St. Nicholas of Tolentine Authentic Italian Festival returns this weekend: food + entertainment details

A beloved tradition with roots back to the early 1900s returns to South Philadelphia this weekend!

The St. Nicholas of Tolentine Authentic Italian Festival returns in full force to the 1700 block of South 9th Street on Sunday, October 1, 2023. This beloved tradition with roots back to the early 1900s took a two-year pandemic break, followed by a down-sized, rain-delayed festival in 2023. This year’s festival promises all the Italian music, food, dancing and traditions—plus a special ceremony honoring some South Philly music legends. The festival is free and open to the public, with food and drink pay as you go.  In the event of bad weather, the rain date is Sunday, October 8, 2023. For more information, visit

The day kicks off at Noon with the annual religious procession throughout the neighborhood featuring a long line of statues of Saints and their faithful followers. The statues are carried through the street accompanied by the renowned Verdi Band playing traditional Italian marches.

Following the procession, the festival gets underway with a variety of ethnic food delicacies, fine musical entertainment, rides, face painting, crafts, and games for kids, and more. This year’s festival will include a special ceremony to honor the late Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie, and Jerry Blavat, who were all lost over a 9-month period last year.

Feast on this!

Food offerings will include authentic Italian delicacies such as arancini, broccoli rabe, eggplant rollatta, escarole and beans, meatball sandwiches, porchetta sandwiches, pizza, sausage and peppers, Italian seafood and rice, tripe, a pasta station, Italian cakes and desserts.  You’ll also find chicken fingers, roast beef sandwiches, wine, beer, and cordials.

The food vendors will include:

  • The Kitchen Consigliere
  • Marra’s Pizza
  • Esposito Porchetta
  • Termini Bros Bakery
  • Del Buono Bakery

Listen to this!

The eclectic entertainment mix includes traditional Italian performers, hits from the Italian-American songbook, an accordion artist, local opera company, and a string band, of course!

Entertainment Lineup details

1:00 p.m.
The East Passyunk Opera Project
The highly talented group brings opera directly into Philadelphia communities and creates heartfelt connections between audiences, artists, and their soulful music.

2:00 p.m.
Nick Desiderio
Philly’s finest accordion maestro is a crowd favorite every year.

2:30 p.m.
The Vivaci Dancers
This captivating dance troupe demonstrates fascinating traditional steps and invites audience members to join the fun.

3:00 p.m.
“That’s Amore: The Great Italian-American Songbook”
New York’s wonderful Jenna Esposito graces the stage with some of your favorite selections, joined by Steve Ritrovato’s sounds of Sinatra and the fine musicians of the City Rhythm Orchestra

4:30 p.m.
Quaker City String Band
2023’s First Place String Band will deliver their amazingly rich sound and have everyone strutting on 9th Street.

6:00 p.m.
City Rhythm “Love Train Dance Party”
These electrifying horns and singers will present party music from The Sounds of Philadelphia and more.

7:00 p.m.
Lights Out
This national touring group dazzles audiences with a Tribute to Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.

In addition, DJ Spanky Brown will host the proceedings and spin throughout the day.

Special Salute to Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie & Jerry Blavat      

This year, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Italian Festival is proud to honor the late Bobby Rydell, Charlie Gracie, and Jerry Blavat, who were all lost over a 9-month period last year.  According to festival leaders, “These three great entertainers and fine gentlemen have performed numerous times at our annual Italian Festival and for other occasions at St. Nicholas over the years. All three are on the Walk of Fame and the Philadelphia Music Alliance will share a citation.”

Father Nick said “all three of these performers were deeply committed to St. Nicholas and were always conscious of their South Philadelphia roots.”  Charlie Gracie was baptized and raised as a parishioner at St. Nicholas, and Bobby Rydell and Jerry Blavat grew up nearby.

Committee member Frank Quinn said “over the last year as we received the news of these great men passing, we decided to dedicate this year’s festival to these fine ambassadors of our parish and community.”  At 5:00 p.m., there will be a ceremony honoring the life of Bobby, Charlie and Jerry, and a presentation to their families in appreciation for all their support over the years.

Some history

Italian festivals have been held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church for over 100 years.  The parish was established in 1912 by Italian immigrants who wished to maintain a connection to their homeland. Their spirit of faith, family and tradition has been maintained throughout the decades.  The current-day festival began in 1987 on the occasion of the parish’s 75th Anniversary and has been thriving ever since on the first Sunday of October.

St Nicholas Festival 1922

Reverend Nick Martorano, pastor of the church, has strived to make it a very special celebration for South Philadelphia.  He said, “We wanted to create an opportunity for our entire community, not just our parishioners, to come together and celebrate one of the many diverse cultures that make our neighborhood so great.”

Because of the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the day, this festival holds a special place in the hearts of all the local residents and out of town visitors alike.

General information

Noon to 8:00 p.m.
1700 block of South 9th St. (Morris to Moore Streets)
Free and open to the public


St. Nick’s Italian Festival is presented with support from 2023 sponsors Quinn’s Flowers, Murphy Ruffenanch Donnelly and Century 21 Forrester Real Estate, with additional support from Mark Cement, United Savings Bank, Marrone Law Firm and Tony & Nick Steaks.