Work Samples

Fourth annual Festa Italiana brings slice of Italy to Mokena

Festa Italiana returned to downtown Mokena July 16 to offer a space for family, food, fun, faith and music.

Vince DiFiore, president of the Mokena festival, said the event has grown a lot over the years.

“This is our fourth year, and it looks like we’ve got our biggest crowd,” he said. “[With] the fourth year, we think we’ve got it right. We’ve got all the elements. They’re starting to come. We had three really previous good years, but this year—because I run it—I see the elements have come together.”

The festival featured an assortment of entertainment, as well as 10 food vendors, with concessions ranging from pizza and hot dogs to funnel cakes and Italian cuisine.

“Right now, going to downtown Mokena, we’re bringing the most people downtown,” DiFore said. “It’s sheer numbers, because this is more of a family thing. We feel we bring people into Mokena.”

This year’s event utilized approximately 30 volunteers to make Festa Italiana possible.

“Without our volunteers, we couldn’t run this,” DiFiore said. “We know how to produce shows and we know how to do things, but you really need the dedication of these people. They’re all good.”

St. James Catholic Church Associate Pastor David Simmonitti was one of the vendors offering free samples of his line of sauces dubbed Communio. It has a sweet taste for people to enjoy.

“It’s my recipe, but a professional… bottler makes [the bottle] for me,” he said. “The labels mine and the recipe is [mine.]”

He said the secret to making Communio is love.

“That’s what drives me,” Simmonitti said. “It’s actually on the label. That’s what drives me.”

The proceeds garnered as a result of his sales are to be donated to charity, Simmonitti said.

“I don’t get a dime, because I don’t want any,” he said.

The goal, Simmonitti said, is to get people to sit down to eat a meal together.

“People don’t seem to eat together as families,” he said. “Everything’s take-out and stuff. I just wanted them to sit down… at their grandfather’s table and have a true, family meal.”

Lucas Pfiffner, of Chicago, said he is glad he decided to drop in for a taste of Festa Italiana.

“So far, it’s delicious,” he said. “The food is great. The music has been on point. It’s been enjoyable.

This year was Pfiffner’s first time attending the festival. He tried some beef, meatball sandwiches and other items at Little Al’s Bar & Grill.

“The Italian beef was probably the best,” he said.

The festival does a wonderful job of bringing a little taste of Italy to Mokena, Pfiffner said.

“So far, I think it’s done a pretty good job,” he said. “It [has] a whole range, a different spectrum. You’ve got some pizza. You’ve got a bunch of different tastes.”

DiFiore agreed.

“We’ve got a really good assortment of Italian food,” he said. “As I said, there’s 10 vendors. It’s just we try to serve the best we can and keep the prices [low] for the family. This year, we’re at $10 [admission] and it included kids up to [age] 15. [You see] little kids like this? When I look at children, [I say to myself,] ‘I used to go to fests like this when I was a kid.’”

This year’s festival brought in nearly 2,500 people.

“This is truly—as you can see—family, food, fun, faith and music,” DiFiore said. “You can’t beat it.”