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Rocky Mountain States

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.

Wyoming

Wyoming Coal Camps

Wyoming Coal Camps

Classic Example of an American Entrepreneur:

Italian Immigrants came to Wyoming in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and most worked in Wyoming’s mining industry. The bulk of Italian immigration to Wyoming was between 1890 and 1910. By 1910, 7.7 percent of Wyoming’s foreign-born population was Italian. The Italian immigrants originated from the northern provinces of Lombardy, Tuscany, and Piedmont. By 1920 more than sixty percent of Wyoming’s Italians lived in Laramie, Sweetwater and Uinta counties.

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Domenico Roncaglio was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1916. The son of Italian immigrants, he was known as “Teno” to his friends and later changed his last name to Roncalio. Teno was one of a family of nine children. Teno obtained his first job, operating a push cart at the age of five years. The next year he took over a shoe shine stand in a local barber shop. By the time he was sixteen years old, Teno had passed the Wyoming Barber Board of Examiners and was the holder of a Journeyman Barber’s Union card. Teno worked in the barber shop throughout his high school years but after graduation went to work on the Rock Springs Rocket as a combination reporter and advertising salesman. For six years Teno worked for the newspaper, gaining much valuable experience.

In 1938 he entered the University of Wyoming as a Journalism and pre-law student. To help out with expenses, Teno and a Rock Springs buddy, Frank Larrabaster, made stencil duplicates of basketball schedules and sold advertising to go with them. During his years at the University, Teno ran a snack bar in his dormitory, waited tables and washed dishes at Annie Moore’s boarding house, tended the furnace, shoveled snow and scrubbed floors. Any job was a good job as long as it helped pay the college expenses. During his second year at the University, Teno was elected Student Body President and got his first taste of politics.

His service to the people of Wyoming had to wait, though, since America went to war. In 1942, Teno joined the Army and fought with the First Infantry Division, 18th Regiment, in North Africa. Teno later fought in Sicily, Italy and on D-Day on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Teno was also there as the Americans fought Germany and ended the War in Europe. Teno Roncalio would leave the Army a Captain with a Silver Star for gallantry and returned home a hero. That is when his long career as a public servant began. After returning to the University of Wyoming to complete his law degree, Teno would serve his community and state as a Representative in Congress for 5 terms.

Source: Teno Roncalio, U. S. CONGRESSMAN FROM WYOMING by Mabel E. Brown.

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Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna

By Deborah Johnson of Cody, Wyoming

9 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sweet red peppers
  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2-1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut each pepper into quarters; remove seeds. Place peppers, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 20-25 minutes or until skin is blistered and blackened. Immediately place peppers in a bowl; cover and let stand for 15-20 minutes. Peel off and discard skin. Cut peppers into 1/4-in. strips.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain. In a saucepan, cook red peppers and garlic in oil for 1 minute; add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, basil and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Spread 1 cup pepper sauce in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles, 1-1/2 cups pepper sauce, 1 cup white sauce and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, white sauce and pepper sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Colorado

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Italians first started coming to Colorado as early as the 1850s. They came for many reasons but the majority — particularly later immigrants — came to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

In the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, the area in Denver between Broadway and Zuni Streets on the east and west and 46th and 32nd Avenues on the north and south was known as “Little Italy”. It was an area of Italian grocery stores and bakeries, community bread ovens, churches and schools; an area where a new wave of immigrants from all over Italy moved to and where they were comfortable and socially secure in a new country.

The area along the South Platte River sandwiched between Denver’s growing downtown and the hills to the west was known as “The Bottoms”. Here many of the first Italian immigrants settled. There was also farmland along the South Platte where they could grow cash crops of vegetables that were then sold in small, neighborhood shops and from push carts and horse-drawn wagons throughout the neighborhoods of Denver.

Although created by accident, these neighborhoods combined many elements of wise urban planning and organization — self-contained communities with their own institutions. They offered, first, a cloak of familiarity — the language, customs and foods of the homeland and they fostered valuable social and economic networks, helping the newest arrivals to get established quickly.

Denver's Italian American Bank

Denver’s Italian American Bank

The Denver Post reported that members of the Polidori family have been blending ground pork with just the right balance of salt and spices for more than 80 years.

Ensconced in an unpretentious building that includes what was once the carriage house behind the old Coors Mansion in north Denver, Steve Polidori and his sister, Melodie Polidori Harris, are continuing a tradition launched in 1925, when their great-grandfather, Rocco and his wife, Anna, opened Polidori’s Grocery and Meat Market. It was there that Anna first prepared the sausage recipe she brought with her from Abruzzi, her hometown in Italy.

Polidori

Polidori

Anna came through Ellis Island and ended up in Utah, where she met and married Rocco, who was then a miner. After he fell victim to black lung disease, they moved to Colorado for fresh air. Rocco’s brother owned a grocery store. In time Rocco and Anna bought the store. She became the butcher. From time to time, she would make sausage for her husband and herself. Customers would come in, smell the sausage cooking, ask for samples and, before long, they were asking to buy it.

When they could no longer run the store, their sons, Louis and Augie, took over and ran it for almost 40 years. The brother-sister team (the son and daughter of Gary, an attorney, and Ruth Ann Polidori, a retired district court judge) represents the fourth generation to sustain the family business.

Today, the Polidori twosome are behind the Polidori Meat Processors, a family business that has grown its product line to include chorizo, breakfast sausage, bratwurst and meatballs, in addition to hot and mild Italian sausage. Polidori sausages are now found throughout the metro area.

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Rigatoni with Polidori Sausage

4 appetizer servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound rigatoni
  • 1/4 pound spicy Polidori Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Cook rigatoni in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Cook sausage in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring frequently and breaking up with back of wooden spoon. Add garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Drain off excess oil and return pot to medium-high heat. Stir in marinara sauce and crushed red pepper, then pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide pasta among four 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes or custard cups. Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan over. Place in broiler until cheese melts and begins to brown, watching closely to prevent burning, about 1 1/2 minutes. Sprinkle rigatoni with parsley, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Utah

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Italian immigrants were one of the largest groups of Europeans to move into Utah. The bulk of Italians came to Utah during the period from the 1890s to the 1920s in response to demands for unskilled labor in the mining and railroad industries. Italians came primarily from the regions of Piemonte, Veneto, Abruzzi, Lazio, Calabria and Sicilia. Immigrants were attracted to four counties, Carbon, Salt Lake, Tooele and Weber. Coal mining, metal mining, work in the mills, smelters, refineries, railroading, farming, ranching and involvement in service-related industries and businesses provided livelihoods for these immigrants.

Italian coal miners played an important role in the Carbon County strike of 1903-04 with labor organizer, Carlo Demolli, assuming a leading role for the United Mine Workers of America. From the late 1910s through the 1930s, Frank Bonacci from Decollatura, Italy, led a tireless effort for UMWA recognition. After union recognition was achieved in the 1930s, Bonacci became the first Italian-American elected to the Utah House of Representatives.

As an early hub of the D&RGW Railroad, the town of Helper became an important Italian settlement. Joseph Barboglio became especially important as the founder of Helper State Bank, an institution that aided Italians with their economic needs.

Many immigrants resided in Salt Lake City and in the mining areas of Bingham Canyon, Magna, Midvale and Murray. The west side of Salt Lake housed a “Little Italy” around a cluster of shops and businesses that catered to Italian tastes. One such establishment was F. Anselmo and Company, located on Rio Grande Street.

In the south end of the city, immigrants had truck farms that supplied fruit and produce to the Farmer’s Market in Salt Lake City. Others, including Luigi Nicoletti, operated goat ranches that specialized in cheese and meat goods sold to Italian miners.

Those who lived in Tooele County found work in the mining town of Mercur, an early central location for Italians and the site of one of their first fraternal organizations. Photographs survive that show bocce (a form of bowling) being played by Italians in the streets. Work was found in the Tooele smelter (run by the International Smelting and Refining Company), where safety signs were printed in Italian and other languages.

Italian-language newspapers produced in Utah included Il Minatore, La Gazzetta Italiana, La Scintilla, and Il Corriere D’America.

Sunnyside had its own Italian band, complete with a music professor from Grimaldi, Italy. Salt Lake City Italians enjoyed the music of various individuals and bands who often played at dances and celebrations. Even the San Carlo Opera Company managed to give concerts in Utah. Accordion, guitar and mandolin music could be heard emanating from many of the mining camps.

Source: Philip F. Notarianni, Italianita in Utah: The Immigrant Experience.

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Cristiano and Silvia Creminelli have made Salt Lake City home for authentic Italian salumi. The Creminelli family has been producing artisan meat products in Italy as far back as the oldest aunt can remember and, legend has it, as far back as the 1600s. The Creminellis decided to bring their products to America, specifically Utah, because of the quality pork found there.The Cristianos also brought other authentic Italian flavors to the Beehive State. Cristiano’s wife, Silvia, is an excellent cook in her own right and teaches cooking classes in the city. “We come from the land of rice,” says Silvia. “Piemonte.” So instead of pasta or polenta, a risotto is the center of a meal. It’s not a side dish. It’s served on its own, so the creamy texture and rich flavors can be savored solo. For this dish, Silvia starts with arborio rice and takes it through the traditional steps: the soffrito, the tostatura and the mantecatura.”

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Risotto Alla Birra Mortadella E Mascarpone

Serves 4

“This is an extremely easy and flavorful risotto to prepare in colder weather. Beer in the rice gives the dish a full-bodied flavor balanced out with the unexpected additions of ginger, lemon zest, and rosemary – an echo of Italy’s fortunes built on the spice trade. It’s also a great way to use mortadella – the grandfather of the much-maligned bologna in a sophisticated way.”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup beer such as a pale ale or lager (nothing hoppy or dark!)
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 3 ounces Creminelli Mortadella, julienned

Directions

Bring the broth to a low simmer in a large pot.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion over low heat, just to soften and release the flavors. Do not let brown. Add the rice and toast it for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the beer and let it evaporate, stirring the rice as it does.

Add one ladle of hot broth and bring the rice to a simmer over medium heat, stirring as you go. Add a ladleful of hot broth as the rice soaks it up, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until “al dente,” where the rice is soft but still has a slightly firm texture in the middle. Add the lemon zest, rosemary, and ginger.

Remove from the heat and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheese. Serve immediately, garnished with julienned mortadella slices.

Source: Salt Lake City Magazine

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