Business owners are thrilled the festival is back after they lost so much revenue last year.By Jessica Guay

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Sidewalks were packed in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood for the first day of Little Italy Days on Thursday.

The beloved Italian festival is back after being canceled last year because of the pandemic.

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Vendors are hoping visitors come to the four-day festival hungry. You can buy cannoli, pasta, stuffed shells, hot sausage, meatballs, pizza and more.

“I’ve been here my whole life and finally we’re having a year to do the funnel cakes. We’ll do funnel cakes, we’ll do hot sausage, meatballs, my mom’s homemade pizzelles. So it’s going to be fun,” said Rocky Mori, a Bloomfield business owner.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“We’re pretty happy to be back here. We’ve been here since ’03, so we were here when they started this,” said Michael Vitanovich, owner of Tambellini event catering in Mount Lebanon.

The festival is cooking up revenue for the businesses located in Bloomfield and the businesses that set up tents along Liberty Avenue. Business owners are thrilled the festival is back after they lost so much revenue last year.

“It was hard not being here. It was hard not being at any events actually, but we made it through,” said Vitanovich. “It’s going to help us a lot financially and helps employees, it gives them a job.”

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There is live entertainment, with 30 acts on three stages and plenty of games. The celebrity bocci tournament, Irish vs. Italians, featured local politicians and media personalities on Thursday.

Sal Richetti is the event producer for the festival. He said this is a time to celebrate Italian heritage and support businesses.

“This is for the Bloomfield businesses. They want this, they’re here, they need the revenue from last year. They need this regardless. This helps pay their bills, their employees, their payroll, their inventory, their taxes. This is huge for them,” said Richetti.

Since COVID-19 cases have risen in Allegheny County, there are some safety precautions in place at Little Italy Days. Richetti said people who are not vaccinated must wear a mask and social distancing is recommended for everyone.

The pandemic has also impacted the number of vendors, but it isn’t turning people away from this Italian tradition.

“We do have a little bit less vendors, but still enough for everybody to come out and enjoy, celebrate our heritage. Everybody is Italian this weekend,” said Richetti.

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Bloomfield’s Little Italy Days runs until Sunday. The hours are noon to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.