Smoked billowed off the two grills as Sicilian sausage, hand-stuffed with three types of imported cheeses and coiled into neat foot-wide circles, cooked over the mesquite coal.
The sausages went from the grill into a C'est Si Bon roll, topped with peppers and onions and covered in marina sauce before being sold at Sabatino's Lido Shipyard Sausage Company's booth.
Sam and Donna Aromando, of Mission Viejo, each ate a sausage sandwich in the shade of the late afternoon sun Saturday at the 23rd annual Taste of Newport Beach.
With still about half the sandwich to go each, they sang the sausage's praises.
"We buy them every year," said Sam, with Donna adding, "We're Italian."
"So we know the difference," Sam finished.
Marie Sabatino, the daughter of Sabatino's owner Peter Sabatino, said the sandwich recipe was passed down from her grandfather, who started the restaurant in Chicago.
Marie, who worked the booth with a team of employees while her husband Al Sabatino worked the grill, has been selling at Taste of Newport since its inception.
The annual event on Newport Center Drive is a great way to bring exposure to the restaurant, which is hidden in the shipyard, and to help them get the word out this year about their new location, Marie said.
As the event began Saturday, attendance was still sparse with short lines at each booth and a few people wandering over to hear Bubba and the Big Bad Blues Band, but the purple-sheathed tables that filled the grassy median were slowly filling up.
For Sam and Donna, the Taste of Newport Beach has become an annual event for the past 15 or 16 years.
They said they like to hear the entertainment, try new foods — and old favorites — and people watch.
"It's just fun to taste all the different foods," Donna said. "It's kind of like a street fair."
The Taste of Newport is open noon to 8 p.m. Sunday on Newport Center Drive. General admission is $25 and food and beverages range from $1 to $7 each.