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/
When most people want to donate something, they go to the Salvation Army because Salvation Army has spent years branding themselves as the place to go if you want to donate something. There are thousands of charities out there. Some are arguably more charitable than the Salvation Army. So why do we go to the Salvation Army? Because no one sees any advertising from the other charities. It’s that simple.
Since I created Italian Enclaves, I noticed that there are thousands of Italian American-owned businesses in the United States. Some of these businesses have been opened for over one-hundred years. If a business has lasted over one-hundred years in The United States, we should all know about it just by default, yet we do not. When a hot tech company goes public, we all know its name whether we watch the financial news channels or not. There is a cultural disconnect where our media celebrates new fly-by-night companies and yet no one at all knows about third or fourth-generation businesses that have weathered a century of storms in some obscure town. In the context of Italian neighborhoods, I try to bridge that huge gap by shedding light on countless Italian-owned businesses to hopefully keep them going.
Despite the massive number of Italian businesses that exist, I wouldn’t have known about many of them unless I traveled to the neighborhoods in which they are located. I wouldn’t have heard about them on Facebook or Instagram, I wouldn’t have seen them pop up in an e-mail or banner ad on a website, and I certainly wouldn’t have heard about them on social media pages and Italian-themed publications. Why? The answer is at least three-pronged: adaptability, popularity contests, and mentality.
PR, or public relations, is the cornerstone of any company’s advertising. As we know, advertising has been something that has changed dramatically within the last several years with the onset of social media taking over the way businesses engage one another and consumers. Essentially, businesses must stay relevant when it comes to remaining in-touch with consumers. This means that businesses must advertise in a way that is lockstep with technology such as using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Influencer Marketing, etc. Naturally, mom-and-pop businesses must also adapt to capitalize on the major growth opportunity that exists digitally in order to remain relevant to younger consumers. This evolution is simply not happening for most Italian American businesses. The result is that these businesses are closing at a rapid pace.
Technological illiteracy is certainly another chief reason why most Italian American businesses are unknown. Most old Italian businesses are run by the same people who have been running them for decades or their children. These people are set in their ways and unfortunately, being in technologically unsophisticated businesses, there’s a false assumption that technology is irrelevant to their success when the exact opposite is true.
Not only are many Italian American business owners mostly averse to technology, they are averse to anyone trying to help them just because many of the people who own multi-decades old businesses are from an era when publicity wasn’t always a good thing and staying under the radar was in everyone’s best interest. Well, we respect privacy and we certainly respect old-fashioned ideals, but what Italian Enclaves tries to do is shed light on these businesses so that although they are unwilling or incapable of using technology and social media, we can still help them by threading them into our newsfeeds.
You would be surprised at how many businesses are unwilling to let me photograph their establishments and promote their business. As a matter of fact, in one particularly interesting instance, I went into a business in Downtown Brooklyn to photograph and promote the business. The owner scowled at me right when I walked in the door. My limited Italian conversation wasn’t enough to disarm this gentleman and he proceeded to serve me dirty looks and held the niceties. I even explained the concept of Italian Enclaves and translated to him that I was there to be a paying customer who would also like to promote his business. Nothing. Not a thank you nor a curiosity as to how I would accomplish this. I might as well have been any other customer and that’s fine because I do not seek special treatment for what I do. It’s a zero-paying job that I conduct for a greater good so it’s all good.
Nevertheless, something funny happened. I never wound up posting about this business, but I did share my concern for the businesses’ lack of warmth on another social media thread. Low and behold, I received an inbox message from a concerned relative who was outraged by my lack of support for this business. I explained everything to this relative as to how the business owner could improve and I even offered to return on another day to try their product again and give them another chance to be positively featured on Italian Enclaves. Nothing ensued. I generously offered more of my time and an opportunity to shed a favorable light on this business because hey, everyone has a bad day now and then! If that family member is reading this, I am still here, and I am more than happy to give them another shot because that is only fair. Popularity Contests
Without naming the multitude of Italian-themed social media accounts one-by-one, we’ll just refer to them in aggregate as “Italian Social Media (ISM).” ISM has many faces. There are cooking and chef accounts, there are “lifestyle” accounts, comedy accounts, etc. Some Italian-owned businesses have done a wonderful job of remaining relevant by connecting to other ISM accounts through influencer marketing and by offering online shipping. Naturally, as “influencers” see other influencers posting about their favorite bakery, everyone else jumps on the bandwagon. This somewhat viralness positively affects the one or two businesses grabbing the attention such as Villabate in Bensonhurst, for example, and winds up hurting the competition. The argument can of course be made that this is a function of competition and survival of the fittest and for the most part that’s true; however, if the vast majority of social media followers falsely assume (because of what they’re told) that one business is the best and only show in town, then this notion of only shopping at that one business feeds on itself which winds up with that one business accumulating more followers, more likes, more hashtags, and eventually most of the business.
Being in the financial industry for fifteen years means that I have unwillingly watched a lot of CNBC and Fox Business. One would assume by just watching these media outlets that there are only twenty-or-so stocks in the entire equity market and the entire world’s economy revolves around those companies. Anyone who tunes in will agree that the companies we consistently hear about are: Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, Home Depot, and some other marquee names. Meanwhile, there are over 60,000 publicly traded companies out there. The analogy that I am making is that Social Media, like any media source, can be very deceiving when it comes to the way in which Italian American businesses are represented and presented.
Unlike the two main financial networks, there are many sources for information in the media and on social media regarding Italian American-themed news. Despite this fact, a similar phenomenon that occurs on CNBC and Fox News with regards to stocks is occurring with regards to Italian American businesses; only a few are mentioned. Herd Mentality
The same way Apple and Facebook are constantly discussed on CNBC and Fox News, the same Italian-owned businesses are discussed on social media and online publications over-and-over. This is a function of a few things including favors but chiefly, the herd mentality is to blame. The herd mentality dictates that if everyone else does something or goes somewhere, then it is expected for us to do that same thing or go to that same place too.
So, in the context of stocks, if everyone is buying or selling Apple, then you should too. Apple may or may not pay CNBC or Fox Business a lot of money to keep their stock in the news. There’s a lot of fine print in layers of disclaimers when it comes to stock news. Nevertheless, even if Apple didn’t incentivize the talking heads to discuss their company, they’re still discussed ad nauseum and this leads to a very predictable outcome which is that more people wind up buying and selling Apple stock more than other stocks. This inherently gives traders of Apple stock and market makers of Apple stock a clear financial boon. You get the picture. The same functions occur in Italian-themed media outlets when it comes to Italian-owned businesses. We only hear about the “biggest” and the “best” and then everyone wonders why the other businesses in their neighborhood wind up closing which cascades into residents leaving and eventually an exodus from the neighborhood occurs except those one or two businesses that remain to absorb the market share in their respective industry.
Here’s an example, and there are many others. Circo’s is a phenomenal Sicilian Bakery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Circo’s has been around for decades. Bushwick, along Knickerbocker Avenue, was a Sicilian enclave until the 1970’s. A series of convoluted events occurred which pressured the Italians in that community to leave. Granted, as a community dwindles, regardless of the reason, businesses close. What determines which businesses stay or go would generally be left to a simple Darwinian concept: survival of the fittest. Such is the case with Circo’s. Circo’s has a massive social media presence. They’re on Facebook and Instagram. They’re constantly being reviewed on food blogs and there are even tons of YouTube videos that acknowledge Circo’s. To boot, Circo’s adopted an e-commerce model to couple with their brick and mortar location.
Clearly, Circo’s survived the storm that claimed every other business in “Italian Bushwick.” One would be remiss if they didn’t ask about the other Italian businesses that once thrived in this neighborhood, especially the bakeries. Their failure was not directly brought forth by Circo’s success but rather, indirectly. Maybe other factors can be considered, such as whether Circo’s owns its building. This could give them an edge because by owning their property they’ll maintain a hedge against inflationary trends in the area’s rental market. Whatever the case may be, there’s one simple fact, which is that Circo’s has gotten with the times by remaining relevant and therefore, Circo’s continues to exist.
To apply the Circo’s case study to another Italian enclave, we will compare Circo’s to Villabate in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Unquestionably, they are both amazing Sicilian bakeries. Both bakeries, although competitive in the e-commerce shipping market, are mutually exclusive from one another by virtue of being located so far apart and are not necessarily in direct competition because people who live in a certain radius of Circo’s won’t go all the way to Bensonhurst for pastries and vice-versa.
Villabate sits lonely amongst Chinese storefronts on eighteenth avenue. Eighteenth avenue is Bushwick twenty years ago. Italians are leaving. Other ethnicities are moving in. Businesses are consolidating and closing their doors or relocating. Villabate, for each bakery that closes, gains more strength.
Villabate with a usual line in front
A box from the now defunct Cristoforo Colombo Bakery on 18th Avenue
A huge part of Villabate’s success is its quality. However, there are tons of other bakeries in Bensonhurst that all have amazing pastry. For example, Cristoforo Colombo bakery, was a block away but could not survive. Why? There are always more than one factor, but in this case, the culprit we mentioned before rears its ugly head again, the herd mentality. That favorite social media influencer goes to XYZ all the time and so should you. Hence, when people discuss where they’re getting their holiday pastry online or in person, it becomes almost a status symbol to keep up with the other Italians who have the herd mentality. This results in long lines at Villabate and shorter lines, and eventually no lines, elsewhere.
In order to preserve our Italian neighborhoods, we must preserve the businesses that are the character of those neighborhoods. To accomplish this, we must patronize these businesses and promote them on social media even if they do not have social media accounts. Many do not, unfortunately. However, we can geotag these places and create hashtags for them. Of course, it would not hurt at all to encourage these businesses to go online somehow and create a web presence. In addition, if you would like to help, please use the #SupportItalianAmericanBusinesses hashtag by inserting it along with photos and other posts that depict an Italian-owned business of any type.
Although we can never stop the hands of time and we certainly can not stop survival of the fittest from taking hold, there are ways we can prolong the existence of businesses that are so much a part of our families. Support these businesses. Support them on social media. Recommend them. Tag them. It is the only way we wind up with a level playing field and it is also the way we can preserve our Italian Enclaves in their totality.
Followers of Italian Enclaves on Facebook, Instagram, and on this blog are familiar with seeing photos featuring various Italian National parishes. To clarify for all of our readers, a National Parish is a parish that is created to specifically cater to a certain ethnic group. Masses are usually held in that ethnicity’s language and the customs specific to that group are found engrained in the practices within their parishes. For example, Italian National parishes were first created at the end of the 19th century to accommodate the tremendous immigration of Italians into the United States. Across America, Italian parishes began popping-up in the West Coast, the Midwest, the South and in the largest density of all, the East Coast. One of my goals in creating Italian Enclaves was to visit the still-existing Italian National parishes of America to not only photo-document them but to also have a chance to worship in these churches by either attending a mass there or venerating whichever saint statues or relics might be present. This is such a tall task because there are and have been so many that it’s possible to live an entire lifetime near a church and never walk into it.
Last Sunday, November 4th, I whimsically visited a small Italian national parish in Bath Beach, Brooklyn called Most Precious Blood. I was familiar with this church for years but never had a chance to visit. As I arrived two minutes before noon, I was graciously welcomed by the charming sound of the church’s bells calling all her faithful to mass.
The church building is relatively modern. There are many who prefer traditional churches from the 19th century over the mid-20th century modernistic architecture, but in its own right, Most Precious Blood is a formidable Roman Catholic church despite its size. The church is small and is quaintly decorated with beautiful stained-glass mosaics and several niches with gorgeous statues mostly reflecting the Italian devotions. There are Mother Cabrini, Saint Calogero, Saint Rocco, Saint Padre Pio, and so on.
A choir and the school’s 2nd grade catechism class were in the front pews which made the church feel even more family-oriented and inviting this particular day. As we all know, the aesthetics of a church and its parishioners can make going to mass special, but what really affects how we engage mass is the way in which it is presided.
Father Dominick decided he didn’t need the microphone and he didn’t deliver his homily from the altar. Instead, he came down amongst the parishioners and spoke to everyone with only his voice, which powerfully projected throughout the church. Father Dominick eloquently related the importance of November being the month of Holy Souls with a great story about his childhood. He importantly reminded us that the millions of souls in Purgatory require prayer in order to get into Heaven. He made the astute analogy that being in Purgatory was like being in a dark waiting area just outside Heaven. Souls in Purgatory can hear Heaven, they can see others going, but there is still a curtain between Heaven and Purgatory. The way into Heaven, or the party in his analogy, is through prayer. Without prayer, we can not go to Heaven nor can the souls in Purgatory.
Father Dominick related this concept to the parish in a way that funnily prescribes to the Italian culture. He told us a story about when he was a little boy. When he was little, after church, his responsibility was to bring the Italian bread home from the bakery for Sunday dinner. When he’d arrive home with the bread, he could smell the sauce on the stove cooking with the glorious infusion of meatballs and other fixings that go along with a traditional Italian Sunday dinner. Father Dominick reminisced about one time when no one was looking, he went into his mother’s pot of sauce and took out a meatball to quickly eat before anyone noticed. Sure enough, the meatball fell on his white dress-shirt and rolled down the shirt onto the floor, leaving behind a huge sauce stain. Father Dominick related this stain to sin. If he tried to clean the sauce stain himself without his mother knowing, it would be futile because as a kid he didn’t know how to clean a sauce stain from a pure white shirt properly. He could try as hard as he wanted but no matter what, without the proper means of removal a small stain remained, however faint. The stain he compared to sin and the fact that we may be good people with pure intentions in life but the shirt just like our souls, unless properly cleaned, would still be stained with sin. Naturally, Father Dominick explained how his Italian mother and grandmother would clean the shirt with bleach and some elbow grease to effectively remove the stain. This method of properly cleaning the shirt he related to prayer. Through prayer our souls are healed and cleansed of sin.
Father Dominick’s cute analogy really resonated. It hit home because it painted such a vivid picture of Sundays in most Italian American homes for at least the last 100 years in America. Sundays are not Sundays to Italian Catholics without Church and sauce and Church is not an effective part of our lives without prayer.
In order for us to be good Catholics we must do certain things. Charity and prayer are two of the most important cornerstones. With that in mind, I would like to ask you to please recite The Prayer to St. Gertrude the Great for The Release of 1,000 Souls From Purgatory:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.
The prayer of St. Gertrude is one of the most famous for souls in purgatory. St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century. According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from Purgatory each time it is said devoutly.
Before mass was ended, Father Dominick reminded us that if we do not pray for the souls in Purgatory, then they can not get to Heaven. He also reminded us that if we pray for these souls, then they will be there in Heaven helping us and praying for us in times of our own need here on God’s Earth.
I would like to strongly recommend my readers to visit Most Precious Blood church. Hear Father Dominick. It is becoming rarer that we see Italian National Parishes still being led by Italian Priests. There are also some great vestiges of the old Italian neighborhood that once thrived surrounding the church that you can enjoy exploring as well. This church was the heart and soul of that neighborhood in Bath Beach. From Most precious blood there were many feasts and processions. Today, although many of these traditions have faded, you can still visit the church and enjoy a beautiful mass and please try to be generous for their offertory so the church may persist.
In closing, I ask you to please offer your prayer to Saint Gertrude partially for the souls of all of our veterans who have left us and may still be waiting for the opening of the gates to Heaven. In honor of the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War 1 and the month of November being the month of Holy Souls, please offer these brave heroes your prayers so that they can continue onto Heaven and watch over us.
By: Raymond Guarini
Thanks to Anthony Scillia for enlightening me to St. Gertrude’s Prayer for the 1,000 Souls. Anthony has a wonderful blog that you ought to check out “where faith, food and friends meet” at : https://atthetablewithtony.wordpress.com/
Amongst the many Italian-themed organizations that were ever created, one stands out as potentially being one of the best and brightest. The Italian American Baseball Foundation was created in 2016 and was founded by Joseph Quagliano, Carmine Gangone, and former baseball player Frank Catalanotto. Amongst the members and affiliates of this organization are some of Baseball’s biggest Italian American names like John Franco, Mike Piazza, and Bobby Valentine just to name a few.
How it Started
The story behind this organization’s inception is smashing. While stationed in Rome, Salerno, and Nettuno during World War 2, Joe DiMaggio and other U.S. servicepeople taught the locals how to play baseball. This sparked a seed of interest in the sport which flourished and lasted generations into today. Baseball has always been “the” American sport but the flourishing interest in Italy has caught the eye of the IABF who not only seeks to sponsor Italian players, but players of all nationalities and backgrounds.
“…Is to promote the game of baseball…by developing youth talent through clinics with professional MLB instructors, individual training, and scholarships.”
The IABF donates baseball equipment to organized youth teams as well as individuals in need of uniforms, bats, gloves, cleats and more.
In addition, the IABF will provide scholarships or financial assistance to student-athletes that qualify academically to play baseball in the United States on the College and/or High-School level.
Incredibly moved by the foundation’s mission, former Met Allstar Ace, John Franco, has been an amazingly powerful force in the organization. This December, Mr. Franco will be honored as the IABF guest of honor at the organization’s 3rd annual fundraiser and cocktail reception, which is being held at Carmine and Son’s Restaurant on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The event will also honor Jon Paul Morosi, who is an in-game reporter for Fox Sports and MLB Network sports analyst.
Jon Paul Morosi, FOX News Commentator and MLB Analyst
The First Annual Columbus Day Party
Despite a plethora of Columbus themed events on the weekend immediately before Columbus Day, IABF threw its first major event at Russo’s On the Bay, and it was a huge success. The event was top-shelf with an incredible cocktail hour, a terrific DJ, raffles, and the master of ceremonies was 101.1 and Brooklyn’s own, Joe Causi.
Left to Right: Carmine Gangone, Joseph Quagliano, Gianpaolo Monzolillo, Mark Cardillo
Dececco donated delicious favors
Members and family members proudly pose for photos
The founders took the opportunity to present the organization’s President, Joe Quagliano, with an award for his hard work and sacrifice to the organization. Humbly receiving his award, Joe briefly and eloquently addressed the huge crowd which met his grace with awesome applause. Trip To Italy
At the reception at Russo’s On The Bay, the crowd was also given a first glimpse of a video documentary of the IABF’s recent trip to Italy. Last year the IABF brass, including John Franco, traveled to Rome, Sorento and Nettuno for scouting potential baseball players and to also possibly exchange personnel to Italy for staffing their teams. The IABF also donated a ton of equipment to their Italian counterparts. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for a link to the video). The Future
Baseball is part of America’s fabric and has done a good job of permeating into other cultures all over the globe. As the love for baseball spreads and the pool of potential players increases and diversifies, the IABF is in a unique position to capitalize as a conduit for players and leagues to find out about one another.
The meteoric rise of the IABF is something very uncommon and it is truly based on the sincere love of the sport as evidenced by the attraction and participation of top tier players like John Franco et al.
If you would like to contribute to this organization’s growth, please do so by purchasing a ticket for the upcoming event on December 6th and/or by making a tax free donation (links below).
October was full of festivities and celebrations for those of Italian Heritage. The chief celebration this year was NIAF’s annual gala weekend in Washington, DC. As the National Italian American Foundation kicked off its 43rd Gala Weekend, Italian Americans from all over the country poured into the nation’s capital to take part.
The weekend began with the cutting of the ribbon ceremony at NIAF’s new museum in Washington DC that pays homage to the Italian immigrant. This was followed by a grand evening of culinary perfection and photo opportunities with guest of honor, Lidia Bastianich.
Diane Marie Pisera gets her signed copy of Lidia’s cookbook
Diane Marie Pisera shares a picture of herself with Lidia
On Saturday, NIAF hosted EXPO Italiana, which featured some of the world’s best distributors of wine, food, coffee, cigars and more. Open panels discussed various issues surrounding Italian Americans. Over two-thousand people visited the Expo to experience the various products and learn more about the vendors at their booths.
Saturday evening, at the Marriott Wardman Park grand ballroom, a sold-out attendance was dazzled by an array of guests while dining on Pugliese delicacies. Singing both the National Anthems of Italy and the United States was Italian tenor, Marco Fiorante.
Amazingly, opera singer Carlos De Antonis brought the crowd to their feet with a standing ovation for his tantalizing performance of Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro.”
Taking the cake, Ambassador Peter Secchia, a NIAF board member, was announced to have given a 1.5 million-dollar donation to NIAF. This news ignited the ballroom into thunderous applause.
The air in the ballroom was so electric because it was fused with pride, love, and awe. The conversations in Italian and English, the clamor from cutlery, and the music all gave life to the room in a way that stands up to time. Forty-three years is a great streak for any annual gala.
We highly recommend you get your tickets as soon as possible for next year so that you can see the magic in a room when you are amongst the most successful Italians in the world.
I have been frantically racing against time for the last 6 years. After the neighborhood in which I live in Brooklyn started seeing a major uptick in the pace of shifting demographics, I set out to determine if a similar dissipation was happening to Italian neighborhoods in other parts of the United States. After traveling across the continent, it became scarily apparent that every Italian neighborhood was undergoing significant change.
The pile of names of Italian businesses that were closing started to quickly mount. I tried to visit as many of them as I could before their closing. In almost every place that I visited there was at least one business that was recently closed. Many of the businesses and churches that I have documented which were opened at the time of my visits over the last six years have closed or been demolished since I was there. The rate at which this is happening is alarming.
The necessity to maintain these businesses and institutions is critical. I have henceforth created a movement that I pray gains momentum which is underpinned by the following hashtag to bring attention to the importance of supporting Italian owned businesses: #SupportItalianAmericanBusinesses.
The following photos are just some of the many that I have accumulated that evidence a massive shift whereby Italian America is losing its identifiable boundaries. I hope you enjoy….
San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood has its fair share of businesses transitioning to oblivion
Federal Hill, Rhode Island. An old Italian restaurant just can’t survive
An old-school go-to stop in Wilmington, Delaware
A vacancy in Federal Hill by an Italian American realtor. This was once the heart of Federal Hill’s Little Italy
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Little Italy also seeing shuttered establishments
Marone’s Bakery in East Harlem.
Old signange haunting this street corner in Canarsie, Brooklyn
The Saint Francis of Padua school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn stands eerily vacant.
The now abandoned Saint Anthony social club on Villa Avenue in the Bronx
Federal Hill in Rhode Island being haunted by storefronts like this
A repurposed Bakery sign from an Italian bakery in the heart of Little Italy in Wilmington, Delaware
Off Taylor Street, in Chicago’s Little Italy, this old-fashioned restaurant is no longer serving patrons.
Another example of signage being maintained as a new business sprouts in Hoboken, New Jersey
A sign of the times in Manhattan’s last Little Italy neighborhood on Mulberry Street
A former neighborhood fixture on Villa Avenue in the Bronx. The sign still remains.
Little Italy in the Bronx, New York. Notice the name beautifully set in stained glass over the doorway.
Last night, I traveled to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to visit the Our Lady of The Snow Society’s Hall on Graham Avenue. This pocket of East Williamsburg has been Italian since the late 1800’s. The society just celebrated its 130th Feast Day of Our Lady of The Snow this past August 5th. Needless to say, this is one of the last remaining original Italian enclaves on the North American continent.
Society Members at the Society Hall Circa 1940
A look down Graham Avenue at the Society Hall Circa 1930
In replying to a Direct Message via our Italian Enclaves’ Instagram social media page, I had arranged to meet a younger member of the Our Lady Of the Snow Society at the Hall at 8:30pm, Wednesday August 29th. Little did either of us know when setting this date and time was that it would be 97 degrees and humid. Nevertheless, I made a commitment to see this place and to learn about the history of the society, and I am so happy that I did because this turned out to be one of my most interesting experiences since I began exploring Italian enclaves almost six years ago.
Upon arriving in front of the Our Lady of The Snow Hall on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, I was greeted by Allessando, the society’s youngest inducted member who initially contacted me with the suggestion to visit the society. After our formal in-person introduction, he guided me to the society’s club house down a narrow alley between the Hall and the building next door. Inside, a few tables were full of Italian men having coffee and playing Italian card games while watching Italian Television. I was immediately introduced to Vinny Raymond, the society of Our Lady of The Snow’s President.
Vinny quickly made me feel at home in the society’s clubhouse where right away he offered me an espresso as we began to discuss our common history and appreciation for old world traditions. We proceeded to tour the society’s upstairs, the hall which is elevated from its foundation with two staircases and Greek revival columns protectively overlooking its neighborhood’s main artery, Graham Avenue AKA Via Vespucci.
Plaque honoring the founding of the society hall 1888
Front view of the society hall on Graham Avenue
The Statue in the Society Hall which is a replica of the original in Rome
A look down Graham Avenue at the Society Hall Circa 1930
The Hall is beautifully decorated with a mural covering the entire back wall. The mural depicts the town and mountain top of Esquiline Hill where the miracle of Our Lady of The Snow occurred in Rome, Italy. On the Same wall there is a niche made for the Madonna Statue, which is an exact replica of the statue in the town in Italy. Please find the story of Our Lady of The Snow below:
The Statue in the Society Hall which is a replica of the original in Rome
The mural in the society hall depicting the mountaintop where La Madonna promised snow in Rome.
Plaque honoring the founding of the society hall 1888
Almost on queue, as we left the hall and descended its steps, a car driving along Graham Avenue slowly approached and stopped directly in front. Out of the passenger side of the car emerged an elderly gentleman of strong, fluid motion not to be expected of a 97-year-old. As the man walked over wearing his WW2 hat which also indicated that he was in Korea as well, I was told that he is the former President of the society of Our Lady of The Snow. I was then introduced to Joseph San Pietro where I introduced myself and thanked him for his service to our country before we entered into the society club house.
As an avid world war 2 buff and given my significant love of Italian American history, it is needless to say that I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to sit with a Veteran of World War 2 who also happens to be an Italian American of great respect and historical consequence. As our conversation progressed from his landing on Okinawa in the third wave of the assault in one of the bloodiest battles in human history, I also learned to my astonishment that Joe also served in Korea after World War 2. I could stop writing his resume right there and he would be an amazing man, but incredibly, Joe went on to become an New York Police Department detective and wound up on the “racket squad” with the collar of Joe Colombo under his belt. This arrest would become one of the most famous photographs of any mobster in custody with Detective San Pietro pictured behind the mob boss walking him to his legal fate.
I was enamored by Mr. San Pietro because he is the epitome of the American hero. He is part of the “Greatest Generation” at 97 years old and we should all emulate his patriotism and moral fortitude. He also vigilantly attends society meetings and is extremely active in the society’s pursuit of honoring the story of Our Lady of The Snow. Please find the below photos which depict certain medals and photos from the society’s club house.
I made a post a while back about a young man in Italy who was in the process of possibly becoming a Saint. We are extremely happy to inform our readers that Carlo Acutis’ cause has moved further along when on July 5th Pope Francis authorized The Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree which advances Acutis’ cause and names him Venerable.
Carlo Acutis was born on May 3rd, 1993. He was raised in Milan and gravitated to computers. He remarkably created a website that catalogued every Marian apparition which led to the birth of the international exhibition: The Eucharistic Miracles of the World.
Acutis passed away on October 12th, 2006 at 15 years old. He was an extremely pious young man and would attend church daily to receive the Eucharist. He frequently said the rosary and dedicated his life to his love of God.
What an amazing example of a young man willfully choosing to lead a moral life in a world rife with temptation. Carlo Acutis should be an example for young men and women throughout the entire world.