the bitterness of the coffee.
Gabriele says it’s important for the next generation of Italians in Australia to get involved in events like the Italian Festival to value their history and the character of Italy, as it’s their passion that fuels the culture.
“Don’t forget what makes us Italian, what makes the whole world envious in some aspects for food, fashion, drink, cars… there is a reason why, right?” he says.
“Some people, especially in Australia, sometimes they say, ‘oh, you’re Italian, you’re too emotional’ – it’s true sometimes, but it’s also what makes us.”
Emanuele Piano, co-founder of Currie Street focaccia fave Via Vai, agrees it’s important to keep tradition alive but to also present the new generation.
“It’s also very important not just to keep the tradition alive, but also keep bringing innovation,” Emanuele says.
“In Italy too things keep evolving, there is always new traditions, new products, always something new.
“Sometimes it feels like as an Italian, you’re moving in a place where everybody thinks that Italy is still in the 80s.
“We have so much to offer, and I think Australian people are definitely the best crowds to present these things to.”
Emanuele is from Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and through Via Vai they’re presenting a new street food offering as part of the Italian Festival.
Their new product is a pizzette al taglio Cagliaritane – named for Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. It’s essentially a square pizza slice folded on itself to create a pizza sandwich, a commonly found street food eaten while on a stroll.
Emanuele says even people he works with hadn’t heard of these pizzettas before despite being from Italy as well, which shows the stark differences between the regions.
With their new pizzette offering, Via Vai is promoting something from a different Italian region that you don’t see around much, and Emanuele believes that’s the strength of the Italian Festival.
He says while you’ll find pasta and bread everywhere in Italy, each region has its pasta and bread, along the coast they have their seafood, and there is a big variety of style.
“I really believe events like this is the right occasion for us for Italians to work all together, but each one of us sharing our own part of Italy,” Emanuele says.
The Adelaide Italian Festival kicks off this Friday with an opening night street party on Vardon Ave, converting the East End into Little Italy for the night. Entry is free, with live entertainment and food and drinks from local vendors like East End Cellars, The Cannoli Box Co and more.
The festival runs from November 10-19, with the full program available to view on their website.