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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ferraris Draw Car Enthusiasts to Rizzuto’s Festa

Ferraris Draw Car 
Enthusiasts to Rizzuto’s Festa
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Fairfield, CT – To a chorus of “Mambo Italiano” and a lingering aroma of Margherita pizza, local folks strolled about checking out all the eye candy sitting pretty on the asphalt.

The site was Rizzuto’s Wood Fired Kitchen & Bar at 540 Riverside Avenue and the draw Sunday afternoon was the 2nd Annual Mille Ferrari, a day of Italian food, wine and cars. Besides the featured Ferraris privately owned by Ferrari Club of Connecticut members, there was a quartet of Maseratis from Miller Motor Cars of Greenwich, a batch of Ducati motorcycles, motorized go-karts provided by Grand Prix New York and a racing simulation system.

The event was first hatched by Jon Fontane, president of Motorsport Simulation Consultants, a Rizzuto’s patron looking for ways to promote his company’s racing simulator. “I spoke to Linda Kavanagh, Rizzuto’s publicist, about the restaurant hosting the system and building an event around it,” he said. “Then we picked this day and time to align with the running of the Canadian Grand Prix.”

Fontane added, “Besides offering some great fun to the general public and creating an Italian theme, the event benefits Make-A-Wish foundation. There’s a strong tie between the club and the charity. Car entry fees, private donations, and simulator and go-kart fees will be contributed.”

Paul Bova, president of the Connecticut chapter of the Ferrari Club of America, said the club does a number of owner gatherings throughout the year, with most supporting a charity. “Make-A-Wish is such a great group and so supportive of our event activities,” he said.

New Canaan resident Jill Pescatore, onsite with her eight-year-old son Dylan, said, “We love all things Italian, and thought it would be a great family event with good food and activities.”

Andrew Berry, 12, from Westport, walking about with his family, remarked, “I like Ferraris and Maseratis. They’re really fast and look cool.”

Showing off the Ducati bikes was Anne Marie Albate, representing the motorcycle maker’s New Rochelle dealership. The owner of a Ducati 696 Monster, Albate said about the bike, “While it tops out at 150, I’ve only pushed it to 120 – I know I had a lot more left, but you can only go so fast on the streets of Long Island.”

On hand to convey the feeling of driving a Ferrari was Mike Sutka, a car collector from Wilton. He was displaying his 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia, with a current-day value of $300,000. “It’s all about the engineering and performance,” he said. “That’s what you’re buying. It’s a very raw car – a street legal race car essentially. It’s fairly loud, and rides a little stiff, but is reliable. It’s really in its own element on the track, where it’s well balanced with tremendous straight line performance and acceleration. I like to put it through its paces at Lime Rock Park. I like fast machines period.”

While families milled about and sat in the cars, hopped on the bikes, sampled San Pellegrino and let their children compete against one another on the go-kart circuit and simulator, restaurant patrons eyed Montreal-based Grand Prix action on HD sets inside Rizzuto’s. The race started in rainy conditions and, through the first 25 laps, the Ferrari team – Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso – held spots among the top 10 positions. Fortunes changed, however, after a two-hour rain delay, resulting in Massa placing sixth and Alonso failing to finish.

While it wasn’t a banner day for Ferrari in Montreal, it sure was a grand day for the carmaker in Westport.