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The Italian American Podcast

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IAP 243: Where Redneck Meets Red Sauce... A Trip to Tontitown, Arkansas's Italian Village

• 65 min

We spent last week filming in one of the most overlooked (and criminally underappreciated) corners of Italian America… deep in the Ozarks in a little Italian village called Tontitown, Arkansas! In this week’s episode of The Italian American Podcast, we’re sitting down with two of the new paesani we met during our travels, Heather Ranalli Peachee and Kara Jo Engle. Both of these proud Tontitown Italians can trace their roots to the founding families of this unique Italian agricultural colony, and today they are both part of the Tontitown Winery, which is the last commercial winery in a town that once cultivated more than 14,000 acres of commercial grapes! We’ll share the people and places we found while visiting this incredible “Little Italy in the Ozarks” for its annual Grape Festival, which began in 1898 in celebration of the colony’s first good harvest, and even predates some of Italian America’s largest Italian feasts in places like New York and Boston. We’ll also reveal how these 45 northern Italian families ended up in Arkansas in the first place, from a scam that brought them to the southeastern corner of the state to a once-famous Italian priest who led them on a life-changing trek to Northwest Arkansas for a chance at a life better suited to their Italian habits. We’re sharing stories and recipes that have been lovingly passed down through generations of Tontitown’s citizens as we celebrate this proud Italian community that had such an impact on us during our few days there. If you want to know the little slice of America where Redneck meets Red Sauce, join us as we discover the Italian American wonder that is Tontitown, Arkansas! This episode is sponsored by Mediaset Italia.

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