Cleveland's Little Italy Celebrates the Feast of the Assumption.
By Lexi Hotchkiss
Cleveland has character. That's not just some trivial tagline we put out there, it's a statement of fact.
Believe it or not, the city is home to nearly 120 different ethnicities. And with all those different ethnicities comes a long heritage of character and color - whether it's the uniqueness of our architecture, the diversity of our neighborhoods and, of course, the authenticity of our food scene.
Yet, there are a few neighborhoods in Cleveland that not only embodies all of this, but celebrate it, including Cleveland's Little Italy.
And, if you're from Cleveland, you know there's absolutely no better way to experience all that the Little Italy neighborhood has to offer than with a visit to the Feast of the Assumption (aka "The Feast") Aug. 12 - 15, 2016.
The heart and soul of the Little Italy neighborhood is Holy Rosary Church. For the past 115 years, the church, parish and neighborhood have commemorated the Catholic Holy Day of Assumption and the preceding week.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, Aug. 12, with an outdoor festival with live music, amusement rides, church activities and - our favorite - great food. On Monday, Aug. 15, a solemn mass is celebrated in the church at 10 a.m., followed by a procession down Mayfield Road honoring the Virgin Mary. To truly understand, appreciate and respect the basis of this popular neighborhood festival, we suggest that you first learn a little more here.
All of the restaurants that line Mayfield Avenue and Murray Hill bring their Italian delicacies onto the street and into the mouths of festivalgoers. Walk the strip to find spaghetti and meatballs, cavatelli, meatball and sausage subs, calzones, and much more. But just when you think you've had enough, you'll spot the home-made gelato, cannolis, and tiramusa. We can't lie; it's heavenly. [Insert obligatory declaration of "Mamma mia!"]
The food here is legit. Some of the restaurants are still owned by the same Italian families who immigrated here generations ago. Others have simply stood the test of time (and tastebuds).
Places like Guarino's, a mainstay of the neighborhood, offers throwbacks to the old-school Italian dishes that have been served there since before Prohibition. Then, there's Mama Santa's, whose pizza is basically legendary here in Cleveland. Save room, though, because it would be criminal to pass up the decadent strawberry cassata cake at Corbos Bakery. Or, how about some luxurious Italian cookies and a chocolate chip and cream stuffed cannoli at Presti's Bakery?
For those party people looking for a great place to eat, drink, dance and merry make during The Feast, be sure to check out the patio parties happening at Nido Italia (you must try the sangria) and Trattoria on the Hill (live music galore). You'll dance to everything from Sinatra to rock and roll.
Of course, for the little ones, there are carnival rides, games and even fireworks on the last night of the fest. Add to that, the neighborhood boasts an eclectic art scene, which comes alive during the festival, as well.
At the conclusion of the festival, Holy Rosary parish members take a candlelit procession down Mayfield Road to honor the Virgin Mary. It's a gorgeous and meaningful sight to top off an eventful week.
Without a doubt, the Feast is one of Cleveland's largest block parties. Everyone's invited. So, come hungry, be ready to enjoy a friendly neighborhood and leave inamorato [in love].