In 1882 a group of 11 Italians came to the United States from Roseto, Italy and found work in an area of Pennsylvania that later become known as the town of Roseto. Relatives of these immigrants followed and settled in the same area. By the early 1900s the town was flourishing and a near exact replica of the Roseto, Italy they had left behind. And that was how it remained for years.
By the 1950s the town was bustling with activity. The residents kept to themselves creating an Italian village similar to one in the “Old Country”. However, they didn’t necessarily stick to the “old world” style of cooking and eating. The light flatbread pizza of their homeland was exchanged for heavy bread and cheese. Sausage, meatballs and pasta were a normal dinner, biscotti and other sweets became daily treats and there was always wine.
A physician and University Professor named Stewart Wolf discovered Roseto. Wolf became interested in the townsfolk when he noticed that despite their diets and struggles with obesity, no one really seemed to get sick. He conducted a study of the residents and looked at the incidence of heart disease and heart attack fatalities. He and his team took EKGs of everyone, did blood tests, collected death certificates from decades into the past and conducted exhaustive interviews with the residents.
What he found was astounding. Virtually no one in the town of Rosetto died under the age of 55 from heart disease or heart attack. And the incidences of death from heart disease in men older than 65 was nearly half that of the national averages. In fact, deaths of all causes were 30%-35% lower than expected. There was virtually no alcoholism, no suicide, no drug addiction, no one on welfare and crime was practically nonexistent. There were also no occurrences of peptic ulcers or other stress related problems. The only real consistent cause of death appeared to be old age.
Researchers were baffled. How did this town of sausage eating, wine drinking, overweight and happy Italians manage to escape the ill-health fate of the rest of the country? The researchers came to realize that the people of Roseto were not only very social, but very kind. They stopped in the streets and talked. They had each other over for dinner. Three generations of family lived under the same roof. They laughed a lot. Everyone knew and respected each other, especially their elders. Thus, the town of Roseto illustrated the importance of feeling good about life.
Italian American Lasagna
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 1/2 cups Italian tomatoes, crushed
- 12 whole fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano shredded
- 4 oz Italian style dried bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 sprigs Italian parsley finely chopped
For the lasagna
- 1 lb ground beef
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- 12 whole lasagna either oven-ready or parboiled
- 10 oz mozzarella, shredded
- 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
For the sauce:
Combine the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, basil leaves, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and simmer until the sauce thickens, 20 to 30 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, bread crumbs, salt and parsley for the filling and set aside.
Brown the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Coat a large roasting pan or lasagna pan with olive oil.
Assemble the lasagna as follows (bottom to top): mozzarella, thin layer of sauce, layer of pasta, Parmigiano, ricotta cheese filling, mozzarella, meat, thin layer of sauce and layer of pasta.
Bake for one hour, covered with foil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice into squares and serve.
Newark, New Jersey
In its heyday, Seventh Avenue in Newark was one of the largest “Little Italies” in the U.S. with a population of 30,000, in an area of less than a square mile. The center of life in the neighborhood was St. Lucy’s Church, founded by Italian immigrants in 1891. Throughout the year, St. Lucy’s and other churches sponsored processions in honor of saints that became community events. The most famous procession was the Feast of St. Gerard, but there were also great feasts for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Snow, the Assumption and St. Rocco.
Joe DiMaggio loved the restaurants of Seventh Avenue so much that he would take the New York Yankees to Newark to show them “real Italian food”. Frank Sinatra had bread from Giordano’s Bakery sent to him every week until his death, no matter where in the world he was. New York Yankees catcher, Rick Cerone, also grew up in the First Ward. One of the nation’s largest Italian newspapers, The Italian Tribune, was founded on Seventh Avenue. Seventh Avenue produced stars, such as Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, was a native of the First Ward as well.
Seventh Avenue was devastated by urban renewal efforts during the 1950s. Eighth Avenue was obliterated by the city council, scattering the Italian American residents. Most businesses never recovered. The construction of Interstate 280 also served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. Following these events some of the First Ward’s Italians stayed in the neighborhood, while others migrated to other Newark neighborhoods, such as Broadway, Roseville and the Ironbound section.
The Belmont, founded in the 1920s, moved to its current location on Bloomfield Ave. in 1965. Chef Stretch has passed away, but his Chicken Savoy recipe is still a popular menu item. Celebrity spottings are not uncommon. Clint Eastwood bought the cast of his movie, Jersey Boys there while they were filming in NJ.
Stretch’s Chicken Savoy
Serves 3 or 4
This is a restaurant recipe and you must keep the chicken pieces well-separated in the pan. If the pan is crowded, the chicken will not brown because too much liquid will accumulate. In a restaurant kitchen, the oven goes to 700 degrees F or more, which means the juices evaporate before they have a chance to accumulate. For years the recipe was a family secret and Stretch’s daughter Annette, pulled the old, “If I tell you, then we’d have to kill you” line when Saveur Magazine came calling for the recipe.
- 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into 6 pieces (two drumsticks, two thighs, two breasts with wings)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 6 to 8 teaspoons grated Locatelli or other Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (preferably 7% acidity)
In a 10 1/2-inch cast iron skillet or other heavy, oven-proof pan, arrange the chicken pieces so that they do not touch each other, skin side down.
Sprinkle the chicken with garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and grated cheese, in that order.
Place chicken in a preheated 500-degree F oven for 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and pour on all the vinegar at once. It should sizzle.
Return the chicken to the oven for another minute or so.
Arrange chicken on a platter and pour the vinegar sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.
The “Little Italy” of Baltimore is located close to the Inner Harbor area and Fells Point, newly renovated and very popular for its great restaurants. This neighborhood has been occupied by Italians since the 1890’s and still retains a large Italian community. During the warm months, the neighborhood is home to bocce games and open-air film festivals. “Little Italy” is the end point for the nation’s oldest Columbus Day parade, celebrated since 1890 and hosted by the Italian American community. In June, Baltimore’s “Little Italy” celebrates the Feast of Saint Anthony and the Feast of Saint Gabriel in August.
In 1953, Giovanna Aquia, along with her father Pasquale, her mother Rosa and her little brother Salvatore (Sammy) embarked on a journey that would forever change their lives. The family boarded the famous Italian luxury liner the “Andrea Doria” and made their way to America from Cefalu, Sicily. They entered the U.S. via NYC and arrived to their final destination in Baltimore on June 23, 1953. Giovanna likes to say, “At a time when no one liked to move around, our family traveled 3500 miles and we haven’t moved 200 feet since.”
Giovanna goes on to say that ” family life always revolved around the dinner table. It was there that a great appreciation of simple Sicilian cuisine became rooted in them. Their house was always open to friends and family. On Sundays and holidays, Nonna Rosa, would cook up a feast. We all just sat together, enjoyed each other and talked and laughed while we were feeding their faces. Our family is the only family with 4 generations still living in Little Italy.”
It was the desire to share their Sicilian heritage and Sicilian cuisine that prompted the family to buy an older neighborhood diner and create a warm, comfortable family ristoranté in “Little Italy”, called Café Gia Ristoranté. “We strived very hard to recreate a Sicilian bistro, a place where one feels like they are in Sicily while dining,” she said. “Our walls are embraced with hand painted colorful murals, our tables are also topped off with great hand painted murals. The exterior echoes an old Sicilian bistro and we have created a little bit of Italy with fresh, delicious Italian food and friendly, family service.”
Insalata di Mare Calda
Chef Gia Daniella
“Growing up, Christmas Eve was a big deal at my house,” says Chef Gia Daniella, the owner of Cafe Gia Ristorante in Little Italy. That night, her family hosted the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a grand seafood meal with Italian roots. “We always entertained and had a spread of seafood and side dishes — all Italian and Italian-American,” she recalls. “My mother is from Italy — Sicily,” she explains. “The Seven Seafoods is actually a regional tradition in the south.” The mixed seafood salad was always one of Gia’s favorite Christmas Eve dishes. The recipe below is served warm but is equally appealing when chilled, she says. And best enjoyed when surrounded by loved ones.
For the salad:
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 lemons
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
- 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
- 1 pound clams, cleaned
- 1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 1 ½ cups celery, finely chopped
- 4 cups arugula
- Chopped roasted red peppers for garnish
For the dressing:
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
- ½ cup capers
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, combine 3 cups of water, bay leaves and crushed garlic.
Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot, then place the lemon rind in the pot.
Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.
Add the shrimp to the pot for two minutes, then remove with a strainer and set aside in a bowl.
Add the calamari to the water for 1 ½ minutes. Remove with a strainer and add to the bowl with the shrimp.
Add the clams and mussels to the pot and cook until their shells open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a strainer and combine with the shrimp and calamari.
Add the chopped celery. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and gently fold.
To make the dressing:
In a processor combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and capers and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently toss the seafood with the dressing. Add another dash or two of salt and pepper. Garnish with roasted red peppers.
For an attractive presentation, serve over fresh arugula.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the eastern side of Judiciary Square became an enclave of Italian immigrants in Washington; the equivalent of a Little Italy. The Italian neighborhood rested on the eastern edge of the square, stretching eastward to about 2nd Street NW. The heart of the community was Holy Rosary Church, a chapel built at 3rd and F Streets NW. It was a government town without mills, factories or a commercial port and there were fewer opportunities for unskilled laborers without language skills to support themselves. Instead, the area drew smaller numbers of skilled immigrants, such as the construction workers, artists and tradesmen, who labored on the government buildings erected in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The neighborhood grew throughout the 20th century, with an increased surge of Italian immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. However, the construction of Interstate 395 through the city in the 1970s razed about half of the neighborhood and forced its remaining residents to move away. Today, the former Italian enclave is dominated by Federal office buildings and law offices. The Holy Rosary Church remains standing, though, and continues to draw a heavily Italian congregation, along with its “Casa Italia” cultural center next door. Casa Italiana offers classes on cinema, literature, cuisine, wine tasting and majolica, the ancient Italian art of ceramic pottery, Visitors can still hear a Catholic Mass in Italian every Sunday at Holy Rosary.
Campono Meatball Subs
What sets a great meatball sub apart from all the others is the quality of its ingredients. Campono’s popular sandwich is made with ricotta cheese in the meatball mixture and made in-house mozzarella and marinara sauce for the sandwich. The meatballs are neither too firm nor so tender that they fall apart.
FOR THE MEATBALLS
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for your hands
- 1 small onion, cut into small dice
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 slices white/country bread, crusts removed, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 pounds ground veal
- 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork shoulder (butt)
- 8 ounces finely chopped or ground prosciutto
- 1 cup freshly grated pecorino-Romano cheese
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 cups “00” flour, for dusting
FOR THE SAUCE
- 28 ounces canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- A few fresh basil leaves
- 6 sub rolls, partially split
- 12 thin slices good-quality mozzarella cheese
- 6 slices deli provolone cheese
For the meatballs:
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion, garlic, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook just until the onion and garlic have softened but not browned; transfer to a very large mixing bowl.
Combine the bread pieces and milk in a medium bowl; let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the milk is completely absorbed.
Add to the large bowl with the onions, the ground veal, ground beef, ground pork shoulder, prosciutto, pecorino-Romano, ricotta, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and the soaked bread pieces; use clean hands to blend the mixture until well incorporated.
Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the “00” flour in a wide, shallow bowl.
Grease your hands with a little oil. Form the meatball mixture into 65 meatballs of equal size (the size of shell-on walnuts). Coat each one lightly with “00” flour, dividing them between two parchment-paper-lined rimmed baking sheets. Roast on the upper and lower racks for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through. Discard any remaining flour.
For the sauce:
Use a food mill to puree the tomatoes. Discard the seeds; reserve the drained juices for another use, if desired.
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Cook just until the garlic starts to brown, then stir in the tomato puree. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes then taste, and season lightly with kosher or sea salt and cracked black pepper. Stir in 6 to 8 basil leaves. Turn off the heat. Transfer 30 of the meatballs to the saucepan, turning them until coated. Cool and freeze the remaining meatballs for another time.
When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Open the sub rolls, keeping the halves partially attached and laying them on two rimmed baking sheets. Tear out some of the inside bread to create room for the meatballs. Spread a tablespoon or two of the marinara sauce over both halves of each open-faced roll; toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes; keep the oven on.
Line each sub roll with the mozzarella and provolone slices, overlapping and/or tearing the slices so the inside roll surfaces are covered. Place 5 sauced meatballs at the center of each sub roll; return to the oven just until the cheese melts.
Close each sandwich and cut crosswise in half. Serve hot.
*View Recipes From America’s Italian Communities: Part 1 here .
As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of 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 townspeople and later for Americans nationwide. No one has contributed more foods to the American dinner table than the Italian immigrants. Strong Italian-American enclaves in New York City, Boston’s North End, Providence’s Federal Hill and South Philly have helped shape a new American hybrid cuisine. Based on Old World traditions, Italian-American cuisine is marked by an appreciation for the New World’s abundance.
Boston’s Pan Pizza
Boston’s Italian neighborhood is called the North End. It has a strong Italian flair and numerous Italian restaurants. The North End is also Boston’s oldest neighborhood and it still possesses an old-world charm kept alive by its mostly Italian-American population. The neighborhood also is a major attraction for tourists and Bostonians alike, who come seeking the best in Italian cuisine and to enjoy the Italian feel of the region. Hanover and Salem Streets, the two main streets of this bustling historic neighborhood, are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, selling a variety of incredible foods. A trip to Boston would not be complete without including a meal at one of North End’s over one hundred fine Italian restaurants.
You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet, preferably non-stick, about 11 1/2-by-17 or a 16-inch pizza pan and a plastic dough scraper.
- 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water, or more if necessary
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Olive oil (for the pans)
- Extra flour (for sprinkling)
- Extra salt (for sprinkling)
In a bowl, sprinkle yeast into water; set aside for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Stir to blend.
With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture. Add enough additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make a dough that holds together, but is sticky and too moist to knead.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so the wrap does not touch the dough. Lay a dish towel on top. Set aside for 2 hours.
Rub a large rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil. Rub the center of 1 long sheet of foil with oil and set it aside.
Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Use a dough scraper to transfer the dough to the baking sheet or pizza pan. Pat the dough with a little flour to within 2 inches of the edge of the pans.
Cover with foil, oiled side down. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or as long as overnight).
Remove pan from the refrigerator. Dip your hand in flour and pat the dough with your hand, adding as little flour as necessary, until it reaches the edges of the sheets.
Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
- 12 slices provolone cheese or 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced, or 4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 4 slices good-quality ham, cut into matchsticks (optional)
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
Arrange racks on the lowest and center parts of the oven. Set the oven at 500 degrees.
If using provolone, arrange it on the dough, spacing out the slices. Add the cherry or plum tomatoes, spacing them out. Sprinkle with mozzarella.
Sprinkle with ham, if using, then Parmesan.
Bake the pizza on the lowest rack of the oven for about 10 minutes (check after 8 minutes to make sure edges are not burning).
Transfer the pizza to the center rack and continue baking for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, the dough is golden and crisp at the edges, and the bottom is firm.
With a wide metal spatula, lift the pizza from the pan and transfer to large wooden board. Cut into rectangles, wedges, or strips.
Federal Hill’s Zuppa Di Polpette (Meatball Soup)
Federal Hill is the Italian neighborhood of Providence with many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, art galleries, cigar shops and markets. DePasquale Square is the center of the neighborhood. Historic Federal Hill is the “Heartbeat of Providence” and begins at Atwells Avenue, the street that flows under the arch. The gateway arch over Atwells with the La Pigna (pinecone) sculpture hanging from its center is a traditional Italian symbol of abundance and quality and the symbol of Federal Hill. It is a place dedicated to the Italian immigrants who gathered here as a community and is still a place of charm, warmth and hospitality to all. Numerous Italian restaurants and businesses line the main thoroughfare and its surrounding area. Garibaldi Square, with a bust of the “Hero of Two Worlds”, and DePasquale Plaza, with outdoor dining and two bocce courts, all contribute to the Italian atmosphere.
In a large 8 quart stock pot prepare the following:
- 1 small chicken broken up in pieces
- 1 large onion cut in quarters
- 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 medium ripe tomato cut in half
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- Pinch of turmeric, for a little color
Add enough water to cover 4-5 inches above the ingredients and cook for about one and one half hours. Remove the chicken and vegetables separately and cool.
Puree the vegetables through a food mill or processor and add back to the stock.
Cool the chicken and use it for chicken salad. If you like you can add some of the chicken cut into pieces back into the soup.
For the meatballs:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup Romano cheese
- 1 large egg
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Scoop out by tablespoons and form into small meatballs. Add them to the soup and simmer them for about 30 minutes.
- 2 tablespoons uncooked soup (small) pasta, per person, optional
- Lots of freshly grated Romano cheese
Cook the pasta and distribute it between the bowls. Ladle in the soup and meatballs and serve with the cheese.
Capellini Alla Positano from Philadelphia’s Bellini Grill
Philadelphia’s Italian American community is the second-largest in the United States. Named after its view of the Center City skyline, Bella Vista, Italian for “Beautiful View,” is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and authentic Italian neighborhoods. Bella Vista is home to many Italian-American treasures, such as the city’s first Italian American bathhouse, the Fante-Leone Pool, built in 1905 and the Philadelphia Ninth Street Italian Market, claimed to be the oldest open-air market still in operation in the country. More than 100 years old, the Italian Market was originally a business association of local vendors who banded together to compete with larger stores that were moving into the area. Today, the market houses an assortment of shops, bakeries and restaurants.
Makes 4 Servings
- 5 oz uncooked Angel Hair Pasta
- 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Chopped Fresh Chili
- 3 Garlic Cloves; minced
- 2 tablespoons Shallots; chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/2 cup Fish Broth
- 2 ups Dry White Wine
- 3 cups Marinara Sauce (see recipe below)
- 8 oz Lump Crab Meat
- 1 bunch Fresh Basil; chopped
- 2 cups Grape Tomatoes
- 24 oz Canned Tomato Sauce
- 1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped
- 1 ¼ teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1 Garlic Clove; minced
- 1/2 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
- Pinch Sea Salt
- Pinch White Pepper
For the marinara sauce: sauté chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add tomato sauce and remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally.
For the pasta: Cook pasta according to directions on package.
Sauté shallots, chili and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Add fish stock and white wine, cook until slightly reduced. Add marinara sauce, stirring until combined.
Gently fold in lump crab meat, fresh basil and tomatoes – cook for 5 minutes. Serve sauce over cooked pasta.
Bakeries in New York’s Little Italy
Most of the Italian immigrants who made their home in America first landed in New York City. Many then traveled to other parts of the country; but by the early 1900’s, hundreds of thousands had settled in lower Manhattan, living in row houses and tenements in an area of about one square mile. For the unskilled, it was a hard life of cleaning city streets and ash barrels and, for the skilled, it was a hard life of working their trade in constructing buildings and roads. Others became fruit peddlers, bread bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Some opened grocery stores and restaurants or worked in factories. Most of the people who lived on Mulberry came from Naples; those from Elizabeth Street were from Sicily; Mott Street from Calabria; and most of the people north of Mott, came from Bari.
Sweets would have been a rare indulgence for most in the Old Country, however, in America they were a frequent treat. One of the earliest New York ice cream parlors to open, in the 1820s, was Palmo’s Garden, whose immigrant owner, Ferdinand Palmo, fitted it out with gilded columns, huge mirrors and an Italian band. In 1892, opera impresario Antonio Ferrara opened a confections parlor under his name on Grand Street, where he could entertain his musician friends. Veniero’s on East 11th Street began as a billiard parlor in 1894 that sold candy and coffee, eventually, evolving into an enormously successful pastry shop that created the cake for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration.
Arguably the most famous bakery and cafe in Little Italy is Ferrara, the two-floor dessert mecca with flashing lights and an outdoor summer-season gelato stand. Constantly packed with tourists and locals (on a recent Friday at 11 a.m., the takeout line was out the door), Ferrara has some of the most delicious cannoli this side of the Atlantic. Open since 1892, the cafe serves the dessert with a side of dark chocolate pieces and mixes small chocolate chips into the sweet ricotta-based filling.
Ferrara’s Bakery Tiramisu
Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara, opera impresario and showman, opened the cafe in New York City called Caffé A. Ferrara. Enrico Caruso, the great opera singer, thought the coffee marvelous but loved the cookies and cakes.
- 1 box (7 oz.) Savoiardi or Lady Fingers
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1/2 pint heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup strong warm coffee
- 1/4 cup coffee liqueur
Arrange Savoiardi in rectangular serving dish, (approximately 11″ x 13″).
Lightly soak Savoiardi with a mixture of coffee and coffee liqueur.
While gradually adding sugar, beat egg yolks (approximately 5-10 minutes) until very stiff and egg yolks appear pale in color.
Beat heavy cream until very stiff and fold into egg yolks.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk or electric beater until very stiff and gently fold egg whites into the cream mixture. Add vanilla and fold gently.
Cover Savoiardi with this cream mixture. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Sprinkle with cocoa or chocolate flakes before serving.
Tiramisu may be frozen and should be defrosted in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.
Di Palo’s Ricotta Cheesecake
Di Palo’s in New York’s Little Italy is the iconic Italian deli, the stuff of dreams for anybody who cooks Italian. Lou Di Palo, whose family has owned the store for 104 years, is still working behind the counter. He is the great-grandson of the founder, is the fourth generation, along with his brother, Sal and his sister, Marie. When you stop in, you’ll almost always find two or more of them there, offering tastes of cheeses, slicing speck or prosciutto or dishing out orders of Eggplant Parmigiana. They make their own ricotta and mozzarella and have for decades.
Lou Di Palo shared his grandmother’s recipe for a true Italian-style cheesecake.
- Unsalted butter, for greasing
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup crushed Zwieback cookies or graham crackers, plus extra for garnish
- 3 pounds fresh ricotta
- 6 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 teaspoons orange-blossom water
- 3/4 cup cream
Butter a 9-inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the crushed cookies in a small bowl and evenly coat the bottom and sides of the buttered pan with the mixture.
In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar and the ricotta, eggs, vanilla, orange-blossom water and the cream. Pour into the cookie-coated pan.
Sprinkle the top with additional crushed cookies and place the springform pan on the center oven rack on a cookie sheet to catch any leaks.
Bake for 1 hour or until the center no longer jiggles; it may crack slightly. Let cool, remove from pan and serve at room temperature.
Cassateddi Di Ricotta (Ricotta Turnovers)
This traditional Sicilian recipe for sweet ricotta turnovers is adapted from “The Little Italy Cookbook: Recipes from North America’s Italian Communities” (out of print) by Maria Pace and Louisa Scaini-Jojic. The authors suggest using a pasta machine to get the dough thin enough to make the pastries.
- 1 pound ricotta, drained, see note at the bottom
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 eggs plus 1 egg white
- 1/4 cup shortening, melted
- 1/3 cup milk
- 4 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)
- Confectioners’ sugar
For the filling, combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and egg white in a large bowl; set aside.
Combine the 4 eggs, melted shortening, remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and milk in a small bowl.
Mound 3 1/2 cups flour on a board; make a well. Pour the egg mixture into the well; sprinkle on the baking powder. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the flour to form a dough; add a little more milk, if needed. Knead briefly until the dough is smooth. (Add flour, if needed.)
Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one of the pieces and flatten; dust with flour and roll until it is 1/16th-inch thick and shaped into a 4-inch-wide rectangle.
Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling along one side of the dough at 3 1/2-inch intervals. Fold the top half of the strip over the filling and press edges together to enclose completely.
Cut with a pastry cutter or knife into individual squares or half moons. Lay each piece on a lightly floured baking sheet; repeat with remaining pieces and filling.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Fry several turnovers at a time until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on a rack placed over paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
Draining ricotta: Place ricotta in a wire sieve in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to remove excess water. For faster results, cover the ricotta with a small plate that fits in the sieve and weight that with a heavy can. If you can, use fresh whole milk ricotta from a specialty market for the richest flavor.
In Italy, there are sugo and salsa. Sugo derives from succo (juices) and refers to pan drippings that come from cooking meat or from a rich meat-based sauce, such as, sugo alla Bolognese and thick vegetable sauces (which often go over pasta). A salsa is a semi-liquid raw or cooked sauce that’s used as a condiment. It can go over pasta or used to season other dishes, for example, pesto alla genovese or salsa verde that is served over boiled meats or potatoes. If a sauce is especially delicate, it may be called “salsina.”
The passage from sugo/salsa to sauce/gravy must have occurred when immigrant families settled into new neighborhoods in the U.S. and became an Italian-American family/neighborhood tradition more than anything else. Some immigrants translated the Italian for what they put on their pasta as gravy, while others translated it as sauce and the translations have been passed down through the generations, becoming the definitive lable in the process. People get amazingly passionate over things like this.
The aroma of a garlic-laden tomato sauce spiked with sausage, meatballs and rolled-up braciole can bring tears to the eyes of many Italian-Americans. Sunday gravy, evokes memories of weekend family gatherings in which mom or grandma presided over the constantly stirred pot of sauce and meat, and various relatives were tasked with procuring the essential provisions to round out the dinner—the cannoli and sesame bread from the bakery or the wine from the cellar.
Sunday gravy was more than just a big meal. In close-knit Italian-American homes, it was a virtual religion. The best Sunday gravy simmered on the stove for hours and the meats in the sauce became a symbol of plenty. Meat had been a rarity in the old country and, if there was any of it at all in a meal, it was usually pork. But in the U.S., immigrant women bought beef because they could. The long, slow cooking time was also a time for families to spend with each other, reinforcing ties that could withstand the harsh realities of the outside world.
When I was young, my mother would make Italian gravy every Sunday. She would start at dawn and work in the kitchen pretty much until dinner time, which was around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Not only did she prepare this sauce with meatballs, sausage, etc. for pasta, but she would also cook a pork roast or an eye of the round roast, vegetables and salad. In those days, my grandfather would come to dinner and bring Hershey chocolate bars, ice cream and a jug of homemade wine.
This tradition is time-consuming and quite a lot of work. Not the healthiest of meals, either, with all the meat and oil used in its preparation. I make tomato sauce with meatballs and sausage quite often but on a much smaller scale with a lot less fat and with healthier meat for the meatballs and I do the same for Sunday gravy. Just for the fun of it, I make Italian gravy once or twice a year. This time it is for the blog, so you can see just exactly what Sunday Gravy is all about.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound sweet Italian fennel sausage, cut into links
- 11 to 12 ounces boneless pork ribs
- Meatballs, recipe below
- Braciole, recipe below
- 3 (26-ounce) containers of Italian chopped tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
- 2 (26-ounce) containers of Italian crushed tomatoes, without salt or sugar added
- 2-6 ounce cans tomato paste
- 3 whole garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon each salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
- 1 pound pasture-raised ground pork
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
- 1 pound beef top round, flank steak or strip steak, pounded thin
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
- 1/2 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 large clove garlic chopped finely
- 1/4 cup pignolis – toasted and chopped, optional
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- String (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls
- 1 pound of pasta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 7-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
To make the braciole:
Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin the meat. Cut the meat into 5-6” slices.
In a small bowl combine the olive oil, chopped parsley, shallots, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, pignolis, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the beef rolls. Fold in the sides over the filling of each roll. Roll up each slice and secure with kitchen string.
To make the gravy:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and coat them with olive oil cooking spray. Place the sausage links on one baking sheet. The second baking pan is for the meatballs.
In a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the boneless pork ribs. Cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned all over. Place on a clean plate.
Add the braciole rolls and brown them on all sides. Transfer to the plate with the pork and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty paste cans with water and add to the pot. Stir into the onions and let cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
Pour in all the tomatoes and fill one tomato container with water and add it to the pot. Add the seasonings (crushed red pepper – parsley), the pork ribs and the sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce to a low simmer and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Add the cooked meatballs and braciole to the gravy after it has simmered for one hour. Simmer for an additional 3 to 4 hours (if you want it thick and rich). Stir in the fresh basil just before adding the gravy to the pasta.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Once cooked, drain and add the gravy. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve the meat on a big platter, so diners can choose what they want.
To make the meatballs and sausage:
Add the water to the bread crumbs, mix well and let sit for a few minutes. Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cheese and parsley to the meat. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the salt and pepper and add to the meat mixture. Add the moistened bread crumbs. Mix the ingredients with your hands until the consistency is moist and the meat holds together well. Using your hands, roll the meatballs into 1 1/2-inch balls.Two pounds of meat should make about 18 to 20 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the foil lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until browned, turning them over after 10 minutes. Cover and keep warm.
Place the pan of sausage links in the oven at the same time and bake the sausage until browned. Turn over halfway through baking. Add the sausage to the gravy when the pork ribs are added.
- Cooking With My Favorite Italian Sausage (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Sauce Vs Gravy: Sunday Gravy, Soprano’s Style (domesticgoddessathome.wordpress.com)
- You Don’t Have to Be Italian to Make Homemade Italian Sauce and Meatballs (thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com)
- Gregory Callimanopulos Braciola Recipe (littleitaly473.wordpress.com)
The voice of Snow White in the first full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937 belonged to Adriana Caselotti. The 21-year-old coloratura soprano beat out 148 other candidates for the role. Her father Guido Caselotti, an immigrant from Italy, was a teacher of music and a vocal coach. Her mother, Maria Orefice (from Naples), was a singer in the Royal Opera. Her older sister, Louise, sang opera and gave voice lessons. When Caselotti was seven, the family went to Italy while her mother toured with an opera company. Caselotti was educated at an Italian convent, San Getulio, near Rome, while her mother performed in the opera. When they returned to New York three years later, Caselotti relearned English and studied singing with her father. After a brief stint as a chorus girl at MGM, Walt Disney hired Caselotti as the voice of his heroine, Snow White. She was paid a total of $970 for working on the film (now worth approximately $15,751). She was under contract with Disney and Disney prevented her from appearing in further films and other media, even for Disney, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released. Jack Benny specifically mentioned that he had asked Disney for permission to use her on his radio show and was told, “I’m sorry, but that voice can’t be used anywhere. I don’t want to spoil the illusion of Snow White.” She was named as a Disney Legend in 1994, making her the first woman to receive the award in the voice category. She died in 1997 at age 80.
Neapolitan Baked Tomatoes
Makes: 4 servings
- 4 ripe but firm beefsteak tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped, or other Italian olives, pitted and chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a serrated knife to cut about 1 inch off the stem end of each tomato. Using a small spoon, carefully hollow out the tomatoes, leaving 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick shells and being careful not to puncture the sides. Save the pulp for a sauce. Sprinkle cavities with salt. Place tomatoes, upside down, on a double thickness of paper towels to drain.
In a small bowl whisk together 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the parsley and 1 clove of the minced garlic. Add panko, stirring until coated with the oil mixture. Set aside.
In a large skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onion; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook about 1 minute more or until spinach begins to wilt. Uncover; stir. Cook, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic, the oregano and pepper; cook and stir for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl; cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the vegetables have cooled slightly, stir in mozzarella and olives. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly into tomato shells. Arrange filled tomatoes in a 2-quart square baking dish. Sprinkle panko mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake about 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and topping is crisp and golden brown. Serve warm.
Among the many Italian Americans in Hollywood is the legendary, Francis Ford Coppola, who won four Oscars in 1975 for The Godfather, Part II. He was born April 7, 1939 and In 1970, he won the Oscar for best original screenplay as a co-writer with Edmund H. North for the movie, Patton. His directorial fame came with the release, of The Godfather, in 1972, a film which revolutionized movie-making in the gangster genre, earning praise from both critics and the public before winning three Academy Awards—including his second Oscar (Best Adapted Screenplay with Mario Puzo), Best Picture and his first nomination for Best Director. He followed with The Godfather Part II in 1974, which became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Highly regarded by critics, it brought him three more Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture and made him the second director, after Billy Wilder, to be honored three times for the same film. The Conversation, which he directed, produced and wrote, was released that same year, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. He next directed, Apocalypse Now in 1979, which was critically acclaimed for its vivid and stark depiction of the Vietnam War, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. Coppola is one of only eight filmmakers to win two Palme d’Or awards.
Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan. His father was Carmine Coppola, a flautist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and his mother was Italia (née Pennino). Coppola is the second of three children: his older brother was August Coppola and his younger sister is actress, Talia Shire. Born into a family of Italian immigrant ancestry, his paternal grandparents came to the United States from Bernalda, Basilicata. Coppola received his middle name in honor of Henry Ford, not only because he was born in the Henry Ford Hospital but because of his musician-father’s association with the automobile manufacturer. At the time of Coppola’s birth, his father was a flautist, as well as arranger and assistant orchestra director for The Ford Sunday Evening Hour, an hour-long concert music radio series sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Two years after Coppola’s birth, his father was named principal flautist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the family moved to New York, settling in Woodside, Queens, where Coppola spent the remainder of his childhood. Contracting polio as a boy, Coppola was bedridden for large periods of his childhood, allowing him to indulge his imagination with homemade puppet theater productions. Reading, A Streetcar Named Desire, at age 15 was instrumental in developing his interest in theater. Eager to be involved in film-craft, he created 8 mm features edited from home movies with such titles as, The Rich Millionaire and The Lost Wallet. As a child, Coppola trained initially for a career in music. He became proficient on the tuba and won a music scholarship to the New York Military Academy. However, Coppola entered Hofstra University in 1955 and majored in theater arts. There he was awarded a scholarship in playwriting. This furthered his interest in directing despite the disapproval of his father, who wanted him to study engineering. Coppola decided he would go into cinema, instead.
Apulian Fedda Rossa
Makes 8 servings
- 1 large loaf 2-day-old round Italian country, cut in half
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, chopped and drained
Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.
Put the bread halves on the grill and cook until they brown, then turn and brown the other side, 5 to 10 minutes.
Dip the grilled bread into a shallow baking pan filled with water for 2 seconds on each side, then return to the grill until the bread dries out, 5 to 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the bread with olive oil, salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and cover the bread with the tomatoes.
The producer of all but one of the first 17 James Bond movies was Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. (1909 – 1996). Broccoli launched the 007 film series in 1962 with Dr. No. His last film was Golden Eye in 1995. Most of the films were made in the United Kingdom and they were often filmed at Pinewood Studios.
Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli was born in the borough of Queens, New York City, the younger of two children of immigrants from the Calabria region of Italy, Giovanni Broccoli and Christina Vence. He acquired his nickname after his cousin, Pat DiCicco, began calling him “Kabibble,” eventually shortened to “Kubbie” and adopted by Broccoli as “Cubby. Broccoli married three times. In 1940, at the age of 31, he married actress Gloria Blondell (the younger sister of Joan Blondell); they divorced in 1945 without having had children. In 1951, he married Nedra Clark, and the couple were told they had fertility problems and would never have children. They adopted a son, Tony Broccoli, after which Nedra became pregnant. She died in 1958, soon after giving birth to their daughter, Tina Broccoli. In 1959, Broccoli married actress and novelist, Dana Wilson (née Dana Natol) (1922 – 29 February 2004). They had a daughter together, Barbara Broccoli, and Albert Broccoli became a mentor to Dana’s teenage son, Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli insisted on keeping his family close to him when possible. Consequently the children grew up around the Bond film sets and his wife’s influence on various production decisions is alluded to in many informal accounts. Michael Wilson worked his way up through the production company to co-write and co-produce. Barbara Broccoli served in several capacities under her father’s tutelage from the 1980s on. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have co-produced the films since the elder Broccoli’s death.
Calabrian Eggplant and Spaghetti Timballo
A timballo is a pasta pie.
- 2 large eggplants
- 1 lb. thin spaghetti
- 16 oz can Italian whole tomatoes
- 6 ounces salted ricotta, shredded (Salata Ricotta is a firm cheese and should be available in a well stocked delicatessen — If it is not, use a mild pecorino romano
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 20 basil leaves, shredded
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Wash the eggplant and cut them lengthwise into thin slices. Put the slices in a colander, salting each layer, and set the colander in the sink for an hour to allow the salt to draw the juices from the eggplant.
Sauté the garlic in 3 tablespoons of oil until it begins to turn golden, then remove and discard it. Chop the tomatoes in the pan and cook over medium high heat for 15 minutes, mixing often. Remove pan from the and let the sauce cool.
Pat the slices of eggplant dry and broil or grill them, turning them so both sides are golden.
Cook the pasta in abundant salted water until it reaches the al dente stage and drain it.
Combine the pasta with the tomato sauce, 4 ounces of the grated ricotta and half the basil leaves.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a greased 8-inch springform pan arrange the eggplant slices to cover the bottom and come up over the sides of the pan. Fill the eggplant “crust” with the pasta, fold the eggplant slices over the top of the pie and use the remaining slices to form a top crust.
Press down firmly with your finger tips to level the surface of the pie, drizzle the remaining oil over it and bake the pie for 20 minutes.
Let the timballo cool covered with aluminum foil. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the pan ring. Turn it out onto a serving dish, slice it, and sprinkle the remaining shredded ricotta and basil over the top.
The man behind Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Smurfs and Scooby-Doo is Joseph Barbera, director, producer and co-founder of Hanna-Barbera Film Studios. A banker and free-lance cartoonist, Barbera met Bill Hanna at MGM in 1937. The team created Puss Gets the Boots, which was nominated for an Oscar and inspired the Tom and Jerry cartoons. In 1957, they started their own animation studio and went on to win seven Oscars during their long collaboration.
Joseph Barbera was born on Delancey Street in the Little Italy (Lower East Side) section of Manhattan, New York, to immigrants, Vincent Barbera and Francesca Calvacca, both born in Sciacca, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy and he grew up speaking Italian. His family moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York when he was four months old. He had two younger brothers, Larry and Ted. Barbera’s father, Vincent, was the prosperous owner of three barbershops who squandered the family fortunes on gambling and, by the time, Barbera was 15, his father had abandoned the family. Barbera displayed a talent for drawing as early as the first grade.
During the Great Depression, he tried unsuccessfully to become a cartoonist for a magazine called, The NY Hits Magazine. He supported himself with a job at a bank and continued to pursue publication for his cartoons. His magazine drawings of single cartoons, not comic strips, were published in Redbook, Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s—the magazine with which he had the most success. Barbera took art classes at the Art Students League of New York and the Pratt Institute and was hired to work in the ink and paint department of Fleischer Studios. In 1932, he joined the Van Beuren Studios as an animator and storyboard artist. When Van Beuren closed down in 1936, Barbera moved over to Paul Terry’s Terrytoons studio. Lured by a substantial salary increase, Barbera left Terrytoons and New York for the new Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) cartoon unit in California in 1937. Barbera’s desk was opposite that of William Hanna. The two quickly realized they would make a good team. By 1939, they had solidified a partnership that would last over 60 years. Most of the cartoons Barbera and Hanna created revolved around close friendship or partnership; this theme is evident with Fred and Barney, Tom & Jerry, Scooby and Shaggy, The Jetson family and Yogi & Boo-Boo. These may have been a reflection of the close business friendship and partnership that Barbera and Hanna shared.
Sicilian Grilled Swordfish with Citrus and Saffron
Makes: 4 servings
- 4 – 5 ounce swordfish or tuna steaks, cut 1 inch thick
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 blood oranges or pink grapefruit
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh mint
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Olive oil
Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. In a small saucepan cook the green onions and garlic in the 2 tablespoons of oil for 1 to 2 minutes or until onions are soft and garlic is fragrant. Remove saucepan from heat. Crumble saffron threads into oil mixture; stir. Let stand to infuse the saffron.
Meanwhile, cut a thin slice from one end of each orange and the lemon, so fruit will sit level. Working on a cutting board, cut down from the top of the fruit to remove peel and white part of the rind. Working over a bowl to catch juices, remove the sections by cutting into the center of the fruit between one section and the membrane; cut along the other side of each section next to the membrane to free the section. Remove seeds.
Add saffron oil to the bowl with the fruit sections and juices. Stir in mint, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.
Lightly brush both sides of the swordfish steaks with additional olive oil; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill fish on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 8 to 12 minutes or just until fish flakes when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Gently stir fruit-mint mixture to combine; spoon over fish. Serve immediately.
One of Hollywood’s most gifted directors, Frank Capra, was born in Sicily in 1897 and spent his sixth birthday in steerage on a 13-day ocean voyage to America. Although he is perhaps most famous for his film, It’s A Wonderful Life, his film portfolio includes Mack Sennett and Our Gang comedies; American Madness (1932), based on the life of banker, A.P. Giannini; It Happened One Night (1934) with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, (1939) starring Jimmy Stewart. Capra won three Academy Awards for Best Director during his career.
Capra was born Francesco Rosario Capra in Bisacquino, Sicily, a village near Palermo. He was the youngest of seven children of Salvatore Capra, a fruit grower and the former Sarah Nicolas. They settled in the Italian section of Los Angeles, where Capra’s father worked as a fruit picker and young Capra sold newspapers after school for 10 years until he graduated from high school. Instead of working after graduating, as his parents wanted, he enrolled in college. He worked his way through college at the California Institute of Technology, playing banjo at nightclubs and taking odd jobs, which included working at the campus laundry facility, waiting tables and cleaning engines at a local power plant. He studied chemical engineering and graduated in the spring of 1918. Capra later wrote that his college education had “changed his whole viewpoint on life – from the viewpoint of an alley rat to the viewpoint of a cultured person”.
At age 25, he took a sales job selling books. During his book sales efforts and nearly broke, Capra read a newspaper article about a new movie studio opening in San Francisco. Capra phoned them saying he had moved from Hollywood and falsely implied that he had experience in the budding film industry. The studio’s founder, Walter Montague, was, nonetheless, impressed by Capra and offered him $75 to direct a one-reel silent film. Capra, with the help of a cameraman, made the film in two days and cast it with amateurs. After that first serious job in films, Capra looked for similar openings in the film industry. Because of Capra’s engineering education, he adapted more easily to the new sound technology than most directors. He welcomed the transition to sound, recalling, “I wasn’t at home in silent films”.
He eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s. His rags-to-riches story has led film historians to consider Capra the “American Dream” personified. Capra was four times president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and three times president of the Directors Guild of America, which he helped found. Under his presidency he worked to give directors more artistic control of their films. During his career as a director, he retained an early ambition to teach science and, after his career declined in the 1950s, he made educational TV films related to science subjects.
Sicilian Pizza With Sausage and Peppers
Serves: 4 servings
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 1-pound balls prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or Italian cheese blend
- 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced into rings
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle the olive oil in a 10-by-15-inch baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the balls of dough side by side in the baking dish and pinch the edges together to make one large piece of dough. Press and stretch the dough so it fills the dish. (If using a baking sheet, press and stretch the dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle.)
Spread the crushed tomatoes over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Top with the red pepper flakes, cheese, sausage and green pepper.
Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown and the sausage is fully cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into squares.
A Chorus Line, one of Broadway’s longest running shows, was choreographed by the late Michael Bennett, who received a Tony for his work. Bennett was born Michael Bennett DiFiglia in Buffalo, New York, the son of Helen (née Ternoff), a secretary and Salvatore Joseph DiFiglia, a factory worker. His father was Italian American and his mother was Jewish. He studied dance and choreography in his teens and staged a number of shows in his local high school before dropping out to accept the role of Baby John in the US and European tours of West Side Story. Bennett’s career as a Broadway dancer began in the 1961 musical, Subways Are For Sleeping.
Bennett made his choreographic debut with A Joyful Noise (1966), which lasted only twelve performances and in 1967 followed it with another failure, Henry, Sweet Henry (based on the Peter Sellers’ film, The World of Henry Orient). Success finally arrived in 1968 when he choreographed the hit musical, Promises, Promises, on Broadway. With a contemporary pop score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a witty book by Neil Simon and Bennett’s well-received production numbers, including “Turkey Lurkey Time”, the show ran for 1,281 performances. Over the next few years, he earned praise for his work on the drama, Twigs, with Sada Thompson and the musical, Coco, with Katharine Hepburn. These were followed by two Stephen Sondheim productions, Company and Follies co-directed with Hal Prince.
A Chorus Line, the musical, was formed out of hundreds of hours of taped sessions with Broadway dancers. Bennett was invited to the sessions originally as an observer, but soon took charge. He co-choreographed and directed the production, which debuted in May 1975 off-Broadway. It won nine Tony Awards and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Bennett’s next musical was a project about late-life romance called, Ballroom. Financially unsuccessful, it garnered seven Tony Award nominations and Bennett won one for Best Choreography. He admitted that any project that followed A Chorus Line was bound to be an anti-climax. Bennett had another hit in 1981 with Dreamgirls, a backstage epic about a girl group like, The Supremes, and the exploitation of black music by a white recording industry. Unlike his more famous contemporary, Bob Fosse, Bennett was not known for a particular choreographic style. Instead, Bennett’s choreography was motivated by the form of the musical involved or the distinct characters interpreted.
Bennett died from AIDS-related lymphoma at the age of 44 and he left a portion of his estate to fund research to fight the AIDS epidemic. Bennett’s memorial service took place at the Shubert Theatre in New York (the home at that time of A Chorus Line) on September 29, 1987.
- Italian American Culture – The Art Of Writing (jovinacooksitalian.com)
A large and growing number of Italian American authors have had success in getting their works published in America. Some of the authors who have written about the Italian American experience are Pietro Di Donato, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dana Gioia (Executive Director of the National Endowment for the Arts), John Fusco (author of Paradise Salvage) and Daniela Gioseffi (winner of the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry and The American Book Award).
Poets Sandra (Mortola) Gilbert and Kim Addonizio and Helen Barolini, editor of The Dream Book, a collection of Italian American women’s writings were award winners from Italian Americana (a semi-annual historical and cultural journal devoted to the Italian experience in America). These women have authored many books depicting Italian American women in a new light. Helen Barolini’s work was the first anthology to pay special attention to the interaction of Italian American women with American social activism. Common themes included conflicts between the Italian American and the mainstream American culture and traditional immigrant parents with their American-assimilated children.
Mary Jo Bona (Professor of Italian American Studies & English at Stony Brook University is the author of Claiming A Tradition: Italian American Women Writers, was interested in showing how authors portrayed the many configurations of family relationships: from the early immigrant narratives of the journey to America, through novels that depicted intergenerational conflicts to contemporary works about the struggle of Italian American women to live in nontraditional gender roles.
A growing number of books about the Italian American experience are published each year. Well known authors, such as Don DeLillo, Giannina Braschi, Gilbert Sorrentino, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gay Talese, John Fante, Tina DeRosa, Daniela Gioseffi, Kim Addonizio and Dana Gioia, have broken into mainstream American literature and publishing. Dana Gioia was Poetry Editor of Italian Americana from 1993 to 2003. He initiated an educational series in which featured poets talked about their work. Poet, Michael Palma, continues Dana Gioia’s work, today.
Italian Americans have written not only about the Italian American experience but, also, about the human experience. Mario Puzo’s first novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, was an inspirational account of the immigrant experience, which was widely reviewed as being well written, moving and poetic. The Right Thing to Do, by Josephine Gattuso Hendin, is an elevating novel about an Italian American family and their experiences in a new culture. Contemporary best-selling fiction writers include David Baldacci, Kate DiCamillo, Adriana Trigiani and Lisa Scottoline.
Helen Barolini’s fiction and nonfiction work has created a bridge between the United States, her home, and Italy, her ancestral land. Awarded a writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for her first novel, Umbertina, Barolini is also the author of twelve books and many short stories and essays that have been cited in annual editions of Best American Essays. She has received the American Book Award; has been a Resident Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Lake Como; a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome; an invited writer at Yaddo and the MacDowell colony and a writer in residence at the Mark Twain Quarry Center of Elmira College. Three of her books have appeared in translation in Italy, where she has lectured as an invited American author.
Helen’s maternal grandfather, Angelo Cardamone and his wife, Nicoletta, immigrated from Calabria, Italy to Utica, NY in 1880. Helen Barolini was born and raised in Syracuse, NY and attended local schools. She attended Wells College, graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University and received a Master’s degree from Columbia University. She was an exchange student at the University of London, where she studied contemporary English literature and then traveled in Europe, writing “Letters from Abroad” for the Syracuse Herald Journal.
Given the intercultural themes of her work linking her American birth and education with her ancestral Italy, Helen Barolini’s writings have been the subject of many student theses both here and abroad. Crossing the Alps, a novel, is Barolini’s newest work. It is a coming of age novel set in post World War II Italy. The Italian edition received praise for its authentic background.
John Ciardi, poet and scholar, did the only English translation of Dante’s, Divine Comedy, that reproduced the Italian poet’s complex rhyme scheme. Ciardi was also a poet in his own right, who authored 60 books, taught at Harvard and Rutgers, hosted a weekly radio commentary on National Public Radio in the 1980’s and was the only American poet to have his own television program (“Accent,” CBS, 1961).
Ciardi was born in Boston’s Little Italy to immigrant parents from Naples, Italy. After the death of his father from an automobile accident in 1919, he was raised by his mother and his three older sisters, all of whom scrimped and saved until they had enough money to send him to college. In 1921, two years after his father’s death, the family moved to Medford, Massachusetts, where the Ciardi peddled vegetables to the neighbors and attended public school. Ciardi began his higher educational studies at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, but transferred to Tufts University in Boston, where he studied under the poet John Holmes. He received his degree in 1938 and won a scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he obtained his master’s degree the next year and won the first of many awards for his poetry: the prestigious, Hopwood Award in poetry.
Ciardi published his first book of poems, Homeward to America, in 1940, before the war and his next book, Other Skies, focusing on his wartime experiences, was published in 1947. His third book, Live Another Day, came out in 1949. In 1950, Ciardi edited a poetry collection, Mid-Century American Poets, which identified the best poets of his generation.
In 1953, Ciardi joined the English Department at Rutgers University, in order to begin a writing program, but after eight successful years there, he resigned his professorship in 1961 in favor of several other more lucrative careers and to “devote himself full time to literary pursuits”. (When he left Rutgers, he famously quipped that teaching was “planned poverty.”) He was popular enough and interesting enough to warrant a pair of appearances in the early 1960s on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He was the poetry editor of Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972 and wrote the 1959 poetry textbook, How Does A Poem Mean. Ciardi was a “fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a member and former president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died on Easter Sunday in 1986 of a heart attack.
Don DeLillo, an important contemporary American novelist, wrote Americana, Great Jones Street, White Noise, Libra and Underworld. DeLillo was born on November 20, 1936 and grew up in a working-class Italian Catholic family from Molise, Italy in an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. Reflecting on his childhood, DeLillo described how he was “…always out in the street. As a little boy I whiled away most of my time pretending to be a baseball announcer on the radio. There were eleven of us in a small house, but the close quarters were never a problem. I didn’t know things any other way. We always spoke English and Italian all mixed up together. My grandmother, who lived in America for fifty years, never learned English.”
DeLillo has described his fiction as being concerned with “living in dangerous times”. In a 2005 interview he declared, “Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments. I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us.” DeLillo is currently at work on a new novel, his sixteenth, where the main character spends a lot of time watching file footage on a widescreen of images of a disaster. He currently lives near New York City in the suburb of Bronxville.
Pietro di Donato
Pietro di Donato, the son of an Italian immigrant and himself a bricklayer, captured the life and death of his father, who was foreman of a construction crew of Italian immigrants, in his first novel, Christ in Concrete (1939). Di Donato was born April 3, 1911 in West Hoboken, New Jersey (now Union City) to Geremio, a bricklayer, and Annunziata Chinquina. Pietro had seven other siblings. His parents had emigrated from the town of Vasto, in the region of Abruzzo in Italy.
On March 30, 1923, Geremio di Donato died when a building collapsed on him, burying him in concrete. Pietro, who was twelve at the time, left school in the seventh grade to become a construction worker in order to help support his family. His father’s death and his life growing up as an immigrant in West Hoboken were the inspiration for his writings. Though he had little formal education, during a strike, he wandered into a library and discovered French and Russian novels, becoming particularly fond of Émile Zola.
In 1958 di Donato wrote his second novel, a sequel to Christ in Concrete called, This Woman. It continued the story of di Donato’s life following his father’s death. In 1960 a third book in the same tradition called, Three Circles of Light, focused on di Donato’s childhood in the years prior to his father’s death. That same year, di Donato published, The Immigrant Saint: The Life of Mother Cabrini, a fictionalized account of Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first United States citizen canonized. The following year di Donato published, The Penitent, an account of contrition and spiritual rebirth of the man who killed the twelve-year-old Maria Goretti. In 1978 his article on the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro (president of the Christian Democratic Party of Italy), titled “Christ in Plastic”, appeared in Penthouse Magazine and won the Overseas Press Club award. Di Donato later adapted the article into a play, entitled Moro. Di Donato died of bone cancer on January 19, 1992 in Stony Brook, Long Island, with his last unfinished novel, Gospels, unpublished.
Barbara Grizzuti-Harrison, one of the most well-known contemporary writers, is the author of Italian Days, considered a masterpiece of travel writing, thanks to her acute powers of observation and broad cultural knowledge. She has also written The Islands of Italy, A History and a Memory of Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Astonishing World. Barbara Grizzuti was born in Queens, New York City, on September 14, 1934. Her parents were first-generation Americans and her grandparents were immigrants from Calabria in southern Italy. She later described her childhood as deeply troubled and the turmoil of her childhood would have a strong influence on her writing.
When Harrison was 9, she and her mother became Jehovah’s Witnesses. Harrison’s father and brother did not convert and this caused a rift in the household. As a teenager at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, Harrison fell in love with Arnold Horowitz, an English teacher who was among the first to encourage her writing talent. He apparently returned her feelings and although their relationship remained platonic, they continued to see each other and to correspond until Horowitz’s death in the late 1960s. After graduating from high school, Harrison, who had been forbidden to attend a university, went to live and work at the Watchtower headquarters. However, her friendship with Horowitz scandalised her colleagues and she was asked to leave. The relationship was but one symptom of a growing conflict between Harrison’s faith and her artistic sensibilities, which eventually led to a nervous breakdown.
Harrison became involved with the women’s movement and wrote about feminist themes for various publications. Her first book, Unlearning the Lie: Sexism in School, was published in 1969. Harrison was one of the first contributors to Ms. Magazine. Harrison wrote for many of the leading periodicals of her time, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, The Village Voice, The Nation, Ladies’ Home Journal and Mother Jones Magazine. Among the people she interviewed were Red Barber, Mario Cuomo, Jane Fonda, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion, Francis Ford Coppola, Nadia Comăneci, Alessandra Mussolini and Barbara Bush. Because of her background, Harrison was often asked to write about movements that were perceived to be cults; she described families affected by the Unification Church and the Northeast Kingdom Community Church and reported on the U.S. government’s deadly standoff with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.
In 1994 Harrison, who had been a heavy smoker for most of her adult life, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She died on April 24, 2002 in a hospice in Manhattan.
Jerre Mangione (1909-1998) was one of the most celebrated early Italian American writers. His first book, Mount Allegro, (1943) and, later, An Ethnic At Large (1978), explored the evolution of Mangione’s identity from a child of Sicilian immigrants to an American. His last book, La Storia, which he co-authored with Ben Morreale, is a monumental five-century social history of the Italians in America.
Mount Allegro was Mr. Mangione’s first book and its sympathetic portrait of his family and neighbors have made it a classic of ethnic American literature and a must read for anyone interested in the experience of Sicilian immigrants. Mr. Mangione, professor emeritus of American literature at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote 10 more books after Mount Allegro was published in 1943. Most of them dealt in some way with Sicily, Sicilians or the Italian American experience – the experience he lived as a child.
Jerre (Gerlando) Mangione was born in Rochester in 1909, the first of six children born to parents, who emigrated from Sicily at the turn of the century. He grew up in the section of the city now known as Mount Allegro, the fictionalized name he gave the place in his book. His mother, Josephine, had dreams for her children, but they were musical rather than literary. Those dreams were realized through jazz musicians, Chuck and Gap Mangione, the sons of Mr. Mangione’s brother, Frank. But the dreams were nightmares for the young Jerre, who failed at the piano, violin and guitar before his mother finally understood that music was not his forte.
Said to have been a sickly and lonely child, Mr. Mangione spent much of his youth reading – generally on the sly because his mother believed too much reading caused insanity. “The boy would rather read than eat,” she said of him. His favorite book in those years was the dictionary, he once said. He depended on it because his parents, doing their best to preserve their Sicilian heritage, insisted that he and his siblings speak only Italian at home.
Though he was prolific, Mr. Mangione found that getting words down on paper was painful. He said he often found himself doing other chores to avoid his daily 9:30 a.m to 1 p.m. date with the typewriter. “In an effort to avoid writing, one can accomplish almost anything,” he said in an interview. Mr. Mangione, who once said he considered himself an observer of life, rather than a participant, enjoyed consistent success as a novelist and social historian. He won several national fellowships to pursue his writing. The New York Times and other national publications regularly gave his books glowing reviews and his book about the Federal Writers Project was nominated for a National Book Award. Mangione died on August 16, 1998 in Haverford, PA.
Gay Talese (b.1932) is known for his daring pursuit of “unreportable” stories, for his exhaustive research, and for his formally elegant style. He is a prolific writer and one of the founders of the 1960’s style of writing called, “New Journalism,” which incorporates fictional elements (dialogue, scene description and shifting points of view) into news writing. Talese was a reporter for The New York Times between 1956 and 1965, writing about sports and politics. Among his many best-sellers is The Kingdom and the Power, the story of crime boss Joe Bonanno and his son, Bill; Thy Neighbor’s Wife, which examines America’s changing sexual mores and Unto the Sons, an autobiographical book about his Italian heritage.
Gay Talese was born into an Italian-American family in Ocean City, New Jersey, located just south of Atlantic City. His father, Joseph Talese, was a tailor who had immigrated to the United States in 1922 from Maida, a town in the province of Catanzaro in southern Italy. His mother, the former Catherine DePaolo, was a buyer for a Brooklyn department store.
Talese was rejected by dozens of colleges in New Jersey and nearby states but, eventually, he was accepted at the University of Alabama. His selection of a major was, as he described it, “I chose journalism as my college major because that is what I knew,” he recalls, “but I really became a student of history”. It was here that he would begin to employ literary devices more well known in fiction, like establishing the “scene” with minute details in his writing. In his junior year he became the sports editor for the campus newspaper, Crimson-White, and started a column, he dubbed “Sports Gay-zing”.
He later wrote,”Sports is about people who lose and lose and lose. They lose games and then they lose their jobs. It can be very intriguing.” Of the various sports, boxing held the most appeal for Talese, largely because it was about individuals engaged in contests and those individuals were predominately non-whites. He wrote 38 articles about Floyd Patterson alone. Talese’s celebrated Esquire piece about Joe DiMaggio, “The Silent Season of a Hero” – in part a meditation on the transient nature of fame – appeared in 1966. The Library of America selected Talese’s 1970 account of the Charles Manson murders, “Charlie Manson’s Home on the Range”, for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime. In 2011 he received the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Journalism.
Frances Winwar (1900-1985) a novelist, biographer and translator, was born Francesca Vinciguerra in Taormina, Sicily, the daughter of Domenico Vinciguerra, a singer, and Giovanna Sciglio. Her family arrived in the United States in 1907 and she grew up in New York City. She attended local public schools and studied at Hunter College and Columbia University but never earned a degree. Quickly mastering English and French while retaining complete fluency in Italian, she showed an early taste for literature and began to publish poetry. A literary essay on Giovanni Verga that she published in Freeman in 1923, brought her a job with the New York World as a staff book reviewer. She stayed with the World for two years and was a frequent contributor to such periodicals as the New York Times, the New Republic and the Saturday Review of Literature for years afterward.
Winwar married four times. Sometime shortly after 1920 she was briefly married to the writer, Victor J. Jerome. In 1925 she married Bernard D. N. Grebanier, a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College, with whom she had one son. That marriage ended in divorce and in 1943 Winwar married mystery writer, Richard Wilson Webb. After a third divorce, she married Dr. Francis Lazenby, a classics scholar and librarian of the University of Notre Dame.
Winwar was best known for a series of romanticized biographies of nineteenth-century English literary figures and their followers, beginning with Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle (1933), an account that included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Algernon Swinburne and William Morris. Two years later she published The Romantic Rebels, another composite biography, in which she sensitively, though not always accurately, portrayed John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Farewell the Banner (1938) relates the complex relationships of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy. The fourth of her group biographies was Oscar Wilde and the Yellow ‘Nineties, describing the scandal surrounding its leader.
In The Life of the Heart (1945) she focused on a single writer rather than a group or a movement, but her novelized biography of George Sand included vivid portraits of Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert and Louis Napoléon, as well. Other fictionalized biographies, such as American Giant: Walt Whitman and His Times (1941) and Haunted Palace (1959), a life of Edgar Allan Poe, met with popular success, even when the critics were less than enthusiastic, as did her juvenile histories, Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo (1953) and Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada (1954). Listed as “romantic novels,” these novel-biographies were sometimes criticized as falling short of rigid historical completeness, but all were thoroughly researched and offered vivid portraits of their subjects.
She was an outspoken opponent of Italian Fascism, the only Italian American besides Pietro di Donato to speak at the Second American Writers Congress in 1937, where her paper “Literature under Fascism” vehemently condemned Fascist repression and its effects on literature in the country of her birth. She died on July 24, 1985, at her home in New York City.
All the authors in this post have Italian roots from southern Italy. Here are a few traditional Italian American recipes in their honor.
Seafood Marinara With Linguine
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 12 oz tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoons fresh basil chopped or 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz shrimp fresh or frozen, peeled and deveined
- 8 oz scallops fresh or frozen
- 1 lb linguine cooked, drained and kept warm
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, wine, basil, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes.
Heat remaining oil in small skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and scallops; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and scallops are opaque.
Add to sauce. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve over pasta.
Sausage and Mushroom Calzone
- 2 cups homemade of store bought pizza sauce
- 12 oz sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 cup mushrooms sliced
- 1 lb pizza dough
- 1 -1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese grated
Cook sausage and mushrooms in a large skillet until no longer pink; drain off fat in the pan. Stir in one cup of pizza sauce.
Roll dough on lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Place on greased cookie sheet or pizza pan. Spoon sausage mixture over half the dough to within 1/2 inch of edge.
Sprinkle with mozzarella.
Moisten edges of dough with water. Fold dough in half over filling. Seal by pressing with the tines of a fork. Cut slits in the top of the dough.
Brush with water and sprinkle with Parmesan.
Bake at 375°F. for 25 minutes or until golden. Heat remaining pizza sauce and serve with the calzone.
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
Heat 1 1/2 inches oil in a large wide heavy saucepan until it registers 370°F.
Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
Whisk together ricotta, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla in another bowl, then whisk in flour mixture.
Working in batches, gently drop level tablespoons of batter into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes per batch.
Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
Dust generously with confectioners sugar.
- The Changing Face of Italian-American Food and Wine (acevola.blogspot.com)
- Dive Into Dante (bonesparkblog.wordpress.com)
Cécile Kyenge Kashetu, born in Kambove, Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), is a Congolese-born Italian politician and ophthalmologist. She is the Minister for Integration in the current Italian government. Dr. Kyenge is married and the mother of two daughters, Maïsha and Giulia. After moving to Italy in 1983, she became a qualified ophthalmologist in Modena, Emilia-Romagna.
She founded an intercultural Association (DAWA) to promote mutual awareness, integration and cooperation between Italy and Africa, particularly in her country of birth, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is also the spokesperson of the association “March First”, which works to promote the rights of migrants in Italy. She collaborates with many Italian magazines, including Combonifem and Corriere Immmigrazione, an online newspaper and a weekly journal on the culture of Italy of the present and future.
In February 2013 she was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Democratic Party in Emilia-Romagna. Two months later she was appointed Minister for Integration in the coalition government formed by Enrico Letta, becoming Italy’s first black cabinet minister. She supports the introduction of a “Jus soli” law to grant citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil. Under the current legislation, Italian nationality is passed on most commonly by blood, meaning the grandchild of an Italian, who has never set foot in the country, has more rights to citizenship than someone who was born in Rome to foreign parents.
But even if Dr. Kyenge is unable to push a single piece of legislation through Parliament, she will have secured an important legacy. Her April 27 appointment as Minister for Integration in Italy’s newly formed government has kicked off a much-needed discussion on race and immigration in a country that still struggles to come to terms with its rapid transformation.
That discussion has taken some brutal turns. “Kyenge wants to impose her tribal traditions from the Congo,” said Mario Borghezio, a member of the European Parliament for Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League in an April 30 radio interview. “She seems like a great housekeeper,” he added. “But not a government minister.” Even in Italy, a country all too often permeated by casual bigotry, Borghezio’s words went way too far. An online petition calling for him to be sanctioned or evicted from his post has gathered more than 75,000 signatures and the Northern League’s leader, Roberto Maroni, a former Interior Minister, has come under pressure to denounce him.
While Italians don’t like to think of their country as racist, the experience of non-white Italians and resident immigrants illustrates a culture that has found it hard to welcome increasing diversity. Dr. Kyenge’s appointment gives cause for hope that things will get better for Italy’s immigrant population. Appearing on an Italian talk show in May, Dr. Kyenge said her proposal will be ready “in the coming weeks.” She’ll soon get a chance to discover what her fellow parliamentarians are made of.
On September 23 representatives of 17 European Union countries gathered in Rome to condemn the “unacceptable” stream of racist insults directed at Cécile Kyenge and called for a new pact to stamp out discrimination across the European bloc. (The Rome Declaration-Pact 2014-2020 for a Europe of diversity and fight against racism.) “The reality is, Europe is made up of people with different skin colors, who belong to different religions or were born elsewhere but have chosen to live here,” said Dr. Kyenge.
Pollo di Modena
Italian Balsamic-Marinated Chicken – A classic dish from Dr. Kyenge’s home region in Italy.
This simple recipe for balsamic chicken puts the rich flavor of balsamic vinegar to good use. The marinade not only flavors the chicken but tenderizes it as well. Balsamic vinegar was first made in the city of Modena. The region of Emilia-Romagna has a rich and diversified cuisine, often including meats, stuffed pastas and salamis.
4 to 6 servings
- 2 1/2 to 3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, shredded
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2-3 teaspoons olive oil
In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix together the chicken, vinegar, garlic and sage. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high. Saute the chicken in batches until browned on all sides.
Reduce heat to medium-low and return all the chicken to the pot. Pour in the reserved marinade and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally. Add a little water if necessary to keep the marinade from drying out.
Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce and pour it over the chicken. Serve with crusty Italian bread and a salad.
Pollo di Modena Variations:
- Substitute rosemary for the sage.
- Add sliced mushrooms to simmer with the chicken.
- Topped with sauteed pancetta before serving.
Elisabetta Missoni is a member of the national association, Le Donne del Vino (The Women of Wine), launched in April 1988 and is made up of wine producers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, owners of wine shops and trade journalists. The association aims to promote the ever-increasing role of women, in what was once a male-dominated environment, and to play a major contribution in the development of women working with wine.
Not surprisingly, for someone who has a strong connection with the fashion industry, wine was never Elisabetta’s first interest. “Before I met Giovanni, I was very much focused on fashion,” explains Elisabetta, who is the niece of fashion designer, Ottavio Missoni. “But Giovanni was passionate about his wines and he knew how to instil that passion in me. The fine quality of our wines reflects our continuous search for distinction and simplicity. That is the part of our lifestyle that we most like to share with our clients and friends.” Elisabetta is behind the Foffani wine label that she produces with her husband, Giovanni Foffani. While Giovanni concentrates on the actual wine production, Elisabetta deals with public relations and customer service. She is also responsible for organising annual events and demonstrations.
The Azienda Agricola Foffani winery is located in Clauiano (Friuli region) which is east of Venice. It was built in the 16th century and is now protected by the Italian Ministry of Fine Arts. Wine production dates back to 1789 and the name, Clauiano, comes from Claudiano, meaning Claudian because the property was given to the emperor Claudius by the Patriarch of Aquileia around 1 AD. The winery produces a selected range of aged red wines and classical Friuli white wines made in steel barrels to preserve their original fragrances. The result is wine that is mentioned in the acclaimed guide “Gambero Rosso” year after year. Every year Elisabetta and her husband take part in the trade fair Colori dei Vini, the ‘Colours of Wine’ show. Emphasising the family fashion ties, the tablecloths are exclusive knitwear designs by Luca Missoni and match the colors of the wines available.
Agnolotti di Pontebba
(Ravioli with Sweet Filling)
The varied landscape and strong Austrian and Central European influences are evident in the Friuli Venezia Giulia regional cuisine that is based heavily on polenta, soups and salumi. The Friulian people aptly merge humble, local ingredients with exotic spices from foreign lands, resulting in a cuisine that, while often surprising in its blend of sweet and savory flavors, please the palate.
Ingredients for 4 people
For the dough
- 2 cups flour
- 1 egg
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup water
For the filling
- 9 ounces ricotta
- 3 1/2 ounces prunes
- 1 dried fig
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Salt to taste
- Cinnamon to taste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 7 tablespoons butter
Place flour on a smooth surface and make a well in the flour, add eggs, water and salt and knead until smooth. (You can also do this in a processor or electric mixer.
Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
In a pot with boiling water, cook prunes and dried fig for a few minutes until soft. Drain, chop and combine with ricotta and sugar.
With a rolling pin or a pasta machine, roll out dough in 1/8-inch thick sheets. Cut out 2-inch circles with a biscuit or ravioli cutter.
Place one spoonful of ricotta filling in the middle of each circle and close to form crescents.
Seal edges with your fingers. Cook in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Carefully drain with a slotted spoon to avoid breaking the agnolotti.
Arrange in pasta bowls and serve with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon mixture.
Last November Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., M.P.H., received the Special Recognition Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that is given to leaders in academic medicine for extraordinary achievements in the field. The award honors DeAngelis’ numerous lifetime accomplishments, her long-standing commitment to academic medicine and her decade-long tenure as editor-in-chief of “The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)”, one of the oldest and most revered medical journals in the world. DeAngelis became that publication’s first female editor-in-chief and the first pediatrician to hold that title.
In her role as the first woman editor, Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., has made a special effort to publish substantive scientific articles on women’s health issues. The journal plays an important role in bringing new research to light and featured articles can lead to fundamental changes in treatment. Under her editorship, the journal published a landmark study questioning the benefits of hormone replacement therapy in 2002. She also served as editor of the”Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine”, from 1993 to 2000.
The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, Catherine DeAngelis was born and raised in a coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania. She grew up in Old Forge, the middle child of three in a poor family. Her mother, the late Mary DeAngelis, worked as a waitress and her father, the late Sandy DeAngelis, worked in a silk mill. Both her parents only had an eighth-grade education.”We were poor, but we were happy,” Dr. DeAngelis said during a recent telephone interview. “We had a big garden and my parents canned what was in the garden. My dad hunted and fished.”
At first medical school was not financially possible, so she went into a three-year program to become a registered nurse. Following her graduation in 1960, she was accepted into Wilkes University. During her undergraduate years she worked as a nurse and set up an infirmary at Wilkes. She also worked in a laboratory, gaining valuable experience in immunology research. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, again doing lab work, teaching student nurses and working in the V.A. hospital medical library to help cover her expenses.
After medical school, DeAngelis began a pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Working four hours a week at a free clinic in Baltimore, she began thinking about scientific ways to address the general problems she saw there. She had heard about Harvard University’s program in health law and economics and realized that she could apply for a master’s degree in public health fellowship with a stipend from the National Institute of Health.
After DeAngelis earned herdegree, she worked at the Roxbury, Massachusetts Comprehensive Community Clinic. While there, she noticed that many patients were not receiving basic care, primarily because of access and financial problems. With a little more training for nurses, she thought, some of these problems could be addressed. To solve the problem, she wrote a textbook for nurse practitioner-medical resident teams, Basic Pediatrics for Primary Care Providers, published in 1973.
From 1973 to 1975 she worked as a faculty member at the Columbia College of Physicians on improving health care systems in Harlem and upper Manhattan in New York, using physician-nurse practitioner teams. She then took a position at the University of Wisconsin organizing a system for children’s health care for the next three years.
In 1978 DeAngelis decided to move back East, where she became chief of the new Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Hopkins Medical Center. She went on to become deputy chair of the department and was appointed vice-dean for academic affairs in 1994.
When she was made a full professor in 1984, Dr. DeAngelis was only the twelfth woman in Hopkins’s 94-year history to receive that rank. 68 percent of all women, who have been made professor since the founding of Hopkins, received their promotions while DeAngelis was vice-dean. Her success there is especially ironic, as her application to attend Hopkins’ medical school was rejected years earlier.
Old-Fashioned Italian-American Lasagna
Italian American food is based heavily on the traditional food of southern Italian immigrants, most of whom arrived in the United States from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many Italian Americans, who identify their food with their locale and the home areas of their ancestors, the food is based on staples such as dry pasta, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce and olive oil.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
- Three 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups whole-milk ricotta
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 18 sheets lasagna, each about 10 inches by 2 inches, 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. Using a food mill, purée plum tomatoes directly into the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of the coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is reduced to about 41/2 cups.
In a small bowl mix ricotta, egg, 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.
Butter generously the bottom and sides of a baking pan, 11 inches by 9 inches by 1 1/2 inches. Take 3/4 cup of tomato sauce and spread on the bottom of the pan.
Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Spread a heaping 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture evenly over noodles. Spread 3/4 cup of tomato sauce on top of this layer. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/3 cup of mozzarella. Repeat this 4 times.
Then place the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point 2 days in advance and stored in refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.
Afua works as Assistant Director for Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting Programs at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies and she has a unique ancestry. She was born in Ghana, West Africa, to an Akan mother and an African-American father. She came to America when she was less than 1 year old and her Father re-married. Her stepmother is Italian-American whose family is Abruzzese from Sulmona and Roccacasale. Afua calls her stepmother, Mother, because she was raised by her, but Afua also keeps in contact with her birth Mother’s family.
The Italian side of her personality comes out, she says, “in my cooking, sense of style, love of art and devotion to my family. I’m fiercely protective. People say that I have a sort of casual reserve called “cool orsprezzatura” — depending on which side of my family is speaking. When I cook, I’m always mixing in more garlic in my paternal Grandmother’s recipes or taking an Italian dish and making it more southern. The music in my life also has cultural collisions. I am a big fan of Italian singer, Lorenzo Cherubini Jovanotti, who mixes sounds of Italy, black America and Africa.”
Afua can speak Italian. Listening to her Great-Grandmother Mamma Adele speak to her Grandmother Mamma Dina made Afua want to learn Italian and, eventually, she earned a B.A. in Italian Language and Culture. She studied in Florence and learned to speak Italian. “The sounds of the language are beautiful. Not to mention, it helps to know Italian when ordering Italian food”, she said in a recent interview.
Afua said she retains her Italian side, “through food, art and music. I cook Italian food often. My Nonna says that I am the best pizzelle maker in the family. I read “Cucina Italiana Magazine” all the time. Both my parents are art historians, so I was always a lover of art. But it was especially after my semester in Firenze, that I came back to New York and had a new appreciation of the beautiful architecture and the stone and marble work in buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights.”
She feels lucky to have grown up with two well-educated parents and two grandmothers who worked very hard in life to raise themselves up from their poor origins through education. Her paternal Grandmother Millie, especially, raised her to believe she could be anything she wanted to be. Afua said, “I never looked at color as an obstacle for me to do what I wanted in life. But many children of color do have real obstacles and, therefore, feel that they could “never” be what they want to be. I’m kind of a zuppa mista. I don’t identify with any one group. Although my skin is black, I can’t really define myself totally. I would like to explore my African roots more though. My face and name are Ghanaian, my voice is very NY American and my soul is black-Italian American.”
Zuppa Mista di Legumi
A dish Afua likes to prepare – bean soup. Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used
- 8 oz mixed dried legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas)
- 7 oz spelt
- 4 cups vegetable broth, heated
- 1 onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk of celery
- Salt to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
As a first step to prepare this soup you need to soak the dried beans in warm water overnight, then drain them and use them in the preparation according to the recipe.
Chop celery, carrot, garlic and onion and put them to fry in a pan with a little olive oil.
When the garlic is golden, add the dried beans and the farro, stir with a wooden spoon and start cooking the soup slowly adding the hot broth.
Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally. The time required for cooking and to thicken the soup varies from 30 to 40 minutes depending on the quality of the beans.
Season with salt and add a little olive oil.
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