A Look Back At A Monumental Columbus Day

October is Italian Heritage Month; you may or may not be aware of this depending on which media sources you follow. This year, preceding Columbus Day, there was a controversy which wound up spilling into New York’s Columbus Day parade and ignited an unprecedented movement by New York’s still-vibrant Italian American community.

The seemingly well-intentioned campaign spawned by New York City’s First Lady called She Built NYC, which refers to itself as : “a public-arts campaign that honors pioneering women by installing monuments that celebrate their extraordinary contributions to the city and beyond,” wound up waking up a sleeping giant that many in New York forgot was there, Italian American Catholic pride.

This year’s She Built NYC campaign had 320 women nominated, amongst whom was Mother Frances Cabrini, a female Catholic Saint who was the first naturalized U.S. citizen to be canonized. Mother Cabrini, who will be the subject of an upcoming blog post from our society, helped countless immigrants in America and is credited with establishing at least 67 institutions such as churches, schools, hospitals and orphanages. Mother Cabrini’s work in New York spanned all five boroughs and beyond.

The Mother Cabrini float sponsored by the Archdiocese of Brooklyn and parishioners of the Sacred Heart and Saint Stephen church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Despite Cabrini having the most votes, the She Built NYC campaign shrugged it off and elected their own winner instead. This infuriated New York’s Catholic community, specifically Italian Americans. The response was swift and deliberate. The Columbus Citizen’s Foundation accommodated a float with a statue of Mother Cabrini that was provided with support from the Archdioceses of Brooklyn and parishioners of Sacred Hearts and Saint Stephen in Brooklyn’s Italian enclave of Carroll Gardens. Italian Americans were overjoyed to see the float make its way down 5th avenue with Mother Cabrini proudly displayed not only out of love and devotion for the saint, but in defiance of the fashion in which the voting process was shamefully cast aside.

The controversy brought out more Italians than usual in what amounted to a record number of parade participants and onlookers in recent history.

There were many organizations and societies marching in the parade this year which included the ISDA (Italian Sons and Daughters of America) whose accompaniments included an entourage from The Italian American Podcast. Also notably in attendance and marching were members of the Italian American Baseball Foundation.

Members of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America proudly march and wave the Italian flag. Photo Credit: Italian Sons and Daughters of America
Members of the Italian American Baseball Foundation and their families proudly march with their organization’s banner. Photo Credit: Italian American Baseball Foundation
Spectators with signs and flags that claim their Italian American pride. Photo Credit: Italian Sons and Daughters of America
Co-hosts of the Italian American Podcast, Rossella Rago and Cav. John Viola pose for a photo with two Columbus Day revelers. Photo Credit: The Italian American Podcast

The history of Columbus Day in America is a de facto celebration of Italian American contributions to our beloved country. Such contributions are impossible to fully detail but their immensity and ubiquity render the dismantling of this holiday a terrible slight to the values and hard work that not only built America but also preserved it with the blood of young Italian Americans in World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, and Afghanistan.

By: Raymond Guarini



Letter To First Lady Of NYC Sent By Brooklyn Borough President Shows Solidarity to Italian Americans Over Mother Cabrini Snub

By: Raymond Guarini

The Italian Enclaves Historical Society is grateful for the open line of communication to Brooklyn’s Borough President, Eric Adams. Mr. Adams has always provided support to the large base of Italian Americans in Brooklyn, New York. When we reached out directly to Mr. Adams this morning to ask for his support of the Italian American and Catholic community here in NYC he was already on the case and mentioned that he was sending a letter to Chirlane McCray to address the will of New Yorkers whose vote for Mother Cabrini in the She Built NYC nomination overwhelmed the votes of other figures.

Mr. Adams was kind enough to send us a copy of the letter that was sent to Mayor De Blasio’s wife so that we could share with our readers being that Cabrini’s accomplishments were spread throughout the country in so many different cities and states. On behalf of the Italian American and Catholic community in Brooklyn, we thank Eric Adams for championing the patron saint of immigrants and showing his support for the will of New Yorkers as well as the democratic process by which the votes were achieved. brooklyn borough president letter 1brooklyn borough president letter 2

A Candlelight Tour Of The Catacombs In Little Italy And The Crypt Of Countess Annie Leary, The First Pro-Italian American Philanthropist

Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral 

Beneath the recently renovated Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Little Italy, there is a very little-known secret. A huge wooden door that looks more befitting of a medieval castle than an urban church stands between an old basement chapel and the final resting place of dozens of souls from New York’s past.

Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral was first built by the Irish immigrants who migrated to New York in 1700’s and 1800’s to provide a place of worship amidst terrible anti-Catholic sentiment cultivated by the British Protestants who dominated our Eastern seaboard.

When Italians began arriving en masse at the latter part of the 19th century, the Irish, who so vigilantly fought for their chance to build Catholic churches in which they could safely worship, didn’t want newcomers worshipping alongside them. The religion, although the same, has different cultural nuances that wedged the Irish from the Italians. The Irish saw the Italian practices of saint processions and “la festa” as virtually pagan and not a pure form of Catholicism.

The Irish pulled all the weight in the New York Archdiocese and constituted virtually every position within its hierarchy; therefore, the Italians who were seen as uncivilized and often contributed little-to-nothing in church donations, were forced to worship in chapels within Church basements. This practice was universal throughout New York and elsewhere, especially in Saint Patrick’s. The former Italian chapel in Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral is where this doorway into another world exists.


Originally the resting place of the first Catholic, Irish bishops of New York, the catacombs eventually became home to others including some of the Italians who were crucial in merging both cultures in one church. Eventually, the Italians were integrated by the likes of Countess Annie Leary who was a philanthropist who supported the Italian American immigrants and helped them blend into society and become engrained in Saint Patrick’s parishioner base.

Amongst those also interred here are five priests, two bishops, 33 families and one Civil War General.

Countess Annie Leary (1803-1879)

An interesting person and one of the first pro-Italian American philanthropists who is interred here is Countess Annie Leary. Predating even Mother Cabrini, the Countess was responsible for helping the Italian immigrants of lower Manhattan by donating funds to help build a predominantly Italian church on Sullivan Street so that the Italians no longer had to worship in the basements of Old Saint Patrick’s and Transfiguration. Most notable of her contributions to the Italian American constituency is the Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle, which was donated by Countess Leary before her passing.

It was a privilege to take part in the tour of the Catacombs beneath Saint Patrick’s. To be intuned with the Italian American significance whilst also exploring beneath the streets of Little Italy was an exhilarating experience. We recommend this tour especially during this time of year.

By: Raymond Guarini






Italian Church In Brooklyn Plans Special Celebration: Restored Devotional Artwork To Be Processed

Our Lady of Pompeii

Hidden treasure was found in the basement of Saint Bernadette’s Shrine Church in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Hidden for decades, the historic image of Our Lady of Pompeii has been recently restored pro bono by Cente Art Studio of NYC (307 W 38th Street-www.centerart.com).



Dyker Heights, a long-time Italian enclave, is home to thousands of Italians and Italian Americans and has steadily been the destination for decades of Italian immigrants. Over the years, waves of Italians with different devotions have walked in and out of the parish of Saint Bernadette. Somewhere along the line, almost eighty years ago, the painting was left to be discovered at a later time.

Found by devoted parishioners, the painting has been restored and will be processed into Saint Bernadette this Sunday, October 6th for 11am mass. Attendees are welcomed to wave white handkerchiefs as the painting is processed into the church in hopes of an interecession by the Blessed Mother for each of the devoted taking part.

Worcester Church Sees Wrecking Ball: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Is No More

As our “Italian Enclaves” social media (Instagram & Facebook :@ItalianEnclaves) followers may already know, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Italian national parish in Worcester, Massachusets has been demolished. The local diocese felt that the church’s many years of neglect made it too unsafe to maintain and the enormous cost of repair was an insurmountable achievement for the dwindling parishioner base.

The church was demolished on an already solemn day, September 11th. We found the choosing of this date to be interesting because the news of this sad day for OLMC would most likely not receive the same social media attention or general publicity should it have been done on any other day. Nevertheless, the point of this post is to remain informative without casting aspersions in yet another already sensitive and controversial Catholic church closing.


A national parish is a church that is created to accommodate the native language of the parishioner base. As opposed to the common way many Catholic churches were created by their local dioceses whereby the parishioner base is dictated by geographical boundaries, the national parish has no boundaries for parishioners as long as they speak the language of the parishioner base for which the church was built. In the case of OLMC in Worcester, this was an Italian national parish built by and for the Italian community surrounding the church.

The church’s closing is yet another in a string of closings in what seems like a never-ending consolidation of Catholic churches throughout the country.

Many Italian national parishes have came and went over the last one hundred and forty years. It is the intention of the Italian Enclaves Historical Society to preserve their memory online in perpetuity with photographs and video of not only the physical buildings but by showcasing the parishioners and accompanying feasts and celebrations that made these sanctuaries so precious and sacred for almost a century and a half in the United States.

By: Raymond Guarini


Repost: New York Golf Kick Off Reception Features Mario Andretti to Benefit NIAF Scholarships

Shared directly from the NIAF Website:

New York Golf Kick Off Reception Features Mario Andretti to Benefit NIAF Scholarships


(Washington D.C. – June 18, 2019) On June 17, the New York Golf Kick Off Reception hosted the legendary race-car driver Mario Andretti who presented a National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) scholarship to Trevor Tesoriero at the Classic Car Club in New York, N.Y. Shiny luxury race cars and vintage classics dazzled guests as they enjoyed cocktails and views of the Jersey City skyline on the Hudson River through the industrial floor-to-ceiling warehouse windows.
Christopher Macchio from the New York Tenors started the program with his moving renditions of the Italian and U.S. national anthems.
The evening’s host, NIAF Board Member and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker Partner Nicholas Caiazzo, welcomed guests, and connected NIAF’s mission to empower young Italian Americans through its robust scholarships program to the evening’s purpose. He later conducted an insightful Q&A session with Andretti on stage.
Andretti credited his father for helping the family come to America to find a better life for themselves. Born to Italian parents in Montona (now part of Croatia), Andretti’s family of five fled their town during World War II and lived in a refugee camp in Lucca, Italy, from 1948–1955, until they secured visas to come to America. “My career wouldn’t have been what it was if we stayed in Italy,” he said.
Andretti’s extraordinary immigrant story includes his successful six-decade racing career in which he won 109 races on major circuits as well as four IndyCar races in four different decades—the only race-car driver to accomplish that. Recently, national media has spotlighted Andretti for the 50th anniversary of his 1969 win at the Indianapolis 500, and the release of his documentary about his early years in Italy, and journey and challenges coming to America.
Caiazzo asked Andretti if he was ever surprised by the impact his career has had on race-car driving and the world, making his name synonymous with speed, and securing his legacy in the Automotive Hall of Fame. Andretti replied, “If you’re enjoying your life, every second of it, you’re humbled to be recognized for it…. I loved the sport so much that there was never a plan B.”
After the interview, Caiazzo invited NIAF scholarship recipient Trevor Tesoriero to the stage. The graduate student studying mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shared his gratitude for the sacrifices his grandparents made coming from Italy to the United States in the 1950s, and for his father, a mechanic, who inspired him to make the most of his opportunities. He thanked NIAF for the generous scholarship to help him pursue his studies. After Andretti presented Tesoriero with the scholarship certificate, the program ended with guests mingling and enjoying creamy cavatelli, meats and cheeses, and other Italian favorites.

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and protecting the Italian American heritage and culture. To learn more about the Foundation and become a member, please visit http://www.niaf.org.

Natalie Wulderk

Don Mattingly welcomes The IABF Representing Italian Heritage Day at Marlins Stadium

Last weekend, the president and founder of the Italian American Baseball Foundation (IABF), Joe Quagliano, was in Miami visiting the Florida Marlins’ Christian Capozzi, as well as famous former Yankee and current Marlins Manager Don Mattingly. The reason for the visit: The Italian American Baseball Foundation members were honored guests as the Marlins celebrated Italian Heritage Day at the stadium.


As the IABF continues to grow and spread its wings, more and more franchises are embracing the concept of supporting an organization that seeks to cross-pollinate talent with Italy whether its player talent or managerial. The IABF also donates equipment to youth teams and provides scholarships to hardworking kids.

The IABF is a nonprofit organization that is committed to developing and promoting youth baseball and softball in the United States and Italy by sponsoring clinics and camps supervised by MLB players.

The IABF was formed as a nonprofit in 2018 and has since raised capital, membership numbers and tons of awareness to the organization’s presence in the United States and abroad. The formation was carried forth by Michael Desapio, Esq. who is also a board member. Desapio specializes in corporate and nonprofit formations as well as matters surrounding US citizens obtaining Italian citizenship (https://desapioesq.com/).

The IABF has been quite active as of late with some of its members being in attendance at major events throughout the country:

Visit the IABF for organization info: https://iabf.foundation/


Italian Church And School Closed in Chicago: Santa Lucia In Armour Square Is No More

Santa Lucia school and parish in Chicago’s Bridgeport/Armour Square neighborhood just closed their doors for good. The school, which was opened in 1961, was built to support the burgeoning number of second, third and fourth generation Italian Americans who belonged to the parish and lived in the local community. The school and church were founded by the Scalabrini Brothers but the Sisters of Notre Dame staffed the school. The parish was started in 1943 as an extension to the Santa Maria Incoronata Parish which still exists in the neighborhood considered Chinatown.

In 1953, the Archdiocese approved the separate administration of Santa Maria Incoronata and Santa Lucia became its own parish. Father Primo Beltrama became the first pastor of Santa Lucia.

Santa Lucia, or Saint Lucy in English, is the patron saint of eyesight and clear vision in any situation to see the good and positive in people despite disparity.
This past weekend parishioners celebrated the solemn closing of their church the best they could with mass and a celebration of food and comradery afterwards. As the neighborhood demographics change, and Italian residents pass on or move into the suburbs, the remaining parishioner base of the former Italian National parish can’t provide enough support to justify maintaining this fading piece of Italian American history.
Italian National parishes were built all throughout the United States starting in the late 1800’s so that masses could be held in the native tongue of the settlers that would attend mass the church’s masses. Therefore, Italian National parishes would require Italian priests who could hold masses in Italian.

Thanks to Lou Phillips in Chicago for sharing this news and for the photos.

By: Raymond Guarini, Founder of The Italian Enclaves Historical Society

A Look Back At The NIAF 2019 Gala At Cipriani In Midtown, Manhattan

The National Italian American Foundation celebrated its 2019 gala on April 9th at Cipriani on 42nd Street in Midtown, Manhattan. As always, guests came from near and far to take part in a vibrant evening that celebrated Italian culture and accomplishment throughout the world.

The night’s master of ceremonies was Joe Piscopo, the beloved on-air personality and former Saturday Night Live cast member.

Enchanting the crowd was 10-year-old singer, Romina Perri, who wowed the sold-out crowd with her bellowing renditions of both national anthems of the United States and Italy. Her performance sparked the crowd as guests enjoyed Cipriani’s signature bellinis and hors d’oeuvres.

Consistent with tradition, prior to seating, guests perused the venue to mingle and chat with other attendees who ranged from foreign dignitaries to local businessmen and philanthropists. Guests also had time to place silent auctions on a variety of valuable Italian-themed items and memorabilia.

The three-course meal was exquisite and the night flew by as guests were entertained by the delivering of multiple awards.

The honorees and their awards were as follows: Marylou Delfino Berk who received The National Italian American Foundation Special Achievement Awards in Real Estate. Judge Frank M. Ciuffani who received The National Italian American Foundation Special Award in Public Service for his service on the New Jersey Superior Court and his 40 years on the bench and private practice. Lorenzo Zurino who received The National Italian American Foundation Special Achievement Award for Young Entrepreneur.

As always, the National Italian American Foundation outdid itself with another stellar event to promote Italian culture and causes throughout the country and the world.

I would like to offer my special thanks to Gabriel A. Battista, NIAF’s co-chair and Natalie Wulderk, NIAF’s Manager of Communications & Public Policy for having me attend the event. It gets more enjoyable each time we get to celebrate.

For more information about NIAF and the 2019 Gala or how to be a member, follow the below link:

NIAF New York Gala 2019 Review

By: Raymond Guarini of The Italian Enclaves Historical Society


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