By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer
Rino Ricchiuti, who was born in Italy in 1970 and emigrated with his parents to the United States when he was 15 months old, came to the Italian-American Festival of Summit County with his own family Sunday to savor the friendships he has made here — and the food.
Ricchiuti, his wife, Nicole, and their children — Giustina, 9, Luca, 8, and Milena, 2 — live in the North Hill area, where they are devoted members of the Carovillese Lodge and Club on Cuyahoga Falls Avenue.
After working the club’s festival concession stand Saturday, Ricchiuti and his family took in the fireworks display later that night.
Sitting in the shade under the sidewalk trees on South Main Street near the festival hub at Lock 3 on Sunday, Ricchiuti said festival planners did it up right — especially when it comes to authentic Italian food.
Ricchiuti was born in the little town of Carovilli in Italy’s Molise region, so he has experienced genuine cuisine since childhood.
And Akron’s Italian festival, he said, with its 60-plus vendors lining both sides of the street, compares very favorably.
“This was good,” Ricchiuti said. “We’ve kind of stayed away from some of the carnival-food fare, but we’ve had some authentic Italian food here.
“Some places came down from Cleveland, and some of the local restaurants that set up their concessions here did a really good job.
“We come down here for the food. The entertainment’s a plus and the fireworks also are nice, so it’s good for our whole family. They can each get something out of it,” he said.
The three-day festival, which began Friday afternoon with a series of events, featuring “1964 — The Ultimate Beatles Experience” on the Lock 3 Stage, was staged by the Summit County Council of Italian-American Societies and the city of Akron.
The event drew a steady crowd in Sunday’s sticky heat.
The heat didn’t stop the festival goers, including Ricchiuti’s older brother, John, from sampling the Italian fare while seated at canopied dining tables along the street.
Rino said he especially liked a rolled eggplant dish, called “Eggplant Rollatini,” presented by Corbo’s Bakery and Cafe from Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood.
His brother had his own favorite, by Bruno’s Ristorante & Catering, also from Cleveland.
“Their stuffed, hot peppers, with sausage, is to die for,” he said.
John had another favorite, a fire-baked pizza. It came from a “forno,” or domed, wood-burning brick oven. Such ovens are found near the fireplace in some of Italy’s older homes and are a traditional way to prepare pizzas.
Joe Skye and his cousin, business partner and chef Aaron Hale, brought Skye’s hand-made forno from their portable concession in Mogadore, “The Clay Oven,” which Skye built two years ago on a stainless steel cart and wagon with its own sinks to meet fire-safety standards.
In it, they make an array of genuine, thin-crust pizzas with homemade dough, provolone cheese, pepperoni, sausage, basil and Italian bell peppers.
The oven gets so hot, Skye said, the pizzas bake in about a minute and a half.
Skye’s forno has been so successful, he said, that he and his cousin plan to open their first “Clay Oven” restaurant in Mogadore near the end of August.
The festival also had its share of flash and dash: two classic Italian sports cars, a Lamborghini Diablo and a Ferrari Testarrosa, along with a smaller Fiat 2000.
The glistening red cars were parked on the Lock 3 infield, under the watchful eye of Julie Boles, her husband and their two teenage sons from Copley Township.
Boles said the Diablo was her favorite. “It’s pretty,” she said. “I wish I had one.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at email@example.com.