In a city replete with great neighborhoods, North Beach is considered by many to be San Francisco’s best–and it’s not hard to see why. As one of its original settlements, North Beach is a jewel box of San Francisco history, every sidewalk and street corner imbued with the city’s storied past. 

Fittingly, this neighborhood places a lot of value on tradition, and one of our favorites is getting ready to play out on Stockton Street next week: after a two year hiatus, the Festa Coloniale Italiana returns to North Beach on Saturday, August 27th.

[easy-tweet tweet=”It really feels good to come roaring back after this two-year hiatus.  –Nick Figone of the SFIAC” usehashtags=”no”]The only Italian street festival in all of San Francisco (take that, Excelsior!), the Festa is produced by the SFIAC Foundation, the nonprofit arm of North Beach’s San Francisco Italian Athletic Club. A unique event celebrating Italian and Italian-American culture and heritage, the Festa brings together Italian vendors, artists and musicians for an event that draws people from all over the Bay Area, Italians and non-Italians alike.

Festa Coloniale Italiane

13-time World Pizza Champ Tony Gemignani tosses pizza dough at the Festa a few years ago. | Photo Courtesy of SFIAC

As in years past, 13-time World Pizza Champ Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana will show off his expert pizza acrobat skills with a special pizza tossing demonstration, just steps away from his flagship restaurant. This year Gemignani will be sharing the spotlight with a performance by North Beach newcomers The 7 Fingers, the jaw-dropping circus troupe that brought their hit production Dear, San Francisco to the neighborhood last year (taking over the Club Fugazi space, former home of Beach Blanket Babylon).

Festa Coloniale Italiana

Il Sole and Steve Albini will perform once again at this year’s Festa Coloniale Italiana. | Photo Courtesy of SFIAC

Of course every party needs music, and the Festa is no exception. This year, the Festa stage will feature performances from tenor Daniel Rodriguez (AKA the “Singing Policeman”), SonamoIl Sole featuring accordionist Steve Albini, Bella Ciao and more. Returning for the twelfth year, the Ricco Italian Dancers will also treat the crowds to a demonstration of traditional Italian dances.

Outside, a bevy of vendors will offer a wide selection of Italian-inspired and imported products. Gio Gelati gelato, True Delicious biscotti, Amelia Imports olive oil, Painted Lady mocktails and over a dozen other quality merchants will be on hand—and doing double duty, Tony Gemignani will be selling his freshly-filled cannolis from Giovanni’s Italian Specialties. Also on hand will be North Beach artist Jeremy Fish, offering his limited edition Festa merchandise.

Festa Coloniale Italiana

The Ricco Italian dancers give a lively performance at North Beach’s Festa Coloniale Italiana. | Photo Courtesy  of SFIAC

Inside, the Athletic Club’s ballroom will be transformed into an Italian piazza for the day, with exhibits from local museums and Italian organizations including Museo Italo Americano, the Leonardo da Vinci Society, Gioa Art and more.

Naturally, there will also be wonderful Italian food courtesy of the talented chefs of the SFIAC. That means plenty of delicious arancini, sausage & peppers, calamari and polenta–all to be washed down with Aperol Spritzes and wines by Italian-American owned Capo Isetta and Highway 12 wineries of Sonoma. There will also be plenty of cold beer, courtesy of the nice people at Peroni.

As a family event, the Festa has something for everyone, and of course that includes the kids. To keep the young ones entertained, the Angolo Bambini (or Kids’ Corner) will feature arts and crafts, face painting, two performances by the Fratello Marionettes, and even lessons in the Italian folk dance the tarantella. And if all that isn’t enough, the event is entirely free, paid for by the SFIAC Foundation.

Festa Coloniale Italiana

Tony Gemignani and his wife Julie man their cannoli booth at a recent Festa. | Photo Courtesy of SFIAC

When I spoke with Nick Figone, the SFIAC’s Chief Operating Officer, he was excited about the return of the Festa. “We’ve experienced a lot of interest, and people inquiring about whether we were doing it this year,” he told me. “Vendors have been eager to participate as well. There has been a real energy behind it, and it really feels good to come roaring back after this two-year hiatus.”

I also spoke with local icon and pizzamaker Tony Gemignani, who will be participating in the Festa for the twelfth time this year. “At one time I was on the Italian festival circuit. I was doing festas all over the U.S., Oakland, San Jose, all over,” Gemignani said. “It’s nice to have one in your backyard.

“When I get up and toss pizzas I always get the kids to crowd around, and they all get to toss dough afterwards,” he said. “It kind of brings me back to what I was doing twenty years ago.”

Festa Coloniale Italiana
Saturday, August 27th, 2022
Stockton Street between Union and Filbert
North Beach, San Francisco