On March 2nd, our friends at Il Centro in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn threw an unforgettably amazing event. Guests attended from all parts of the tri-state area to revel in treasures of Italian culture. Vanessa Racci and her swingin’ jazz trio wowed all who attended with a mix of reinvented Italian songs from her album “Italiana Fresca And American Jazz Standards.” From delicious food to warm company, all who attended were grateful to be a part of this beautiful event:
From Vanessa Racci’s website:
“Vanessa Racci’s 2017 debut album, Italiana Fresca, heralds the breakthrough of a fresh sound in jazz: a sweet-and-sour, wide-ranging contralto with a passion and sex appeal born of her Italian-American heritage. On this recording, Vanessa puts a jazzy spin on the Italian songs she sang with her grandfather as a child; “Al Di La”, “Buona Sera”, “C’e La Luna”, “Return to Me” and the lot. The songs are re-invented with modern jazz arrangements ranging from jump swing to lush string ballads to Louisiana Street. Several songs are updated with Vanessa’s own English lyrics. Her producer, the renowned bassist David Finck, has raved about her “natural sense of rhythm and flow, and her wonderful ability to communicate both musical and poetic language.” The songs were arranged by Yaron Gershovsky, long time Musical Director for The Manhattan Transfer and NYC pianist, Glafkos Kontemeniotis.
Birdland, the legendary New York jazz club, debuted Vanessa’s show to a sold out audience June 4th, 2017, which received rave reviews.”
The Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, also known as F.I.A.O. Brooklyn is proud to announce the opening of its flagship building “Il Centro.” This structure is the first Italian-American multicultural community center in New York, located in southern Brooklyn. Il Centro was designed to serve as a resource for the Italian-American community that will enable the preservation of Italian-American heritage and culture. Through various programs we hope to present a positive image and legacy of generations that strengthen ties within the community. (Source: https://fiaobrooklyn.org/il-centro-2/).
Il Centro is a multi-level 44,000 square foot facility outfitted with modern, state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Classrooms will serve to host a series of seminars and workshops as well as a full fitness center designed with contemporary exercise equipment that allows for both individual and group opportunities. A gymnasium will serve as an epicenter for sports teams and programs throughout the borough. A swimming pool is enhanced by a panoramic view of the city inviting both fitness and leisurely activities. An elegant event space designed to transition for various functions holds potential for a multitude of events such as private parties, vendor showcases, charity events and network gatherings. (Source:https://fiaobrooklyn.org/il-centro-2/).
As I mentioned in my last blog post about Bensonhurst, it is a very large area. It takes hours and hours to really traverse every street within its confines thoroughly enough to capture the fine details that give it its Italian character. There are so many photos for our readers and social media followers that I am releasing them in separate posts over time. For now, here are some photos that reflect what still remains, what has changed, and what is in the process of changing.
Unfortunately, for the fair share of businesses and organizations that are still operating to service the Italian American community in Bensonhurst, there are some that are leaving as many have over the years.
I recently decided to take a walk around Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Bensonhurst is still the largest Italian Enclave in the United States. Although much has changed in the neighborhood due to the natural cyclicality of metropolises, there is still a lot that visually remains and quite a few Italian families still living there.
If you aren’t familiar with Bensonhurst, then you should know that it is massive in size. Bensonhurst-proper includes the area bounded by 86th Street, 14th Avenue, 60th Street, McDonald Avenue, Avenue P, and Bay Parkway.
Bensonhurst derives its name from Egbert Benson (1789–1866). His lands were sold by his children and grandchildren to James D. Lynch, a New York real estate developer. Lynch bought the old farmlands of the Benson family in the mid-1880s, and by 1888, began selling private lots in an area with the slogan : “Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea” which is really now the Bath Beach neighborhood that often gets referred to as Bensonhurst but is distinctly its own neighborhood.
Italians have been in Bensonhurst since the early 20th century. Prior to Italians, there were large Jewish and German communities living within the neighborhood. The newest waves of Italian immigrants into the United States generally occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s and many of those new arrivals wound up in Bensonhurst-mostly Sicilian.
Provided the massive amount of land to cover, traversing the streets of Bensonhurst to efficiently photo-document the neighborhood requires several days. I have thus broken my walks throughout the neighborhood into separate posts that I will be releasing over the next couple of months.
In this particular instance, I noticed a barbershop along 17th Avenue and New Utrecht that has actually been there for over 40 years. I must have driven by hundreds of times and never noticed it. On foot, the details of a neighborhood really stand out so much more. Salvatore, the proprietor and barber, told me that he wishes to retire and is selling his business. The photograph showing the window of his barbershop has the phone number if anyone is interested (everything in the shop is included).
The outside of J&J Barbershop
The inside of J&J Barbershop
The small portion of Bensonhurst that I am showcasing in this post also had a lot of wonderful visual indications of the vibrant Italian community that once claimed this part of Brooklyn as the largest concentration of Italians outside of Italy. Please share this post and let your friends and family know about our site (and social media pages: ItalianEnclaves on Facebook and Instagram).
Sabino and I met in Williamsburg at the famed Carmines Pizzeria and Restaurant on Graham Avenue for the Italian American Baseball Foundation’s Annual Gala in December.
I was vaguely familiar with the Growing Up Italian podcast and more familiar with the Instagram account. I found myself following Growing Up Italian earlier last year (2018) and being amused at many of their posts. I was fascinated by the fact that they were mostly first generation Italians representing the millennial Italian American population in North America; a rarely represented group.
The podcast was an amazing time and being with Sabino and the rest of the folks from Growing Up Italian felt like hanging out with old friends and family. (LINK BELOW).
What Sabino is doing is incredibly important. He is linking the millennial generations to the older generations of Italians primarily through light-hearted and witty posts on social media. Such posts innocently poke fun at the nuances of growing up in an Italian household. Phrases are shared amongst other jovial, cultural references and we strongly recommend browsing through the comments sections of their posts.
It is truly important to pass along our traditions and solidify a future for Italian Americans by preserving things such as Saint societies, processions, feasts, culinary traditions and so on. After meeting Sabino and the squad at Growing Up Italian, I can gladly say that the future for Italian Americans is looking bright.
The technologically intelligent Growing Up Italian platform is a perfect vehicle for not only delivering things that are funny but also acts as a perfect stage to occasionally change the tone towards the more serious and important aspects of Italian culture in North America. We look forward to having more opportunities to chat with Sabino, Rocco et al at Growing Up Italian.
We can’t wait to see what else they have in their bright future.
In 2018 we made two posts about a young boy who was taken from this earth way too soon. His name is Carlo Acutis. To illuminate this boy’s importance for new readers and to remind our loyal followers, Carlo Acutis may become a Catholic Saint.
Carlo first received the Eucharist at the age of 7 and continued to receive it each day of his life until his untimely passing. Born in 1991 and having left this earth all too soon in 2006 at the age of 15, Carlo spent his young life in Italy dedicated to Jesus by collating on his website each Church-verified apparition of our Blessed Mother that occurred on this planet for over two millennia.
Since our last article, Carlo Acutis has been deemed Venerable by the Catholic Church and his cause has been under scrutiny by the Vatican to determine if he will eventually be Canonized.
The vice-postulator, Father Marcelo Tenorio, of the canonization cause of Venerable Carlo Acutis announced Wednesday that the boy’s body has been found to be incorrupt. Father Tenorio shared the news on social media. He revealed that he indeed saw the pictures but that he could not share them.
I am particularly intrigued by this young man because of his dedication to tabulating Madonna miracles. The correlation to The Italian Enclaves Historical Society’s mission to show the public every Italian Parish in America and their corresponding Saints’ processions solidifies our love and appreciation for Carlo’s work even further. We support his cause for Sainthood and we ask that you do as well by praying for him and sharing this article.
We are very pleased to announce that the Saint Therese Chinese Church will remain! The church was once the Madonna Incoronata Church when the neighborhood was home to a thriving Italian community. Over the years, the church has changed parishioners but the Italians have continued to use the Church not only as a place of worship but also as the center of their annual feasts for Saint Rocco and La Madonna Incoronata.
Just recently, as discussed in one of our posts from earlier this month, the church was threatened with closure but due to a major wave of support both in Chicago and online, the church was able to raise hundreds of signatures via “Change.org” and far surpassed the expected number of signatures: 2,500.
On Saturday night, the diocese informed the parishioners that the church will remain. This is a huge victory for our friends in Chicago. Please share so this can act as an inspiration those whose parishes are facing similar fates.
One of the many incredible contacts that I made at the most recent event for the Italian American Baseball Foundation was Sabino Curcio of the social media phenomenon, Growing Up Italian. Sabino invited me to join his podcast as a guest. I graciously accepted. About a month after the IABF event, I met with Sabino at the San Sabino Society Club (206 Withers Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am grateful to have accepted this invitation as I was not only welcomed warmly by Sabino and the rest of the Growing Up Italian folks and made to feel appreciated for my work with Italian Enclaves but also because I learned a great deal about Saint Sabino and the innerworkings of the San Sabino Club, which mirrors many other Italian clubs in North America.
Started as a mutual aid society, the San Sabino Club was founded in Williamsburg in 1932. The purpose of the society, much like all Saint societies in the US since the late 1800’s, was to pick up where the government left off. Italian immigrants were often discriminated against and had a tough time upon arriving.
After arriving in the U.S., Italian immigrants were frequently un-hirable, often taking low-wage jobs and having little disposable income to invest in things like health or life insurance. The society would help pay members’ medical bills and even support the families of deceased members, if necessary. I learned that one of the members was a funeral director and would often assist families of deceased members in funeral preparations with great generosity. The necessity for this was immense.
At the time, the United States Government did not have anything in place to help immigrants afford doctors or final expenses. The San Sabino society helped its members survive and gracefully provide for themselves in a country that provided little for immigrants at the time. The society worked on a quasi-barter system where favors were exchanged instead of money. A doctor could help people seeking medical help in exchange for something, an ironworker or laborer could offer their services in exchange for whatever they might need, and so on.
The box in which the voting balls were placed.
Original Documents and photos of the San Sabino Club
When a new member came up for review, every member got both a black and white ball. White balls were a yes vote for the new member to join and the black ball was a no vote. 50 members voted by placing either a white or black ball in the box. When all members submitted their vote, the box would be opened and the great reveal was made. The catch is that if a newly proposed member received three or more black balls in the voter box, the person would be denied. So out of 50 members, 48 had to vote in favor of the person for them to be approved to join. The other absolute must to get in is that your family had to be from Sanza.
As with any Saint society, there is a patron Saint that is venerated and often processed throughout the town or neighborhood in which the society’s club exists. San Sabino is the patron of Sanza. A town somewhat isolated in the mountains, Sanza is home to great devotions to Catholicism and its Saints by the town’s constituents.
When the mass migrations occurred from Italy to the US before and after the Great War, the Sanzese emigrated from Italy to the US in hopes of greater opportunity like everyone else. Such opportunity not only existed but was eventually realized by the members of the San Sabino society because of their devotion to one another and their commitment to perpetuating the veneration of their town’s patron, Saint Sabino. They were able to purchase their club’s building and quickly paid-off the mortgage.
As quoted by Wikepedia:
“Saint Sabinus of Spoleto (died c. 300) was a Bishop in the Christian church who resisted the persecutions of Diocletian and was martyred.
According to legend, Venustian, governor of Etruria and Umbria, had Sabinus and his deacons arrested in Assisi. Diocletian’s order required all Christians to sacrifice to the gods or be put to death, with their estates seized for the state. Venustian mocked Sabinus’s faith, accusing him of leading the people to the worship of a dead man. When Sabinus said that Christ rose on the third day, Venustian invited him to do the same thing. He had Sabinus’s hands cut off.
The deacons were in great fear, but Sabinus encouraged them to hold to their faith, and they died after being torn apart by iron hooks. In prison after the martyrdom of his deacons, he was tended by a woman named Serena. While in prison, he healed a man born blind. Venustian heard of the cure and sought a cure for his own eyes from Sabinus. Sabinus healed the governor and converted him to Christianity. Venustian then sheltered Sabinus. Maximianus Herculius, hearing of this, ordered the tribune Lucius to address the matter. Lucius had Venustian, his wife, and his two sons beheaded at Assisi, and he had Sabinus beaten to death at Spoleto.”
Sabinus’s feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is December 7th.
Growing Up Italian
The fact that I was one of the first guests to air live from the San Sabino Club on the Growing Up Italian podcast was thrilling. I had a great time chatting with Sabino and the folks of Growing Up Italian. It felt like I was home in my living room speaking with cousins or life-long friends. I look forward to making another post with a link to the podcast later this month. Stay Tuned.
As always, sharing our work is encouraged and appreciated.
The hardest part about documenting Italian National churches in America is that so many have already closed and so many are in the process of being closed. There is also the fact that it’s hard to coordinate travels with the times that the churches are opened. Taking that into account, also add that there is no single place where one can find a list every Italian National Parish, yet. Italian Enclaves is proud to announce that as we transform into a nonprofit, one of our first orders of business will be to do just that; an online list and archive of photos pertaining to each Italian National Parish in America.
Which Churches Are Closing In Chicago?
In Chicago, the same eventuality of closure that has fallen upon many other Italian National Parishes in the United States is about to happen to Santa Lucia Church. Located at 3022 S Wells St, Chicago, IL 60616, Santa Lucia is one of the cornerstones of the Italian American community in the Armour Square neighborhood, a formerly dense Italian Enclave. The closure is not being limited to the Church, but the Santa Lucia Catholic School as well.
Our sources also inform us that the original church (the parishes were merged to Santa Lucia), Santa Maria Incoronata, which is now referred to as the St. Therese Chinese Church, is also due to be closed in the near-term. The church was opened in 1904.
These churches function not only as places of worship but also as cultural gems for the Italian Americans still living in these neighborhoods as well as those who have moved out but still return to take part in religious traditions such as processions for their Saints’ feast days. Below is a clip from a procession this past summer at the old Incoronata Church.
Similar Circumstances in New York
Not too long ago, we posted about the magnificent Feast of Saint Rocco, which is dutifully fulfilled each year by the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza and its president, Stephen LaRocca. The procession of Saint Rocco was always first carried-out from Saint Joachim and Anne which was on Catherine Street. When that church was tragically closed in the middle of the 20th century, the parishioners then matriculated to Saint Joseph (San Giuseppe) Church (5 Monroe St. New York, NY), which was the new center of the Italian immigrant community in the “Two-Bridges” or “Five Points” neighborhood now justifiably called Chinatown. Similar to what’s happening in Chicago, Saint Joseph was closed just a few years back, and the parishioners were forced to worship elsewhere. The statues in the San Giuseppe Church were translated to Most Precious Blood Church on Baxter Street and the processions now occur from Most Precious Blood, yet Mr. LaRocca tries to maintain as much authenticity in the procession as possible by processing the Saint Rocco statue passed Saint Joseph Church in a nod of respect and love for Saint Rocco and the former house of worship.
Countless Italian National Churches Closed
Countless Italian churches have closed in America over the last eighty years. Just recently, Santa Rosalia in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn was also shuttered and marked for demolition. The same sadly happened to Holy Rosary Church in Staten Island (207 Sand Lane Staten Island, NY) which has just recently been demolished.
No new Italian National Parishes will ever open due to the patterns of immigration today vs. those of the 19th and 20th centuries. Therefore, it is essential to keep these churches opened and the best way to help our friends in Chicago is to sign their petition (Link Below) in an effort to appeal to the powers that be, the Dioceses in charge of these decisions.
At Italian Enclaves we like to shed light on Italian American success stories. We also have an agenda to support Italian American-owned businesses, hence the establishment of the #SupportItalianAmericanBusinesses hashtag, which is becoming consistently more popular.
The success story that we are sharing today has to do with food, so we are even more excited. Patrizia’s is a family-owned business that is growing exponentially and if you haven’t been there yet, a visit is in order. Having humble origins in the East Tremont section of the Bronx, Patrizia’s started off as one location started by brothers, chefs and owners: Giacomo and Gennaro Alaio. Today, Patrizia’s has twelve locations. What To Expect
I first discovered Patrizia’s several years ago when my wife suggested that we try the restaurant out of pure boredom with our usual venues, so we traveled to Patrizia’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We had a great experience. The vibe was great as the restaurant was totally packed. We were still comfortably accommodated outside. Since then, we try to visit one of Patrizia’s locations (amidst the many other restaurants that we visit) when we are in the mood for a great Italian meal that is not going to break our bank.
Patrizia’s wisely offers diners an option to eat for $50 a person (with a $10 upgrade for lobster and artichoke). This includes 7 Appetizers, Homemade Pasta, 2 Entrees, Dessert, Unlimited Domestic Beer, House Wine, Sangria & Soda. Yes, you read that right. It is essentially unlimited food and wine/soda for $50 per person. I still haven’t met anyone who doesn’t take home a doggy bag. There is a link to the menu at the end of this article. Be warned, you will get hungry. The fare is not only portioned generously, it is delicious.
Lobster Patrizia’s Clams, Mussels, Roasted Garlic, White Wine Sauce
Pappardelle Alla Bolognese meat ragù topped with mascarpone
“Money Bags” Fioretti Alla Boscaiola “Our Famous Pasta” our signature homemade pasta in a tomato cream sauce (porcini mushrooms, green peas, prosciutto)
The extraordinary part about the incredible growth that is occurring with this business is that it is completely organic growth. What that simply means is that the restaurant has only relied upon its own success to grow and has received no outside funding. With a background in private equity, this was astonishing to me. Most companies let alone restaurants, that have the growth that is being enjoyed by Patrizia’s, usually require immense capital infusions from private equity funds or small brokerage firms. Even then, the profitability and growth rates are incomparable. What’s more, Patrizia’s appears to be recession hedged. As they have proven unparalleled scalability during an economic boon, Patrizia’s also seems to be priced for perfection in the event of an economic downturn thanks to the $50 per-person price-point for the incredible quality and quantity of food being offered.
Darden Restaurants and Dine Equity are the largest chain restaurant owners in the U.S. by market share. This means for every dollar spent in chain restaurants, these guys see the most pennies on that dollar than any other chain restaurant in the U.S. Although Patrizia’s is not yet a national brand or chain, their 12 restaurants speak to an unusually better growth rate than the 5% annual growth rate that the entire industry has seen on average, since 2013. This eclipses Darden and Dine Equity. In fact, Patrizia’s has grown at over 20 times that of the chain restaurant industry. That is a staggering number considering this has occurred by sheer profitability and reinvestment while at this juncture, they are still family-owned and operated. That may change soon, however. Conclusion
After several attempts over the last year to interact with Patrizia’s via Social Media to support their business, we were unsuccessful in getting a response. Growing so fast understandably keeps management busy. We finally heard back after erroneous share posts were made on Italian Enclaves Social Media accounts (that were shared from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn’s sitting councilman) which addressed a rumor that Patrizia’s was moving to the old location (85th Street and 3rd Avenue) of former Bay Ridge culinary phenomenon, Areo. Unfortunately for the folks in Bay Ridge, Matthew Maschi of Patrizia’s informed us that although no Bay Ridge location was in the works, the restaurant was opening a location in Hauppauge, Long Island (now opened).
This communication opened the door for me to take the opportunity to tell Matt how impressive Patrizia’s is as a family-owned business. He further informed me that the family is considering franchising. He also informed me that the business’ strategy is to open locations in family-oriented communities. This leads me to believe that if this family can replicate what they have done so far, we are going to be seeing and hearing a lot more about Patrizia’s.
By: Raymond Guarini
IBIS World Business reports http://www.patrizias.com/location/brooklyn/#menus/