Expanded Taste of Elmwood Park draws locals old and new

The Taste of Elmwood Park may have expanded this year for the village’s 100th anniversary, but it was village newcomers who made the biggest impression on one village leader.

Mayor Angelo “Skip” Saviano, who helped start the Taste 30 years ago, jokingly said that the biggest difference he noticed walking through the four-day festival’s crowd was the amount of strollers.

“There’s new families moving in,” Saviano said. “A year ago, we had 164 homes for sale. Now we have 30. It’s affordable here to live, you’ve got the railroad, trains, a great bus system, you’re 25 minutes from downtown Chicago and that’s what a lot of young families are looking for.”

The entertainment saw more changes, with more children’s rides and new items at the arts and crafts village. An additional stage and new sound system was also added, along with more lighting throughout the festival.

A former Elmwood Park resident came back to his roots to perform at the festival on Friday night.

Maurizio Carrara, 51, known by stage name Tony Ocean, played three songs from his new album, “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

The crooner, who attended Elmwood Park High School and graduated in 1981, played a set at the Taste for the first time in 10 years.

“We play all over the country, about 250 times a year,” Carrara said. “When the new mayor came in, he said, ‘We’d love to have you back’ — and it’s nice to be back.”

Carrara is known for doing the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and oldies covers, but in the last five or six years, he’s expanded to playing a lot of pop, rock and blues.

“I just wanted to try out new stuff and it brought a new audience,” he said. “We even do some Bruno Mars every now and then.”

The singer said he saw a good mix of people at his show Friday night. Although he didn’t recognize a lot of familiar faces, it’s nice seeing some people from high school who used to call him “Mo.” He tries to visit his mother once a week in Elmwood Park.

Carrara’s manager, Philip Vaughan, said he was impressed with the Taste this year.

“This is one of the better fests we’ve seen,” Tony Ocean’s manager, Philip Vaughan, said. “The Old Italy street with the lights, the food near the stage — you don’t have to walk too far. We’ve done a lot of other festivals but this one is really nice. It’s nice to be back.”

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