BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Festival season is in full swing across Western New York and local communities are excited to welcome them back. That includes two of the most popular events, celebrating Italian and Puerto Rican heritage.

“The food, I don’t think you are going to get better food anywhere else right?” Mike Molinaro of Molinaro’s Ristorante in Lockport said.

The sights, sounds and smells of Italian culture are on full display on Hertel Avenue this weekend. The Galbani Italian Heritage Festival is back for the first time in two years due to the pandemic. Mineo and Sapio’s Italian Sausage has been in Buffalo for more than a century and recently moved to a new location on Connecticut Street. They say they are excited to be back on Hertel Avenue.

“It’s been very difficult with COVID and a lot of businesses have struggled,” Tony Ocasio of Mineo and Sapio Italian Sausage said. “It was very fortunate that we had the fair last year and now the Italian Festival is back. It’s a great thing.”

These vendors have been Buffalo staples for decades, serving the community authentic Italian food from their store fronts, at fairs and at the Italian festival. Angelo’s Pastry serves up their tasty treats at several summer events, including the Erie County Fair.

“My father started this about 45 years ago,” Joe Manitone of Angelo’s Pastry said. “We just do local fairs and festivals. Everything from cannolis, eclairs, Neapolitans, cream puffs.”

Molinaro’s Ristorante has been in business in Lockport since the 1990s and have opened a second location in East Amherst. They say their favorite part of the Italian Festival is meeting the people and celebrating their family’s history.

“Both my parents are from Italy, so we brought a lot of the Italian cookie and cannoli recipes back into the restaurant from my Nonna and my mother and my aunts,” Molinaro said.

The festival features some of the best Italian cuisine in Western New York, including Angelo’s cannolis, Molinaro’s stuffed hot pepper rolls and Mineo and Sapio’s Italian sausage sandwiches. All of the food is made on site.

If you travel a few miles south into the City of Buffalo, Puerto Rican culture will be on full display at the Grease Pole Festival on Swan Street.

“Puerto Rico is known for great food and dancing,” Wilmer Olivencia Jr., president of the festival, said. “There’s going to be a ton of that here this weekend. It’s going to be a family oriented festival meaning that there is something for everyone to do.”

The same can be said for every corner of our community, celebrating our rich cultural history this summer.

“I just think that having the Italian Fest, the Grease Pole Fest and all of these fests gives everyone an opportunity to learn about cultures they may not be familiar with and have a great time all in all,” Olivenchia said.

For many Western New Yorkers, these festivals are an opportunity to learn about fellow neighbors and embrace community.

“My dad came over from Sicily when he was 21 years old and this is our home,” Manitone said.

Mangia, Buffalo! Buon Appetito and Buen Provecho!

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.