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Who could resist home-cooked Italian food?

While this is the main draw of the annual Bravo Italiano Festival in Watertown, it is by no means its only asset. The event, held this past weekend at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds arena, features crafts, entertainment and a Miss Italia Pageant in addition to the tremendous food.

And what was on this year’s menu? Festival-goers were treated to linguini with meatballs or clam sauce, tripe, baked eggplant, heaps of pasta, chicken Parmesan with rigatoni, pizza, half hots, sausage and meatball subs, fried dough, desserts and Italian cheeses. And there was plenty of wine, beer and soft drinks to wash down all those delicious morsels.

For the 29th year, the Bravo Italiano Festival has been organized by members of the Italian-American Civic Association in Watertown. The event celebrates the best of Italian culture, and all those involved in preparing the food and overseeing the festivities put their hearts and souls into offering something truly extraordinary.

The Italian-American Civic Association complemented the events occurring at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds arena. Members participated in rounds of bocce ball at the group’s headquarters at 192 Bellew Ave., just a few blocks away from the fairgrounds on Coffeen Street.

Watertown has long been blessed with a strong Italian presence, as evidenced in part by the many Italian restaurants operating here. The origins and imprint of Italians in the city were documented by the late Frank P. Augustine, who served as a staff writer and editor at the Watertown Daily Times for 38 years, in a book titled “La Bella America: From the Old Country to the North Country.”

The Italian-American Civic Association was founded in 1935 to assist Italian immigrants in assimilating into American culture. As several generations of Italian-Americans have called Watertown home, the emphasis of the group now is to promote Italian heritage and its storied history in the city. The association has helped foster greater understanding between people of Italian descent and members of the broader community throughout its existence.

This has been crucial as encounters between Italians and non-Italians in Watertown have not always been harmonious. Like many other ethnic groups throughout the nation, Italian-Americans faced bigotry from others in the city. But their determination to overcome adversity has ensured them a lasting legacy here.

That spirit of perseverance manifests itself each year at the Bravo Italiano Festival. This year’s event attracted about 2,500 people over two days, and those in attendance reported on the wonderful food and entertainment they took in. Organizers deserve a public commendation for another wonderful event and our heartfelt thanks for keeping this tradition alive.

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