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Little Italy finds a new home in South Buffalo Second annual Italian Festival celebrated in spirit after being canceled by October's storm

The second annual Italian Festival was held in spirit Friday in Little Italy.

South Buffalo's Little Italy.

On South Park Avenue, a stainless steel and wrought iron sign featuring the boot-shaped country points the way to "Little Italy" on Reading Street, where banners decorate the industrial neighborhood that is the home of Pellicano's Meat & Produce Market.

Inspired by store owner Paul Pellicano, elected officials and the Greater South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, this unlikely Little Italy in the heart of a well-known Irish community is part of the revitalization of South Park Avenue.

"Our motto here is we're trying to do it one block at a time," said Assemblyman Mark J.F. Schroeder, D-Buffalo.

The one-day South Park Italian Festival debuted in 2005 along Reading Street, featuring Italian food and entertainment. "We expected about 100 people. We had over 500 people. It was absolutely amazing," Schroeder said.

This year's festival was pre-empted by the infamous October snowstorm.

With that in mind, next year's will be held sometime in August.

Friday, people packed Pellicano's store for a celebration.

"It's a special day," said Pellicano, a native of Riggio Calabria, Italy. "We are kind of celebrating the Italian festival that we couldn't do this year."

Guests were offered wine, and a table with a checkered cloth bore samples of Italian cheeses and sausage. An Italian Christmas carol, "Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle" (You Come Down from the Stars) was sung in the native tongue, even by those working from phonetic translations.

In case anybody was wondering, Schroeder pointed out that in the early 1900s, South Buffalo had an Italian community anchored by the former All Souls Catholic Church at Germania and Mystic streets. The assemblyman's grandfather had emigrated from Sicily.

But it's Buffalo's West Side that's historically known for its population of Italian immigrants, and the 30-year-old Italian Heritage Festival, held on Hertel Avenue, is said to be the second largest of its kind in the nation.

South District Councilman Michael Kearns said he took some heat about the new Little Italy from Michael J. LoCurto, his colleague representing the Delaware District.

Though LoCurto couldn't be reached to comment Friday night, he reportedly said to Kearns: "You know you have the Irish thing. Now you want Little Italy."

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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