Italian America Magazine - Spring 2021

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A Gift for Nicholas The Cure for Cooley's Anemia

Da Dove Vieni Where Are you From?

The Dying City Lives On Civita di Bagnoregio Rises from the Fog

Keeping a Promise A Journey to My Grandfather's Town


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b ColavitaUSA @ColavitaUSA ColavitaUSA

It Starts with Colavita. AMERICA Find recipes and more atITALIAN



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T h e O ff i c i a l P u b l i c a t i o n o f t h e O r d e r S o n s a n d D a u g h t e r s o f I t a l y i n A m e r i c a ®




Civita di Bagnoregio Rises From the Fog By Tiffany Eastham


A GIFT FOR NICHOLAS The Cure for Cooley’s Anemia By Miles Ryan Fisher

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A Journey to My Grandfather’s Town By Barbara Torre Veltri


(Where Are You From?) By Francesca Fierro

ON THE COVER: Civita di Bagnoregio, known as “The Dying City,” rests upon a hill from which there is one way in and one way out. (milosk50)

D E PA R T M E N T S 2 National News 4 Oggi 5 Regions 6 Mangia 8 Pagina Italiana

13 Bulletin Board 14 Our Story 15 Book Reviews 26 OSDIA Nation 31 From the President's Desk

32 Foundation Focus 33 Fighting Stereotypes 34 Letters to the Editor 35 The Last Word 36 Piacere

ITALIAN AMERICA is published by the ORDER SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF ITALY IN AMERICA 219 E Street NE • Washington, DC 20002 • Phone: (202) 547-2900 • Web: Editor-in-Chief: Miles Ryan Fisher Writers: Tiffany Eastham; Evelyn Achtelik; Nikki Taylor; Barbara Torre Veltri; Francesca Fierro; Felicia Marianna Naoum Translator: Serena Lonigro Proofreader: Peggy Daino, Marlene Palazzo Graphic Designer: Diane Vincent To advertise: Contact (202) 547-2900

Italian America Magazine is a publication of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA), the nation’s biggest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage. To subscribe, see or call (202) 547-2900. ITALIAN AMERICA

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Dodgers Icon Tommy Lasorda Dies at Age 93

“If you start worrying about the people in the stands, before too long you’re up in the stands with them.” - Tommy Lasorda Lasorda was born on September 22, 1927, to the ItalianAmerican neighborhoods of Norristown, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia. His father, Sabatino, had emigrated from the Abruzzo region, and his mother was named Carmella. As a young boy, he supported the family’s income by taking jobs that included laying track for the Pennsylvania Railroad and working as a bellhop. More than a manager, Lasorda was regarded as a face of baseball and considered one of its greatest ambassadors. “Tommy welcomed Dodger players from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere—

making baseball a stronger, more diverse and better game,” said Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. Lasorda was known as a colorful character of the game—someone who would wear his emotions on his sleeve, whether that meant jumping for joy on the Tommy Lasorda with Dr. field of play or chewing Anthony Fauci at the 1997 SIF NELA Gala. out one of his players for a lackluster performance. In the end, Lasorda was known as the manager who could take an average group of players and elevate them to elite status. For this, he was elected to Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1997.

(mark reinstein)

The man who always said that he bled Dodger blue, Tommy Lasorda, passed away last January at age 93. Lasorda, who was best known for his 20-year role as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, spent a total of 71 seasons with the organization—a tenure extending back to when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. As manager, he led the Dodgers to two World Series championships— including the 1998 series that featured Kirk Gibson’s dramatic home run—four National League pennants, and eight division titles.

It was in 1997 that the Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF) also honored Lasorda with the Humanitarian Award at its National Education and Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala. “It’s an organization with a heart,” Lasorda said about OSDIA in his acceptance speech. “It’s an organization that does so much good throughout this great nation of ours, and I’m proud about that.”

USPS Honors Yogi with Stamp The United States Postal Ser vice commemorated Yogi Berra last January by honoring him with a postage stamp, which will be released later this year. As one of the most beloved ballplayers in baseball history, Yogi was not simply a Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, he was a person who surmounted adversity and then used his achievements to better the lives of others. He carried his good nature with him until he passed away in 2015 at age 90. When it came to creating the stamp, USPS Art Director Antonio Alcalá focused particularly on this trait. “I wanted to make sure that the stamp had a certain energy—that SPRING 2021


it wasn’t just like a typical baseball card.” The artist that Alcalá hired, Charles Chaisson, chose to focus on Yogi’s face, and particularly his smile, as the main feature, incorporating a Yankees cap and chest protector to further identify him. “I just remember my father smiling all the time,” said Larry Berra, Yogi’s son. “And I’d rather have his face showing than hidden behind the mask.” The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA) presented Yogi with the Sports Award at its 46th Biennial Convention.


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Island Selected as Italy Cultural Capital of 2022 Situated in the Gulf of Naples between the island of Ischia and the coast of Naples, Procida was announced as Italy’s Cultural Capital for 2022. It is the first Italian island to receive this distinction since the award originated in 2014. Procida, like many of Italy’s coastal towns to the west, is known for its colorful homes and stunning views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The island has a history that dates back to the 15th century B.C., and it currently has about 10,000 inhabitants. In applying for the honor, Procida promoted itself through the saying la cultura non isola (culture does not isolate). “It will accompany Italy in the year of its rebirth,” said Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini. The current capital, Parma, was chosen for 2020 and will continue to hold the title through 2021 due to the pandemic. After Procida carries the honor, the next in line to be considered for it are the towns of Bergamo and Brescia, both located in the Lombardy region.

The colorful island of Procida was created by the eruptions of four volcanoes that are all now submerged. (S-F)

Conte Steps Down, Super Mario Becomes Prime Minister Last February, Mario Draghi was sworn in as Italy’s Prime Minister, taking over for Giuseppe Conte at the behest of Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Draghi, who was nicknamed “Super Mario” for his role in helping to save the Euro, formerly served as head of the European Central Bank. Now, he faces two challenges: the coronavirus and a faltering domestic economy. To tackle them, he has been given $240 billion in recovery funding from the European Union to reverse what was reported to be the worst economic downturn Italy has seen since World War II.

Draghi becomes the seventh Prime Minister in the past decade and is very familiar with Italy’s government, having once served as a director of Italy’s treasury. He begins his tenure with the support of all but one of Italy’s major parties, and should he continue to find such wide-ranging parliamentary support, he could serve in the position until the next scheduled elections in 2023. “We have available the extraordinary resources of the European Union,” Draghi stated. “We have the chance to do a lot for our country with a careful eye to the future for young generations and to strengthen social unity.”


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The City of Chocolate While many may not be able to name the capital of the Umbria region, many of them will certainly be familiar with the name Perugia. Though the city has a significant history, its name conjures up thoughts of chocolate. After all, Perugia is home to Perugina, the company that produces the world’s beloved Baci (“kisses”) chocolates. For this reason, Perugia plays host to the Eurochocolate Festival every October. The city also hosts the famous Umbria Jazz Festival in July. Perugia, which is equidistant from Rome and Florence, is located in the center of Umbria, which is in the center of Italy. Its history runs deep, as it was founded by the Etruscans in 300 BC and was one of Etruria’s major cities. In fact, the original Etruscan city walls are still standing today just inside the medieval walls that were built later. FUN FACT: Perugia’s city symbol is the griffin and is represented as statues throughout the city. Arts and culture have always been a focal point of the city, so it is no surprise that Perugia is home to one of Italy’s oldest and most well-known universities: the University of Perugia, founded in 1308. It is also home to the Universita per Stranieri (University for Foreigners), a university where thousands of students from all over the world come to study Italian language and culture. In the center of Perugia lies the main square—the Piazza IV Novembre—and its Fontana Maggiore, a fountain that was built in 1275 to commemorate the freedom of Perugia. Around this square are several of

A look down the 120-foot-deep Etruscan Well. (Francesco de Marco)

Perugia’s main attractions, including the Perugia Cathedral and the Palazzo dei Priori. The Cathedral, known in Italian as the Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Lorenzo, is dedicated to Saint Lawrence and, though constructed in 1587, its front façade remains unfinished. The Palazzo, which serves as the Town Hall, contains frescoes painted by Pietro Perugino, teacher of Raphael (who also painted in Perugia, though none of his paintings remains there). Inside the Palazzo is the National Gallery of Umbria. Perhaps one of the greatest sites of the city is not above ground, but rather below. The Etruscan Well is about 120 feet deep and 15 feet in diameter and was built in the third century BC. In 1996, the well was drained in order to allow visitors to travel all the way down to the bottom of the well. But whether one is observing the beauty above ground or exploring below ground, one thing is certain: every place in the city is a good place for some Baci.

Perugia Capital of: Umbria Region Province: Perugia Population: 168,066 U.S. Sister Cities: Grand Rapids, Michigan Perugia’s main square, Piazza IV Novembre, with the Fontana Maggiore and, on the left, the Perugia Cathedral. In the upper right, you will see one of Perugia’s many griffin statues. (Marco Rubino) ITALIAN AMERICA

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Mamacita’s Olive Dip

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Ingredients 1 scant cup green Spanish olives (add more to taste) 2+ T sour cream 8 oz. cream cheese Salty crackers • Slice the olives into pieces. Thinly slice them for mild texture or cut them into chunks for bolder flavor. • Mash the cream cheese with a fork in a bowl. It’s easier to mash when the cream cheese is at room temperature. • Add 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream and mix well. Add more sour cream to taste (quanto basta). • When mixed well, fully incorporate the sliced olives.Taste and add ingredients accordingly. Add just a little because you can always add more later! Store in refrigerator and serve with your favorite salty crackers. Ingredients 1 lb. ground pork 1 lb. ground beef from chuck 1 egg ¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs 1½ tsp salt 1 tsp fresh ground pepper 2 fresh garlic cloves minced 2 tsp dried basil 1 tsp dried oregano 1½ T fresh Italian parsley finely chopped 2 T ground parmigiana cheese • At room temperature, mix the meat and all other ingredients by hand in a large mixing bowl. • Roll meatballs into 2-inch balls and place on oven-safe baking tray. • Preheat oven to 350°F. • Bake for 40 minutes. Or, cook meatballs for 25 minutes then let simmer in the pasta sauce for at least 45 minutes or longer. If you liked these recipes, find more in Don’t Cut The Basil: Five Generations of Authentic Italian Recipes. SPRING 2021



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Delle polpette calde per Paolo TRANSLATED BY SERENA LONIGRO

Mi chiamo Paolo e questa è la mia storia. Sono nato ad Avellino, una piccola città della Campania. Eravamo in sei: mia madre e i miei cinque fratelli. Non ho mai conosciuto mio padre e mia madre non lo ha mai menzionato. Non sono stato a lungo con la mia famiglia, però. Mi è sempre piaciuto vagare alla ricerca di prelibatezze, ma un giorno mi sono perso e quando ho ritrovato la strada del ritorno, mia madre e i miei fratelli erano spariti.

non andava. Ho visto Giovanni con le lacrime agli occhi parlare di qualcosa come “università” ... qualunque cosa significasse. Quella è stata l’ultima volta che Gianna mi ha portato le polpette. Col passare del tempo, ho perso alcuni denti e le ossa spesso mi fanno male. Una volta Giovanni mi ha portato delle polpette calde e ho fatto i salti di gioia. Ma poi anche lui mi ha lanciato quello sguardo triste. Mi ha accarezzato la testa e ha detto qualcosa come “pensione”.

Da quel momento in poi, ho vissuto da solo. Ho trovato un bel posto, vicino ad un ristorantino, A Giovanni Piace, e piaceva anche a me! Giovanni era un uomo molto amichevole. Quando glielo chiedevo educatamente la sera, mi dava degli avanzi della giornata. Pasta, pancetta, salame e… mmm… le polpette!

Le settimane, i mesi e gli anni successivi sono stati molto duri. Ho dovuto trovarmi da mangiare da solo, e forse vi è difficile immaginarlo, ma le persone non sempre mi vogliono intorno! Dicevano che ero troppo grosso, troppo affamato. Mi chiamavano “sporco bastardo”. Non sapevo cosa significasse, ma sapevo che non era niente di buono.

Le polpette erano le mie preferite perché erano così deliziose, e me le portava la sua adorabile nipote, Gianna. Com’era dolce il suo nome. Ogni volta che veniva da me, sapevo che Dio è veramente generoso! A volte le polpette erano ancora calde. Queste erano quelle che preferivo. Non perché non le avrei mangiate fredde, ma perché sapevo che Gianna le aveva fatte apposta per me. La vita non era facile, ma era bella. E se me lo aveste chiesto, avrei potuto vivere così per sempre.

Mi sono trovato un posto vicino a Piazza Solimena ma trovare del cibo era difficile. A volte non mangiavo anche per due giorni. Allora non mi restava che rannicchiarmi, chiudere gli occhi e sognare le cose belle della vita. Pasta, pancetta, salame e… mmm… le polpette.

Un giorno Gianna è venuta da me la mattina presto. Non ho capito tutto quello che mi ha detto, ma ha portato una porzione di polpette calde più grande del solito e le ho dato un grosso bacio sulla guancia. Mi ha dato un bacio sulla fronte e dal suo sguardo triste ho capito che qualcosa




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Ricordo un sogno, sembrava quasi che le polpette di Gianna fossero proprio davanti a me! Avevo gli occhi chiusi e annusavo e annusavo. Il mio naso non mente mai: polpette e un ragazzo, un umano. Gli ho dato una leccata e ho sentito una piccola risatina. “Enzo,” disse una voce familiare. Anche la voce mi ricordava le polpette! Poteva mai essere ... “Enzo, questo è Paolo. Un mio vecchio amico.” Era Gianna, che adesso era molto più grande, e quel bambino le teneva la mano come se fosse il suo cucciolo. Gianna mi ha abbracciato, e io l’ho seguita in quella che lei chiamava casa. Ha dato a me ed Enzo un piatto con delle polpette calde e io ho guardato Enzo tristemente. Ci vuole dire addio?

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Enzo non sembrava preoccupato. Quando si è fatto buio, Gianna ha messo una coperta a terra per me, accanto a dove dormiva Enzo. Serena Lonigro was born and raised in Napoli. She graduated from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” with a degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures and now works in marketing and news media. ITALIAN AMERICA

Warm Polpette for Paolo BY EVELYN ACHTELIK

My name is Paolo, and this is my story. I was born in Avellino, a little town in Campania. We were six—my mamma and my five siblings. I never got to meet my dad, and my mom never mentioned him. I was not long with my family, though. I always liked to roam in search of delicacies, but one day I got lost, and when I found my way back, mamma and my siblings were gone. From then on, I lived by myself. I found a nice spot, next to a little restaurant—A Giovanni Piace—and I liked it, too! Giovanni was a very friendly man. When I asked him politely in the evening, he would give me some leftovers from the day. Pasta, pancetta, salami, and … mmm … polpette! The polpette were my favorite because they were so scrumptious, and they were brought by his lovely granddaughter, Gianna. How fitting the name was. Whenever she came over, I knew that God truly is gracious! Sometimes the polpette were still warm. These were my favorites. Not because I wouldn’t have eaten them cold, but because I knew Gianna made them just for me. Life was not easy, but life was good. And if you asked me, life could be like this forever. One day, Gianna came to me early in the morning. I didn’t completely understand what she told me, but she brought more warm polpette than normal, and I gave her a big kiss on her cheek. She gave me a kiss on the forehead, and as she looked at me sadly, I had a feeling that something was wrong. I saw Giovanni with a tear in his eye, talking about something like “university” ... whatever that meant. That was the last time she brought me polpette. As time passed by, I lost some teeth, and my bones sometimes hurt. One time, Giovanni brought me some warm polpette, and I jumped out of happiness. But then he gave me that sad look, too. He pet my head and said something like “retirement.” The next weeks, months, years, were very hard. I had to find food myself, and you maybe can’t imagine, but people did not always want to have me around! They said I was too big, too hungry. They called me a “dirty mutt.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it was nothing good. I found a spot close to Piazza Solimena, and finding ITALIAN AMERICA

food was hard. Sometimes I didn’t eat for two days. Then there was nothing left but for me to curl up, close my eyes, and dream of the good things in life. Pasta, pancetta, salami, and … mmm … polpette. I remember a dream, as if Gianna’s polpette were right in front of me! I kept my eyes closed and sniffed and sniffed. My nose never lies. Polpette and human boy. I gave him a lick, and I heard a little giggle. “Enzo,” a familiar voice said. Even the voice reminded me of polpette! Could this be … “Enzo, this is Paolo. An old friend of mine.” It was Gianna, who was now much older, and that boy held her hand like he was her puppy. Gianna gave me a hug, and I followed her, to what she called casa. She gave me and Enzo both a plate with warm polpette, and I looked sadly at Enzo. Does she want to say goodbye to us? Enzo didn’t seem worried. When it got dark, she put a blanket on the ground for me, next to where Enzo slept. Evelyn Achtelik has an MSc in Agriculture. She loves all animals, especially dogs, and loves to sing. To listen to her music, look for Evelyn Acht on YouTube and her song “Olive Tree in Italy.”

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Civita di Bagnoregio Rises From the Fog


Seeing Civita di Bagnoregio rise out of the fog was like the first time I emerged from the metro in Rome, gazing up at the base of the Colosseum. All I could do was stare and admire. “The Dying City,” perched on this volcanic hill, appeared to hang in mid-air, and to some extent, it does. As its base continues to crumble with time and erosion, you can almost hear the cliffs creak under the weight of the wind that whipped through the Valle dei Calanchi below. My now husband and I had just spent the last few days wandering through Rome, absorbing all the major sites shoulder-to-shoulder with other eager tourists. We returned to our hotel that afternoon, just steps from St. Peter’s Basilica, and listened as Pope Francis conducted a public mass to a large assembly of people outside our window. An incredible bucket list experience for sure, yet we were spent from the city crowds, city noises, and— literally—city prices. As we lounged on our bed, eating

pizza straight from its takeaway box, I began to research lesser-known towns and landmarks near Rome that might catch my attention. It was time for something off the beaten path. I stumbled upon a picture of Civita di Bagnoregio online and stopped scrolling. “There’s no way this place is real,” I gasped to Ken. It looked like an island floating in the clouds—the perfect setting seemingly sprouted from a film director’s imagination. But no, Civita was unbelievably real and full of history. This timeworn town is located in Viterbo, a province in the Lazio region. Just 75 miles north of Rome, it makes for a perfect day trip. Civita di Bagnoregio was founded by the Etruscans, Italy’s ancient people, more than 2,500 years ago. Their ancient civilization, known at one time as Etruria, covers the modern regions of Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria. Civita was a thriving town in the earliest centuries

A full view of “The Dying City.” (Shcherbina Valeriy)




BC and continued to flourish through the medieval period despite succumbing to Roman power. It also served as an important settlement for the Etruscans, and eventually the Romans, due to its prime location along major trade routes of the time. Additionally, its location atop a staggering hill made it easily defendable and protected it from lowland floods and outbreaks of malaria that coursed through towns nestled along the river below. The city’s unfortunate decline began during the 14th century when the majority of its population was annihilated by the plague that swept across Italy. It did see a resurgence in the following centuries with social and economic growth, but the year 1695 marked a devastating turning point that threatened the longevity of “The City in the Sky.” Local residents had gradually begun to relocate to nearby, more stable ground due to ongoing earthquakes and landslides that rattled Civita’s core. The massive earthquake of 1695 struck Civita with such devastation that not only created irreparable damage to its fragile buildings, but also caused an entire eastern section of the cliffside to collapse and plummet into the jagged ravine below. This ultimately drove many of the remaining

residents away and would contribute to the city’s continual decay in the following centuries, lending it the name La Città che Muore, or “The Dying City.” Today, the current population of permanent residents range from just five to ten individuals, with many of the shop and restaurant owners living nearby in the sister town beneath, known as simply Bagnoregio, due to the ongoing geological threats. As a tourist myself, I sometimes worry about the impact that my own travels may have on such ancient landmarks as they succumb to the strain of mainstream tourism. “The Dying City,” on the other hand, has been given a new lease on life because of the positive impact that tourism has had in recent years. With ongoing, inevitable destruction along Civita’s borders comes the need to protect and save the crumbling plateau. Interestingly, Civita is the only city in Italy to charge an entrance fee. The five or so euros it charges per person has continued to help fund preservation and maintenance work in an effort to save what is left of the town. In a way, tourism has truly saved Civita, and with its future uncertain, it has experienced an increase in visitors eager to catch a glimpse of this special place while they still can.

The 984-foot-long bridge that connects Bagnoregio to Civita di Bagnoregio. (Valerio Mei)



The rock face of the hill upon which the city is perched. (ermess)

The narrow, winding walkways inside the city. (canadastock)

So, after doing my research, I was convinced that we needed to make the trip to see this ancient city. We managed to find train tickets leaving Termini station to Orvieto, where we would taxi up to Bagnoregio. There was a bus that was a cheaper option than the taxi, but I knew that the schedules for these smaller towns are sparse and often unreliable. Many visitors also arrive by car, though I personally haven’t mustered enough courage to attempt to drive in Italy yet!

We walked farther down this slender street that opened up to Piazza San Donato, where the town’s main church of the same name stands. With only a handful of restaurants and other small attractions around—such as a small, working farm and the tiniest museum I’ve ever seen—I quickly realized that the biggest attraction in Civita was Civita itself.

Our first glimpse of Civita came from a lofty lookout point that made the nearby city appear miles away. In the distance, the morning fog was beginning to clear and revealed the colossal base of Civita’s towering façade that jutted toward the sky. Fortunately for us, the fog gave way to a clear day in early summer that allowed for panoramic views of other distant mountains and rugged, green landscapes. I fumbled for my phone as others around me also did to capture what we saw. We purchased our entry tickets and began the ascent up Civita’s only accessible footpath. This 984-foot-long bridge connects Bagnoregio to Civita and has had its own fair share of instability and erosion resulting in the need for ongoing renovation. We took our time walking up, not only to catch our breath, but to also take in the views and stay clear of the Vespas and small trolleys that zoomed past to transport goods up to this medieval gem. At the top, we were greeted by Porta Santa Maria, a centuries-old archway that transported us back into the town’s history once we stepped through it. Several cats strolled beside us inside the brick tunnel, almost as if they were leading us to Piazza San Pietro, a small town square dotted with hanging flower baskets and rustic stone walls. SPRING 2021


We stopped for an Aperol Spritz and some bruschetta at a café tucked around a corner, offering us the opportunity to really appreciate the slower pace and quietness of this little town. We later chatted briefly with a local woman who, through broken English, thoughtfully explained how over the decades she has witnessed cliff-side houses give way and collapse into the valley below. “It’s sad,” she shrugged, “but what can you do?” As we approached the end of our passeggiata— wandering through rusted wrought iron gates, exploring garden terraces full of crumbling bricks, and navigating more twisted stone stairways than we could count—it was time to make our way back to reality and catch our returning train to Rome. My last glimpse of Civita was at the base of the footpath. I stared up at the overgrown vines and other greenery around nearly every wall and railing. It was so beautiful it almost seemed intentional. Though the instability of Civita di Bagnoregio is obvious and its ultimate downfall seems inevitable, perhaps its life and history can be prolonged for many more generations and for many more eyes to see. Tiffany Eastham ( is a freelance writer and international travel enthusiast. Catch her in a nearby cat café planning for the next bucket list destination. ITALIAN AMERICA



OSDIA Launches Shared Member Profiles Connect with OSDIA Members from Across the Country! The Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA) are proud to introduce their newly launched “OSDIA Member Profiles” initiative designed to allow all members to connect with each other for purposes of networking, travel advice, genealogy, book/movie/recipe recommendations, etc. It is important to know that, though they are a great way to connect with members from across the country, the OSDIA Member Profiles are completely voluntary. In order to be a part of the OSDIA Member Profile community, you must log into your Member Account on www. If you do not know your Member Account information, please contact your Grand Lodge or Subordinate Lodge. Once you log in, you will see on the left side two new tabs: “My OSDIA Shared Member Profile” and “Search OSDIA Shared Member Profiles.” If you click on the tab “My OSDIA Shared Member Profile,” it will take you to a form where you can fill out as much information as you want to share. You will see several areas in which you can share all sorts of information that can help you connect with OSDIA members across the country. Please be sure to click the consent button at the top so that your profile gets shared.

If you click on the tab “Search OSDIA Shared Member Profiles,” it will take you to a search form that you can use to search for other shared Member Profiles using general or specific search criteria.

Would you like to find members who have ancestors from Abruzzo? You can connect! Would you like to find members who have traveled to Calabria? You can connect! Would you like to find members who work in the same field as you? You can connect! There are many reasons for all of us in the OSDIA community to connect with one another and now we have a way to do just that—no matter the geographic distance is between us! Need Help Logging In? If you need help logging in to your Member Account on, please contact your Grand Lodge or Subordinate Lodge (if your lodge does not have a Grand Lodge).


SPRING 2021 13



An Aussie in Italy Finding a Piece of the Good Life I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, which functions like a big country town. I was working in the real estate industry, and this is where my passion for property started. I was fascinated with buying old properties and restoring them into absolute masterpieces. Back in 2000, Perth went through a mini-recession, so I moved to London with the idea of staying a year and traveling around Europe. One of the first places I visited in Europe was Italy. In Florence, beauty surrounded me at every corner. I had never seen anything like it. For a Perth girl, seeing such ancient architecture and history felt like a whole new world. I fell in love with it instantly and said to myself, “One day, I am going to retire here.” But because I was only 21, the thought of retirement didn’t really cross my mind much, so the dream of living in Italy was forgotten. During my time in London, I traveled to Italy five or six times. With each visit, my love for this beautiful country grew stronger. Still, I hesitated to make the move because I was making career connections in London. Fast forward almost 15 years and I was living in Sydney, working 12-hour days in the investment banking industry. I felt completely burnt out. I knew that I wanted more from life than being stuck in an office 12 hours a day. One night, while sitting at an Italian restaurant with a friend, I said, “I am going to leave Sydney and move to Italy.” She thought it was the wine talking. But I was serious. I had a UK passport from living in London for 12 years, so logistically, I knew I could make it happen. I didn’t let the small detail of not knowing any Italian deter me (nor the fact that the country was in an extreme economic crisis). I started learning basic conversational Italian at a language school in Sydney, and the wheels toward Italy were in motion. After four months of learning Italian, I sold all of my furniture, left the security of my career in banking, and moved to Bolzano (Trentino-Alto Adige region) with four suitcases. All of my friends and family thought I was crazy, yet at the same time they admired me for my courage. Upon arriving in Bolzano, I found a marketing position, which required English, at a global luxury real estate firm.



As much as I loved the village and the stunning mountains of Bolzano, I naturally missed the beach. I guess that’s the Aussie in me—having grown up by the beach, it’s part of my soul. I knew that the best beaches in Italy were in the south, Nikki sits among the trulli so I started doing between the towns of Ostuni and some research. I reMartina Franca, where she lives. (Maximilliano Tenuta) membered that my Italian teacher in Sydney was from the Puglia region, down in the heel of the boot. I googled Puglia and fell in love with the stunning coastline and quaint Baroque-style seaside towns. I moved to Monopoli and started working for a real estate and luxury holiday rental firm there. My role was to oversee all the international client real estate transactions. It was then that I realized a common theme among my clients, many of whom had the same questions, doubts, and fears about purchasing a property in Italy. They wanted to understand the process and learn how they could manage Italian property while living overseas. This is what inspired me to create a Facebook global community called “How to Confidently Buy Property in Italy and live La Dolce Vita.” The group connects me to interesting people from all over the world. Many of the members are Italian Americans with a dream of connecting to their family heritage by purchasing property in Italy. And who could blame them for wanting their own slice of la dolce vita? Certainly not I. Nikki Taylor manages a Facebook group called “How to Confidently Buy Property in Italy and live La Dolce Vita,” where professionals help guide members on how to navigate their way through the Italian property system with ease and confidence. ITALIAN AMERICA



TONY LAZZERI: Yankees Legend and Baseball Pioneer By Larry Baldassaro

Befor e ther e was Joe DiMaggio, there was Tony Lazzeri. The de facto captain of the Yankees during the days of Murderers’ Row, Lazzeri was second in popularity only to Babe Ruth. Unfortunately, Lazzeri’s monumental contributions—both on and off the field—have gone largely unnoticed, something that biographer Larry Baldassaro seeks to change. A laconic boy from San Francisco, Lazzeri battled his way to the big leagues, combatting not just opposing pitchers but also epilepsy. What he brought to the Yankees was one of the first second basemen to ever hit for power and a leader that every teammate sought for advice. Yet, as this biography so aptly depicts, what he brought to American culture was by far greater.

DID YOU KNOW? The first Italian-American baseball player was Ed Abbaticchio, who debuted with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1897. At a time when anti-immigrant and anti-Italian sentiment ran high, Lazzeri upended Italian-American stereotypes. Such stereotypes, as Baldassaro shows, pervaded sportswriters’ columns as did the epithets that came with them. In addition to disproving stereotypes, Lazzeri is the player who brought Italian Americans to the ballpark—both figuratively and literally. Because of him, baseball quickly became the sport of choice for Italian-American boys. Perhaps what truly makes this biography inspiring is the kind of man Lazzeri was. He faced and surmounted a steady stream of doubt and unfairness that plagued him through life in spite of his successes. Yet he never took his personal struggles out on others, going so far as to even develop the very player who replaced him. It is in this—the journey of a man who not only shaped culture, but did so in a humble and dignified way—that makes Lazzeri a most worthy choice for a biography.


By Lisa Scottoline Set in Rome—the “Eternal City”—during Mussolini’s rule through the 1930s and early 1940s, Eternal delves into the city’s experience under Fascist rule and particularly focuses on the people’s reaction to the establishment of anti-Jewish laws. In Italy, Jews were not seen as separate. After all, they had lived in Rome since before the Romans. But once Mussolini formalized his alliance with Hitler, all of that changed, drawing the ire of the Italian people. Eternal depicts this course of events through three main characters—Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro—who grew up in Rome as childhood friends. They come of age at the time when Mussolini aligns with Hitler, which causes each of their respective paths to diverge in ways that are influenced by their respective backgrounds. When Mussolini is deposed and Nazi soldiers assume control of the city, their lives are all threatened in different ways and for different reasons. One thing that sets Eternal apart from other novels set during this time period is how it highlights the support Fascism received from ordinary citizens as opposed to portraying all supporters as fanatics or zealots. This created strong dissension not just amongst the public, but also within households, and Scottoline’s storyline illustrates the divisiveness that Mussolini brought to Italy and how it tore families apart instead of uniting them. Through the various experiences of its characters, Eternal shows that—regardless of how divided Italy was under Mussolini—the country ended up suffering as one. But it is the ways in which these characters intertwine that show how Italians chose “One Italy” borne from love over Mussolini’s “One Italy” fueled by hate.

DID YOU KNOW? About 10,000 of Rome’s approximately 12,000 Jews survived World War II, much in part because they were hidden in the Vatican, monasteries, convents, and homes.

Visit to find a selection of recent books written by OSDIA members! ITALIAN AMERICA

SPRING 2021 15

A Gift for Nicholas The Cure for Cooley’s Anemia


A week after little Nicholas Jannetti was born at Philadelphia area’s Bryn Mawr Hospital, his mother, Catherine, received a call from nearby St. Christopher’s Hospital. At first, Catherine thought the lady on the other line was soliciting a donation. “Look, if you don’t mind,” Catherine said politely, “I have a newborn baby here. I don’t have time to make a donation right now, but if you call me back in a month, I’d be more than happy to donate.” “No, no, no,” the lady said, “I’m not calling for a donation. I’m calling in regards your son, Nicholas.” Catherine’s heart plummeted. In the next moments, the lady confirmed her worst fear. Nicholas’s screening had come back, and it was clear that his body was not producing hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Nicholas was diagnosed with Cooley’s anemia. Catherine and her husband, Carl, had known this was a possibility. Both are trait carriers—which is required to pass it on—and had their first son, Carl, tested one year after his birth. That this call came just a week after Nicholas’s birth caught Catherine completely by surprise. SPRING 2021



After hanging up the phone, she did what any mother would do—she went online to learn more about the disease. What she found first was a lot of frightening information. So she contacted the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation (CAF), where an individual allayed her fears, explaining that the information she’d found was outdated and that CAF would immediately get her the right information. The individual also explained that one of the top treatment hospitals for Cooley’s anemia happened to be

was leaving his body. As Catherine began researching further options for her little boy, her father-in-law mentioned the condition to his neighbor, Joe Marcasciano, a member of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America’s (OSDIA) ‘Vincin’ al Mare Lodge #2601 in Margate, New Jersey. Upon learning of Nicholas’s condition, Joe recognized this disease immediately, having helped with numerous Grand Lodge of New Jersey fundraisers for

The Sons of Italy Foundation made the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation one of its official charities in 1974. Today it is one of three Sons of Italy National Charities, which also includes the Alzheimer’s Association and the Doug Flutie, Jr., Foundation for Autism. nearby: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). In order to provide Nicholas with the hemoglobin that his body needed, he began receiving blood transfusions when he was just six weeks old. He received one ever y three weeks, each taking eight hours to complete. Without a more aggressive form of treatment, this was the only life he would know. The blood transfusions were always a struggle for both Nicholas and his mother, who had to listen to the screams of her infant son as nurses poked him several times in search of his vein. Every night, Nicholas slept with a pump, which required a needle to be stuck in his stomach or thigh for ten hours. The pump delivered a medicine that extracted the iron from the donated blood, since although a normal amount of iron is good, the amount of iron a body gets from regular transfusions can lead to organ failure. In the morning, Nicholas’s urine would be the color of rust—proof that the iron ITALIAN AMERICA

the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, one of OSDIA’s national charities. Joe immediately reached out to his friend, Ralph Colasanti, who has lived with Cooley’s anemia for more than 50 years and also sits on the board of CAF. He put the family in touch with Ralph, who helped guide and support the Jannettis in dealing with and making decisions about Nicholas’s condition, including when it came to discussing further forms of treatment. Catherine found out that there were two treatment options beyond lifelong blood transfusions for her son: a bone marrow transplant—which requires a match—or gene therapy (which is still in clinical trials and has yet to be submitted to the FDA for approval). In October 2018, Catherine received a call from a hematologist at CHOP, informing her that they had identified five potential donors. A bone marrow transplant was, however, a risky option—one that is usually not performed unless the donor, frequently a sibling, is a perfect

Nicholas receiving blood transfusions, one every three weeks for eight hours at a time.

match. Without a perfect match, the transplant may not take, which leads to Graft-versus-host disease, whereby the donated bone marrow perceives the recipient’s body as foreign and begins to attack it. Although Nicholas had five potential donors, none of them was a perfect match, giving him a 95% chance of being cured. The other 5% was the chance that the transplant would result in fatality. Catherine told 3 ½-year-old Nicholas about this possibility of a cure when they first learned about it that fall. As best as she could, she described to him what it would involve, and little Nicholas agreed that he would do it. Still, that didn’t convince Catherine, the 5% chance of fatality terrifying her. So she didn’t mention it to Nicholas again, as she struggled with the decision SPRING 2021 17

she and Carl should make. She solicited medical opinions from across the country—from Pennsylvania to California—and even the world— particularly Italy, where treatment for Cooley’s anemia is more common. As months passed, the decision grew more and more agonizing. While she wanted her son to live a life free of anemia, she couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. In March 2019, Catherine and Carl were scheduled to meet with CHOP about their decision to either go forward with the transplant or hold out hope for gene therapy developments. The day before the meeting—with her husband at work; Carl at school; and Nicholas at preschool—Catherine sat at home alone, rereading all the material. That’s when she collapsed into tears, sobbing uncontrollably on her couch in the family room. “I need your help, God,” she pleaded. “And I need it right now.” That night, she put both of her

sons to bed. Nicholas blew out his candle and said, “Jesus heal me,” just as he did every night. As Catherine walked down the hallway, she heard Nicholas call out to her. “Mama,” he said, “what if I died right now?” She hurried into his room and sat beside his bed. “Oh my God, Nicholas, don’t ever say that.” Still, he repeated it. “But what if I died right now?” “Nicholas, you’re not going to die,” Catherine told him. “But if you did, you would go to heaven.” “Do I have to use my pump and go to the hospital in heaven?” he asked. “No, buddy,” she said. “You don’t.” Nicholas looked at his mom and said, “Well then, I want to go to heaven.” Upon hearing her son say this, Catherine had to fight the tears that wanted to pour out of her. “Nicholas,” she said, “Mama’s not ready for

Nicholas comforted by his parents, Catherine and Carl, as he undergoes a bone marrow transplant.

said so she wouldn’t forget it. “There’s no doubt in my mind that God heard me crying that day, and He spoke through Nicholas,” Catherine reflected. “I told my husband that when we make our decision, I need to know that we don’t have any regrets.

Since 1974, the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America’s local and grand lodges have raised and donated millions of dollars to the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation. you to go to heaven yet. This is why we pray to Jesus every night to heal you—so that you don’t have to go to the hospital anymore and you don’t have to use your pump, but you can still stay here with Mama.” “Well then, how about I go and stay at the hospital and those people heal me?” Nicholas said, referencing the treatment that he’d been told about four months earlier.

Nicholas’s donor, Jessica, whom he absolutely adores. SPRING 2021


Catherine told her son that she and his dad were going to the hospital the very next day to discuss that. Then she kissed Nicholas goodnight, and the first thing she did after leaving his room was text herself everything he’d

After that night, it became very clear what Nicholas wanted. He told me, ‘I want to be cured or I want to be in heaven.’ By him telling me that, I knew that if we went through with the decision, I would not have any regrets because ultimately Nicholas would get what he wanted. Either he would be cured or he would be up in heaven, free of any needles and any hospital visits.” Catherine and Carl met with the hospital the following day and arranged for Nicholas’s transplant. It was scheduled for July, Nicholas’s birth month, meaning he would turn four years old while undergoing the procedure. By the time he entered ITALIAN AMERICA

“The Cooley’s Anemia Foundation is incredibly blessed that OSDIA has been such an incredible ally over the years. The support OSDIA brothers and sisters have given has made an enormous difference in the lives of everyone in the Cooley’s anemia community. Without OSDIA, the Jannettis and all of our families would have faced even more hardships and challenges.” - Craig Butler, National Executive Director, Cooley’s Anemia Foundation

The ver y next day, Nicholas’s engraftment came back—he had his donor’s cells. The transplant had taken.

his “new” birthday, a day on which— one year after his transplant—he could officially be considered cured. Since the transplant, he has not needed a single blood transfusion.

In July 2020, Nicholas celebrated

To celebrate his “new” birthday,

another transplant.

Nicholas (left) with this brother, Carl.

the hospital for the transplant, he’d already had 73 blood transfusions in his young life. After nine days of chemotherapy, which wiped out Nicholas’s immune system to allow the bone marrow cells to develop, Nicholas had to spend another four weeks in the hospital. The staff monitored his levels to ensure that the transplant was taking.

Upon meeting Nicholas and learning about his condition at the 2018 Grand Lodge of New Jersey’s State Convention, Mary Ann Ragone DeLambily— then President of the Enrico Fermi Lodge #2229 of Cherry Hill, New Jersey—took this experience back to her lodge. On June 23, 2018, the lodge hosted a blood drive through the American Red Cross to show their support for Nicholas and the Jannetti family. “We all felt that we could play even the smallest part in helping this little boy beat this illness,” MaryAnn said.

But one day, on the way home from seeing him, Catherine got a call from her husband. “Catherine, you have to come back to the hospital,” he told her. Nicholas’s blood work had taken a dive, and the doctors were afraid that the transplant had failed. As Catherine drove back to the hospital, the thought entered her mind that her little boy may never be coming home. Catherine and Carl stayed with their son through the night, a night that Catherine can only describe as the worst night of her life. If the bone marrow transplant had failed, the only resort would be to immediately find ITALIAN AMERICA

(L. to R.) Diana Cannatella (Enrico Fermi Lodge) holding Andrew Simone; Catherine Jannetti holding Nicholas; Andy Simone (Mario Lanza Lodge #2308 of Berlin, New Jersey) with Carl Jannetti; MaryAnn Ragone DeLambily (Enrico Fermi Lodge); Arlene and Jack Montesjardi (Enrico Fermi Lodge); and Frank Masso (Enrico Fermi Lodge). Not pictured but attended: Bob DeLambily (Enrico Fermi Lodge) and Carl Jannetti, father of Nicholas Jannetti. SPRING 2021 19

as well as his actual birthday, the Jannetti family rented a house at the New Jersey shore. During the week, Catherine checked her phone incessantly—hoping for a certain message. One year out from the transplant, and they were permitted to be in contact with Nicholas’s donor, something that had to be mutually agreed upon by both parties. The Jannettis had signed the paperwork right away and anxiously waited for word if Nicholas’s donor had done the same.

“Ultimately, it goes back to the Sons of Italy because the Sons of Italy, over the years, has been one of the biggest supporters of the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation. Because of their generosity, so many things have happened as a result. Without the funding and love and support of them, Cooley’s Anemia wouldn’t be able to do everything that they do. One of those things is advances in medicine.”

- Catherine Jannetti

On the final evening at the beach, while the family sat out on the deck and enjoyed the warm air, Catherine received the message: Nicholas’s donor, Jessica, had signed the release as well. Nicholas would get to meet the young lady who gave him the greatest gift he’d ever received. Miles Ryan Fisher ( is the Editor-in-Chief of Italian America magazine.

What is Cooley’s Anemia? Thalassemia is the name of a group of genetic blood disorders.To understand how thalassemia affects the human body, you must first understand a little about how blood is made. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying component of the red blood cells. It consists of two different proteins, an alpha and a beta. If the body doesn’t produce enough of either of these two proteins, the red blood cells do not form properly and cannot carry sufficient oxygen. The result is anemia that begins in early childhood and lasts throughout life. People whose hemoglobin does not produce enough alpha protein have alpha thalassemia. It is commonly found in Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, southern China, and occasionally the Mediterranean region.There are four types of alpha thalassemia that range from mild to severe in their effect on the body. People whose hemoglobin does not produce enough beta protein have beta thalassemia. It is found in people of Mediterranean descent, such as Italians and Greeks, and is also found in the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Africa, Southeast Asia and southern China. There are three types of beta thalassemia, including Cooley’s anemia, that range from mild to severe in their effect on the body. Thalassemia Major, or Cooley’s (L. to R.) Carl Jannetti, Grand Lodge anemia, is the most severe form of New Jersey State President of beta thalassemia where the Nick Burzichelli, MaryAnn Ragone complete lack of beta protein in the DeLambily, and Catherine Jannetti with Nicholas in her arms. hemoglobin causes a life-threatening anemia that requires regular blood transfusions and extensive ongoing medical care. These extensive, lifelong blood transfusions lead to iron-overload which must be treated with chelation therapy to prevent early death from organ failure. “Cooley’s anemia, which is a form of thalassemia, is disproportionately represented among some people of certain backgrounds, including people of Italian heritage. Although no one knows exactly why, it’s thought that the trait developed in the Mediterranean and other areas as a way of protecting against malaria. In some places, it’s even referred to as Mediterranean anemia. This is one reason that the Italian-American community has been so ardent in spreading information about Cooley’s anemia.” - Craig Butler, National Executive Director, Cooley’s Anemia Foundation For more information, visit the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation website at




Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America® Gold Membership Program National President Nancy DiFiore Quinn and the Supreme Council thanks you for your commitment to our beloved Order Robert U. Amante

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If you are interested in becoming a Gold Member, please contact the National Office at (202) 547-2900 or ITALIAN AMERICA SPRING 2021 21


y grandfather lived life like a storied superhero. He was strong, determined, independent, an achiever of incredible feats. During long car rides in his Cadillac, he recounted how he befriended billy goats as a child in Italy and how he swam across the Hudson River at age 14.

researcher fascinated by my family story, who volunteered to locate a name and contact information at the commune in San Giovanni. He wrote in an e-mail:

Francesco Torre was born on January 28, 1905 in Yonkers, New York. In 1908, his mother, Maria (née Marotta), relocated her young family (my toddler grandfather, his four-month-old brother, and her husband) to San Giovanni a Piro, her birth town in the Campania region. She was determined to fight for her land.

Barbara, very interesting. On Monday, I’ll try to call the office in Commune di San Giovanni a Piro to see if they can offer help. I’ll let you know.

“Two of my sisters were born there,” my grandfather told me. “And while my mother went to Naples for an operation and my father returned to New York to work for our return passage, I was responsible for my siblings.”

Barbara, molto interessante. Lunedì provo a telefonare all’Ufficio del Catasto per sapere se ci possono aiutare. Poi ti faccio sapere.

*** With two weeks left in my semester abroad work assignment in Siena, I travel 500 miles by bus and two trains to Salerno, where I secure lodging at a bed and breakfast. When I log onto the computer, my eyes settle on an email from Dr. T.

KEEPING A A Journey to My Grandfather’s Town “And what did that entail?” I asked him. “You were a child yourself.” That’s when I heard the billy goat story again. “Did you know goat’s milk is closest to mother’s milk?” he asked. I shook my head. “My mother was away for months, so twice a day, morning and early evening, I walked from my town at the top of the hill to get milk for Aunt Jean. I knew to make friends with the billy goat, bringing him an apple or piece of fruit or bread. He was the boss of the other goats, and he sort of protected me. I filled my canteen jug with fresh goat’s milk and walked back home.” My education professor-self, fully aware of research literature that correlates childhood experiences to character traits, nagged me to find out more. I sought help from Dr. Maurizio Tuliani, a native Italian middle school teacher and SPRING 2021



His message is simple: “Are you okay? Did you get to Salerno? Good luck tomorrow when you visit your grandfather’s land. Keep my phone number handy to be safe.” The next morning, I board the local train bound for Sapri, a city that borders the Tyrrhenian Sea. After arriving at the train depot, I expect things to unfold as if I were a sightseer simply touring a basilica open to the public. To my surprise, the bus to San Giovanni a Piro doesn’t arrive for two hours. Waiting alone in a circular courtyard, locals peer at me through veiled, lace-curtained windows. Some openly stare from tiered balconies. I am a stranger in a commune that prides itself on knowing everyone. I board the minivan-sized vehicle and hand two euro to the driver. “Signora, dove?” he asks. Madam, where are you going? “San Giovanni a Piro,” I say. ITALIAN AMERICA

He nods, and I settle into a leather seat on the left side of a narrow aisle. The minibus travels a road parallel to the sea, but soon, lush green hills and an assortment of fruit trees dot the mountainous terrain. We make three stops in 15 minutes. The curved, elongated path toward Scario is still eight miles south of San Giovanni a Piro, my destination. The bus zigzags through a single-lane switchback mountain road. The driver shifts gears unevenly and with every gain in altitude, nausea comes over me. I open a window and fix my gaze on the incredible view. On the left, ominous clouds of deep gray transform the sea into a mystical body. Halfway up the mountain, the bus stops unexpectedly. The driver heads to an auto body shop on the right, leaving us passengers on board. I gaze out the left-side window and blink twice to ensure that my eyes are not deceiving me. Perched on the roof of a wooden shed the size of a doghouse stands a male billy goat with horns and beard protruding from his chinny-chinchin. He exudes confidence and dominion over the nanny and kid goats grazing on the grass encircling his castle. My chest heaves uncontrollably as tears cascade down my cheeks. Could those be descendants of the same goats who supplied milk for my great-aunt Jean more than a century ago when five-and-a-half-year-old Francesco walked six miles each way to secure food for his baby sister? Francesco Torre (on the chair) with his parents and brother in New York before they returned to Italy.

Is this synchronicity, the timing of the driver’s stop at the exact spot where the billy goat stands with his head held high on that worn-out roof? Overwhelmed with emotion, I barely have the presence of mind to take a photo before our absentee driver resumes his position behind the steering wheel. The crest of the town is within sight as the bus slows to a crawl, this time out of respect for a funeral procession for a deceased member of the community. The driver signals to me, one of only two passengers still seated, that this is my stop. I ask the driver what time the evening bus leaves San Giovanni a Piro to return to the Sapri Train Station. With limited patience, he shouts, “Non autobus oggi! L’autobus andava domani!” (There is no bus today! The bus will come tomorrow!)

Barbara sits upon the steps of Chiesa di San Gaetano, where her grandfather made his First Holy Communion. ITALIAN AMERICA

Trembling and grasping the chrome handlebar with every ounce of strength that I have, I am ready to collapse right there on the top step of the bus. I have not considered this option—arriving in my grandfather’s town with no SPRING 2021 23

A view of San Giovanni a Piro and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Two respond in unison, “Non so.” (I don’t know.) One notes curtly, in Italian, that the office is closed. Looking haggard, I stand before a woman about my age who is dressed so well that I wonder what she is doing here, in the middle of a mountain-top city. Her designer silk print dress, paired with textured tights and high heels, fits well and is stunning. At this point, I produce the paper with the name of the Municipio employee that my friend in Siena contacted as a point of reference prior to my making this journey.

(Stefano Valeri)

place to stay, no way to leave, no one to take care of me, and no return bus leaving until tomorrow. My face registers panic as my inner voice is screaming at me. Now what are you going to do? Get off or remain planted where you are? The driver, noting my shock and emotional instability, stops his rant and tells me that a bus from Scario leaves at 6:30 p.m. ‘Scario!’ I think with heart and mind racing. ‘That’s eight miles down the mountain’s narrow, windy, unlit road! Even the billy goat house is closer!’

Immediately, the well-dressed woman questions me. “Why do you want to see this man, my colleague?” she asks. Three sets of eyes fixate on me. I offer an explanation in my best Italian (which is the best that I have after three-and-a-half months in Italy). “I am here to see my grandfather’s town and find out where the family lived when my Aunt Jean was born.” They are neither impressed nor empathetic. They tell me to return on Monday at 9:00 a.m. as offices are closed on Friday for the May 1 Worker’s Day national holiday. But I’m here on Wednesday, April 29. At this point, I shake internally and doubt the wisdom of my journey. But somehow, I find my voice.

I descend the steps one at a time and stand immobile on the street. It is 4:00 p.m. I am in the land of my grandfather, speak limited Italian, stick out conspicuously as “la straniera,” and have no idea of what to do. “Gramp,” I pray aloud. “I know that you see me, but I’m scared to death right now, and I need help with this.” Whether real or imagined, I hear words that resemble his own voice. “All right, Barbara. It’s all right.” I stare at Dr. T’s Italian script on quadrille notebook paper, which has the address for the Municipal building written on it. When I look up, I notice the matching street name chiseled into the cornerstone of the building across the street. I walk the stone strada for a quarter of a mile before I am standing in front of the Municipio building, located on the right side of the street with a panoramic view that extends to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The massive wooden doors are unlocked, so I peer into a 15-foot covered vestibule to notice a flight of stairs to the right. I follow the sound of voices to the third floor. When I get there, three people, employees of the Municipio, look at each other, then at me. One woman asks, “Chi e lei?” (Who is she?) SPRING 2021



by 18:10 (6:10 p.m.). When I finish work, I will drive you to the station.”

“I cannot come back on Monday. I am a U.S. professor teaching university students in Siena. This is my only chance to see, with my own eyes, where my grandfather lived as a young boy for five years.” I pull out a frayed copy of a photo of my grandfather, Francesco Torre, at age 90. In it, he is next to a framed image of his parents, Dominic and Maria Marotta Torre, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. “I am the family ambassador,” I manage saying with my quivering voice that can’t hold back tears any longer. “I The municipal building in San Giovanni took the last bus here and don’t know a Piro, where the workers came to the how to get back to Salerno, where I’m author’s much-needed aid. staying tonight!” My head is spinning from physical and emotional exhaustion. I have researched my family history for months only to arrive at this end. I am spent, vulnerable, and socially naked. The younger woman heads to a separate office and makes a phone call to check on the birth of Giovanna Torre (Aunt Jean) on November 14, 1910. I find out that this lady is actually la sindica—the city’s mayor. I stand alone in front of the well-dressed woman, Germanna. She speaks in English and tempers her tone. “I live in Sapri,” she tells me. “You can take the 19:10 (7:10 p.m.) train back to Salerno. Go see the town and return

I locate the church of San Gaetano, where my grandfather made his First Holy Communion and his sisters were baptized. I purchase homegrown goods, produtti tipici, to share with family. The female shop owner takes one look at the family photo and zeros in on my great-grandmother, Maria Marotta. She points to her, stating emphatically, in Italian, “She has people here.” Germanna’s red Alfa Romeo hugs the winding roads and in no-time we are riding along the sea. She pulls her convertible into a parking lot and urges me to get a close-up view of the sea.

So I step onto the shore. The waves ebb and flow, lapping the shore with a smooth, yet persistent cadence. My senses cry out: Barbara, take it all in. Remember the smell of the sea, the sound of the cascading waves, the site of the mountains that reach up to the heavens, and above all, how your heart feels right now, at this very moment. Germanna interrupts my reverie and points to the statue, The Statue of Christ the Redeemer. “This is the second one in the world,” she states with pride. “The only other is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.” I strain to make out the form, obscured by a dominating line of tightly knit clouds. As promised, Germanna drops me off in front of the Sapri train station in time for the train back to Salerno. I thank her for being my angel. We embrace (kiss on both cheeks), and I give her an American hug. She peers into my eyes and speaks warmly. “You did a good deed today for your family,” she says. “It is my pleasure to meet you. Not many people even care about those who went before them. They take it all for granted. Safe travels.” On the train ride to Salerno, my breath returns to normal, as a purpose-filled sense of peace envelops me. My grandfather is smiling, all knowingly, as I shake my head and realize that all of his stories were true.

Francesco Torre (center) with Barbara’s uncles and father at a Torre family reunion 20 years ago.


Barbara Torre Veltri, Ed. D ( is an Associate Professor of Education at Northern Arizona University and OSDIA member of the Scottsdale Lodge in Arizona.

SPRING 2021 25



MASSACHUSETTS In spite of the pandemic, the Methuen Lodge #902 has forged avanti, connecting with each other through Zoom meetings and holding weekly bingo along with quarterly fundraising, meat/seafood/wine raffles, and a 50/50 drawing. In addition to these activities, the Methuen Lodge Community Center Trust (CCT) completed its “Me-

morial Walkway” project on a cold and windy December weekend. The brick walkway was laid in front of the Methuen Lodge’s building. “Grazie mille to all of our Sons and Daughters of Italy members as well as members of our community who purchased the engraved bricks thereby funding this project,” said CCT Chairman Pio Frittitta.

The lodge would like to specifically recognize: Committee Members: Ralph Bagarella, Co-Chair, current Lodge President; Armand Buonanno, Past Lodge President; Pio Frittitta, Community Center Trust Chairman; Dottie Crisa, Neil Perry, Brenda Buonanno, Barbara DeLucca Rea, and John Bonanno Donors: A n t h o n y P e r r o n e ; To r r o m e o Industries Inc.; Ferris Landscaping; Mann’s Or char ds; J. Clement Bonanno; Circle G. Giordano Family; Leonard Christopher Volunteers: Vincent Ruggieri, Ron Marsan, Anthony Estee, Brett Frittitta, Vince Tersigni, Bob Bonanno, Tim Ippolito, Bob Bundzinski, Salvatore Cianciolo, Mario Marchese, Bob DeFrancisco, Bob Hendry, and Ted Shields

The Memorial Walkway completed by the Methuen Lodge Community Center Trust.

NEW YORK Last fall, the Grand Lodge of New York’s Gift of Sight Committee donated $25,000 to the Guide Dog Foundation. The donation will be used to purchase a van that transports blind and visually impaired clients and their dogs. The van will bear the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America and the Gift of Sight logos. The funds were raised during the last three highly successful Gift of Sight luncheon fundraisers. The donation is only part of the committee’s substantial contributions to a variety of organizations that assist individuals and veterans with visual issues. SPRING 2021


“I had the honor to participate in the ceremony,” remarked Anthony Naccarato, Grand Lodge of New York President, “and frankly, it was one of the highlights o f m y p r e s i d e n c y. I congratulate the entire committee for their commitment and hard work in order to raise such a significant amount of funds.”

(L. to R.) Committee Treasurer Michele Sewitch, Committee Co-Chair Anthony D’Angelis, New York State Grand Lodge First Lady and Committee Chairperson Mary Naccarato, Community Fundraising Manager Jaime McGrade, and Grand Lodge of New York President Anthony Naccarato. ITALIAN AMERICA


NEW YORK The Constantino Brumidi Lodge #2211 of Deer Park donated 20 gift bags to the residents of Maria Regina Resident Health Care Facility in Brentwood and 15 gift bags to the residents of Sunrise Assisted Living Facility in West Babylon. Lodge members made personal

(L. to R.) Lodge President Carmine Soldano, Susan Soldano, and Recreation Therapist Sabrina Feliciano at the Maria Regina Facility. Not pictured: Janeen Bush and Carol Nani

donations and also reached out to the community for cash donations and items in order to make the gift bags. The lodge then coordinated with the directors of the two facilities and, once approved, scheduled delivery of the Christmas Gift Bags. The gift bags consisted of lap blankets, socks, coloring books, puzzle books, snacks, and various other items. The purpose was to give the elderly residents something enjoyable to do during the day, as visitation was extremely limited during the pandemic. The donations for the Maria Regina Facility were coordinated by lodge members Susan Soldano and Carol Nani through Janeen Bush, Director of Therapeutic Recreation. The donations for the Sunrise Facility were coordinated by lodge member Karen Lorito through Alexandria Garcia, Recreational Director.

(L. to R.) Recreational Director Alexandria Garcia and Lodge Treasurer Karen Lorito at the Sunrise Facility. Not pictured: Susan Soldano and Carol Nani. “Our lodge was happy to donate these gift bags,” said Lodge President Carmine Soldano, who oversaw the delivery. “Hopefully, they brought a smile to the residents at both facilities during the Christmas season.”

TEXAS La Famiglia di Southeast Texas Lodge #2887 of Beaumont celebrated a lodge member’s family company that turns 100 years old this year! The Texas Coffee Company began in Beaumont, Texas, in 1921 when Charles J. Fertitta, Sr., recognized the demand for a good quality coffee. Charles began with an investment of $1,800, a Ford Model-T truck, a few pounds of coffee, and a one-room shotgun-style shack in back of the Crescent Market on Magnolia Street in downtown Beaumont.

partnership, Mr. Maceo worked as the plant manager while Mr. Fertitta and Mr. Serio delivered their product in the Beaumont and Port Arthur territories. In 1968, Texas Coffee Company became the first coffee company in the United States to begin packaging coffee in vacuum-packed foil bags. Today, Charles’s grandson (and lodge member) Donald Fertitta

helps run the company, serving as the Vice-President of The Texas Coffee Company. His brother, Joseph, serves as President. The Texas Coffee Company is the parent company of Seaport Coffee, which has grown so popular with Texans that the Texas State Legislature has submitted a bill to make it the Official Coffee of Texas.

Photo circa 1931.

In 1926, Mr. Fertitta formed a partnership with R. C. Maceo and Joseph S. Serio. They moved Texas Coffee Company to a larger, more modernized facility. With this new ITALIAN AMERICA

SPRING 2021 27


There is a small rural village in Southern Italy called Maione. Time doesn’t play by the rules. When I visit, the past and the present collide like tectonic plates. I bring the volcano as a carry-on item, tucked into the overhead compartment until we land. You see, everyone in Maione is related, which means that as you walk along its narrow, cobbled streets, you feel like you’re following the map of a family tree. You start to realize there are certain features that crop up— smiles that unfold like sentences, from left to right. The same head tilt when they ask you where you are from. I am the only person in Maione who has ever been asked this question. Da dove vieni? “My grandmother lived here,” I want to tell them. “She was born in the house up on the hill that still stands today. My mother’s mother.” But I never do because my face contradicts my words before they’re even formed. I am Chinese. When they point me out to their neighbors, their fingers land on my eyes first. The mark of a foreigner but also evidence of my blindness. I will never see things the way they do. I will never be one of them. That is where my mother chimes in, explaining away the confusion with her reassuring Mediterranean complexion and Italian that rolls off her tongue. She explains the adoption, the trip to China, and there is a rumble in the earth. I can feel the different countries and eras and histories converging noisily as they come together beneath my feet. I sulk over my glaring “Chineseness,” weary of the stares and the whispers. As my mother comes more alive with each passing day, joyfully meeting cousins she never knew she had and poring over old photos albums with them, I feel like I am slowly disappearing. Where do I belong in this strange place, with my Chinese face and American clothes and Italian name?




Crouching behind a decaying gardening shed, a girl presses up against me, her cigarette dangerously close to my hair. It’s then I realize that my grandmother must have played this same game at some point. I eye the shed more carefully, noting the vegetation that completely swallows the roof. She could have easily tucked herself away exactly where I am now. I suddenly know she is here, with me now. For the first time, our timelines overlap and I stifle a laugh at the absurdity. It is during a game of nascondino that I feel the most seen.

Francesca (third from the left) with her Italian cousins in Italy. One evening, I venture into the piazza, the central hub of the night. A group of teenagers sit in a circle, smoking cigarettes and laughing loudly at a video on someone’s phone. I observe them quietly, thinking, ‘These are my grandmother’s people. Her blood runs through their veins.’

I am found that night. I am found when they discover us behind the shed, but I am also found as I tear through the streets chasing someone who had taken off with my phone. Laughing, I picture another image: my grandmother running down these very streets chasing someone, breathless and annoyed and maybe even secretly pleased all at once. The moon hangs fat and yellow in the sky when we finish. It is well past midnight by now, and we lay on

As if they can hear my thoughts, one of the girls spots me and raises a lazy hand in greeting. “Finalmente arriva l’americana!” she crows. The American comes at last! Thus begins my interrogation. Am I enjoying my time in Maione so far? Do I have a boyfriend? Did I bring any American snacks with me? Do I want a cigarette? The words come faster to me as I try to answer everything quickly, desperate for validation, terrified that I will bore them and they will discard me to the side. “Why you hide from us?” someone finally blurts out. He is my age, lanky, and his hand casually cradles a beer with the kind of confidence I could never pull off. Silence. They all gaze at me, again regarding my eyes. The mark of a foreigner. “Because I am not from here,” I tell him. Below me, the earth rumbles. He regards me coolly. “Let’s play nascondino,” he says. I blink. “Cosa?” “How you say hide-and-seek!” Out of all possible responses, I do not see this coming. Hide-and-seek at midnight in a town of cramped alleys and steep hills and no street lights? “Perfetto,” I hear myself say. They cheer wildly. ITALIAN AMERICA

Francesca’s grandmother, Ernestina Alessia Fierro, in Maione, the place where she was born and lived her whole life. SPRING 2021 29

the grass together to gaze at the sky. My grandmother’s children and me. No, I correct myself. My grandmother’s children, period. For the second time that evening, somebody hears my thoughts. The girl who hid with me, who almost lit my hair on fire, jumps up and pulls me to my feet. “Francesca, vieni,” she commands. Ears still ringing with the sound of my name on her lips, I follow her to the ancient drinking fountain in the middle of the piazza. She thrusts her hands into the gushing stream. I stare at her, then follow suit. The water is shockingly cold and I cry out. “Direttamente dalle montagne!” she exclaims and laughs. Straight from the mountains! Her face glowing in the moonlight, she asks me, “Vedi questa fontana? Questa è vecchia come Maione.” A pause. “La tua nonna ha bevuto quest’acqua.”

The mountain views of Maione. Do you see this fountain? It’s as old as Maione itself. Your grandmother drank this water. So I cup my hands in it again, and I don’t know who I am talking to when I say, “Poi bevo anche io.” Then I drink, too. The water tastes of airplanes and oceans and steamboats. It tastes of the thousands of miles between Maione and Ellis Island, between China and New Jersey, between the womb I was pushed out of and the arms of another woman. I drink hungrily, each sip a prayer that my Italian will roll off my tongue, that my smile will unfold like a sentence, that when I am asked da dove vieni, I finally have an answer.

Francesca (fourth from the left) with some of her Italian cousins and new amici.



Francesca Fierro ( is a first-year student at Barnard College of Columbia University. She is thinking about studying English, and when not writing she can be found browsing flea markets or daydreaming on Pinterest.




From the President’s Desk

By Nancy DiFiore Quinn

Finally, there is “light at the end of the tunnel” … and what a “tunnel” it has been! 365 days with most states around the country closed down to everyone and everything we love on a daily basis. It is not easy for Italian Americans to cope with the COVID shutdown because by nature, we are a warm and loving people. We miss kissing and hugging, shaking hands, and just being close to one another. With help from our vaccine program and a lot of prayers, we will be together again soon. Our National Office staff in Washington, D.C., is still mostly working from home. They are working diligently on our upcoming virtual NELA Gala, which will be held on Friday, May 28, 2021. I am hoping that all the Grand Lodges will support this event as they have done in the past. Since you save money on travel, maybe you could even “up” your generosity this year. Also, we are so proud of our OSDIA Facebook Live Interview Series which just completed Season 3! Thanks to National First Vice President Robert Bianchi and his team, we have interviewed over 25 prominent Italian Americans. Be sure to check out all past interviews on the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America’s Facebook page. On March 6, we convened a Zoom Special Supreme Convention consisting of all National Officers, State Presidents, and delegates from our 2019 National Convention. It was a successful meeting that led to changing our by-laws with regard to At-Large Members.

Membership retention and the search for new members is at a very fragile time right now. We all need to reach out to our members to make sure that they stay with us and do whatever we can to entice new members to join us. Without that personal one-to-one connection, many local lodges are having a difficult time keeping their membership numbers up. I truly believe that if everyone makes an effort to assist in this task, we can come out of the pandemic with some stable membership numbers. Our National CSJ and its President, Robert Ferrito, continue to face the daily issue of trying to save Columbus Day all across the country. States, towns, school districts, etc., are determined to rid us of our beloved Columbus Day and Christopher Columbus statues. The National CSJ Committee does a great job fighting bias and bigotry of Italian Americans and we certainly appreciate their efforts. We are looking forward to our Zoom National Convention on Saturday, August 14, 2021, to elect our National Officers. Then we will have an “in-person” continuation of the National Convention the week of October 11 at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa Bay, Florida. Those are the plans right now, but please know that according to the world crisis, things could change at any time. We will be sure to keep you informed. Please get vaccinated, wear your masks (where required), and stay safe. We are hoping to be able to come together again in the near future. As I close this column, let us remember: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” - Mother Teresa

OSDIA Live Interview Series Completes Season 3

Last January, the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA) returned with Season 3 of its popular OSDIA Live Interview Series. The third season featured several well-known guests, including Joe Piscopo, David Baldacci, Rocco Di Spirito, John Colinari, Lisa Scottoline, and Adriana Trigiani twice as a special guest host. It also featured experts who spoke on topics such as Italian Dual-Citizenship and Italy’s wine designations, or Denominazione (Clockwise) Guest Host Author Adriana Trigiani, di Origine.

Author David Baldacci, OSDIA Managing Director

All past episodes of OSDIA Live Interview Series can be viewed on OSDIA’s Justin Smith, OSDIA First Vice President Robert Facebook page or through OSDIA’s YouTube channel. Be sure to stay tuned Bianchi, and Italian America Magazine Editor-in-Chief Miles Ryan Fisher. for Season 4, which expects to air toward the end of the summer! ITALIAN AMERICA

SPRING 2021 31



The Foundation Focus By Joseph Sciame, President

Good members of the OSDIA, friends, and supporters, I greet you in this issue of our famed magazine, Italian America, for several reasons. First and foremost is for the support, yes, the financial support rendered by so many in our Direct Mail Program. As some may recall, there were concerns related to the level of support that might be afforded by our members. Well, over the years, and in the most recent year despite the travails of the pandemic, we have done incredibly well. These funds support the operation of the Sons of Italy Foundation and allows us a steady income, such as one might enjoy from investments. While we do have investments, they are heavily attributed to endowed scholarships, and as a result, those in leadership positions arrived at this acceptable solution of an active direct mail program, whereby we mail personalized address labels and notepads, a spellbinding calendar of Italy and a tote bag with a lovely scene from our beloved Italia, and even an ornament for your Christmas tree. Please Note: In order to receive these items through the Direct Mail Program, you need to make an annual donation to the Sons of Italy Foundation.To get on the mail list and start receiving the gifts mentioned above, please make a donation using the donation slip below.

Please accept my tax-deductible donation for the

Sons of Italy Foundation! To donate online, visit

To donate by phone, call the National Office at (202) 547-2900

My check for the total amount of $

But what has surprised us more is that we have so many friends, many who aren’t Italian American but are Italophiles, in communities and cities across the country who like what we do and choose to support us. By broadening our already wide audience of such supporters, we have done better than we ever expected. To all of you, as we like to say: Blessings and keep it up! We have also been blessed this year with Legacy Gifts, meaning that supporters, some whom we never knew or met, have remembered us in their estate planning. You have all read in the last issue of this magazine about the magnanimity of the Franzone Family, a humble husband and wife who were touched by what we have done since 1905 and wanted to support education for young Italian Americans. What a gift! It will last in perpetuity, as it has been well-invested for generations to come. Also, we were surprised by two additional gifts from the estate of another individual, who resided in New Hampshire. Her funds were used to assist the Grand Lodge of Nebraska, whose building and home offices were destroyed in a terrible fire. Her legacy lives on! And finally, among recent gifts is the donor who called and announced a legacy gift for the future, but then added a major five-figure gift to be used over the next ten years in an annual scholarship to a worthy candidate. And so the question now remains: What will I do? How will I perpetuate this great story of the OSDIA and its Sons of Italy Foundation? What will I do to memorialize my family, my spouse, my loved ones? Well, to respond to those needs, the SIF is reviewing its Legacy Program, and we will be announcing shortly a more active outreach to actualize your plans for the future. In the meantime, don’t wait! Call and let us discuss your legacy plans. Remember: It can and does make a difference!

is enclosed. (Please make check payable to the “Sons of Italy Foundation”)

Mail to: Sons of Italy Foundation 219 E Street NE Washington, DC 20002





The CSJ Perspective

By Robert M. Ferrito, President

Before I address the recently ramped-up assault on Columbus, I wanted to start out by focusing on another very vital mission of the Commission for Social Justice: fighting Italian stereotypes. While saving our Columbus Day and protecting our Columbus statues are at the forefront of our attention, we cannot neglect to address the ongoing stereotyping of Italians that is so pervasive in our culture.


Day. The new year has brought renewed assault on our holiday, and the CSJ and its State Chairs have been working hard to alert and organize opposition to this attack. In addition to this, I have been serving as Chair of the Save Columbus Committee for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, which has united all Italian American organizations across the country. I am proud to be part of this collective effort, which hasn’t happened for a long time.

Recently, Jimmy John’s aired a commercial that drew on the stereotypical mafioso theme. Meanwhile, GoNoodle posted an educational video on YouTube that features a character called Fabio the Moose speaking in broken English and chasing a meatball. Both instances are examples of how our society says that it’s okay to stereotype Italians. Just imagine if either of these were replaced with stereotypes of another ethnicity. Do you believe either instance would be deemed acceptable in our culture? Absolutely not! Then why is it acceptable for it to be done to Italians?

While much of our communication involves addressing public officials who are trying to take our holiday away from us, it is just as vital that we recognize and thank public officials who stand up and support our heritage. This was the case with Minnesota State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, who was very vocal in repairing and restoring the Columbus Statue that was vandalized outside of their State Capitol building. We commended his efforts and made sure the other Minnesota State Senators were aware that we’d done so. We made it clear to those who opposed returning the statue to its rightful spot that, in doing so, they are disparaging an ethnic group and its ancestors who were so proud to erect the statue.

This is the reason why we cannot stay silent. Voicing our opposition does not make us complainers. Rather, our silence makes us complicit. I encourage all of you to follow our “Commission for Social Justice” Facebook page so that you receive updates every time we confront an issue so that you can lend your voice as well.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the continual support that Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America members and Italian America Magazine readers have shown. Every issue spurs a new influx of donations that helps us continue our work to combat Italian-American stereotypes and preserve our Columbus Day.

The main issue, of course, continues to be Columbus

Grazie e Sempre Avanti!

YES! I would like to help Save Columbus Day and

Fight Italian-American Stereotypes.

Please accept my tax-deductible donation to support the Commission for Social Justice’s mission. To donate online, visit To donate by phone, call the National Office at (202) 547-2900 $10


My check for the total amount of $




is enclosed.

(Please make check payable to the “Commission for Social Justice”)

Mail to:


Commission for Social Justice 219 E Street NE Washington, DC 20002

SPRING 2021 33

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Letters to the Editor I loved your piece on Fisherman’s Wharf. My father would talk about stopping there on his way home after the Second World War. He ordered a bowl of stoccafisso (stockfish) and was eating with such gusto after almost three years of eating army in the South Pacific that the restaurant owner did not charge him. I have always regretted not stopping there myself on my way home from Southeast Asia 50 years ago. Maybe I will get to the West Coast again someday. Edward Albanetti Amerigo Vespucci Lodge #160 Danbury, Connecticut Just finished reading the Winter 2021 issue of Italian America magazine. Can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading it. Once I start reading it, I can’t put it down until the last page is turned. It is so informative and gives different aspects of Italians that most people are not aware of and how greatly they have influenced America. I feel so proud to be an Italian American and look forward to future issues. Concetta Sanzone Brentwood, New York SPRING 2021


I just finished reading the Winter 2021 edition of Italian America. In one word: Outstanding! A great sense of pride came over me reading about our founder, Vincenzo Sellaro, and the Italians of Fisherman’s Wharf. The article “Roses for Lena” is a story of how many Italian Americans suffer in silence but carry on. One article touched me in a way words cannot describe because growing up in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, I personally knew Louis and Rose Franzone. They were truly great people. Lastly, I will be making a donation to support the Commission for Social Justice and will be passing the information along to my Italian-American community. Columbus Day should not be assaulted. It is an important symbol of our Italian heritage. Many people forget what Italians did for this country! Salvatore Calise Brooklyn, New York


Italian America®

Italian America Magazine is produced by the national headquarters of the Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America®, 219 E Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 202/547-2900. Email: Chief Operating Officer Joseph J. DiTrapani Editor-in-Chief Miles Ryan Fisher Director of Finance Adam Jacobs Program Director Emily Knoche Managing Director Justin Smith Italian America® is the official publication of the Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America® (OSDIA), the largest and longest-established organization of American men and women of Italian heritage. Italian America provides timely information about OSDIA, while reporting on individuals, institutions, issues, and events of current or historical significance in the Italian-American community nationwide. Italian America (ISSN: 1089-5043, USPS: 015-735) is published quarterly in the winter, spring, summer and fall by OSDIA, 219 E Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Periodicals postage paid at Washington, D.C., and at additional mailing offices. ©2015 Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America. All rights reserved. Reproduction by any method without permission of the editor is prohibited. Statements of fact and opinion are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily imply an opinion on the part of the officers, employees, or members of OSDIA. Mention of a product or service in advertisements or text does not mean that it has been tested, approved or endorsed by OSDIA, the Commission for Social Justice, or the Sons of Italy Foundation. Italian America accepts query letters and letters to the editor. Please do not send unsolicited manuscripts. Italian America assumes no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Annual subscriptions are $20, which are included in dues for OSDIA members. Single copies are $4.95 each.OSDIA MEMBERS: Please send address changes to your local lodge. Do not contact the OSDIA National Office. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Italian America, 219 E Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Subscriptions are available through the OSDIA National Office, 219 E Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002. OSDIA membership information is available at (800) 552-OSDIA or at www. Archives are maintained at the Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn. Printing by Printing Solutions Inc., Sterling, Va. To advertise: Contact (202) 547-2900. Also see for advertising rates, specs, demographics, etc. ITALIAN AMERICA


A few years ago, when I was back home in Horsham, Pennsylvania, my parents wanted me to go through some old U.S. Savings Bonds, ones that were given to me for various occasions in my life—my birth, my first communion, my high school graduation. They were old paper bonds stuffed in a purple money-holder envelope that said “A Gift For You … A Share in America.” As I opened the flap of the envelope, I saw written on the inside “A United States Savings Bond for Miles Ryan Fisher from Albert Cicchetti .” The second name took me a moment to recognize because it wasn’t a name I expected to see. My great-grandfather. I removed the bonds from the envelope and examined each one. Sure enough, there was a bond with Dwight D. Eisenhower’s picture on it dated August 11, 1981, from Tompkins County Trust Co. in Ithaca, New York. My great-grandfather must have given me this bond when I was born, I thought. While I’d always known that Albert, or “Papa with the Hat” as he was called, was the only great-grandparent who met me—he passed when I was one—I didn’t know that something like this existed. Now, here in my hand, was a U.S. Savings Bond that he’d given me when I was born. And it being several decades later, the bond had long surpassed its maturity date and no longer earned interest. I thought about how my great-grandfather had handed my parents the bond for me, knowing that he’d never see the day of that bond’s maturity. Yet, he knew that one day, it would be a hand that helped me in the future. His hand. Then it occurred to me: Redeeming it would mean surrendering the paper bond, handing it over to a bank that would honor it on behalf of the U.S. Treasury and give me the amount it was now worth. But, I thought, what if the paper bond itself is worth more to me than the money I’d receive for it? It was certainly something that wouldn’t have crossed the mind of a man who’d left L’Aquila, Abruzzo, with nothing more than a suitcase and crossed the Atlantic never to see his family again. Every penny would matter to a man who’d experienced that, and he certainly wouldn’t have left a matured bond sit unredeemed. Then I considered that maybe there was an even greater meaning that he may not have imagined. Maybe his wish for my future would be realized if I’m fortunate enough to never have to redeem the bond. Maybe his wish should continue into a future that outlives me as well. Maybe the bond can pass from generation to generation, with the hope that it never has to be redeemed.

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Don McLean is known for his groundbreaking song “American Pie” (1971). The release of the song marked a pivotal time in his career, turning him into an international success. Subsequently, McLean reached additional success with his (1972) chart-topper “Vincent.” The legendary singer and songwriter is a college graduate who gave up attending graduate school to pursue musical endeavors. The veteran performer was rejected 72 times before signing with a record label and releasing his debut album Tapestry (1970). With the 50th anniversary of “American Pie” approaching, he is still creating music and performing with his latest album Still Playin’ Favorites. The timeless singer may also surprise fans with this interesting fact: he’s Italiano. McLean’s mother, Elizabeth Bucci, is from Italy’s Abruzzo region. Italian America’s readers will certainly be surprised to know that you have Italian roots. Your mother, Elizabeth, was from the Abruzzo region. Tell us about what town she came from and what brought her to the United States. Well, my grandparents had an arranged marriage, and they settled in Port Chester, New York. We went there every Sunday to be with my mother’s family. We had Italian food and the whole bit. Have you ever visited your mother’s hometown? Are you in touch with any relatives from there? No. I have not, and I am not in touch. I did go to Italy a few years ago and had the best time. I would love to go back. How has your Italian background played a role in your music? Pete Seeger, a friend of mine for a while, he said some of the most beautiful Italian melodies come from Abruzzo. Seeger thought my talent was partly a function of genetics. I hear real melodies; it’s just something that is in me. You can’t teach anybody how to do that. I studied Belafonte Singing—the Italian style of singing—and I took some voice lessons from an opera teacher when I was 12 years old who taught me breath control and tone support, not screaming like most do. It is hard to believe that “American Pie” turns 50 years old this year. How does it feel to receive your Hollywood Star on the anniversary of your biggest hit? SPRING 2021


Well, I mean can you beat this? I mean, come on this is great! Here I am, 75 years old, and I am just hitting my stride for God sakes. Such a lucky guy. Tell us about what your music career has taught you about perseverance. I was pretty sick as a child. I had asthma and it would turn into pneumonia. It would knock me out of school for months. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. My father got me on a swimming team, and I did that for five or six years. There was a tremendous amount of effort involved doing the workouts, so when I started my career, I had the ability to push myself. You have more energy in your body than you realize. You have to be an athlete of some sort to make it in show business. Circling back to your Italian roots, what Italian dishes do you think of when you think of mom? I’m out here in Palm Desert, California, and there are a lot of Italians out here. Yesterday, I made spaghetti and meatballs myself. I did a great job, really tasted great. I like mussels and marinara. I like all kinds of things that aren’t down the middle. Leave us with some words to live by. Well, the best thing I can say is to find something that you like doing and work very hard at it all the time. It’s a hard thing to do. Most people can’t find what they like to do, and they drift around. Find something and stay with it. Don’t let anything deter you. One of the reasons I’m somewhat successful is I’ve done the same thing for fifty years, but I still keep going in the same direction. You waste a lot of time when you go in different directions. Find what you want to do and pursue it. Felicia Marianna Naoum is a celebrity feature writer from Parma, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland). Her maternal greatgrandparents are from Calabria, Italy. ITALIAN AMERICA

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