I thought I’d go out in search of authentic Italian culture and cuisine at Richmond’s Italian Festival this weekend. Unfortunately, I found neither. To be fair, there were a few booths serving passable pasta, but even the Italian sausage was quite a bit less than passable and quite a bit less than Italian.

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Worse still were the booths serving Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and Virginia’s Finest Barbecue. How did these vendors miss the fact that this was an Italian Festival? Maybe because the organizers also seemed to have missed the point. As I passed the Judo demonstrations and Patric (Patricio?) Henry, I just gave up. I was glad to see one or two faces that looked liked they actually knew what a Cannoli is, but when Ron Moody and the Centaurs started playing beach music, I knew I had to go.

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Contrast this with my trip to Philadelphia last weekend. (I compounded the fun by taking Amtrak, which is its own cultural experience.) In Philly, there is an Italian Market area where you can still find off-the-boat Italian Culture and food. Just eavesdropping in the restaurant was un-freaking-believable! But they still don’t make Sfingi like my Mom. The moral of the story? If you’re going to celebrate a culture, get it right! If I want to pretend I’m experiencing a European culture, I’ll go to Busch Gardens Europe, in Williamsburg.

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