124 feast Each year, Griffith’s Pioneer Park transforms into a pop-up shrine dedicated to la salsicce for the annual salami festival. Carla Grossetti visits this nsw riverina town for a taste of the action

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Each year, Griffith’s Pioneer Park transforms into  

a pop-up shrine dedicated to la salsicce for the 

annual salami festival. Carla Grossetti visits this 

NSW Riverina town for a taste of the action.



Salami Festival

Clockwise from far left: plates of 

salami piled up to feed the crowds; 

enjoying The Little General extra virgin 

olive oil with salami and bread; basting 

a spit-roasted lamb at the Mancini 

family farm south of Griffith; Sam 

Mancini of The Little General.


Katie Kaars




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126 feast 


ood food has been 

woven into the fabric of Griffith for close 

to a century. And, judging by the size of 

the crowds at its annual Festa Delle Salsicce 

(Festival of the Sausage), this town in south-

western NSW is well and truly on the map  

for food-lovers who are passionate about 

authentic Italian-Australian culture. 

The story of how Griffith’s Festa Delle 

Salsicce began can be distilled into the 

story of two men – Roy Catanzariti and 

the late Tony Fattore – who had a friendly 

disagreement about whether southern or 

northern Italians produced the superior 

salami. Even now, 13 years on, it doesn’t take 

much to unearth the good-natured tension that ignited the debate.

“This all started with a simple bet between two friends about  

who makes the better salami. My family is from Calabria; the Fattores 

are from Abruzzi. I won the bet that first year because the winner  

– Guiseppe Trimboli – was from the south,” explains Roy, now 71.

As for who actually does make the best salami, Roy diplomatically 

responds by saying, “It’s a matter of personal taste,” before gently 

reminding me his Calabrian counterparts have trumped it with their 

track record, “winning best salami about eight times so far”. 

Although the amicable bet is the axis around which the festival 

formed, Roy says it has since evolved into a gathering that extends  

beyond a celebration of cured meats.  

“The friendly rivalry is just that – friendly. Really, the festival  

is a celebration of being Italian – no matter which region you are 

from,” says Roy, who retired from his role as manager of the local 

Medicare office in 2007 and has organised the event from day dot.  

First impressions of Griffith are that it’s a fairly typical rural 

Australian town. But scratch the facade, and charm and authenticity 

abound. This is a place where gardens are mown by sheep, men have 

hands as gnarled as olive trees and women walk home together from 

the farmers’ market, laughing and chatting. It’s a taste of country life 

with a predominantly Italian twist – where food serves as a medium 

for sharing and says much about the area’s migrant history. 

True to the quirky, homely feel of the festival, judging for the 

Salami Festival takes place in an old Chinese restaurant that has long 

since closed. While the exterior is rather drab, push open the door 

and you enter a warm, convivial space full of people huddled around 

tables, presiding over platters of freshly sliced salami and opining 

on the efforts of each entry. I’m seated beside TV presenter Paul 

Mercurio, major festival sponsor Leo Franco, of Leo Franco Motors, 

and Denis Tagliapietra, a mechanical engineer. 

The 24 judges gather in the room to sample some 140 salamis 

and award a score out of 30, comprised of up to 10 points each for 

texture, aroma and taste. Roy, whose parents Frank and Mary arrived 

in Griffith in the 1920s, says the breakdown of entrants in last year’s 

competition comprised about 65 per cent Calabresi, 20 per cent ‘skips’ 

(Australians), 15 per cent Venetian, Piedmontese and Abruzzese, and  

a small percentage of Sicilians.

Keen cook Paul Mercurio says he takes the act of salami-judging 

very seriously. “I’m not here just to eat salami, I’m here to find 

Griffith’s best salami,” he says, before inhaling the aroma of Salami  

Number 44, which all judges agree has a potent kick of pepper.

When the panel of judges – plucked from northern and southern 

Italian backgrounds – has rated each and every salt-cured submission, 

the ‘salami statisticians’ collate the scores and declare the top 10 

finalists. The regional clash continues the following day when the 

winner, ‘southerner’ Joe Sergi, is announced at the main festival event 

held in Pioneer Park, on the town’s outskirts. 




In Fruits of Our Labour: The History of 

Griffith’s Italian Community, historian 

Jennifer Cornwall traces the history of 

migration in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation 

Area (MIA), where the Murrumbidgee 

River meets the great Riverine Plain. 

Commissioned by the Migration Heritage 

Centre, the publication documents the 

arrival of Italian peasants in the early 

1900s to this frontier settlement in search 

of benessere (prosperity). 

“As news of work opportunities 

circulated, concentrations of Italians 

from the same villages and towns 

developed in places such as… the MIA,” 

writes Jennifer. By the end of 1929, 

Italians owned 67 farms in the MIA and 

by 1940, 230 horticultural farms were 

owned by Italians. “The central role the 

Italians played in the economic and 

cultural development of the Griffith area 

is a source of much local pride,” she 

adds. Jennifer describes Griffith today 

as, “A culturally diverse and integrated 

community, more so than many urban 

areas in Australia.” 

Since the Italians, other prominent 

migrant groups have also settled in 

Griffith, including Sikhs, Turks, Fijians, 

Hindus, Afghans and Pacific Islanders.

Joe Pasin lends a hand 

behind the grill. Clockwise 

from right: slicing up  

polenta; cook and TV 

presenter Paul Mercurio is 

one of the judges; sweet 

offerings from Bertoldo’s 

Bakery; salami ready for 

the judging panel.





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“Making salami is a ritual. It’s a get-together day with family and 

friends. The focus of the festival is on the occasion as much as the 

salami,” explains Joe, who has won first prize three times. “A few weeks 

before the festival, the northerners and southerners stir each other  

up – but it’s all good fun,” he says.

Joe, a third-generation winemaker and managing director of 

Warburn Estate, says the secret to his salami recipes is that he makes 

everything from scratch. Joe’s grandparents, Giuseppe and Mary, 

migrated to Australia from Calabria in the 1950s, where they followed 

the age-old Italian custom of planting grape vines. Despite being born 

and bred in Griffith, the 49-year-old says he is happy the traditions of 

his forefathers have been firmly transplanted in Australian soil.

“This festival ensures that authentic Italian life – the music, the 

food, the language – continues with generations to come,” says Joe, 

whose wife Mary, 43, and four children (Angela, 22, Christina, 20, 

Tony, 19, and Melissa, 15) all help to produce his award-winning salami.

“Nothing goes to waste. To make the salami, we slaughter the  

pig, mince various parts and mix it with spices and hang it. It’s the 

ritual that makes it so special,” says Joe, who has won $1000 and  

a salami-making machine for his efforts.

The fact that the salami festival is not as commercial in character 

as big-city festivals is, Roy believes, what makes it such a success. He 

also says it’s a very positive event for the people of Griffith, and not 

just for those who have Italian backgrounds. “In 12 years, we’ve gone 

“To make the salami, we slaughter the pig, 

mince various parts and mix it with spices  

and hang it. It’s the ritual that makes it so 

special,” says Joe Sergi, who has won $1000 

and a salami-making machine for his efforts.”

Joe Staltare leads the music-making on his accordion. 

Clockwise from far left: grilling the polenta; the salami-

judging process; dancing the afternoon away; the 2012 

best salami winner Joe Sergi (seated), with (from left) 

his son Tony, daughter Angela and wife Mary.





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from 12 salamis and 75 people to 138 salamis and 800 people. The festival 

brings a lot of visitors to the town and boosts our economy, which is 

needed after all the issues challenging the farmers in the region.”

In between guiding guests – half of whom are out-of-towners – to 

tables, Roy wanders around the marquee to ensure the red wine is 

flowing. As more and more people pour in, Annalisa Surian is kept 

busy in the kitchen mixing large trays of polenta alongside an army of 

apron-clad women. The 63-year-old is secretary of the Griffith Italian 

Museum and author of Cavasott in Australia. The book details the 

many stories of settlement from the northern Italian region of Cavasa 

del Tomba, where many of the town’s migrants were born.  

Annalisa arrived in Australia in 1950 with her parents, Ernesto and 

Catinetta, at the age of nine months. Annalisa says her parents – both 

of whom have since passed away – maintained the old Cavasott way of 

life because such a large proportion of the Griffith community were 

from the same area. “The other day, I found a photo of me aged three 

standing in front of a skinned pig ready for salami-making. The picture 

is a bit fuzzy now, but shows I have a long-held affiliation with salami 

and other good old-fashioned Italian traditions,” she says.

Annalisa met her husband Dante, now a 69-year-old retired grape 

farmer also of northern-Italian descent, at a dance organised by the 

Yoogali Italian Club in the mid-1960s. Fast-forward a few decades 

and the Yoogali Club is still at the centre of most cultural events in 

Griffith. Today, Yoogali board member John Sergi, 52, is in charge  

of catering the Festa Delle Salsicce festival and is conducting the 

proceedings with military-like precision. 

When lunch is served, Annalisa and her offsiders direct traffic into 

the dining room, toward tables bent under the weight of 80 kilos of 

polenta, 900 pieces of chicken cacciatore, 900 pieces of veal scallopini, 

60 kilos of rice, 100 kilos of peperonata, chillies, potatoes and onion,  

90 loaves of crusty Italian bread and a mountain of salads. 

Back outside, underneath the marquee, Sam Mancini has managed 

to marshal a few of the tables for family and friends. Sam is a second- 

Clockwise from below: The festival attracted 800 visitors in 2012; 

Xavier, Liz, Alexandra, Sam and Luke Mancini, the family behind 

The Little General; La Tavola, one of Griffith’s Italian restaurants.




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Griffith Salami Festival,  

24–25 August 2013

Numbers at Griffith’s annual salami 

festival are currently capped at 

about 800, which means tickets  

to the event, costing $60 each, 

sell out fast. For information, call 

Roy Catanzariti on 0412 777 147.

Italian Migration Heritage Trail

Download an Italian Migration 

Heritage trail brochure and chart 

your course around historic sites 

that chronicle the history of Italian 

settlers in the area and the impact 

of their migration nearly a century 

ago. griffith.nsw.gov.au. 

Warburn Estate Winery 

taste award-winning wines at the 

cellar door at this winery. Warburn 

has more than 1000 hectares 

under vine, a crush capacity of 

40,000 tonnes and tank storage 

for 35 million litres of wine. 



La Scala

this cosy bolthole, situated in  

an atmospheric cellar down a 

somewhat dishevelled arcade,  

is a local institution for good 

reason: the food has the imprint  

of someone who delights in 

cooking and in sharing that 

pleasure. Chef Renato Vico’s 

homemade pizza, pasta and 

desserts are exceptional. 455 

Banna Ave, (02) 6962 4322.  

Bertoldo’s Bakery

this family run bakery was opened 

by the Bertoldo family in 1952. 

third-generation bakers and 

brothers John and stephen 

Bertoldo and family have 

maintained the character of the 

cafe, a convivial hub where locals 

converge for cannoli and crostoli, 

a loaf of crusty ciabatta and a 

creamy cappuccino. 324 Banna 

Ave, (02) 6964 2514.

La Piccola Grosseria & Italian Deli

this is the sort of institution that 

makes Griffith great. Brother- 

and-sister team sam and Maria 

trimboli laugh and joke with 

customers as they dispense thin 

slices of Grana Padano to those 

waiting in line for a continental 

sandwich bursting with salami, 

rocket and antipasti. 444a Banna 

Ave, (02) 6964 7266.


Centrepoint Apartments

these self-contained, serviced 

apartments are located close to 

the heart of the town’s centre. the 

rooms are decked out with comfy 

lounges, flat-screen tVs, internal 

laundries and broadband internet 

connections. Corner of Ulong  

and Yambil Sts, (02) 6960 2000, 



Ingleden Park 

this working farm offers bed and 

breakfast in two charming, 

self-contained farmstay cottages 

located away from the town’s main 

drag. as well as enjoying all mod 

cons, guests can also participate 

in day-to-day farm activities. 225 

Coghlan Rd, (02) 6963 6527, 


generation farmer whose late parents, Alberto and Vanda, were 

post-war migrants who arrived in Griffith in the early 1950s. In  

2000, Sam steered the family farm away from growing rice and  

wheat to cultivating olives and, since 2005, has produced his own 

award-winning brand of extra virgin olive oil, dubbed The Little 

General. He is joined at the table by his Australian-born wife Liz,  

and their adult children, Alexandra, Luke and Xavier, and about  

20 friends from Sydney.

“Food and the sharing of food is important to Italians and that’s 

what this day is about,” says Sam. “Griffith is like Australia’s ‘Little 

Italy’. We’re all about hospitality, generosity, family and traditions,  

and that’s what is at the heart of Griffith’s salami festival. It’s a coming 

together of a diverse cross-section of the community and has given us 

an identity that’s now unique to this region,” he adds. “My children  

all have a foot in both cultures, but they also share my passion to 

build on my family’s farming heritage, which began in Italy and has 

continued in the Riverina region of NSW.”

By mid-afternoon, the atmosphere in the marquee becomes even 

more jovial and raucous: pockets of people are eating, drinking and 

chatting, games of bocce (bowls) are under way and a large clump of 

the crowd is now clapping, twirling and stomping along to the beat 

of the accordion-driven folk band. As the sun starts to set, Roy looks 

happy and relaxed as he surveys the remains of the day. “Salute salami! 

Che gioia vivere! (The joy of living),” he exclaims. 


the hit list 

La Piccola Grosseria & Italian Deli (left) 

is one of Griffith’s many Italian family-

run businesses, owned by Michele 

Trimboli (below) and managed by  

his children Sam and Maria. 


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