A beautiful sunny day welcomed the 3rd annual Carnevale Veneziano in St Louis. Soulard, the St Louis neighborhood which hosts the second largest Mardi Gras parade and festival in the U.S., was bustling with youngsters and revellers dressed in colorful costumes throwing beads and trinkets. As St Louis’ French past still influences the local culture, various other ethnicities continue to impact the modern St Louis celebration of the period of time beginning after the Christmas holidays and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting for Christians worldwide. In Italy, this time is called Carnevale and St Louis Italians celebrated con gusto on Saturday, February 22nd at the eclectic Mad Art Gallery in the midst of a typical Soulardian bacchanal.
Italians of all ages and from all regions of Italy came together, many in Venetian style costumes, to dance, eat, sing, and also admire the paintings of Evelyn Astegno, an artist from Vicenza who debuted her series MASQUERADE at the event. A large number of guests were new arrivals to the St Louis region, i.e., students and post doctoral researchers at the various universities in the metro area and young professionals who have come to call St Louis home. Over 150 attended the family friendly event which included six Italian exchange students, several members of the Italian Club at Saint Louis University, and two Italian soccer players from Maryville University, Vittorio Sasso and Emil Antonacci. Attendees also included the Venetian native Piero Scapini, CEO of Nooter/Eriksen, a thermal engineering firm headquartered in St Louis and a sponsor of the Italian community. Frank Leta, CEO of the Frank Leta Automotive Family, made a generous donation for the event and the Leta family were present for the festivities, showcasing their all new $120K 2020 Honda NSX sportscar. Giorgio Bucci, CEO of Arteco Global, was once again a main sponsor of the event for the third year in a row and was thanked for his continued generosity towards the Italian community.
The appetizers for the event included a diverse spread of prosciutto, salami, various Italian cheeses, and olives all donated by Volpi Foods, whose CEO Lorenza Pasetti, has been a strong supporter of the Italian community for many years. Purus Vodka, a Made in Italy and STL owned vodka, provided cocktails and a photo booth. Chef Ron Buechele created a spectacular spread of authentic Italian foods with his carbonara con pancetta being a favorite of the evening. Magnifico, importers of authentic Italian products, furnished prizes for the champions of the the best costume and best homemade dessert competitions. Luciano Racca of Raineri Gianmatteo generously donated his wines from his vineyards in Piemonte. Gift certificates to the region's best Italian restaurants were also given out including: Agostino's Ristorante by the Gabriele Family of Palermo, Sicily, and Acero Ristorante, a favorite of Italians in St Louis.
The top prize for most creative costume went to 5 year old Marco Hayes whose colorful and elaborate outfit was hand-made by his father Riccardo Hayes. Winners of the dessert competition were Nerina Giannotti who won the most votes with her homemade crostoli, a traditional carnevale pastry native to north-eastern Italy and more specifically to the region of Trieste and Istria. Other winners included Jessica Hayes and her homemade tiramisu and Carrie Mispagel's scrumptious carnevale torts.
One of the evening's highlights was the performance of the Arti Marziali di Bologna led by Ken Harding and twelve of his best performers from the St Louis School of Arms. The Bolognese tradition of martial arts has its origin in medieval times. St. Louis has the distinction of having the only full time Bolognese martial arts school outside of Italy.
Organizers for this year's Carnevale were: Italian Community of Saint Louis, St Louis – Bologna Sister Cities, and Italiano Per Piacere, the Midwest’s only exclusively Italian speaking club. Volunteers for this year's event were: Jessica Hayes, Roberto Lanzara, Scott Hoff, Federica Bertolini, Michael Cross, and Cav. Franco Giannotti. Music entertainment was provided by DJ Carlos Suarez and Ismael Camacho of Club VIVA.