Frank Sinatra tunes, dining at outdoor tables, the aroma of garlic and oregano.
On Saturday, the city of Amsterdam is celebrating its brand-new pedestrian bridge over the Mohawk River with the River Ridge Italiafest in the South Side neighborhood, where Italian restaurants and taverns along Bridge Street have welcomed visitors for generations.
The Mohawk Valley Overlook Pedestrian Bridge, a $17.5 million project that connects the north and south sides of the city, opened Aug. 31.
Festival-goers are invited to park their cars on the north side of the river, in the Riverfront Center parking lot and then walk across the bridge to South Side. A shuttle bus will also be available. On South Side, there will be parking at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 39 St. John St.
Jackie Parillo, owner of Parillo’s Armory Grill, says her restaurant at 67 Bridge St. will be preparing a long list of Italian dishes, including cavatelli, pasta fagioli, calamari and soffritto, a sauteed vegetable mixture that is used as a base for pasta sauces.
“We’re trying to bring out the old-style Italian,” Parillo says.
River Ridge Italiafest
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Bridge Street, South Side neighborhood, Amsterdam
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: Amsterdam ItaliaFest on Facebook
“They will be able to eat outside. If it’s cool, we’ll be doing beans and greens. We’re going to have beer and wine outside.”
At least five other places will be serving food: Girard’s, L’ultimo and Herk’s Tavern, all on Bridge Street; La Cucina on Port Jackson Square and Shorty’s Southside Tavern on Broad Street.
“The event will be all down the street,” says festival organizer Samantha Bonanno.
“Some of them will have booths outside, some of them will do it inside. There will be different specials and Italian food demonstrations.”
Italiafest is sponsored by River Ridge Living Center, a rehab and skilled nursing facility, and organized by the City of Amsterdam’s Recreation Department.
Music on tap
Scheduled from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the festival will feature live musical entertainment.
Peter Capobianco will perform from 1 to 2 p.m. and Dom Megna from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Doug Ferony, a singer from Peekskill, and his Big Band will be on stage from 7 to 9 p.m. Ferony, who performs all over the country at clubs, casinos and concerts, will sing Italian songs and tunes by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
A bocce tournament is planned at the Port Jackson Bocce Club and the Knights of Columbus is setting up a gambling tent.
For children, there will be games, carnival rides and bouncy houses.
Scotty Nut Nut Entertainment will do shows of juggling, aero yoga and balloon-twisting on the stage from 12 to 1 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m.
Fireworks are planned at 9:15 p.m.
Admission is free.
Amsterdam’s last Italian festival was held in 2008, and before that, there hadn’t been such an event since 1993.
“All the restaurant owners are excited to have the streets filled with people again,” says Bonanno.
According to Parillo, who has been in the restaurant business for 44 years, travelers are discovering the Bridge Street neighborhood on the Internet.
“The GPS brings them off the Thruway,” she says.
She couldn’t be happier about the new bridge.
“I think it’s the most exciting thing this area could have.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197, [email protected] or on Twitter @bjorngazette.