Marco’s Pizza will help bring the Italian Football League’s Italian Bowl to Toledo next month, marking the first time Italy’s national championship will be played outside of Europe.

And if you think we’re talking about soccer, think again. This is the American version of football, complete with shoulder pads, helmets and lots of violent collisions, but played by Italians.

The 42nd Italian Bowl will be held in the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl Stadium on Saturday, July 1. The city will host a number of events leading up to the big game, including Passport to the Taste of Italy, in which nearly 40 local restaurants will highlight Italian heritage in a culinary competition described as a “restaurant bowl dining extravaganza” from June 18 through 24.

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Marco’s, which is headquartered in Toledo, will be the presenting sponsor of the game. The game is also sponsored by Toledo-based Sofo Foods, the largest ethnic food distributor in the Midwest.

“Taking the IFL final to Toledo in the U.S., where the game originated, has the hallmarks of an epic adventure for Italian-American football,” said Fabio Tortosa, deputy vice president of the Italian Federation of American Football (FIDAF), in a press release. “We are grateful to have this extraordinary opportunity for growth as it will positively impact the entire federation as well as the two teams in the final.”

Edoardo Cammi, an FIDAF board member and general manager of the IFL’s reigning champs, the Guelfi Firenze, agreed. “The Federation hopes that this initiative can provide a driving force for everyone in the Italian youth movement: Playing in America in front of the crowds we expect to see at the Glass Bowl is what any youngster in Italy who loves this sport dreams of doing. We hope that this dream can be as long-lasting as the bonds we are cementing with the City of Toledo today. “

The Italian Bowl will be a key element of Toledo’s Fourth of July weekend festivities this year. Organizers will also facilitate shared experiences and collaboration between the sister cities of Toledo and Ferrara, Italy, which were matched in November 2021 as a symbolic bridge between the two nations. For example, there will be multiple performances from international award-winning Italian opera singer and musician Mariam Battistelli.

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The entire weekend will be packed with Italian-themed events, including a Business Forum preceding the game on June 30 and a Toledo Night Market following the game on the evening of July 1.

The Passport to the Taste of Italy event will provide a week-long, region-wide showcase of Italian food and beverages. Diners will vote on which restaurant offers the best entrée, best dessert and best cocktail through a simple QR code located in the restaurant. The top 10 restaurants from the People’s Choice awards will go on to the competition for the Judge’s Choice trophy. The televised cook-off will air June 26 on Buckeye Cable Sports Network, and Jim Rhegness will guide the judging panel. Awards for the People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice trophies will be presented during the championship game on Saturday, July 1.

“There are so many reasons that Toledo is the perfect place to host the Italian Bowl XLII,” said Kristina White, coordinator of the Passport event. “We expect people from around the world to attend the events. With the abundance of fabulous dining locally, how could we not showcase all the wonderful cuisine our region has to offer?”

Even bestselling author John Grisham will get in on the act. A June 10 panel discussion at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library will feature Grisham’s latest book, Playing for Pizza, along with panelists like pro football players Nick Eyde, Kris Durham and James Starks.

Tickets for the Italian Bowl cost $15 for general admission and $30 for reserved seating. Click her to order tickets.

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