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Festa Favorites

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Each year, San Joaquin County celebrates its Italian heritage with Festa Italiana, a cultural event showcasing some of the region’s most delightful products and people from the local Italian community. Food is famously central to the Italian lifestyle and is just as important at this celebration. In addition to a classic car show, many vendors will participate, including some famous, long-time favorites local food vendors.

Two of the many highlights at Festa Italiana are the Boss of the Sauce contest and the Chef Demo Kitchen. Boss of the Sauce, sponsored by Pietro’s Trattoria, features six different sauces prepared by local professional and home chefs! “Judges” who pay $5 each to participate use Genova Bakery baguettes to dip into the sauce. An added bonus for being a judge is the jar of Bruno’s Peppers they get to take home! The Chef Demo Kitchen, sponsored by Gene and Dianne Gini of Collins Electrical, is always packed with festivalgoers wanting to get tips on making traditional Italian food. Gary Giovanetti is certainly the “Boss” of the Festa kitchen. In all, five chefs will be giving cooking demonstrations, from Italian cocktails to focaccia bread!

Bruno’s Peppers
Celebrating their 70th anniversary this year, Bruno’s Peppers got their start pickling peppers in 1947, selling their product for the first seven years to a packing plant that sold them under its own label. In 1954, Bruno’s Peppers began labeling and selling the product themselves and has been going strong ever since. The passion for these punchy peppers is real. Some have called the tasty treats positively addictive; many people share that they wouldn’t dream of having anything less than at least one jar in their fridge at all times. Jeff Bruno, Bruno’s Peppers, notes that in everything they do, from growing to pickling, packing and selling their product, they take great care to do it locally. There is one exception, and that is sales. It turns out that over the years, scores of folks who moved out of state began demanding a way to order Bruno’s Peppers by the case, leading the company to set up a website, While new fans are just discovering Bruno’s, thousands of others who grew up in the area have lifelong memories of enjoying Bruno’s peppers on sandwiches, salads and the ever-popular appetizer in which a pepper is rolled inside a slice of salami with a dab of cream cheese. Jeff says they donate from 150 to 200 jars of peppers each year to Festa Italiana, one for each person who participates as a judge in the Boss of the Sauce competition.

Genova Bakery
It’s a beloved corner market and old-world deli, with its picturesque forest-green front doors and red window awnings. It’s not only a landmark, but a family-owned business baking fresh bread and creating made-to-order sandwiches for over 100 years. Since its founding in 1918, people have fallen in love with Genova Bakery’s charm and the experience of buying fresh breads, sandwiches, dry goods and pantry items. Customers often report traveling great distances to enjoy their favorite items among the delicious inventory of authentic Italian foods, including ice creams and holiday panettone. For many years, Genova Bakery has provided freshly baked baguettes of French bread for the Festa Italiana cooking contest, Boss of the Sauce. Tim Canevari, the bakery’s owner, said, “It’s a fun way to support the community and it’s something we enjoy doing.”

Gary S. Giovanetti
Gary is a two-term City Council member of Stockton and past vice mayor. Gary is known both for his outstanding leadership and teaching others to cook. His San Joaquin Delta College classes, six per year, are taught via Zoom and are free through the Senior Institute for Continued Learning, or SICL, program. He coaches two bocce classes each semester for up to 32 players each and reports it’s the most popular class. Gary’s warm persona and expertise also shine in his Pacific Italian Alliance YouTube cooking videos in which he demonstrates how to prepare, from scratch, such classic Italian favorites as ravioli, sausage, pastas and sauces. Filmed in his own kitchen, the videos capture him preparing real meals while sharing techniques and tips to ensure success for the viewers.

Each year since Festa Italiana began, Gary has given in-person cooking demonstrations at the event. This year he will teach onlookers how to make his 20 Minute Ricotta Gnocchi and his flavorful Roasted Tomato Sauce, which makes an ideal topping. The gnocchi recipe, he points out, is a real time saver, as the name indicates, and every bit as authentic as potato gnocchi. Gary has kindly shared those recipes with HERLIFE Magazine as well as a helpful tip: freezing the gnocchi first will prevent them from falling apart in the cooking water.


20 Minute Ricotta Gnocchi

1 15-oz. container whole milk ricotta
1 egg yolk
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. 3 Seasons (4 parts granulated garlic, 2 parts sea salt,
1 part ground black pepper)
¾ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Drain any liquid from the ricotta. Scoop out the ricotta onto layers of paper towels and pat dry. Transfer ricotta to a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolk to the ricotta and stir briefly with a fork to combine. Combine the 3 Seasons with the flour and combine. Add the Parmesan Reggiano and mix all ingredients with your hands to form a ball. Spread some flour on your preparation area. Cut the ball into 4 pieces. Roll each quarter into a ball and start to flatten. Begin to roll the mixture into a log to one-half inch diameter. Cut the log into 1-inch lengths, indent with a fork on the top and set aside on your floured cookie sheet. I recommend you freeze the gnocchi at least overnight and place in a freezer bag. When you are planning to prepare a gnocchi dish, remove the quantity desired just prior to adding to boiling water. The remaining frozen gnocchi will stay usable for 6 months. When cooking the gnocchi, bring the hot water to a gentle boil. Add 2 tsp. salt to the water just prior to adding the gnocchi. If the water is briskly boiling, it may cause the gnocchi to break up or dissolve. The gnocchi is cooked when all pieces float to the surface.


Fire Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil 1 oz. unsalted butter
1 shallot, diced 1 large garlic, diced
½ tbsp. Better than Bouillon vegetable flavor
1 14.5-oz. can fire roasted tomatoes 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. sugar ½ cup red wine
½ tsp. 3 Seasons ½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. tomato paste
½ cup Parmesan Reggiano  cheese, grated
Sauté olive oil, butter, shallots, garlic and bouillon over medium heat for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the next 7 ingredients and bring to a good simmer. Reduce heat to a low for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the fire roasted sauce to the hot meatballs right out of the oven. Serve with cheese on the side.