Ciao, Italia! Festival returns to south Charlotte

Volunteers and vendors will do everything they can to make this year’s festival feel like it’s straight out of Italy.

Your chance to see a fresh mozzarella-making demonstration is coming up.

The Ciao, Italia! Festival will return to St. Matthew Catholic Church on Oct. 13, a Saturday. This is the second year the festival is at St. Matthew, after starting in uptown Charlotte in 1996.

“We’re trying to reproduce what the Italians down here remember as kids growing up in the New York area or the Midwest, in Chicago,” explained Lou Carletto, one of the organizers and long-time leader of the event. “The churches would have a lot of Italian festivals back in the 50s and 60s we were accustomed to going to (and) we as a club wanted to follow our Italian culture and tradition.”

Carletto joined the Christopher Columbus Italian Club of Charlotte, which hosts the festival, after going to the first event in 1996. He’s one of the many who joined the group after going to a festival. Carletto said they typically get between 25 to 50 new members after each festival.

“It’s been the lifeblood of our organization,” he said. “It’s the area we’ve drawn most of our new members from.”

The annual event includes a number of area vendors, a cultural exhibit, and of course, as Carletto puts it, “great Italian food all day long.” That includes this year’s fresh mozzarella-making demonstration. It takes around 150 volunteers to put on the one-day event, which is attended by between 3,000 to 5,000 people each year.

This year’s event will take place outdoors at St. Matthew Catholic Church under tents – something that gives the club more room to spread out, but brings weather into play.

Cost to attend is $3, with food and drinks being extra. Kids ages 12 and younger get in free, and Carletto said there will be a number of events aimed at children during the event. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Christopher Columbus Italian Club of Charlotte meets once a month from September to June. Each meeting features a cultural program and entertainment, time for socializing and refreshments, according to the group’s website. Guest fees are $10.

Find more information on the club at its website, www.italian-club-charlotte.org.

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