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14th annual Little Italy StreetFest in Schenectady offers food, tradition

14th annual Little Italy StreetFest in Schenectady offers food, tradition

Robust crowd packs city's Little Italy neighborhood
14th annual Little Italy StreetFest in Schenectady offers food, tradition
Terry Powell of Slingerlands, left, and Tom Schillinger of Delmar, enjoy sandwiches from Civitello’s Italian Pastry Shop.
Photographer: Erica Miller / Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY -- At the 14th annual Little Italy StreetFest Saturday, it's safe to say it was all about the food. 

"I want to try a little of everything," said Schenectady native Christine Shannon standing in the center of the Little Italy neighborhood on North Jay Street. 

For Shannon, who teaches the "social inquiry" 8th grade class for Mont Pleasant Middle School and said she's lived her whole life in Schenectady, Saturday was the first time she ever attended the annual streetfest.

Shannon said her class is similar to a "home economics" class, in that it includes teaching students about personal finance, but it doesn't include teaching cooking, which is her personal passion. Surrounded by Perreca's Bakery, Cornells and Civitello's Italian Pastry Shoppe, she said she was glad she came out to this year's Italian Festival.   

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"I'm thinking about pasta, fried ravioli, calamari — I'm Italian, so I want to eat some good Italian food," she said. 

One of the popular items being consumed at the streetfest were the "rice balls" from Perreca's Bakery. The rice balls are roughly the size of a softball, and each contains a special meatball with beef, sausage, peas and cheesy rice. 

As a strong crowd ate various Italian food items, Edward J. Clifford, "The Human Jukebox", performed songs such as Neil Diamond's "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon" and classic Frank Sinatra songs. Clifford's performance was sponsored by Rossi & Ditoro Funeral Home.    

Amber Stewart and Ketrick Wine, of Schenectady and Guilderland respectively, attended the event with their eyes, noses and eager taste buds aimed straight at the food. Stewart is a student at Hudson Valley Community College while Wine attends UAlbany. They both came to the festival last year, and came back knowing exactly what they wanted to eat. 

Munching on a cannoli, Stewart explained her love of the food. 

"I love Italian pastries, and Perreca's makes the best bread," she said. 

Wine said that while he thinks the crowd around 4 p.m. on Saturday was a little smaller than last year's, everybody seemed more engaged in activities. 

"There's no standing around this year, whether it's people chowing down or getting their face painted," he said. 
One of Wine's priorities Saturday was getting a thick muffuletta sandwich. 

"You need some elbow room to eat that," he said. 

At the "Crystalized Face Painting and Art Treasure Boxes" table, Schenectady natives Gabriella Martellino and her sister, Maria Persons, brought the younger members of their family out to get their faces painted.

Gabriella's daughter got a unicorn painted onto her right cheek. Maria's granddaughter chose to get a picture of Marvel comics character The Hulk. 

"She loves her superheroes," Maria Persons said. 

Gabriella said she grew up in the Little Italy neighborhood, and explained why it's important to her to keep her family involved in the annual tradition. 

"We're Italian. This is part of our heritage," she said. 

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