The First Italian Food and Wine Festival Comes to Melbourne

Originally published on Broadsheet Melbourne.

After three years of success in Sydney, the festival makes its Melbourne debut this weekend.

This country loves Italian food and wine. After waves of Italian immigration, it’s almost a part of our collective heritage.

Lara Caraturo (ex-sommelier at Pilu at Freshwater in Sydney) couldn’t understand why Italian produce wasn’t being celebrated in festival form. So she established the Sydney Italian Food and Wine Festival in 2013.

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After its success there, Caraturo is bringing it to The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.

“A trend in Italian-Australian food is that restaurants and wineries are getting braver,” Caraturo says. “They are shifting their focus to be more region-specific, as opposed to generally Italian.”

“Non-Italians used to think Italian food was all the same, but people are starting to learn that every region is different – like its own little country in a way.”

Upon entry, visitors won’t see wines and dishes labelled by brand or restaurant, but under signs indicating where in Italy they are from. Caraturo says it’s “a more educational” way of laying things out.

There will be an array of events: live cheese and pasta making; olive-oil demonstrations; wine masterclasses. There will also be a food market full of Italian goods.

As far as wines go, there’s one rule – Italian grapes only. Along with foreign imports there are plenty of local producers showcasing their wines: Victoria’s Born and Raised; Pizzini Wines and Castagna are a few among the extensive collection.

Melbourne’s Sicilian chef Rosa Mitchell (Rosa’s CanteenRosa’s Kitchen) will serve food, as will Johnny di Francesco – the man behind 400 Gradi’s world–renowned pizza. Teams from Trattoria Emilia, La Bonta, Bar Idda and Saluministi will also have stalls set up.

If you’re not into the wine and need something to accompany your aperitivi, head to the Bar Americano pop-up in the centre of the space, which will churn out Negronis, Americanos and Spritzes to a soundtrack of Italian jazz.

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The Melbourne Italian Food and Wine Festival will be held on Sunday May 29 at the Royal Exhibition Building from 11am–9pm. For tickets visit the website.

Image credit: Jasmine Blom and the Sydney Italian Food and Wine Festival.

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