Visiting Italianfest

Athena ScalziThis past Sunday, I ventured down to Cincinnati to visit my friend, and she took me to Italianfest in Newport, Kentucky! Which is right across the river from Cincinnati. I had never heard of Italianfest before, but apparently it’s been going on since 1991. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was basically just a long stretch of food tents lined up along the river, with a stage and music, and bounce-houses for kids.

A food booth displaying with bright signs that say all the different types of Italian food they serve.

Most of the booths were totally decked out with signs of what they serve, but this one was the loudest and proudest, so I got a pic. And I ended up trying the crabby lobster mac & cheese it boasted, which apparently had four cheeses in it! Here’s what a six dollar portion looked like:

A mound of mac and cheese on a white foam plate.

Personally, I liked it, but my friends weren’t so keen on it. I thought it was pretty good, though it mostly just tasted like regular mac & cheese with old bay seasoning in it.

After the mac & cheese, my friend got us an order of four stuffed shells to share, and I forgot to take a picture, but they were super good! The sausage in them had a strong anise flavor, but not too overpowering when combined with the ricotta cheese mixture and red sauce.

Then, after the shells, my friend brought over another plate! This time it was bruschetta, which happens to be one of my favorite foods.

A black plastic plate with three pieces of sliced baguette on top, with a slice of tomato and mozzarella on top, finished with chopped basil.

As you can probably tell from the photo, it was scrumptious. I’ve never had bruschetta where the tomatoes weren’t diced, but I’m not complaining.

And then, just when I thought I could eat no more, my friend got us a bowl of ice cream to share!

A white foam bowl with two scoops of ice cream in it, one white and one pink.

It’s not the prettiest serving, but boy oh boy was it tasty. You could definitely tell this was homemade ice cream, it was ridiculously creamy and delicious. The flavor on the bottom is actually banana, and while I usually hate banana flavored things, this ice cream was the bomb dot com.

A walking path on a purple and blue bridge over the river.

After eating all that amazing food, we took a walk over the river to Cincinnati across this purplish-blue bridge. I didn’t take a picture, but I got a frozen lemonade slushy to drink while we walked across the bridge, and it honestly tasted more like a weak limeade, but it was refreshing either way!

A shot of the river, with the bridge to the right, and the Italian festival across the river.

Once we made it to the other side, I took a picture of the festival from Ohio. It’s hard to tell, but all those white tents are covered seating areas by the food stands and whatnot, and that bright pink thing was a huge T-Mobile truck stand thingy.

All in all, it was a super fun day, even though it was muggy as shit.

Now that I know it exists, I definitely want to go back next year to try all the things I didn’t this time around, like spaghetti and cannoli! If you’re in the Cincinnati/Newport area, I recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.

What’s your favorite Italian dish? Do you like banana flavored things? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


23 Comments on “Visiting Italianfest”

  1. All the food looks good. I love those sorts of afternoons, hitting some sort of festival with food.

    On my favorite Italian food…? Gosh, I’m so old school. I love a nice meaty lasagna. Which I really can’t eat anymore due to the high carbs. Oh well, the memories are still there…

  2. I have a recipe for a pretty good homemade bolognese sauce that actually involves a little bit of heavy cream, so it gives the sauce an orange color. It calls for carrots and celery, but since I don’t like cooked carrots, and I don’t like celery at all, I usually leave those out, and the sauce turns out fine.

  3. Oh man. I would have showed up with a backpack full of tupperware and left with meals for weeks.

  4. I recognize that bridge…we stayed at a hotel nearby and crossed it to get to the Flying Pig Marathon back in 2004. Not a well-organized race that year, the unexpected rainfall didn’t help, but at least I was with friends.

    Glad you are getting out and enjoying all life has to offer.

  5. Sounds like a whole lot of fun! I am a huge fan of Italian food, though at my age it doesn’t do great things for me so I have to limit my enjoyment of it. I don’t think I could name a single favorite, to be honest; I love a good lasagna, chicken piccata is to die for, veal rollatini is heaven, and just plain old spaghetti and meatballs (homemade, please) is my Ur comfort food.

    Bananas, on the other hand, are anathema to me. They give me heartburn and make me burp for hours after I eat them, and I’d sooner eat cardboard than anything with banana in it. I am glad you enjoyed your ice cream (are you sure it wasn’t gelato? It kind of looks like the gelato I remember) and you can have it all to yourself!

  6. My favorite has always been caprese salad. When we visited northern Italy (aka southern Switzerland), we found that McDonalds had a decent caprese salad!

    Now for some anecdotes of a middle-aged American woman wandering a half dozen European cities alone (only in daylight). My spouse gives talks at a small, specifically-European conference that chooses a different city each year, what luck!

    In a not touristy city, Lugano, there seemed to be almost no street food, and every deli-type spot had several men lounging around smoking. Sit-down restaurants make a production number out of a meal, taking at least an hour and a half for lunch and longer for dinner. Me, I’d prefer to be sight-seeing, so McD’s was a good quick & cheap lunch.

    This trip was the only one where I got humiliated twice for not understanding things (by Italian service workers). Once in a grocery store — how disgusting to not know to weigh fruit before getting to checkout (other customers made nasty faces, too) — and once on a bus where the driver just kept repeating his expectations louder and louder in Italian. In America I’ve been known to yell back, but when not comprehending, I just try not to cry.

    I don’t think I was being ugly American… I started with “Buon giorno, parli inglese?” asked humbly and smiling. Small shopkeepers said no with a bit of alarm, but actually had enough English words to mix with my few words of Italian for successful transactions. Now that I think of it, McD’s coped with me fine, too.

    Furthermore, I’ve had some marvelous long conversations with European women who were also sight-seeing alone (even near Lugano). Of course, they had very good English, while I’m mono-lingual, being raised in the actual center of North America in the 60s and 70s.

    I just now realized that it was almost always men who were mean (only some men). Plus, the conference attendee who insisted Italians were morally obligated to learn English for me was also male (Brit) — talk about disgusting!

    Hey, my northern Italy experiences probably affected my expectations of Sicily, where that conference was held a subsequent year. I suspect I was also influenced by legends of the mafia. I chose to skip that year! Another new realization.

    Hmmmm. It might be a northern Europe vs southern Europe reaction to a woman alone, but I had a fine time in Barcelona….

  7. I developed the world’s best chicken parm. The main secret it to put the cheese on first, melt it under the broiler, and then the tomato sauce. That way the breading doesn’t get soggy. So that’s my favorite Italian dish.

  8. OK, a bit more memoir and then I’ll stop. We spent several days in Paris where every service person was lovely. Then we took the chunnel train to London, where our first meal featured a really snoot local waiter.

    Just to say that not all national stereotypes are borne out.

  9. My wife and I visited Cincinnati/Newport in 2021, and really liked the cities.

    My favorite Italian dish? cacio e pepe. Something this simple shouldn’t taste this good, but it does.

  10. “bounce houses for the kids”?

    I’m not thrilled with life in England, but at least they call it a Bouncy Castle, here. Way more cool!

  11. That sounds like fun! I’d love something like that round these parts. They’d have to roll me out of there on a flatbed! :)
    As for my favorite Italian yummies, I’m a pasta nut myself, so fettuccini with pesto/ garlic butter white whine rosemary sauce/ pink sauce/olive oil with herbs and shredded parmesan is my go to. All topped off with grilled garlic shrimp or blackened salmon, it’s something I could live on for the rest of my days.
    Lobster ravioli with a side of roasted asparagus, broiled garlic parmesan bread and Prosecco in a huge chilled glass is one of life’s joys.

    I also like a crispy flatbread margarita pizza and a glass of Italian beer now and then.

    But, one of my ultimate favorite things is the following:

    If you’re ever in the LA area and want some of the best tiramisu there is, check out this guy.

    I’m glad you had a nice time and got to try some goodies.

  12. What fun! My favorite Italian food is a Sardinian dessert called seadas. Basically pastry, cheese, and honey. Eaten outdoors at an agriturismo, surrounded by cousins from both sides of the Atlantic – now that’s a festival :D

  13. Never seen Bruschetta served that way myself, but making it with a slice of tomato is genius! No cubes flying everywhere when you take a bite? Keeping all the yumminess all together in one place?


    The whole idea is just brilliant!

  14. Hard to choose for Italian. Pizza, of course. Chicken parm, cannoli and caprese salad.
    Chunky Monkey!

  15. Sounds like a wonderful day with your friend.
    Favorite – Chicken Picatta
    Bananas – yes, but no to artificial banana flavoring

  16. That area on Riverboat Row in Newport is literally called “Festival Park”. Come back for Goetta Fest!

    You crossed the Purple People Bridge. (When I lived there, you could still drive over that bridge. A very slow, low-traffic way to get to Cincinnati if you don’t mind a 1.5 lane two way bridge, which my grandma did not.)

  17. Differences between British and American English. I love that “Bounce houses” in the UK are called “Bouncy castles”. (I think it’s an Oscar Wilde quote that says the British and the Americans are two cultures separated by a common language)

    Favorite Italian food? I dunno, pretty well everything Italian seems good to me – I mean it’s pretty much all pasta with sauce. if it isn’t Pizza. If you’d push me I would say that carbonara is up there. Cheesy, bacony goodness there, and it gets away from the ubiquitous tomatoes.

  18. ” and once on a bus where the driver just kept repeating his expectations louder and louder in Italian. In America I’ve been known to yell back, but when not comprehending, I just try not to cry.”

    It’s interesting to hear that it’s not only English speakers who do this to non-English speakers who don’t understand. I guess there are rude bus drivers in England and the USA too, but given that it is basically a service industry it does seem a bit unwise to be shouting at your customers like that rather than staying calm.

  19. Cannoli is my favorite Italian food. Though pizza is nearly my favorite food, I doubt the version I eat is served anywhere in Italy.

    We have a Strawberry Festival in Ventura every year that has all the food booths! Several serve concoctions that stretch the imagination with their use of strawberries. There’s also booths for each of the strawberry vendors in Ventura and Oxnard.

  20. Talenti makes an excellent banana and chocolate flavor gelato. My grocery storeno longer carries it, but I recommend it if you can find it!