RONDA – Chef Mario Batali has a saying: “There are two kinds of people; Italians and those who want to be Italian.”
That seemed to be true last Saturday as hundreds of Italians and Italian enthusiasts descended on Raffaldini Vineyards for the 7th Annual Festa Italiana.”
Billed as a celebration of Italian culture, art, music, and, of course, wine, the event drew attendees from all around the region. On a picture perfect late summer day, the parking areas were filled with cars bearing license plates from North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and several other states.
“The Festa Italiana is our most popular event of the year,” says managing partner Jay Raffaldini, who estimated this year’s attendance at around 1,500 to 1,800. And the event is growing in popularity. “We had horrible weather last year, and we still drew over 1,100,” Raffaldini said. “Not bad in a town of 500 people.”
The Raffaldini family has been making wine for a long time, tracing their roots back to 14th century Mantua, Italy. The family chose to build in the Yadkin Valley because of the area’s resemblance to the lush winemaking regions of Tuscany. Known as “Chianti in the Carolinas,” Raffaldini Vineyards currently produces five single varietal wines as well as several proprietary blends, all in the timeless authentic Italian style.
But fine local wine was not the only star at Festa Italiana. Area vendors and entertainers contributed to the festive Italian atmosphere. Winston-Salem’s “Forno Moto” provided brick oven pizza – at least until it ran out of dough shortly after noon.
The people from “Amalfi’s Italian Restaurant” in Wilkesboro kept the food going, however, and there were several delicious snack options, including creamy gelato from Cafe Gelato in Winston-Salem and delectable goat cheeses from Crumpler, N.C.’s “Heritage Homestead Products.” A tasting selection of oils and vinegars was available courtesy of “Isabella’s Fine Olive Oil & Vinegars” from Mooresville as were a variety of food products produced under the Raffaldini label.
Entertainment was lively as the “Jeff Decker Band” from Charlottesville, VA set the musical tone with a blend of light jazz and contemporary Italian favorites. Street entertainers kept the crowds smiling, especially the “living statue” posed near the entrance to the villa, who elicited startled gasps from more than a few surprised guests when he “came to life.” There was bocce on the lawn and games like the giant grape toss and the grape and spoon race delighted all. The “Qui Si Parla Italiana” – Italian Spoken Here – tent and a traditional Tarantella dance transported one and all straight to the Old Country.
On the heels of another festival, plans are already being made for next year’s opportunity to “mangiare, bere, e divertirsi” (eat, drink, and be merry) Italian style.