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Italian festival still growing

| Monday, Aug. 21, 2006

The food and music were a big hit at Vandergrift's annual Festa Italiano -- even for those without a drop of Italian blood.

"Unfortunately, I'm Irish," said Pam Windon of Worthington.

But that wasn't stopping her and her husband, Ron, from enjoying the atmosphere of Kennedy Park Sunday afternoon.

"He was here last year but I couldn't come," Pam Windon said. "He talked about it all the time, so I made sure I came along this year."

The couple had just arrived and hadn't sampled any of the Italian cuisine from the many red-and-white striped tents, but Ron Windon was looking forward to some Italian sausage.

The food, ranging from ravioli and linguini with clam sauce to gelato and cannoli, was what attracted George and Linda Olszewski from Leechburg.

"We just love Italian food," Linda Olszewski said.

"The lasagna, the ravioli, the cannoli," chimed in her husband, pronouncing each word with an exaggerated Italian accent. "And the bagna calda."

Mention of the last dish -- a dip made from anchovies, garlic and olive oil -- drew a grimace from his wife.

"That's the one thing I could do without," she said.

The Olszewskis said they may enjoy the food of their Polish ancestors, but Italian pastas and desserts are their favorite.

"It's pretty much all about the food for us," George Olszewski said.

It was the music -- particularly the love songs crooned by Philadelphia native Al Martino -- that touched Fran Giordano of Vandergrift.

"I can't believe they got Al Martino in little, tiny Vandergrift," Giordano said, raving about the 78-year-old singer who had dozens of Billboard hits and a role as Johnny Fontane in the movie, "The Godfather."

Giordano swayed to the music and called out to friends as she stood behind the dozen rows of lawn chairs set up around Martino's small stage.

"I just love Italian festivals," Giordano said, noting she attended the festival at Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church in New Kensington earlier this month. "I try to go to as many as I can.

"This one has really grown," she said of Vandergrift festival that debuted in 2004. "It's a great thing for the community."

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