Maryland Italian Festival

The first Maryland Italian Festival took place from September 29 through October 1 on the grounds of the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air. The inaugural three-day festival included live entertainment, amusement rides, cooking demos, 17 food vendors, and a bocce tournament.

The Food Vendors

Smoke from the Pond View Farm Grill was likely the first thing you saw if you entered Maryland Italian Festival from the VIP parking lot. The regular parking was behind the festival, with sections named after regions of Italy, like Bari and Sicily. There were 17 food vendors in total that seemed to serve most of the 23,000 attendees. Roughly half the vendors were from Harford County, while Baltimore and Wilmington were also well-represented. The food vendor tents formed an L-shape from the always crowded dining pavilion to the amusement rides.

Demand for food was high enough that DiPasquale’s Italian Market temporarily ran out of bread on Sunday. The century-old Baltimore institution had the longest lines, with the possible exception of the drink stand. But you had to look hard to find a vendor with no line. Even the county fair-type food vendors that were conveniently placed closest to the rides had lines for fried dough, corn dogs, etc. Other food vendors included Tutto Fresco, The Local by Chef Zack Trabbold, and the Wilmington-based Ristorante Atillito, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on Sunday, October 1.

Live Cooking Demos at Maryland Italian Festival

The La Cucina Galbani Cooking Stage featured daily wine seminars as well as live cooking demos from celebrity chefs like Marco Sciortino and Michele Di Pietro. The South Jersey cook and author, also known as Mangia with Michele, did a book signing following her presentation. The Local Chef Zach Trabbold of Evolved Hospitality Group demoed duck and dumplings the weekend before its menu debut. The Local had the most interesting dish of the 17 vendors. Pear Sacchetti, which is only on the catering menu, was served as a small bowl of bite-sized pasta stuffed with pear and mascarpone topped with a berry compote drizzle.

Tutto Fresco Chef Nicholas Sebokos and Zia Maria of DiPasquale’s also took the stage to showcase signature recipes.

The Rides

Food was the main attraction at Maryland Italian Festival, but there were some county fair-style rides. These were geared towards the younger crowd there with family, who are less likely to appreciate Frankie Valli covers or some of the less common Italian dishes you won’t find at the Olive Garden.

Live Entertainment at Maryland Italian Festival

Live entertainment included Sounds of Italy, The Sicilian Tenors, and The Atlantic City Boys, who played Frankie Valli songs. The music was loud enough to hear from the amusement rides at the opposite end of the main stage. Society of Italian American Businessmen Marketing Committee Chair Larry Noto played an inaugural gig with his Little Big Band on Sunday afternoon, closing with a fiery cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Their Sunday performance was followed by the Galbani-sponsored Celebrity Cheese Stacking For Charity, where contestants stacked vacuum-packed cheese sticks, charity donations made in the names of the three top stackers. In total, the event raised $300,000.

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During my visit, I stayed at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Edgewood Aberdeen. You can earn between 30,000 and 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy rewards points by signing up for one of their co-branded Chase credit cards here

Have you been to Harford County? Or other parts of Maryland? Leave a comment below!