After taking a year off, the Melbourne Salami Festa is back this October and set to take place at a bigger and better venue.
Founded in 2012 off the back of a conversation among friends, the event has become a must for many Melburnians.
The festival is now run by one woman with a passion for upholding family traditions and a whole lot of determination: Linda Catalano.
“It’s exciting to be bringing the festa back,” Catalano says.
“It’s been wonderful to receive so much support during the year off and to know that people want the festa to continue.”
Set to unfold on October 13 and 14, the festival’s comeback will be staged at Welcome to Thornbury, which will be transformed into a salumi tasting hall with some of Australia’s best artisan brands displaying and selling their products.
“What’s great about Welcome to Thornbury is that there’s a whole part of it that people haven’t seen before… a giant garage-slash-warehouse space out the back,” Catalano says.
“When I saw it I became quite excited because finding a new venue was a real challenge.”
Catalano adds that the new space caters to all age groups, offering more seating and space than the festival’s previous home, the Northcote Town Hall.
“I wanted to find a venue that services the local community interested in food and all of the beautiful vecchietti who want to sit somewhere nice!”
“I think we’ve finally found a permanent home for our event for years to come.”
Born and raised in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Catalano was adamant on keeping the festival in the area.
“In years to come, I want people to think of Northcote and Thornbury for the Salami Festa like they think of St Kilda for the Short Film Festival,” she says.
Hot southern Italian blood runs through Catalano’s veins: her mother hails from Calabria and her father from Campania, both migrating to Australia as children and having lived in Melbourne their entire lives.
Catalano used to make salami with her maternal nonna, and says her nonno made “the best cotechino”.
It’s these memories and experiences which drive her to keep the festival alive, despite the hard work that goes into getting it off the ground each year.
“This event is about honouring my Italian heritage and the contributions that migrants bring,” she says.
“I don’t want people to forget the lifestyle that we have thanks to our parents and grandparents who made the choice to emigrate.”
The festival also serves as a way to promote and preserve the age-old tradition of salami making, which has been passed down through the generations of not only Italian families, but many communities from across Europe.
“The festa is a really nice reminder that people still honour this tradition and it brings people together to exchange ideas and keep the tradition going,” Catalano says.
“It’s proof that food brings people together and breaks down barriers.”
The festival will unfold in a similar manner to previous years, with two days of stalls, live music, tastings and workshops for those who are inspired by the competitors.
“The workshops will give people a chance to reconnect with their heritage and pick up all of the tricks that they may have missed when they were younger,” Catalano says.
Two of the festival highlights occur at the very beginning and the very end of the weekend: the opening night festival and the crowning of this year’s salami champion.
The former will take place on the Saturday, from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and guests will be the first to taste the competition salami ahead of the crowds on Sunday.
On offer alongside canapés, the salami will be washed down with a complimentary beverage on arrival in true VIP fashion.
The latter will take place on the Sunday, from 11: 00 am to 6:00 pm, and festivalgoers will have the chance to taste the salami and cast their vote for the People’s Choice Awards.
The champion of this year’s Melbourne Salami Festa will be announced in a special ceremony at 4:30 pm.
So far, 35 teams have entered their signature salami in the competition, but Catalano is expecting more entries before the cut-off, next Sunday.
“In typical Italian fashion a lot of families wait until the very last minute to enter,” she laughs.
Prizes on offer include a range of equipment and goodies from Home Make It and an 80- to 100-kilogram pig, courtesy of Meatsmith in Fitzroy, which will go to the champion.
If you think your salami is worth showing off in the competition, or you want to find out more about the event, head to the Melbourne Salami Festa’s website.