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updated: 8/22/2017 8:10 AM

Little Italy Fest-West entices the senses and taste buds

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  • Ron Onesti mans the grill cooking up Italian sausage during last year's Little Italy Fest-West. This year's festival opens Thursday, Aug. 24 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 27, in Addison.

    Ron Onesti mans the grill cooking up Italian sausage during last year's Little Italy Fest-West. This year's festival opens Thursday, Aug. 24 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 27, in Addison.
    Courtesy of Onesti Entertainment


 
 

Hear the sizzle of the grill cooking homemade Italian sausage, see cooks prepare ravioli and arancini, feel the camaraderie and nostalgia of a neighborhood block party, smell the garlic-infused gravy, onions and peppers, and taste the homemade Italian dishes. As a sensory experience, you can't beat Little Italy Fest-West Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 24-27, in Addison's Centennial Park.

The man behind all the homemade cooking is Ron Onesti of Onesti Entertainment. He sponsors such a festival in Chicago, too. But a suburban celebration seemed in order, so he started it himself more than 10 years ago in Addison.

This year, he's got all kinds of new dishes for festgoers to try.

"We're doing a whole line of Sicilian arancini, which are stuffed rice balls. Traditionally stuffed with a mixture of cheese, ground beef, peas and red sauce, there will be several flavor combinations available during the fest."

Also this year, he said there would be an expanded area for Italian sodas with such flavors as prickly pear, pomegranate, lemon, blood orange and more. Filled out this year will be a designated dessert bar with various Italian pastries and several gelato flavors. Oh, and look for a wood-burning pizza oven for freshly baked pies.

What keeps people coming back every year, food-wise, is the on-site home cooking.

"The homemade meatballs are big winners," Onesti said. "And so is the Italian sausage, onions and peppers platters." The classics.

There will be ravioli with various filling choices, a chicken Vesuvio sandwich and a bruschetta bar with several toppings.

Little Italy Fest-West draws more than 20,000 people each year who come out for the old-time neighborhood festival in Addison.
Little Italy Fest-West draws more than 20,000 people each year who come out for the old-time neighborhood festival in Addison. - Courtesy of Onesti Entertainment

The advance prep had already begun last week when I talked to Onesti, but the serious prep work starts Wednesday and then each day of the festival starting at 6 a.m. "We're prepping for 20,000 to 25,000 people," Onesti said.

Festival hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Although admission to the event is $10 for adults and $3 for kids 15 and younger, there are a few free times, including the "Prima Notte" Thursday and from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The event will be located behind the Marcus Theatre on Lake Street, one light east of Rohlwing Road.

The winner of the Daily Herald Media Group and Onesti Entertainment VIP table at the festival is Theresa Sulentic of Hoffman Estates. The prize package includes a reserved table for a party of 10 for two hours on Sunday. Guests can enjoy family-style platters of authentic Italian food and one round of soft drinks or water.

Besides all the homemade food, there is a daily lineup of music and other entertainment. For details and a schedule of events, call (630) 962-7000 or see arcadalive.com/onesti-festivals/.

Cook of the Week Challenge 2017

We're all set to announce the names of the eight home cook contestants in this year's Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge on Sept. 27. We'll introduce each cook to you and share more information about what you'll see in the coming weeks as the contest gets underway.

Sponsors, who will come up with some of the ingredients for the cooking challenges and prizes, include Ala Carte Entertainment, NOW Foods, Northern Illinois Food Bank, King Oscar, Tony's Fresh Market, Amita Health, Binny's Beverage Depot, Morkes Chocolates, Westin Itasca, Novak & Parker and Thermidor.

The grand prize for this year's Cook of the Year includes a Thermador Emerald Series dishwasher valued at more than $1200; a Chef's Table dinner at Seasons 52 and more.

Contact Food Editor Susan Stark at sstark@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4586. Be her friend on Facebook.com/SusanStarkDailyherald or follow her on Twitter.

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