South Jersey is rich in opportunities to celebrate connections to Italian culture, wine, food and language.
There is more to celebrating Italian traditions than to feast on pizza or pasta at home or at a restaurant, especially with the approach of Columbus Day each year.
Columbus Day, a federal holiday, occurs in October during national Italian Heritage Month.
So how can one best appreciate and celebrate things Italian this month and beyond, whether you are of Italian descent or love things Italian and wish maybe you were?
“Making homemade Italian food, pasta and gravy, is all well and good and taking a language course is wonderful, but that usually gets only a family or a limited number of people involved,” said Robert Odorizzi, president of the Italian Cultural Foundation of South Jersey in Vineland.
“The best way for us to preserve and promote the Italian heritage and pass that on to younger generations is to foster and attend Italian-American community events — and you don’t need to speak Italian to do that.”
While there are more community events close to Columbus Day than the rest of the year, there are other traditional festive times like Feast of the Madonna Dei Martiri in Hoboken in September, The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve and St Joseph’s Day dinners in March.
Hammonton boasts the longest-running Italian festival in the state with the summer Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society, initiated by immigrants in 1875.
Looking for a festival to let your inner Italian out? Here are New Jersey events to connect with the Italian traditions of great food, music, wine and art.
Have fun and buon appetito!
Friday Oct. 11 to Sunday Oct. 13
Bocce in Voorhees: Charity bocce tournament open to all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 12 Kirkwood Park, 121 Laurel Road, Voorhees, Camden County. Proceeds benefit students from Italy who will be attending South Jersey high schools. Sponsored by the Pete DiCianni Bocce League and An Opportunity’s Knockin’ (AOK). Prizes include Italian wine and gift cards to Italian restaurants. Cost: $20 to play. Register and rules at http://www.pdcbocce.com/charity-tournament/.
Camden County Italian-American Festival and Car Show: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 12. Features music, bocce and other games, tastings of South Jersey wines, beer garden, Italian cars and children’ activities in Cooper River Park, N. Park Drive, Pennsauken, at the Columbus statue adjacent to La Scala Restaurant.
Christopher Columbus Commemoration Ceremony: 11 a.m. Oct. 12 in Cooper River Park, Pennsauken. Hosted by the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSIA), Grand Lodge of New Jersey, on North Park Drive.
Ocean County Ocean County Columbus Day Parade & Italian Street Festival: This three-day festival in Seaside Heights begins at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 and continues Saturday and Sunday beginning at 10 a.m each day. Floats, bands, antique cars, contests, clowns and more will occupy Grant Avenue from Bay Boulevard to Boardwalk.
The Columbus Day parade starts at 1 p.m Sunday, Oct. 13, on the Boulevard in Seaside Heights
“Italian Bred” comedy: A family show about growing up Italian in New York: One night only Saturday, Oct 12 at 8 p.m in the Levoy Theater, 126-130 N High St., Millville. Steve Schirripa of “Blue Bloods” and the “Sopranos” and Mario Cantone of “Sex and the City” are to make cameo appearances. For tickets, ranging from $55 to $242, call (856)-327-6400.
Italian Festa of Music in Haddon Heights: The Chris Albert Band led by Alberto Pileggi will perform musical selections to celebrate Columbus Day at the Circolo Italiano cultural club meeting in the Communtiy Room of Haddon Heights Borough Hall, 625 Staton Ave. Guests are welcome. Membership dues are $15 a year or $25 per couple. Contact Marie Denz for information at 609-627-2869.
Columbus Day Celebration: A celebration and flag-raising is set outside Vineland City Hall at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon at North Italy Club, 414 Virano Lane. Event sponsored by the Italian Cultural Foundation of South Jersey.
Winefest and Homemade Wine Competition: Villa Barone, 753 Haddon Ave, Collingswood and Order of Sons of Italy, Lodge 494, host a Winefest with wine tasting, dinner, dessert, cigars and accordion music by Bruce Pholone from 6 to 11 p.m. Wine competition open to all adults. If entering, bring three bottles of each type. Event benefits Lodge 494. Tickets are $50. A wine entry is not required. Call Michael DiBartolo at 609-949-3424.
Five-day Feast of Saint Gerard Maiella in Newark: Begins Wednesday, Oct. 16 through Oct. 20. Italian food, live entertainment and procession on the 16th, 19th and 20th at St. Lucy’s Church, 118 Seventh Ave., National Shrine of St. Gerard. Morning masses each of the five days beginning as early as 7 a.m. honor the patron saint of expectant mothers. Secure parking off and on site available with shuttle bus. Call 973-803-4200.
Dinner Theatre in Westampton: The Godfather’s Italian Friends’ Dinner” combines professional stage entertainment and interactive theater with dinner and wine at Deerwood Country Club, 845 Woodlane Road in Westampton at 6:30 p.m. Includes dancing, contests and celebrity impersonations. Audience members also can play a role in the show. Proceeds support the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in Burlington County. Cost: $75 or $140 for two tickets at www.eventbrite.com/e/the-godfather-tickets-66230762995
Bellview Winery Italian Festival in Landisville, Atlantic County: Traditional Italian food and music and sampling of Bellview wines. Bring a lawn hair or blanket as seating is limited. Noon to 5 p.m. at 150 Atlantic St.. Admission: $15. Call 856-697-7172 or visit
Berlin Township Historical Society Celebrates Italian Heritage Month: Bocce, live music, historical displays and refreshments at the Berlin Township Senior Citizens Center, 240 Pine Ave., West Berlin from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.
Special Wine Tasting with Italian-Americans: 2:30 p.m. at Auburn Road Vineyards, an Old-World style, Italian winery at 117 Sharptown-Auburn Road in Pilesgrove near Cowtown Rodeo. Cost $15 for tour, tasting of all available wines and light antipasto or $20 to include chocolate pairing with five of the wines. Contact Debra Vombrack of Amici Della Lingua Italiana cultural group, 609-261-4951 or email@example.com
Carol Comegno loves telling stories about South Jersey history and our military veterans. Her book, “The Battleship USS New Jersey: From Birth to Berth” is the definitive history of the battleship. If you have a story to share, call her at 856-486-2473 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Also in South Jersey:
The Del Buono’s Pizzelle Company in Bellmawr makes an average of 6,000 pizzelle a day.
Chris LaChall/Staff Photographer
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