Per Noi Trattoria's Arancini. Photo: Talyn Sherer

Festa Italiana: Authentic Flavors & Culture

Food: Interviews & Features

The Italian American Civic League offers Italian hospitality at its best at the second annual Festa Italiana, Sept. 17 and 18 at The Gateway. As with most things Italian, the main attraction will be the food and drink—every social gathering, whether it’s a casual visit with neighbors or an elaborate holiday dinner, takes place over a table brimming with food. To pair with Italian beer and wine available at the festival, there will be an array of favorites from popular local Italian restaurants at Festa Italiana. Expect pasta as well as lesser-known dishes that Italians have grown up eating.


1588 E. Stratford Ave., SLC, Utah
Arancini – Appetizer

Per Noi Trattoria - Arancini - Appetizer
Photo: Talyn Sherer

SLUG: Why are you participating in Festa Italiana?
Per Noi Trattoria: I think it was just time for [Co-Owner] Tony [Casella] and [Co-Owner/Chef] Francesco [Montino] to show that we’re a very well-kept secret here. A lot of people won’t tell friends because we’re a great restaurant. But they wanted to get the word out. We’re just a very well-kept secret, but we wanted to let more than just the local community know that we’re here, and what better way to showcase that than the Festa Italiana?

SLUG: How does your arancini introduce diners to lesser-known Italian fare?
Per Noi Trattoria: Arancini is like a big softball-sized rice ball, and it’s golden brown, and it’s put out onto this dish in the dining area. … It’s a real eye-catcher. When it’s brought out on the plate, everyone turns to look at it. A lot of people haven’t heard of arancini before. Once explained, it becomes one of our most popular appetizers.

SLUG: What is an element of this dish that makes it unique?
Per Noi Trattoria: Our rice that we use with it is slowly cooked before we make the rice ball itself. The rice has a long time to envelop the flavors of all the fresh herbs and spices that we use. –Darin Paulus


4536 S. Highland Dr., SLC, Utah
Cannelloni – Entrée

Sicilia Mia - Cannelloni - Entrée
Photo: Talyn Sherer

SLUG: What makes your restaurant special?
Sicilia Mia: The authentic cuisine, which is made by master chef Franco Mirenda. That is my dad, and he is amazingly special like my grandpa and my grandma, whom we still use recipes from. [He] combines the old with a new cuisine. The family makes the restaurant special—and when I say the family, that means that each person who comes to us becomes family!

SLUG: Tell us about the cannelloni you’ll be serving at Festa Italiana.
Sicilia Mia: Our cannelloni is an amazing combination of homemade pasta filled with a cheese cream sauce and spinach—we’ll have the bolognese version of it as well, which is amazing, too. It’s like a homemade sheet of pasta filled with a cheese and spinach cream sauce and then rolled, topped again with cheese cream.

SLUG: What childhood memory does cannelloni invoke?
Sicilia Mia: It reminds me of Sunday, our big Sunday lunch/dinner—all day long! It would be all family members and friends, and it would start at 1 p.m. There would be no phone, no TV, just the beautiful company of people around you. There would be lunch that would never stop, playing cards and talking, then going through dinner—an amazing day with family.

Giuseppe Mirenda, Co-owner


204 E. 500 S., SLC, Utah • 801.355.8518
Scallile – Dessert

Cannella's - Scallile - Dessert
Photo: Talyn Sherer

SLUG: What unique dishes do you serve?
Cannella: In 1978, Cannella’s was founded on my dad’s Italian Salad (still No. 1).  People rave about our house-made Gnocchi and Chef Alberto’s Meat Lasagne. … One feature dish [at Festa Italiana] will be scallile (an Italian honey cookie).

SLUG: What does scallile mean to you with regard to Italian heritage?
Cannella’s: For me, it goes back to childhood: prepping with my grandma, who instilled the passion for great food at a very young age; spending hours every Christmas with my grandma and brother making scallile, pizzelles and fig cookies; and enjoying the good life of having Italian grandparents who loved food as much as family!

SLUG: How does your scallile introduce diners to lesser-known Italian fare?
Cannella’s: I can’t say that I’ve seen scallili served many places. We’ve been serving them for years to our guests every Christmas since 1981. It will be great to share them at the Festa.

SLUG: What do you hope to share with guests of Festa Italiana?
Cannella: A beautiful representation of family business in SLC. We’ve moved into a new generation, and with my daughter and wife by my side, I hope to share with the community and delicious Italian food.

Joe Cannella, Owner/Operator