If you can’t get to Italy, then head to Reno for a taste of all things Italian at the 35th Eldorado Great Italian Festival Oct. 8-9 in downtown Reno. The festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday on Virginia Street from Fifth Street down to the Arch and also over to Fourth Street in front of the Reno Ballroom, features everything from a grape stomp to a sauce cook-off, live music to an Italian farmers market. Here are eight things to know about this year's festival.

A grand tasting

A wine-and-food pairing event is scheduled for the evening before the festival begins — Oct. 7 — in the Reno Ballroom. Try a variety of Italian foods at different stations, as well as to enjoy imported and domestic Italian wines, Italian beer, spirits and soda. The cost is $55 per person in advance or $65 at the door.

The wine-and-food pairing event includes a silent auction to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows. Tickets to the wine-and-food event can be purchased by calling 775-786-5700 or by going online to order at Participants must be 21.


Although food won’t be served until 11 a.m. both days, visitors can expect to find flat bread, garlic bread, chicken parmesan, spaghetti, calamari, Italian sausage sandwiches, deep-fried ravioli, coffee and gelato.


There also is a wine walk, scheduled both days from noon to 4 p.m. Try out Italian and California wines while walking from booth to booth in the Retrac Plaza, located between the Eldorado and Whitney Peak. You can participate for just one day for $30 or both days for $50.

Get dirty

One of the signature events of the Italian Festival is grape stomping -- either watching or participating. Get ready to take off your shoes, roll up your pants and stomp your feet in the grape-filled wooden barrels. Sign up for an event for the public or watch as media personalities stomp away.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” said Glenn Carano, general manager of the Eldorado Resort Casino, Silver Legacy Resort Casino and Circus Circus Reno.

Get tasting

While the grape stomping is fun to watch, the sauce cook-off is an important component of the festival, too, with the aromas of cooking sauce wafting through the air. Families come from all over the West Coast to cook their family recipes. These are done right along the street, giving visitors the chance to sample a variety of sauces. Up to 40 families, some local such as the Lazzarones and Bonaldi-Riccis, have participated in the sauce-cooking contest in the past.

Live entertainment

Two stages — one the corner of Fourth and Virginia Streets (the Rome Stage) and the other at the corner of Third and Virginia Streets (the Venice Stage) — will feature the likes of Ray Massa’s Eurorhythms, Lena Prima, Aaron Caruso, Anthony “Nino” Lane, Moreno Fruzzetti and more.

Other events

Other events include the Paesano Open Putt for Pets charity golf tournament benefiting the Nevada Humane Society, a children’s gelato-eating contest, an Italian farmers market and craft vendors.

Free parking

And if you’re worried about finding a parking space to attend the 35th Eldorado Great Italian Festival, there’s no need. The Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus all offer free parking.

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