First Italian Festa in Grass Valley

THE CORNISH INFLUENCE IN GRASS VALLEY is well known. Cornish tin miners were attracted to the city during the Gold Rush era, and the heritage is preserved with events such as Cornish Christmas.

Though less celebrated, many Italians also helped settle the area. “If you look through the names of people who moved here during the Gold Rush, there are a lot of Italians,” says Grass Valley resident Steven DeSena, Sr. DeSena, Hank DePillo and some other local Italian Americans got together earlier this year and decided to bring an Italian Festival to Grass Valley, with food, wine, entertainment—even a bocce ball tournament.

The area’s first Italian Festival is Sept. 18-19 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. “Our goal is to provide a fun-filled atmosphere and to make the festival a traditional gathering spot for thousands to return each year,” according to the promoters.

The festival will feature more than 30 of the finest Italian food, wine and artisan vendors who will sell gelato, pizza, sausage, produce, baked goods, pastas, flowers, herbs, ceramics, sculpture, antique maps and more.

Festivities also will include local and regional wine tastings, chef demonstrations, live Italian music and dancing.

A wine garden will feature wineries including Montoliva and Pilot Peak, Avanguardia, Naggiar, Indian Springs, Szabo, Clavey, Lucchesi and Double Oak.

A bocce tournament also is planned. Bocce is a favorite Italian-American pastime. The goal of the game is to roll the bocce, a three-pound ball, as close as possible to the pallino, a smaller ball that is rolled down the
alley first. The bocce coming closest to the pallino scores.

Grass Valley has a rich Italian heritage. The South Pine Cafe, for example, was the “Italia Hotel” in the 1920s and ‘30s because the owners and guests spoke Italian.

“Completely renovated and redecorated,” read an ad at the time. “Finest wines and beer on draught. General Electric refrigeration.”

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