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Little Italy’s Big Festival, Aug. 15 - 18
Image © Larry E. Highbaugh, Jr.
If all Clevelanders are a little bit Irish on St. Paddy's Day and a little bit Polish on Dyngus Day, then we’re all Italian during the Feast of the Assumption - if only for a few days.
"The Feast" takes over Cleveland's historic Little Italy neighborhood Aug. 15 - 18 and turns it into a five-block extravaganza of tangy marinara and delicious carbs in every form imaginable. In a summer full of amazing festivals, this one’s the Godfather. It’s practically mandatory attendance for many Clevelanders, making it one of the busiest events on our calendar.
We get it. All this Italian awesomeness is a little bit daunting, but we’ve got some tips to make this trip to The Feast the best ever.
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.
The food here is legit. Some of the restaurants are still owned by the same Italian families who immigrated here generations ago. 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 legendary among Clevelanders. Save room, though, because it would be criminal to pass up the decadent strawberry cassata cake at Corbo’s Bakery, or the luxurious chocolate chip and cream stuffed cannoli at Presti's Bakery.
The heart and soul of the Little Italy neighborhood is Holy Rosary Church. For the past 120 years, the church, parish and neighborhood have commemorated the Catholic Holy Day of Assumption and the preceding week with a church festival unlike any you’ve ever seen.
The weekend kicks off Thursday, Aug. 15, by celebrating a solemn mass at 10 a.m., followed by a procession through Little Italy honoring the Virgin Mary. Then the party begins with an outdoor festival featuring live music, carnival rides, church activities (church carnival casinos are a special thing) and of course all that great food. The festivities end Sunday night with the gorgeous, haunting glow of a candlelit procession.
Look, just about anything you do at the Feast is going to be done with a slice of pizza or a cannoli in your hand. But there is plenty going on. Several restaurants open their doors (even if they're serving food outside) and hold live concerts, dance parties or themed music events. In fact, there’s live music scheduled for the entire festival - whether it’s in the church yard or out on Mayfield Rd - playing everything from Sinatra to rock ‘n’ roll.
Little Italy boasts an eclectic art scene that comes alive during the festival, and you won’t want to miss the booths dedicated to authentic Italian goods and knick-knacks, either. Sunday night brings a fireworks finale that will dazzle onlookers as they finish their last bite of pasta or sip of wine.
There’s no better way to experience Cleveland’s famous Little Italy neighborhood than the Feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15 – 18 at and around Holy Rosary Church. And hey, with an RTA Red Line stop nearby, you can leave the car and take the cannoli.