The Bank of America, the largest bank in the country, was established in 1904 by Amadeo Pietro (A.P.) Giannini (1870-1949) in San Francisco. Originally called the Bank of Italy, it changed names in 1928 and in 1998 merged with NationsBank Corp. Giannini financed the Golden Gate Bridge and the film industry, including Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” and Disney’s “Snow White,” as well as, California’s aerospace and agricultural industries.
A.P Giannini was the first son of Luigi and Virginia Giannini. Luigi Giannini immigrated to the United States from Favale di Malvaro near Genoa, Liguria (at that time the Kingdom of Sardinia, later part of Italy) to prospect in the California Gold Rush of 1848–1855. Luigi continued in gold prospecting during the 1860s and returned to Italy in 1869 to get married. He brought his wife, Virginia, back to the US and settled in San Jose. Luigi Giannini purchased a 40 acre farm at Alviso in 1872 and grew fruits and vegetables. Four years later Luigi Giannini was fatally shot by an employee over a pay dispute. Virginia (a widow at the age of 21 with two children and pregnant with a third child) took over the operation of the produce business, bringing the adolescent Amadeo into the business. Virginia later married Lorenzo Scatena, who established L. Scatena & Co. (which A.P. Giannini would eventually take over). Amadeo realized at the age of 13, he could do better in business than at school. He dropped out and took a full-time position as a produce broker for L. Scatena & Co.
He moved up to commission merchant and later to a produce dealer in the Santa Clara Valley. He was very successful in that business and married Clorinda Cuneo, daughter of a North Beach real estate magnate in 1892. Eventually he sold his interests in the produce business and at the age of 31 turned to administering his father-in-law’s estate. He later became a director of the Columbus Savings & Loan in which his father-in-law owned an interest. At the time banks were run for the benefit of the wealthy and Giannini observed an opportunity to service the increasing immigrant population that were without a bank. At odds with the other directors who did not share his sentiment, he quit the board in frustration and started his own bank.
He founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco on October 17, 1904. The bank was housed in a converted saloon as an institution for the “little fellow”. It was a new bank for the hardworking immigrants other banks would not serve. He offered those ignored customers savings accounts and loans, judging them not by their wealth but by their character. Deposits on that first day totaled $8,780. Within a year, deposits soared above $700,000 ($13.5 million in current dollars).
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires leveled much of the city. In the face of widespread devastation, Giannini set up a temporary bank, collecting deposits, making loans and proclaiming that San Francisco would rise from the ashes. Immediately after the earthquake, he moved the vault’s money to his home outside the fire zone in then-rural San Mateo, 18-miles by horse and wagon. The money was moved in a garbage wagon, owned by Giobatta Cepollina, also a native of Italy (Loano). The cargo was disguised beneath garbage to protect against theft. The fires severely heated the vaults of the city’s other big banks. Opening them immediately would ruin the money, so they were kept closed for weeks. Because of this, Giannini was one of the few who was able to provide loans. Giannini ran his bank from a plank across two barrels in the street where he made loans on a handshake to those interested in rebuilding. Years later, he would recount that every loan was repaid.
By 1916, Giannini had expanded and opened several other branches. Giannini believed branch banking was a way to stabilize banks during difficult times, as well as expand the capital base. He bought banks throughout California and eventually had more than five hundred branches throughout the state. In 1928, Giannini approached Orra E. Monnette, president and chairman of the Bank of America-Los Angeles, about a merger of the two financial institutions. Upon finalizing the merger, Giannini and Monnette concurred that the Bank of America name idealized the broader mission of the new bank. The new institution continued under Giannini’s chairmanship until his retirement in 1945.
Ligurian Chickpea and Vegetable Soup
- 1 14 ½ oz. can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
- 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves shredded
- ¾ oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
Sauté the chopped onion, celery and drained mushrooms in the olive oil.
Add tomatoes, garlic and the shredded Swiss chard leaves.
Add the drained chickpeas to the sautéed vegetables and simmer for five minutes. Then add the chicken broth, season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about ten minutes.
The first Italian American millionaire was Generoso Pope, who came to America from Benevento, Italy in 1904. He began as a railroad laborer, later worked for a small construction firm called the Colonial Sand and Stone Company, which he bought out in 1925 and made into the largest supplier of building materials in the country. In 1929, he bought Il Progresso Italo Americano, the first Italian-language daily newspaper in the U.S., founded in 1880. Pope’s son, Fortunato, became its publisher. His other son, Generoso, Jr., was the publisher of The National Enquirer and was one of Forbes’ 400 wealthiest Americans.
Generoso was born with the name Generoso Antonio Pompilio Carlo Papa. He was the son of farmers, Fortunato and Fortunata Papa. After coming to America, he fathered three sons with his wife Catherine. His eldest son, Fortunato (“Fortune”), (1918–1996) graduated from Columbia University and became an executive in the family construction business. Anthony (1919–2005) who was the middle son, took over the family business and quadrupled the size of Colonial Sand and Stone Company in less than four years. Generoso Pope, Jr. (1927–1988) graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology at age 19.
Generoso Pope arrived in America at age 15 in 1906 with $10 in his pocket and got his first job carrying drinking water to construction workers for $3 per week. He rose to construction supervisor and, eventually, owner of Colonial Sand & Stone, which was one of the largest sand and gravel companies in the world. Colonial built much of New York City’s skyline, including Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge and the original Yankee Stadium.
In 1912, Generoso established Pope Foods to bring to America the unique Italian flavors which he had enjoyed as a young child in Italy. He bought the Italian-language daily newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano in 1928 for $2,050,000. He doubled its circulation to 200,000 in New York City, making it the largest Italian-language daily in the country. He purchased additional papers in New York, including Il Bollettino della Sera, Il Corriere d’America and the Philadelphia daily L’Opinione. Generoso also acquired a small newspaper company and transformed it into The National Enquirer. He also owned the radio station, WHOM. He became the chief source of political, social and cultural information for the community.
Pope encouraged his readers to learn English, become citizens and vote. His goal was to instill pride and ambition to succeed in modern America. A conservative Democrat, Pope was closely associated with Tammany Hall politics in New York and his newspapers played a vital role in securing the Italian vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Democratic ticket. With his presidential friendships, Generoso was able to make Columbus Day into a national holiday. He established the Columbus Day Parade in New York City, which is still the world’s largest Columbus Day Parade.
Almond Cookies from Benevento
Makes about 5 dozen.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1 3/4 cups almonds, toasted and finely chopped
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Preheat the oven to 350 dgrees F. Butter and flour 2 large cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the zest, eggs, vanilla and butter and mix until you have a dough that comes together in a ball.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces.
Roll each piece under the palms of your hand until a 12-inch rope is formed. Carefully place the ropes on the cookie sheets and bake for about 20 minutes. The rolls should be firm to the touch, but not so hard that slicing them will be difficult.
As soon as the ropes come out of the oven, use a sharp or serrated knife to cut diagonal cookies about 3/4 of an inch wide. Spread the individual cookies on the cookie sheets and bake them for 5 additional minutes.
Cool the cookies on wire racks and store in layers separated by wax paper or plastic wrap in a tightly sealed tin.
Edward J. DeBartolo
Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. began as a construction worker and became one of the largest real estate developers in the nation. During the 1960s, the DeBartolo Corporation developed shopping malls and suburban office parks.
The second of six children, DeBartolo was born in Youngstown, Ohio, a center of steel production that was also a major destination for immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. DeBartolo’s parents, Anthony Paonessa and Rose Villani, had immigrated to the United States from Italy. DeBartolo would never know his biological father, who died suddenly before his birth.
After Anthony Paonessa died, Rose Villani Paonessa married Michael DeBartolo and Edward took his stepfather’s family name. Michael DeBartolo emigrated from Bari, Italy with his family at age 17 and became a paving contractor and a builder of warehouses. While a teenager, Edward DeBartolo began transcribing paving contracts for his stepfather, who did not read or write English.
DeBartolo went on to earn a degree in civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Next came a decade of construction jobs with his stepfather. In view of his engineering skills, DeBartolo found himself serving in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and it was during the war while stationed in Italy that he married Marie Patricia Montani. After the war ended, DeBartolo served as president of Michael DeBartolo Construction and he was able to take advantage of dramatic changes occurring across the United States after World War II. As more Americans moved into suburbs, there was a corresponding increase in demand for convenient access to stores. His first retail development was the construction of Gray’s Drug Store and a Sears Roebuck department store in the “uptown” area of Youngstown.
DeBartolo’s company was one of the first companies in the United States to build shopping centers in suburban communities. These shopping centers were initially plazas built as long strips, but soon DeBartolo began developing enclosed shopping malls with his brother Frank DeBartolo acting as architect and he formed the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation. It became the undisputed leader in the shopping mall industry, comprising almost one-tenth of all mall space in the United States. DeBartolo also branched out into other types of urban development and construction, such as hotels, office parks and condominiums. He established a work ethic of fifteen-hour days and seven-day weeks. He once told his senior executives, “My wife has never seen me lie down while the sun was up.” By 1990, DeBartolo was estimated to have more than $1.4 billion in personal wealth.
DeBartolo purchased the San Francisco 49ers football team in 1977 and gave the team to his son, Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., who devoted significant resources to the team, became an expert in team management and player relations and made it one of the most successful NFL franchise during the 1980s. The family also owned the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League from February 1977 until November 1991. The team would win the Stanley Cup in 1991 and DeBartolo said at a rally after the first win that the occasion was “possibly the happiest moment of my life”. While DeBartolo was unsuccessful in his attempt to purchase the Chicago White Sox in 1980, he owned and developed three thoroughbred racetracks – Thistledown in Cleveland, Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, Louisiana.
DeBartolo’s contributions to the campus at the University of Notre Dame include DeBartolo Hall (the main classroom building) and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC), both located on a quad that students refer to as the “DeBartolo Quad”. There is also a DeBartolo Hall on the campus of Youngstown State University, where he has given many endowments to the University. The DeBartolo Corporation continues to be based in nearby Boardman, Ohio.
Bari Pork Chops Pizzaiola
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 center-cut loin pork chops, cut 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
- ½ bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 cup drained canned tomatoes pureed through a sieve or food mill
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ pound green peppers, seeded and cut in 2-by-1/4-inch strips (about 1-1/2 cups)
- ½ pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, quartered or sliced if large
In a heavy 10-to 12-inch skillet with a cover heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the chops for 2 or 3 minutes on each side and transfer them to a plate. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and salt to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the wine and boil briskly to reduce it to about ¼ cup, scrapping in any bits of meat or herbs in the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and return the chops to the skillet. Baste with the sauce, cover, and simmer over low heat, basting once or twice, for 40 minutes.
Heat the remaining oil in another skillet with a cover. Cook the green peppers for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and toss them with the peppers. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer.
To serve, arrange the chops on a heated platter and spoon the vegetables and sauce over them.
The owner of the world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books is Baltimore’s, Steve Geppi, who dropped out of high school to support his family. Today, Geppi’s Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. has a 52 percent market share of this $500 million comic book industry. Geppi is also a minority owner of the Baltimore Orioles and the publisher of Baltimore Magazine.
Steve Geppi was born January 24, 1950 in Baltimore’s Little Italy and completed the 8th grade before leaving school. Geppi’s first job was handling the comics for a local store, where the nine-year-old avidly read comics including his favorite Archie comics. Ever the entrepreneur, Geppi asked to be paid in comics because he could sell them to other kids and make a better “buck”. He left school in 1964 to support his mother and undertook a number of manual-labor jobs while dodging truant officers. He later enrolled in vocational school, but did not feel challenged.
Geppi passed the Postal Service’s carrier exam and achieved the “mailman’s dream” route in suburban Maryland. Geppi’s pay tripled in five years, allowing him to move his growing family out to the suburbs. In the summer of 1972, his nephew, George Kues, was reading an old Batman comic book and Geppi found himself back in his childhood memories of comics. He still loved comics and figured there “were a lot of guys who would feel the same way.” Buying a batch of old comics from a woman on his mail route, he was soon spending weekends at comic shows, buying and trading with other fans. After setting up as a part-time dealer at comic book conventions, he ultimately realised that he could make more money that way than at his job with the postal service.
He opened his first Geppi’s Comic World store under a TV repair shop in Baltimore and, while specialising in older collectible comics, began carrying new comics, chiefly as a means of attracting regular customers to the store each week. Geppi stocked his store with collections he found through the classifieds. One of the first specialty comic retailers in Maryland, Geppi built his business, as the comics industry grew. By 1981/82 he had four stores. In June 1994, Success Magazine featured Geppi on its cover, celebrating his “$250 Million Empire,” and highlighting his co-ownership of the Baltimore Orioles.
Old-Fashioned Italian-American Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
- Three 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, drained
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups whole-milk ricotta
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 18 lasagna noodles, parboiled
- 1 pound mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)
Heat olive oil over moderate heat in large saucepan. Add onions, stir and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Purée plum tomatoes and add to the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
In a bowl mix ricotta, eggs, 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.
Generously oil the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
Take 3/4 cups of tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom of the pan. Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Spread a 1/2 cup of ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Spread 3/4 cups tomato sauce on top of this. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/3 cup of mozzarella.
Repeat this process 4 times. Then place the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle with any remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point in advance and stored in the refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.
Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca
Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca, born October 15, 1924, is an American businessman known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars and his revival of the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s. He served as President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 and as Chairman from 1979 until his retirement at the end of 1992.
Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italian immigrants who came from San Marco dei Cavoti, Benevento, Italy and settled in Pennsylvania’s steel-making belt where they operated the restaurant, Yocco’s Hot Dogs. Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School in 1942 and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. After graduating from Lehigh, he won the Wallace Memorial Fellowship and went to Princeton University for additional studies. He then began a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer. Eventually dissatisfied with that job, he switched career paths entering the company’s sales force. He was very successful in sales and he moved up through the ranks at Ford, eventually into product development. Iacocca participated in the design of several successful Ford automobiles, most notably the Ford Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Escort and the revival of the Mercury brand in the late 1960s, including the introduction of the Mercury Cougar and Mercury Marquis. Eventually, he became the president of the Ford Motor Company, but he clashed with owner, Henry Ford II. He was fired on July 13, 1978 although the company posted a $2 billion profit for that year.
Iacocca was strongly courted by the Chrysler Corporation, which was on the verge of going out of business. At the time the company was losing millions, largely due to recalls of its Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare. Iacocca joined Chrysler and began rebuilding the entire company from the ground up, laying off workers, selling the Chrysler European division to Peugeot and bringing in many former associates from his former company. Realizing that the company would go out of business if it did not receive a significant amount of money for a turnaround, Iacocca approached the United States Congress in 1979 and asked for a loan guarantee. While some have said that Congress lent Chrysler the money, the government only guaranteed the loans. Most observers thought this was an unprecedented move, but Iacocca pointed to the government’s bailouts of the airline and railroad industries. He argued that there were more jobs at stake, if Chrysler failed. Iacocca received the loan guarantee from the government, whose decision caused controversy, but the company made a successful turn around. Throughout the 1980s, Iacocca appeared in a series of commercials for the company’s vehicles, using the ad campaign, “The pride is back” and he also used what was to become his trademark phrase: “If you can find a better car, buy it.”
Campana’s Pizza Margherita
Makes 4 individual pizzas or 1 large pizza
- 3/4 cup warm (105-115°F) water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 1/3 cups bread flour
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for coating
- Cornmeal for sprinkling (optional)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup tomato purée
- 4 plum (Roma) tomatoes, sliced
- 4 1/4 oz part-skim mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Combine the water, yeast and honey in a large bowl. Stir in just enough of the bread flour to make a batter about the consistency of buttermilk (about 1/3-1/2 cup). Cover and let proof in a warm place until the surface is puffy, about 1 hour.
Add the remaining bread flour, the semolina flour and the salt. Knead in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook on medium speed, or by hand, until the dough is smooth, springy and elastic, 4 minutes with the mixer or 10 minutes by hand. Rub the dough lightly with oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough and divide into 4 equal pieces for individual pizzas or leave it whole for a large pizza. Form the dough into smooth ball(s), cover and let rise again until doubled in volume, 45-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a 16-inch pizza pan or two large baking sheets with oil and scatter with cornmeal.
On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch out the ball(s) of dough to an even 1/4-inch thickness on a floured work surface and place on the baking sheets or press the dough onto the pizza pan. If the dough has not relaxed properly, it may spring back as you stretch it.
For the topping, mix together the olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture evenly over the pizza dough. Spread evenly with the tomato purée and top with the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Scatter the Parmesan over the top.
Bake until the dough is golden brown and the toppings are very hot, 20-30 minutes for 1 large pizza or 10-12 minutes for individual rounds. Cut into wedges and serve.
- Italian American Culture – The Art Of Writing(jovinacooksitalian.com)
Our Growing Paynes
December 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm
We could have done without the National Enquirer! But again fascinating history. 🙂
December 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm
So true. I thought – quite a leap from Italian language newspapers to a celebrity rag. Thanks for your insightful comments.
December 28, 2013 at 3:49 am
What a great post accompanied by some very tempting recipes!
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