Music and history are nice, but the main attraction at the 11th annual Little Italy StreetFest in Schenectady on Saturday will once again be the food.
That’s according to Maria Papa, owner of Perreca’s Bakery and More Perreca’s, who obviously knows something about food. Her family started the popular North Jay Street business more than 100 years ago.
“We’re going to have non-stop entertainment, live music, right from noon to 9 p.m. this year, and we’re going to have three different stages,” said Papa, one of the organizers of the event.
11th annual Little Italy StreetFest
WHERE: North Jay Neighborhood, Schenectady
WHEN: Noon-9 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: Free admission
MORE INFO: www.littleitalyschdy.com
“We’re also going to have our cultural tent, where people can learn about old-time Italian dance and culture, but I still think the big draw of the festival is our food.”
And while there’ll be arancini, zeppole, sausage, gelato and various pastries, Papa thinks it will be her grandmother’s rice balls that will steal the spotlight.
“Believe it or not they were the hit of the festival last year,” she said. “It’s a very special kind of meatball made from an old recipe of Grandma Perreca. We only make it once year, especially for the festival.”
The Perreca rice bowl includes ground Italian sausage, ground sirloin, peas and Italian spices, and that combination is then covered with an outer shell consisting of rice, cheese and eggs. Papa said her bakery expects to make more than 1,500 of the meatballs for Saturday’s event.
“Last year at the festival the line to get the rice bowl was a mile long,” said Papa. “But the line moves quickly, and it’s definitely worth it.”
Anyone heading to Perreca’s looking for a rice bowl any other time of the year will have to be content with a different option.
“Arancini means orange in Italian, and our rice balls are the size of an orange, so that’s what we usually make,” said Papa.
“In Italian restaurants they’re usually an appetizer, and in new Italian restaurants they’ve made it a Yuppie food. We make them, but we prefer our old fashion style.”
Among the musical acts included in Saturday’s event are Grand Central Station (from noon-2 p.m.), Happy Daze (3-5 p.m.), and Mike and the Monsters (6-9 p.m.) The main stage will be at South Avenue and North Jay Street, and two other stages will be located in the parking lots of the Rossi & Ditoro Funeral Home and Civitello’s Pastry Shop.
DJ Eddie will be playing classics throughout the day, and John Defilippo & Friends will also provide musical entertainment. The Cultural Tent will be manned by representatives of the Sons of Italy and the American Italian Heritage Museum.
“It’s a great way to spend some time with the family,” said Papa. “People bring their lawn chairs and make a day of it.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]