SCHERERVILLE — If spaghetti-stained faces and sticky toes are your idea of a good time, then Festa Italiana was a blast.

The three-day festival, which concludes today, featured spaghetti-eating and grape-stomping contests.

Held outside Villa Cesare, the festival also included bocce tournaments, Italian dancers and pasta-making classes, along with plenty of Italian food, from cannoli to panini.

Cesare Battisti Lodge 27 sponsored the festival that featured eight vendors and Italian wines and beers.

“We wanted to get the word out about the club, plus we wanted to get back to our Italian traditions, so we started this festival three years ago," said Jon Biancardi, festival chairman. 

Saturday events included a bocce ball tournament that drew Mike Gomez and his son Alex, 13, from Crown Point. Although not Italian, Gomez grew up on the east side of Chicago, where “every bar had a bocce ball court.”

Gomez and his son installed a court in their backyard this summer.

“It’s fun to play, nice to do with the family. It’s relaxing yet competitive without getting too intense," Alex said. 

Bocce involves rolling a white ball, then trying to come as close as you can to that ball with different colored balls.

Nine children and nine more adults entered the spaghetti-eating contest. Everyone received an adult helping of pasta, which they could only eat with their mouths. All hands were behind contestants’ backs, as the first person to clean the plate won.

The children’s division pitted three members of the Mansueto family from Crown Point, against one another. Olivia, 11, won. Also competing were her sister Delaney, 9, and brother Luke, 5.

“My tongue worked hard,” said Olivia, a sixth-grader at Taft Middle School. “It got harder at the end, because some baby noodles were really, really far away."

Delaney said the toughest part was “not using my hands,” while Luke just rubbed his tummy.

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“They’re all good eaters,” said mom Kari Mansueto. “We eat a lot of pasta, several times a week.”

The adult division was another family affair, with Taylor Cable, 25, nipping her dad, Randy Cable, 60, both of Portage.

“I really like spaghetti,” Taylor said. “I can eat.”

“We eat spaghetti all the time,” her father added.

Joe DiSanto, of Hebron, at 69 the oldest contestant, commented, “I needed a little more time. I’m used to eating with a fork and spoon, but this was really fun.”

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Six teams then took the stage for grape stomping. Teams had three minutes to do their best Lucille Ball impersonation and smash those grapes.

When the last juice was poured and measured, teams from Illinois claimed the top two spots.

Sandy Cantal and Vicky Cantal, from Norridge, Illinois, and sister-in-law Fran Bertolini, from Arlington Heights, Illinois, won, stomping a little more than two quarts.

“We heard about it, and we’re a member of St. Anthony Lodge in Chicago, so as fellow lodge members, we thought it would be fun,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini, whose brother once made wine, added, “You get a chill at first, but once you’re in, it’s instinct.”

Runner-up was Boys From Illinois, a family trio from Evergreen Park. Stompers were parents Jim and Janet Wrobel and daughter Sara.

“It was a lot of fun,” Janet Wrobel said. “We always wanted to do it.”

Jim Wrobel added, “We’re coming back next year with bigger feet.”

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