On Saturday night, I had the honor to attend an Italian cabaret fundraiser hosted by Ciao Delco and Widener University at the Delaware County Bar Association in Media. The event was a sellout, which wasn’t surprising because it featured a couple hours of yummy Italian food and wine, dancing, refreshments and fun with music by Fulvio & Sal — all for a good cause, advancing the Italian studies program at Widener University.

If you’re not familiar with Ciao Delco, it’s a coalition of eight local Italian-American organizations: L’Associazione Regionale Abruzzese (ARA) Delco, the Delaware County Justinian Society, Associazione Abruzzese of the Delaware Valley, the Saint Anthony diPadova Society, Societa Da Vinci, Sons & Daughters of Italy, Christopher Columbus Memorial Association and Filitalia Delco. These associations are formed by men and women of Italian birth, Americans of Italian descent and others interested in the Italian culture and language.

For those who are Italian or of Italian descent, these organizations are very important to keep the Italian-American culture alive and flourishing. Take ARA Delco, for example, one of the Ciao Delco organizations which is very active in our local community.

ARA Delco runs an Italian language school for all levels, from beginners to more advanced, and is ideal for people to take in preparation for their trip to Italy or to perfect a rusty language skill. The classes are currently being offered at Neumann University in Aston.

An Italian language Mass is celebrated quarterly for ARA Delco members and friends at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Upper Providence, where ARA offers an Italian language and culture club for seventh- and eighth-graders at the St. Mary Magdalen School.

Dr. Thomas Benedetti, professor in the Italian language program at Widener University, heads an ARA Delco program that offers monthly movies in the Italian language at Widener. The movies, which are totally free, are shown on the last Wednesday of each month. If you haven’t checked one out yet, you are in for a treat.

ARA Delco also offers a bocce club, which plays behind St. Mary Magdalen Church in Upper Providence every Friday night. Players of all ages meet for bocce, food and camaraderie with friends. Also, ARA Delco hosts an annual fall dinner dance, Christmas party, other fundraisers, an annual Italian music festival at Widener each spring and a scholarship program for students showing a special interest in the Italian language and culture. ARA Delco also supports several area charities.

Under the auspices of ARA DELCO, an Italian radio program, “Mattinata Musicale,” hosted by Melissa Cannavo-Marino, broadcasts Sunday morning at 9 a.m. on WTEL AM (formerly WIP 610). Cannavo-Marino also hosts “Mattinata Musicale” on Wilmington’s 1450 AM WILM’s “Radio Italian Style” programs Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. In addition to playing Italian music, the radio shows keep people up-to-date with what is going on in the Italian-American community.

Speaking of keeping Italian Americans up-to-date, the Delaware Valley Italian-American Herald, a newspaper published monthly by Today Media, offers everything from news of local Italians and what’s going on back in Italy to recipes, a community calendar of Italian-themed events, along with everything and anything that would interest Italian Americans and those with an interest in Italian-American culture. Additionally, “Ciao Bello! Living Italian Style” is a regional Italian-themed TV show, filmed right in Radnor at Radnor Studio 21. The show features all things Italian and an impressive lineup of Italian-American guests and even hits the road occasionally for behind-the-scenes looks at festivals, galas and Italian-centric events.

One of the biggest endeavors of the year is when Ciao Delco, of which ARA Delco is a part, hosts the annual Delaware County Italian Festival at Rose Tree Park in Upper Providence. Now in its ninth year, the 2018 annual Italian American Heritage Festival is set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 3. This year promises to be bigger and better than ever before. Plans are still being formulated, but the entertainment lineup so far includes The Neglia Band, The Pennsport String Band, Moreo Fruzzetti, Donnah Lisa Campbell, Felicia Ponzo, Nick Desiderio and Coro Gabriele D’Annunzio. The festival will include three bocce ball courts, bounce houses for the kids, a vintage Italian car show, dozens of vendors featuring good Italian food, decadent desserts, specialty items and all kinds of Italian novelty items.

Returning this year will be the “Gravy Showdown and Meatball Wars,” hosted by Krissi Biasiello from “MasterChef” season four. The competition for homemade “gravy” and best meatballs in the Delaware Valley is open to anyone who thinks they have perfected a special “gravy” or makes the most awesome meatballs. This is their chance to enter and win.

The 2018 sponsors of the Delaware County Italian Festival, so far, include Delallo Authentic Italian Foods, Cento, Ariano restaurant, PECO, Farmers Insurance, Neumann University, Widener University, Springfield Country Club, Maserati of the Main Line, Crozer Keystone Health System, Catania & Parker LLP and Danjolell Memorial Homes.

Whether you’re full-blooded Italian, an Italian American or of mixed descent or just a lover of Italian food and culture, you won’t want to miss this year’s Delaware County Italian Festival in Rose Tree Park. I have to say, personally, that I have attended almost every year, and each year truly does get better and better!

For more information on the 2018 Delaware County Italian Festival or to sign up as a sponsor or a vendor, visit ciaodelco.org or email Tracy Lochetto at tracy@delcobar.com. For more information about ARA Delco or Ciao Delco, contact President Nick Rapagnani at 610-212-9888 or nrapagnani@yahoo.com. For more information on the Italian-American Herald, visit ItalianAmericanHerald.com or call 302-504-1274. For more information on the “Ciao Bella! Living Italian Style” TV show, visit ciaobellalivingitalianstyle.world or call 610-566-4883. For more information about Italian language lessons, contact Cas Quaciari at 484-680-1172 or Dr. Thomas Benedetti at 215-514-5964.

Readers can reach Peg DeGrassa at pdegrassa@21st-centurymedia.com.

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