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Experience Italy in the Heart of Houston

Experience Italy in the Heart of HoustonJourney to Italy without ever leaving the city as the Italian Cultural & Community Center hosts the 35th Annual Houston Italian Festival on the grounds of the University of St. Thomas. Join the Houston community to experience Italy through authentic food, song, dance and more from Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 10-13.

Admission is free Thursday from 5-10 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. After 4 p.m. on Friday, admission is $8 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Discount admission tickets are available online until Oct. 6. Purchase tickets today. UST faculty, staff and students get in free with valid UST ID.

The festival will feature authentic Italian activities to please all members of the family. See the full schedule for the main stage, children’s stage, Taste of Italy Pavilion, Educational Stage and Beautiful Italy Movie Theatre.

Cooking with Nonna

Saturday, Oct. 12, 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct.  13, 2:00 p.m.

Cooking with Nonna, hosted by Rossella Rago and sponsored by Rienzi Foods, is a feature in the Taste of Italy Pavilion on Friday and Saturday. Rago is the host of the show “Cooking with Nonna,” Italian for grandmother. In 2010, Rossella, her mother, Angela and her nonna, Romana, participated as contestants on the Food Network show “24 Hour Restaurant Battle” and won. An Italian-American nonna will be selected to cook with Rossella during the festival and will prepare a recipe from her region in Italy.

Bocce Ball Tournament

Saturday, Oct. 12
Entry Fee: $60 before Oct. 1
Late Registration Fee: $75

The Italian Bocce Ball tournament always brings a crowd of participants and followers to this traditional Italian sport contest. The tournament is a recreational event centered on the fun and joy of the Italian culture. Don’t worry about your skill level. Come and join the Italian atmosphere and sportsmanship of the Bocce game. Sign up your team early, and be part of the fun and excitement of Bocce. For more information, contact David DiPuma at  281-773-4493.

I Madonnari Chalk Art Contest to Color UST Sidewalks

Saturday, Oct. 12, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

High school students will create original colored chalk drawings on the sidewalks of the University of St. Thomas all day Saturday, Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Students are allowed a 3-foot-by-3-foot square and subjects range from traditional Madonna images to more modern designs. The winners will be announced on the Festival's Main Stage at 6 p.m. Stop by to watch artists demonstrate their talents.

Taste of Italy Pavilion

The Taste of Italy Pavilion and the three stages—Main, Children’s and Italian Culture—feature events and activities around the clock. With plenty of events, such as cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, live entertainment, dancing the Tarantella and feature films, adults and children can immerse themselves in all parts of the Italian culture.

Take ‘A Bite’ of Italian Cuisine

A new feature for the 35th Annual Italian Festival will be “Bites of Italy” in the Taste of Italy Pavilion from 7-9:30 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 10-12. Marcuso Farms will present a variety of small bites of taste and flavors of unique Italian products.
Samples will include:

  • Fig and Peach Preserves
  • Marinara sauce with Cucuzza
  • Marinara sauce with Eggplant
  • Marinara sauce with Zucchini
  • Italian Sausage
  • Venison Italian Sausage
  • Wine infused Herb Vinegars
  • Italian Chocolates
  • And much more!


The Festival will also feature multiple DJs and Italian singer Aaron Caruso. Caruso is a “pull-out-all-the-stops showman” selected by film producer, Sonny Grosso and 15-time Grammy winner Phil Ramone to perform in the role of Mario Lanza. He has performed to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall and at a red carpet event on NBC. Caruso was honored to sing at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City following the events of 9/11. Caruso has also headlined Italian festivals across the U.S.

Win $3,000 Cash

Raffle tickets are available for a chance to win the grand prize of $3,000 cash. Raffle tickets are available at the Italian Cultural & Community Center, and only 250 tickets will be sold. Donation is $50 per ticket with the drawing to be held on Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Festival. Ticket holders need not be present to win. Ticket sales benefit the ICCC.

The festival hours are:

  • Thursday, Oct. 10: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Admission free Thursday)
  • Friday, Oct. 11: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. (Admission free until 4 p.m. Friday)
  • Saturday, Oct. 12: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 13: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

For information, or to purchase discount presale tickets, visit Visitors may park in the Moran Center Parking Garage for $2 per exit. Additional surface lots and public street parking are also available.