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National Italian Day @ Melbourne Tomato Festival

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by Gina Boothroyd (subscribe)
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Be Italian for a day - get tomato on your chin
You say tomato, I say tomayto, we all say Buon Appetito! at the Melbourne Tomato Festival on Sunday, 1 March 2015, celebrating the significance of the humble tomato to family, food and friendship across Italian culture in Australia, for everyone.

The tomato can preserve Summer for the whole year.

The annual Italian tradition of bottling the home-grown tomato harvest as passata to keep for the year of recipes ahead, connects people to the land, to the seasons and to each other, preserving not only tomatoes, but the joy of simple rituals. These are the authentic traditions that unite communities. The festival is the concept of Guy Grossi, most notably of Grossi Florentino Restaurant, and has a particularly personal aspect for the chef. "When I was growing up, tomato day was all about the family being together and bottling passata, preserving something that was very cultural," recalls Grossi. "The Melbourne Tomato Festival extends that feeling of family to everyone through good food and shared experience."

passata tomato festival italian day guy grossi
The Melbourne Tomato Festival extends that feeling of family to everyone.

Food defines culture and there is now a global movement to respect the seasonal fluctuations of food and its preparation, whilst being mindful of healthy eating as nature intended and as tradition has preserved. See more here. Ultimately, the festival aims to bring generations together creating an awareness of wellbeing for healthy crops, lifestyles and the survival of authentic traditions.

passata tomato festival italian day guy grossi
Guy Grossi helps to plant the crop of San Marzano tomatoes in a true paddock to plate experience on Joe Faranda's Werribee South farm.

To be held at the historic Farm Vigano estate and restaurant in Melbourne's near north, get ready for a showcase of artisan produce, master classes, Italian food and wine (it just wouldn't be Italian without the wine), special guest speakers and entertainment, all gathering to salute the tomato harvest and its stable of heritage varieties. The net effect will be a focus on sharing, across diversities, to create a memorable day of meaningful fun.

passata tomato festival italian day guy grossi farm vigano
The festival venue at Farm Vigano will extend an Italian welcome.

"The Melbourne Tomato Festival is a cultural celebration about bringing people together, most of all to preserve community tradition, but also to discover food and the power of keeping it simple," says Grossi. "My hope is that the festival finds its future here and inspires many more families to connect through food and seasonal rituals."

passata tomato festival italian day guy grossi farm vigano
A special set menu will be available for festival ticket holders. See website for details.

Just to tease your tastebuds to readiness for tomato heaven, or if you prefer your tomatoes finely dined upon, consider the Tomato Festival Gala Dinner on Friday 27 February, joining the chef at his Merchant Osteria Veneta Restaurant.

passata tomato festival italian day guy grossi merchant
Grossi's Merchant restaurant at Rialto will host a gala dinner in honour of the tomato. See website for bookings.

The festival line up is an illustrious 'who's who' of foodie favourites including Guy Grossi, Frank Camorra (MoVida), Rosa Mitchell (Rosa's Kitchen), Glen Laurie (Little Black Pig, River Cottage London), Teresa Oates (Mangia! Mangia! author), along with local and international food writers and representatives from the serious side of this festival; Second Bite who distribute food to those who may otherwise go without, and Melbourne Farmer's Market who promote food sustainability and biodiversity. Join their table (and bring a picnic rug). Una Famiglia!

passata tomato festival italian day guy grossi farm vigano
A little corner of Italy offered at Farm Vigano.

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Why? To experience the joy of Italian tradition and to find your spiritual family through the flavours and fun of the culturally important tomato.
When: 10am - 6pm Sunday, 1 March, 2015
Phone: 9614 7688
Where: Farm Vigano, 10 Bushman's Way, South Morang
Cost: Adults $25, Children $10 (5yrs and under free), gold coin parking donation to Rotary Club of Whittlesea. Cash for other stall vendors.
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