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Roseto Pennsylvania

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.

part2lasagna

Italian American Lasagna

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 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

Filling

  • 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

Directions

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.

part2belmont

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.

Belmont Tavern

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.

part2chicken

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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

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.

part2baltimoregia

Café Gia Ristoranté

Baltimore

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.”

part2baltimoresalad

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.

4 servings

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

Directions

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.

part2washington

Judiciary Square

Washington, D.C.

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.

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Casa Italiana

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.

part2sub1

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

FOR ASSEMBLY

  • 6 sub rolls, partially split
  • 12 thin slices good-quality mozzarella cheese
  • 6 slices deli provolone cheese

Directions

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 .


northeast1

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.

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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.

Ingredients

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.

DOUGH

  • 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)

Directions

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.

TOPPINGS

  • 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

Directions

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.

northeast8

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.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

To serve:

  • 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.

Serves 6-8

northeast5

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Marinara Sauce

  • 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

Directions

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.

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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.

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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.

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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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.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

McClatchy-Tribune

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.


"Tuscany Delights" painting by Lisa Lorenz.

“Tuscany Delights” painting by Lisa Lorenz.

Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. … You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh? … And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick. (Michael learning to make gravy from The Godfather.)

For a crowd-pleasing reunion meal, serve this family style menu with plenty of garlic bread and red wine for a comforting Italian-American feast. All the dishes in this menu can be prepared several days ahead, except for the pasta, and heated before serving.

I have many memories of the Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses while I was growing up. The centerpiece was the rich tomato gravy. What gave it its distinction were the meats that were cooked in it: pork sausages, meatballs and my favorite, braciole. The dish is a lean cut of beef pounded thin, then spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, bits of prosciutto, raisins and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared and simmered for hours in tomato sauce.

Sitting down together for a family meal has been in decline in America for decades. According to surveys, however, that’s beginning to change. This is good. Studies show that children who eat meals with their families are more likely to do well in school and more likely to have a healthier diet. In addition the treasured memories children develop are irreplaceable.

“Mangia! Mangia! (Eat! Eat!)” — as my grandmother would say.

Menu for 12-16

  • Braised Artichokes and Stuffed Cherry Peppers
  • Braciole and Pasta
  • Sautéed Greens and Garlic Bread
  • Dessert: Italian Cookies

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Italian American Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and mix with the garlic powder and parsley.

Using a basting brush, coat the bread generously with the butter mixture. Place the Italian bread on a medium baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, until lightly toasted.

italianfeast1Braised Artichokes

This dish can be made ahead. Just reheat before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 8 large artichokes, outer leaves trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 6 lemons, halved and juiced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut each of the artichokes in half; remove the toughest outer leaves, use a spoon to remove the choke and trim the bottom.

Heat oil in an 8 to 10-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine, artichokes, lemon juice and squeezed lemon halves, salt and 10 cups water; boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the artichokes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer artichokes to a serving platter, cut each half, in half, and keep warm.

Discard all but 2 cups of the cooking liquid; return the pan with the liquid to medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; spoon sauce over artichokes to serve.

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Tuna Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Make this appetizer a day or two before the party, so they can marinate.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz can Italian tuna in olive oil
  • 8 anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (32-oz.) jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, seeded and stemmed

Directions

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup of the olive oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl.

Stuff each pepper with a little of the tuna mixture. Transfer to a covered dish and pour the remaining oil over the peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

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Braciole (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

This entire dish, with the exception of the pasta, can be prepared well in advance and reheated.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin and finely diced
  • 24 6″x 4″ slices boneless beef steak (top sirloin or round), pounded to 1/16″ thickness (about 3 lbs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 (28-oz.) cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes in juice, crushed 
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 lbs penne or rigatoni or pappardelle pasta

Directions

To make the filling:

Mix together raisins, 3/4 cup parsley, pine nuts, Parmesan, prosciutto and garlic in a bowl; set aside.

Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper and place about 1 tablespoon of filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks or kitchen string and repeat with remaining beef and filling.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the beef rolls and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring to scrape the bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaves and return beef rolls to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially, gently stirring occasionally until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2 hours.

Remove the meat rolls from the sauce, remove toothpicks, transfer to serving platters and cover plates with foil. Keep warm.

Continue cooking sauce until thickened, while you cook the pasta.

Pour some of the sauce over the meat rolls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Mix some of the remaining sauce with the pasta. Serve extra sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the braciole and pasta.

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Sautéed Greens and Red Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium heads escarole (or greens of choice), cored, washed and roughly chopped
  • 3 whole roasted red peppers from a jar, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400° F

Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add escarole; cook until wilted, about 8 minutes. You may have to wait until some of the leaves wilt before adding more.

Stir in peppers; season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a baking dish. Spread breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top; transfer skillet to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 12 minutes.

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Pine-nut (Pignoli) Italian Cookies  

Makes about 48 cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites, from 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer bowl, beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and lemon peel until smooth.

Drop by heaping teaspoons, 1 inch apart, on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on a wire rack.

Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks. They freeze very well.)

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Chocolate-Almond Cookies (Strazzate)

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups finely ground almonds, plus 2 tablespoons roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Strega or Galliano liqueur
  • 1/3 cup coffee, at room temperature

Directions

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease 2 parchment-lined baking sheets with the butter and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together baking powder and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until dissolved, 20 seconds.

Combine ground and chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, oil and salt in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the baking powder mixture, liqueur and coffee to form a wet dough.

Divide the dough into 1-oz. portions. Using your hands, roll dough portions into balls and transfer to the prepared baking sheets spaced about 1-inch apart.

Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and let cool to firm before serving.


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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.

Italian Gravy

The Meat

The Meat

The Sauce Ingredients

The Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients

Gravy

  • 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
  • Water
  • 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

Meatballs

  • 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

Braciole

  • 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

Pasta

  • 1 pound of pasta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 7-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

To make the braciole:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Add the braciole rolls and brown them on all sides. Transfer to the plate with the pork and cover with foil to keep warm.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Traditional Italian Recipes - Apulian bread rings (friselle) with fresh chopped tomatoes, basil and olive oil. Stock Photo - 13354455

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.

Ingredients

  • 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
  • Salt

Directions

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.


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

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

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

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

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

mangioine

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

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

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

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Ricotta Fritters

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.


Cécile Kyenge

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

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

Dressing

  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter

Directions

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.

Catherine DeAngelis 

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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions:

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 Preston

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions:

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.

Article Sources: 

Italy Magazine

Johns Hopkins Medicine

i-Italy Digital Magazine


Original Lake Washington floating bridge: Opened on July 3, 1940, this was the concrete bridge that started them all in Washington state. The state's highway chief, Lacey V. Murrow, endorsed a concrete floating bridge despite intense skepticism. As former WSDOT chief bridge engineer Charles Gloyd wrote about the bridge's debut in a 1988 article, "certain wags wore life jackets to show their lack of faith."

Original Lake Washington Floating Bridge

Most Italian immigrants crowded into cities on the eastern seaboard. Only a small fraction made it to Washington, which in 1910 had less than one per cent of the Italians living in America. Most of them were men who had first lived in the east or who had worked their way west building the railroads. Few came directly from Italy to Seattle.

There was plenty of work, especially in construction. Seattle, in the decade following the Klondike rush, enjoyed the greatest growth in its history, tripling its population from 80,000 to 240,000 between 1900-1910. Italians, along with other immigrants and native-born Americans, shaped much of the Seattle we know today. They constructed water mains, sewer lines, buildings and shaped the Elliott Bay seawall with dirt from Dearborn, Denny and Jackson Hills which made Seattle into a world-class waterfront city.

File:Elliott bay - rotated.jpg

Elliott Bay Waterfront

It was not a way to get rich. Laborers made as little as $1.25 for a ten-hour day and the work was difficult. Orly Alia, now retired from his construction business, recalls an uncle who stacked 95-pound bags of cement from a rapidly moving line, 10 hours a day, seven days a week. “They were machines,” Alia recalls, “They wore themselves out and they were gone by the time they were sixty.”

Truck and trailer just off Lake Washington Floating Bridge in Seattle around 1947

The majority of the Italian immigrants found jobs in the city, even though they had been country farmers in Italy. The reason was simple. Industrial and mining jobs paid more than farm work and most of the good agricultural land on the frontier had been claimed prior to the Italians arrival. Moreover, Italians didn’t like the harsh climate or the isolation of the Western plains. The ones who got to Seattle, however, found, to their delight, that it was quite possible to enjoy the benefits of city and country life at the same time. They could make good wages in construction and in the mills and have kitchen gardens, rabbits and chickens in the yards of affordable single-family homes.

Most of Seattle’s Italians were unskilled laborers and some were illiterate. Yet nearly all of them were able, by working hard, to become successful. Alia’s father, Rocco, for example, was a construction laborer who started his own construction company. Orly went to work for his father as a waterboy and recalls that the laborers’ clothes were always soaked with sweat. Orly, as soon as he could, also started his own company and so did his son, Richard, now head of R. L. Alia Co. This pattern of sons following in their fathers’ footsteps, even to the fourth generation, would become a tradition among Seattle’s Italian families.

By 1915, 20 per cent of Seattle’s Italian community belonged to the business and professional class. They included Doctors Xavier DeDonato and A. J. Ghiglione; Joe Desimone, owner of the Pike Place Market; Frank Buty, a real estate agent whose generosity to new immigrants is still talked about by their descendants; Attilio Sbedico, professor of literature at the University of Washington; Nicola Paolella, publisher of the Gazetta Italiani. Paolella produced an Italian language radio show for 26 years.

Pike Place Market 1912

Henry Suzzallo, whose family came from Ragusa, Italy was appointed to the presidency of the University of Washington in 1915. He held the position until 1926 when he quarreled with the state governor and resigned. He achieved even more prominence by becoming chairman of the board of trustees and president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Learning. He stayed there until he died in 1933.

Angelo Pellegrini

Angelo Pellegrini (1904 – 1991) was an author of books about the pleasures of growing and making your own food and wine and about the Italian immigrant experience. He was also a professor of English Literature at the University of Washington. Pellegrini’s family came from Tuscany in 1913 and his father worked for the railroad. His first book, The Unprejudiced Palate (1948) is an important work in the history of food literature and is still in print. In 1946, Sunset Magazine published Pellegrini’s recipe for pesto, likely the first major publication of a pesto recipe in the United States.

Albert Rosellini

In 1956 Albert Rosellini (January 21, 1910 – October 10, 2011) was elected governor of Washington – the first Italian American governor west of the Mississippi. Rosellini was an activist leader who worked to reform the state’s prisons and mental health facilities, to expand the state highway system, to create the University of Washington Medical School and Dental School and to build the second floating bridge across Lake Washington. Rosellini is the longest-lived U.S. state governor ever, having reached the age of 101 years, 262 days before his death.

Mario Batali

Mario Batali, one of the country’s most celebrated chefs, grew up in Seattle, Washington. He is one of three children born to Marilyn and Armandino Batali. He spent his childhood watching his grandmother make oxtail ravioli and other Italian specialties passed down in the family. Mario’s father, an engineer for Boeing for 30 years, opened a meat-curing shop in Seattle as a retirement project, attempting to recreate the Italian food store Mario’s maternal great-great grandparents opened in 1903. The Batali family’s roots are almost entirely in the West. Mario’s great-great-grandfather left Italy for Butte, Montana in 1899 to work in the coal mines and eventually moved further west to settle in Seattle.

The community also included the first American saint, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. Mother Cabrini, who died in 1917, was canonized during World War II by Pope Paul in the Sistine Chapel. More than 40,000 people, including American soldiers witnessed the ceremonies in the basilica.

Rainier Avenue at Genesee Street, 1925

Our lady of Mount Virgin Church, on the slope of Mount Baker, overlooked the Italian neighborhood in Rainier Valley. It was the spiritual center for Seattle Italians and often the first place new immigrants went to get information and meet new friends. The first pastor was Father Lodovico Caramello. He was on his way to a foreign mission in 1913, when his superiors asked him to stop by Seattle and help the immigrants there to get the church they were building started. Father Caramello agreed to a brief assignment but stayed on the job until he died in 1949. “He had nothing,” recalled Nellie Ivie, who was 88 when she was interviewed by the Beacon Hill News. “He lived in a little corner of the building above the old church. He had a wooden cot, no bed, no furniture, not enough to eat hardly. He used to go out and shoot birds – pick their feathers off and eat them. He was really a saint; everybody loved him.” 

“You either loved him or feared him,” said Marie (Fiorito) Hagen in the same interview. She recalled attending a luncheon in Father Caramello’s honor, in which he insisted on covered knees and elbows, “in the house of God” even on sweltering hot days. “If your knees showed, he’d glare down from the pulpit and say, frogs’ legs,” Marie Hagen recalled.

The Rainier Valley neighborhood, which centered around the intersection of Rainier and Atlantic Avenues, was transformed into an Italian village, not unlike the ones the residents had left behind in Italy. It was a small village to be sure. Only 215 families lived there in 1915, but everybody knew everybody else. Rainier Valley was the biggest, but not the only Italian neighborhood. There were about 70 families each in Georgetown and smaller communities in South Park, South Lake Union, Youngstown and First Hill.

Italian School

Christmas at the Italian School.

Families were large and close-knit, as was the community. Children attended Mt. Virgin School, where they were taught by nuns who spoke Italian and could assist students – and parents – who didn’t speak English. A 1976 Seattle Times article, quotes Sister Manette, who taught at Mt. Virgin in the 1920s and ’30s: “The immigrant parents were poor and had to take what jobs they could get because of the language barrier, so they saw education as a doorway for their children and would sacrifice anything to get it for them.” But even though many parents were eager to see their children succeed as “Americans,” they also valued the connection to their heritage. Elizabeth Yorio, a student in the 1920s, told the Times reporter that Father Caramello, “taught Italian-language classes because he dreaded to see the children getting Americanized so quickly.”

Vegetable gardens were large and prolific and fathers played bocce on weekends and made wine in their basements. Everyone who lived there remembers the aromatic smells of Italian cooking that wafted through the neighborhood, especially on Sunday. The abundance of good food also helped make up for the hungry times some of the immigrants endured in Italy and helped them convince themselves that they had done the right thing by leaving their homeland and coming to this new world. The immigrants’ love of and respect for food would lead many of them into new careers and make some of them wealthy.

In time many immigrants decided they wanted to go back to the land after all. Seattle was surrounded by some of the best gardening land in the west and the weather was perfect for growing vegetables. Moreover the land was cheap. An immigrant needed only $75 to get into farming and if he had several hundred dollars he could buy land outright.

By 1915, Fred Marino was the leading truck farmer and, in that same year, it was estimated that there were 200 to 300 Italian farming households around Seattle. The most influential farmer was Joe Desimone who arrived in America in 1897 with half a dollar in his pocket. He worked as a swineherd in Rhode Island before he moved to Seattle where he went to work for the Vacca family and married one of their daughters. The Desimone family bought up land bit by bit, drained the Duwamish swamplands and ended up owning large tracts of some of the best farmlands in the area. Desimone also became an owner of the Pike Place Market. The Desimone family proprietorship continued until it came under public acquisition by a 1971 voters’ initiative.

Whether it was truck farming or mining, Italians not only survived life in America but prevailed. When the mining industry began dying off, Italians living in Black Diamond found other ways to make a living. Angelo Merlino, while still working in the mines, began to import cheese, pasta and olive oil in bulk. He quit mining and opened a store in 1900 that was so successful, he was soon importing Italian food by the shipload. Today, Merlino and Sons is one of Seattle’s biggest distributors of Italian foods. Gradually, Seattleites developed a taste for Italian food and Italian food businesses became household words: Oberto’s and Gavosto’s Torino sausages, DeLaurenti’s, Magnano’s and Borracchini’s food stores. Italians pioneered the transformation of Seattle into one of the best restaurant cities in America. One of the earliest restaurants was Buon Gusto established in 1910 on Third Avenue by Orlando Benedetti and Giovanni Panattoni. Later restaurateurs, such as Rosellini and Gasparetti, became citywide personalities whose names and faces were known to everybody.

Italian POWs

World War II spurred industrial growth and created thousands of jobs for Italian Americans and others. Italian parents sent their sons off to fight overseas just as other American families did but the war affected the Italian community in unique ways, as well. As “enemy aliens,” the Italian-born residents were subjected to curfews, travel and employment restrictions. The Italian social hall shut down during the war because anyone born in Italy had to be home by 8:00 p.m. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Nick Paolella, publisher and radio host, was detained by federal agents, along with dozens of other Italian newspaper and radio men in other cities on the West Coast. The newspaper, radio show and the community’s Italian language school all ceased operation during the war years.

Toward the end of the war, Italian POWs captured by U.S. troops in North Africa were shipped to Seattle. The presence of their countrymen in these circumstances was a complicated situation for Italian immigrants. Many of the Italian prisoners had been reluctant soldiers with no love for Mussolini. Ralph Vacca’s uncle, who served overseas, told him that “a lot of them, they’d see the Americans coming and they’d run up to them and say, ‘Hey, take me with you!’” These prisoners were allowed to join the Army’s Italian Service Unit (ISU) and were given special privileges and freedoms. Andy Bevilacqua remembers his father taking him to visit one of the POW camps when he was a child: “There were guys there from Tuscany, like he was.”

Ralph Vacca recalls:

“They weren’t hard line fascists and, so on weekends, the Italian prisoners would get passes to go out to visit Italian families. They couldn’t speak English—but I remember they would go over to my mother’s and my mother had nine brothers and sisters in her family. So every Sunday everyone went over there. They would play bocce ball and my God, at dinnertime, the table was from here to there – twenty or thirty people. And they would talk Italian and have spaghetti and whatever else was on the table.”.

Ralph’s aunt, Mary Vacca, wound up falling in love with one of these gentlemen, Miguel Prontera – and this certainly wasn’t the only friendship or romance that developed between young people on opposite sides of the POW camp fence. At the end of the war, Miguel Prontera and the rest of the POWs were sent back to Italy but Mary Vacca went to Italy, tracked him down, married him and brought him back to Seattle. Prontera opened a barber shop on McClelland Street, where he cut hair for more than 60 years. He retired in 2008 at the age of 90.

“Mike” Prontera, barber

Prontera was part of a new wave of Italian immigrants who arrived in Seattle in the 1950s. Many of these new arrivals merged seamlessly into the established community. The Pizzutos were from a rural village in southern Italy where opportunities were extremely limited and had been so even before the war. “Back in Italy”, Lauro Pizzuto later told his grandson Cory, “I played soccer and shot pool in pubs – that was it!” Lauro and his father came to Seattle to work on building the original Lake Washington Floating Bridge. The Mottola family arrived about the same time but were city people from Naples. Vince Mottola worked for an established Italian business – the Gai family bakery– before opening his own restaurant in 1957.

So many Italians arrived in Seattle in the 1950s that the Italian-born population of SE Seattle (as measured by the U.S. Census) nearly tripled: from 929 in 1950 to 2555 in 1960. Southeast Seattle’s population as a whole rose sharply during this period, but not as fast as the Italian population. The Italian percentage doubled, from 2% in 1950 to 4% in 1960. By the late 1950s, Seattle’s Italian community had reached a fairly comfortable place. The first generation of immigrants who had arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were now growing old and many of them could look back on their lives and accomplishments with some satisfaction. Several of these gentlemen were profiled in a 1956 Seattle Times article by Erle Howell. They were businessmen, musicians, professors, patriarchs and their children had, as Sister Manette put it, “turned out very well, a credit to themselves and the city.”

Annie and Grace

Annie and Grace Briglio on 26th Avenue. Courtesy of Patricelli Family

Leonardo Patricelli, “The Ditch Digger” profiled in Angelo Pellegrini’s, Americans by Choice, had arrived In Seattle in 1911, willing to work hard in order to give his children a chance at a better life. Forty years later he and his wife, Giovannina, had worked hard indeed – but they now had land of their own and a fine house built by Leonardo and his four sons. Leonardo had come to the U.S. hoping his children would have opportunities he had lacked in Italy and they did. His eldest son became a doctor. More recent arrivals like the Pizzutos and Mottolas could see a similar path unfolding for their own children in their newly adopted country. 

Seattle’s Italian Food

seattle1

Italian Meatloaf

Armandino Batali of Salumi in Seattle, writes: “My son, Mario Batali, may be the most recognizable foodie in the family, but the Batalis’ interest in Italian cooking and culture goes back generations. My grandfather opened Seattle’s first Italian-food import store in 1903. It was located just a few steps from where my restaurant, Salumi, is now, and it’s one of the things that inspired me to get into the business.

“The idea behind Salumi was to create a restaurant, deli and meat factory in one place, just like the salumerias in Italy. We’re known for homemade sausages and salami, but we also attract a large lunchtime crowd. Some of the specials, like meatloaf and frittata, have been in our family for years. They’re also easy to make at home.”

 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef 
  • 1 pound coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed, meat crumbled
  • 2 cups chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce, divided
  • 3 large eggs, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine the first 11 ingredients in large bowl. Gently mix in 1/2 cup tomato sauce, eggs and wine.

Place meat mixture on large rimmed baking sheet and shape into 16 x 4-inch loaf. Brush with remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce.

Bake meat loaf until cooked through and thermometer inserted into center registers between 160°F and 170°F, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Italian Bean & Chard Soup With Cheese Toast

6 servings

Soup

  • 1 cup small dry white beans 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced 
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and diced tomatoes, or 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed 
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can vegetable broth 
  • 4 cups chopped Swiss chard or escarole
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil 
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste 
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese .

Cheese toast: 

  • 12 thin baguette slices 
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or shredded Parmesan cheese 

To prepare the soup:

Put the white beans in a bowl, cover with water and let soak overnight. Drain and put the beans into a soup pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes. Drain.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the same pot. Add the onion and garlic; saute 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil and oregano. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Put the beans into the pot with the broth. Simmer 30 minutes. Add the kale, basil and pepper to taste. Cook 10 minutes.

To prepare the toast:

Spread the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Toast under a hot broiler. Remove from the oven and turn the bread slices over. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola or Parmesan and put back under the broiler until the cheese bubb.

Garnish each serving of soup with a spoonful of Parmesan and toast on the side.

seattle 2

Farro Salad with Fried Cauliflower and Prosciutto

Recipe from Ethan Stowell chef at Tavolàta, Seattle

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound farro, rinsed and drained
  • 2 carrots, halved crosswise
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 1 celery rib, halved crosswise
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 large heads of cauliflower (2 1/2 pounds each), cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1/2 pound prosciutto, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped marjoram
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine the farro, carrots, onion, celery, garlic and bay leaf. Add enough cold water to cover the farro by 1 inch and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the farro is tender but chewy, 15 minutes; drain. Spread the farro on a rimmed baking sheet to cool. Discard the carrots, onion, celery, garlic and bay leaf.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over moderately high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350° F. Fry the cauliflower in batches until golden, 5 minutes per batch; drain.

In a bowl, mix the farro, cauliflower, prosciutto, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

--Agrodolce

Seared Broccoli with Anchovy Vinaigrette

Recipe adapted from Maria Hines, Agrodolce, Seattle, WA

4 servings

Ingredients:

Anchovy Vinaigrette

  • 4 oil-packed anchovies
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Broccoli

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large bunch of broccoli, trimmed into small florets
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Make the anchovy vinaigrette:

In a blender, purée the anchovies, vinegar and garlic together on high speed until smooth. Reduce the blender speed to medium and slowly pour in the oil, blending until the vinaigrette is emulsified and thick. Season with the pepper.

Make the broccoli:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and broccoli florets and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the florets are caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the lemon juice and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the pepper.

Transfer the broccoli to a serving platter and drizzle with the anchovy vinaigrette. Serve warm.

Strawberries marinated in Prosecco, with semolina cookies A100830_FW_Seattle_4thofJuly2011

Strawberries in Prosecco with Vanilla Ice Cream

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • One 750-milliliter bottle chilled Prosecco
  • 2 pints vanilla ice cream

Directions:

In a bowl, mix the strawberries with the sugar and let stand until the sugar is dissolved, about 30 minutes.

Spoon the berries and any syrup into 8 glasses and top with the Prosecco and a scoop of ice cream. Serve right away.

 

Sources:

  • The Seattle Times
  • Neighborhoods: Southeast Seattle Community History Project: Mikala Woodward
  • Seattle Government City archives
  • History Link.org
  • Rainier Valley Historical Society
  • Italia Seattle Blogspot
  • Festa Seattle
  • Italian Club of Seattle


A view of the Tualatin Valley in Portland’s Southwest Hills in 1912.
Italian immigrants settled in Portland’s Southwest Hills, known as Hillsdale and Multnomah, where many of them established dairies and vegetable farms.

1863 – Sam Arrigoni built the Pioneer Hotel at the corner of Front & Washington. It was the largest hotel in the state at that time, accommodating up to 300 guests.

At the turn of the century, SW Portland had an Italian business district, culture and neighborhood. The district remained intact until 1961, when it was abolished due an urban renewal. The city lost not just a thriving business district but a vibrant community as well. There is a movement within the community to restore “Little Italy”. The dream is to recreate an Italian district, with a mixed-use area that will include retail shops, restaurants, residential housing and a cultural center that will renew a familiar way of life for resident and visiting Italians, while inviting the local Portland community to share in the vitality of the Italian culture. 

Much of the history of the Italians in Portland has been recorded by the Oregon Historical Society:

1920 – 5 th. & Baker

In the late 1800’s Italians emigrated to Portland to build a better life. Their desire was to create new opportunities for themselves and their families. As the Italian population increased, it was a natural course of events that a “Little Italy” in Portland developed. It was between 1900 and 1910, however, that Portland saw the largest growth in the city’s Italian American population.

In 1900, the Italian immigrant population stood at just over 1,000 residents and by 1910, that number had increased to more than 5,000 residents. Italians first settled on the southwest edge of Portland near Marquam Gulch and later in northeast Portland.

1890- Italian Boarding House SW Front St.

The first Italian Boarding House was located on Front Ave. and new immigrants coming into Portland were directed to Garibaldi’s Market to find work on the railroads and in other trades. Italian immigrants worked in a wide array of professions. Many hundreds of Italian immigrants worked in Portland’s extensive railroad yards or served as street graders or built and maintained roads throughout the city. Italian entrepreneurs, like Francesco Arata, established shops and restaurants in Italian neighborhoods on both the west and east sides of the Willamette River. Almost 1,300 Italians lived and worked on the east side of the Willamette River. They rented land and grew vegetables and berries, while other families operated truck farms that sold produce to individuals and businesses across the city.


1919 – St Michael’s Church School at 4 th & Mill – Students

Portland Italians increased and spread to the East side of the river. With approximately 30,000 Italians in the Portland area, activities were numerous. Social clubs, raising funds for local causes, festivals and many celebrations were all part of the culture. In 1921, money was raised through shares to build the Italian Federation Building. This was a culture center for socials, community events and a place for newcomers to become familiar with Portland. Family was important and church was where families stayed connected. St Michael’s Church, still located on Fourth and SW Mill, was known as the “Italian Church.” The church also included an elementary school. Several Italian newspapers were in print and they were popular, as this was the way many immigrants could stay abreast of current events.

1920 – Italian Gardener’s Association

Colasuanno and Son Grocery – SW 3rd Ave.

In the 1980’s another flow of Italian immigrants arrived in Portland, bringing new life. Along with long time Italian residents and their children, the new wave of immigrants created a resurgence of Italian vitality! Activities have come alive again, such as the annual “Festa Italiana” that draws over 100,000 people in Pioneer Square. Clubs, restaurants, bocce tournaments, Italian radio and conversations, now thrive. Italian business continues to develop, with the most recent success being the Bologna Sister City alliance. This alliance intends to build economic trade between both countries. 

The Portland-Bologna Sister City Association (PBSCA) was founded in 2003 by a group of interested citizens in Portland to establish a formal relationship with Bologna, Italy.

The goal of this group is to bring citizens together out of their love, interest and ties to Italy and to create a formal relationship with Bologna. At first glance there are many things that these two cities have in common, from central urban universities to a genuine concern for sustainability and to a citizenry that holds a vivid love for life, family and food. Bologna is best known for its food – undeniably the richest in the country – and for its politics.

Italian Food of Portland

Portland seems to have an affinity for linking Italian culture, food and history together.

Basta Trattoria (on 21st Street in Portland) holds a quarterly Historical Dinner Series with exploration into “The Advent of Italian-American Cuisine,” specifically focusing on the impact that Italian immigrants have had on American food and vice versa. Portland Monthly food writer and food history enthusiast, Allison Jones, co-hosted a recent historical dinner alongside Basta Chef/Owner Marco Frattaroli.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how food and cooking customs create a window into history and it has been exciting to see that so many others share my curiosity,” says Frattaroli, referring to the popularity of past historical dinners at the restaurant that quickly sold out.

Frattaroli launched the Historical Dinner Series with three dinners in the Fall 2011 as a way to explore Italian cuisine through the lens of history. This year, the restaurant is planning a quarterly series that offers one dinner per season. At each dinner, a guest speaker will share his/her expertise on a relevant subject. Meanwhile, Chef Frattaroli prepares a family-style feast that features dishes from the historic era for guests in Basta’s private dining room.

1809 edition of Il Cuoco Maceratese (The Cook from Macerata— a city in the central Italian region of Le Marche) by Antonio Nebbia. It’s one of the earliest cookbooks written on Italian soil.

A Great Find!

This book, buried deep in a box, was shabby and coverless, tucked inside a worn zip-top plastic bag. A closer look revealed black Italian script on thick, fragile paper. It was an 1809 edition of “The Chef From Macerata” (“Il Cuoco Maceratese”) by Antonio Nebbia, among the first cookbooks ever written in Italy. Pellegrino Artusi’s distinguished book on Italian cooking, “The Art of Eating Well,” wouldn’t come along until 1881.

In Stefania Toscano’s rush to leave Italy for Portland two years ago, she hadn’t seen it among her late aunt’s possessions, which she had hastily packed and shipped to Oregon. In many ways, it made sense, because her aunt kept an enormous library with thousands of culinary books in her home in Florence. She was an accomplished, passionate cook who would take an entire day to make her special pizza.

Reed College confirmed the rarity of the find and after searching a database of more than 42,000 libraries in the world, found only three identical copies with only one in the United States. Toscano said. “You have a piece of history in your hands.” The next step, of course, was to digest the content. As much is it is a collection of recipes from two centuries ago, this cookbook could be a history lesson, reflecting culinary influences in central Italy during the late 18th century, when this revised edition was first printed. The University of Oregon’s Nicola Camerlenghi, an Italian-born assistant professor of art history, was called in for an analysis. She commented that the mere fact that recipes were even written down and published reflected the region’s growing economic prosperity and the emergence of an upper-middle class, who were employing cooks who needed information.

The recipes don’t have ingredient lists, but they call for specific measurements. “There is an order, steps 1, 2, 3 and 4,” Camerlenghi says. “It’s something Nebbia accepts from the French and brings (to Italy) as an innovation.” The author, also,  introduces French-style sauces and he recommends using butter, even in pasta. As important as what is in the book is what’s not. You see no mention of tomatoes or potatoes. It took years after the tomato’s arrival in Europe from the New World for it to be considered edible.

You see recipes for first courses of pasta, gnocchi (made without potatoes) and rice, and in particular, the technique of soaking rice in cold water before sautéing it — a groundbreaking contribution to the refinement of risotto Milanese, Toscano says. There is celery and spinach soup and squash parmigiana.

Some of the flavors are surprisingly familiar, Toscano says. Others dishes have just disappeared, such as a pan sauté of tuna, boiled celery, a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a slurry of flour and water. The combination sounds humble today, but celery was considered an aphrodisiac, says Toscano, who liked the dish so much she made it for a private dinner. Ultimately, this “grandfather of all Italian cookbooks,” as Toscano refers to it, has given her much to savor. (source: Oregon Live)

Pizza Margherita

Recipe From Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana in Portland

It’s not the awards or the notoriety that fuels the fire for Chef/Restaurateur Cathy Whims. It’s the quest to offer historically-based, authentic dishes that celebrate a sense of place and a local producer’s passion that keep this beloved Portland culinary treasure at the stove. She and her partner, David West, opened Nostrana in 2005 and quickly earned The Oregonian’s coveted designation as Best Restaurant of the Year. Nostrana is an Italian road-house in Southeast Portland serving classical and inventive seasonal dishes reflective of Cathy’s close, personal relationships with Northwest farmers

4 Servings

Ingredients

Pizza Dough:

  • 0.2 ounces malt
  • 13.6 ounces water, 65ºF
  • 2 ounces fresh yeast starter
  • 20 ounces Shepherd’s Grain enriched unbleached high gluten strength flour
  • 0.4 ounces salt

Toppings:

  • 2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, drained
  • Salt
  • 2 fresh mozzarella, cow milk or buffalo, sliced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small bunch basil, cleaned and dried

METHOD:

For the Pizza Dough:

Dissolve the malt in water with a whisk. In standing mixer with dough hook attachment, add the starter, flour and salt. Mix on low speed for approximately 4 minutes, or until everything is combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on high speed for approximately 2 to 4 minutes. Dough should be smooth on the surface, but not shiny. Refrigerate overnight. The following day, divide the dough into 4 pieces and round into 8-ounce balls. Let them rest at room temperature for 2 hours. Then use or refrigerate for later use.

For the Topping:

Preheat oven with a pizza stone to 550ºF. Crush the tomatoes by hand to release the inside juices. Purée in a food processor and season with salt. Drain the mozzarella balls, pat dry with a towel and slice into 1/2-inch slices. Spread the tomato purée over the pizza up to 2 inches from the edges. Put the mozzarella slices on the pizza. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake on pizza stone until crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with basil leaves.

Porchetta Sandwiches

The food cart Lardo in Portland, Oregon serves this roasted pork with hazelnut gremolata and lemon-caper aïoli on ciabatta buns.

Serves 8

FOR THE PORK:

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed sage leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2 ½ tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 14 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 (6–7-lb.) skin-on pork shoulder, butterflied
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 ciabatta buns, split

FOR THE GREMOLATA AND AÏOLI:

  • 1 1/3 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • 5 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 egg yolks

Make the pork:

Heat oven to 325°F. Combine rosemary, sage, 1/4 cup oil, fennel seeds, pepper, chile flakes and garlic in a food processor. Process until a smooth paste forms. Unfold pork shoulder, skin-side down, on a cutting board, season with salt and spread evenly with herb paste; roll up shoulder, tie with kitchen twine at 1″ intervals along length of shoulder and rub with remaining oil. Transfer to a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, season with salt and cover with foil; bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the pork reads 150°F, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Uncover and heat broiler to high; broil pork until skin is browned and crisp and internal temperature reads 165°F, about 15 minutes more. Let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Make the gremolata:

Combine 1/3 cup olive oil, parsley, hazelnuts, 1 tablespoon capers, hazelnut oil, shallot and zest and juice of 1 lemon in a food processor. Process until a combined, transfer to a bowl and set aside. 

For the aïoli:

Whisk remaining capers, 2 tablespoons lemon juice (reserve remaining juice and zest for another use), egg yolks and 1 tablespoon water in a medium bowl until smooth. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in remaining 1 cup oil until sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve:

Spread aïoli on tops of ciabatta buns and gremolata on bottoms of buns. Thinly slice pork shoulder and divide among buns.

Spaghetti with Red Onion and Bacon

Traditional pasta gets an upgrade from Jenn Louis, chef-owner of Lincoln Restaurant in Portland with the addition of smoky, salty bacon and zesty red onion.

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 1/4 pounds bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 can (28-ounce) whole peeled tomatoes, puréed and strained
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Romano, grated

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook bacon until tender, about 5 minutes. Add red onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 8 minutes.

Strain spaghetti, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Add spaghetti and pasta water to sauce and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano.

Ricotta Gnudi with Lamb Bolognese

Recipe from Chef Rick Gencarelli of Grassa in Portland.

Makes 8 servings

Gnudi are essentially cheese ravioli filling, with just enough flour added to hold the mixture together and allow it to be boiled. They’re easier to make than gnocchi, freeze just as well and manage to be both rich and cloud-like at the same time. Be sure to use high-quality whole-milk ricotta and don’t skimp on the freshly ground pepper, which adds complexity.

Ricotta Gnudi:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 pounds (32 ounces) fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • Semolina flour, for dusting

Lamb Bolognese:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fennel, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrot, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound pancetta, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Directions:

To make the gnudi:

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper. Mix until the ingredients are mostly combined. Add the all-purpose flour gradually, while folding the mixture, until a soft dough forms. Add more flour as needed, if it feels too sticky to roll into a rope.

Dust a rimmed baking sheet with semolina flour. Portion the dough into four separate pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, gently roll one of the pieces into a rope 1/2-inch thick. With a bench scraper or knife, cut the rope into 1-inch pieces.

Place the gnudi on the prepared baking sheet so that they are not touching. If not serving right away, freeze the gnudi until firm, then pack into airtight bags or containers.

To make the lamb bolognese:

Heat olive oil in a 6- to 8-quart saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions, fennel and carrot and saute until the vegetables are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the lamb, pork and pancetta and increase heat to high. Brown the meat, breaking it up with a spoon. Add the tomatoes, white wine and milk. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add chopped mint.

To serve:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnudi and cook until they float to the surface, plus 1 to 2 minutes more (taste one; it should be cooked through, not gummy). Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the bolognese sauce. Serve garnished with a generous shower of grated cheese.

Butterscotch Breadcrumb Cake

This cake recipe comes from Matthew Busetto at Portland’s Firehouse Restaurant. Breadcrumb cakes are traditional in European cuisine (as well as a great way to use the restaurant’s leftover Pugliese loaves). The dessert has a rich-yet-not-too-sweet flavor from the butterscotch, as well as a slightly nubby texture — both of which are perfectly matched by some whipped cream, crunchy topping and another puddle of butterscotch sauce.

6 servings

Butterscotch Sauce

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt 
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cake

  • Granulated sugar for dusting the pan
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup butterscotch sauce (reserve the rest for serving)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs, fairly fine (panko will work in a pinch)
  • Unsweetened whipped cream, reserved butterscotch sauce and chopped nuts or toffee bits (for topping)

To make the butterscotch sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and add the smaller amount of vanilla, taste and add more as needed. Set aside.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter an 8-inch square pan or six 6- to 8-ounce ramekins and dust lightly with sugar. Set aside.

Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and set aside.

Whip the egg yolks with the 1 cup of butterscotch sauce, salt and orange zest, until pale and almost doubled in size. Fold the whites into the yolk mixture in thirds, until just combined, then gently fold in the breadcrumbs.

Bake until the cake seems set and a tester comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes for ramekins and 25 to 30 minutes for a full cake. Cool slightly in the pan, then turn out.

Serve topped with whipped cream, reserved butterscotch sauce and any other crunchy toppings you desire.

Sources:


California’s Mediterranean climate is similar to Italy’s, so the Italian immigrants felt at home and were able to bring their food and culture to this new land. The California soil was ideal for planting crops Italians were used to growing, such as eggplant, artichokes, broccoli and Sicilian lemons. Italians also brought with them a love of wine as well as a history of making it.

Nearly 200 members of the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society and the Folsom Historical Society attended the opening reception for the exhibit “Nostra Storia” on January 28, 2000. This is a unique story about that wave of people from Italy, primarily from the area around Genoa in the region of Liguria, who settled in the foothills of the Mother Lode region (Sierra Nevada Mountains) of Northern California in the Mid-19th century. This is the first time that an exhibit has been created to tell the story of these enterprising people who contributed so much to the economic and cultural fabric of California. The history of the Italian Americans is often relegated to the margins of American history despite the fact that the Italians are the 4th largest ancestry group in America with more than 25 million Americans and two million Californians of Italian descent (based on the 2000 Census).This exhibit is part of the determination of this current generation of Italians, to see that the Italian immigrant story is told and included in the history of the nation.

California’s gold country has been profoundly influenced by Italian culture for the last 160 years. Immigrants from Italy’s northern provinces were drawn here by the lure of gold, but it was the allure of the California foothills where they found the terrain and climate similar to that of Italy, that convinced them to stay. California’s fledgling economy provided unparalleled opportunities for Italian businessmen and unclaimed land was available for agriculturalists. Settlement soon brought women and children and, within a decade, Italians represented a significant portion of the population in the region, numbering among the gold country’s leading farmers, merchants and tradesmen. The Mother Lode also offered women unique advantages and Italian women proved wonderfully resourceful when necessity demanded. The 1870s saw a second wave of immigration, as Italian laborers arrived to work in the large, corporate-owned gold mines. Descendents of many of these Italian pioneers remain in the gold country to this day.

Del Monte

Across the state, the Italians also settled on the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880’s, Italians dominated the fruit and vegetable industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini, who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy in the Italian neighborhoods across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America, which became the largest bank in the world.

The California wine industry also owes much to the Italian founders of the industry. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei, planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson. The founding of the Italian Swiss Colony at Asti in 1881 as a cooperative of Italian immigrants from the wine growing regions of Italy, promoted the widespread participation and success of the Italians in the California wine industry and the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

Largest wine vat in the world, Asti, about 1900. The vat is still there, but today it contains water for fire protection instead of wine. (Cloverdale Historical Society collection)

Oakland, the other city by the bay, was a magnet for Italian immigrants in the early decades of the 20th century. Some relocated from San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire; many more came to Oakland predominantly from Italy’s northern regions. As they established new roots and adopted new ways, they congregated largely in north Oakland’s bustling Temescal neighborhood and these Italian Americans nurtured their old country customs and traditions for generations–giving us a rare glimpse of bygone days.

Los Angeles’, “Little Italy”, presents a history of the city’s vibrant Italian enclave during the 100-year period following the arrival of the city’s first Italian pioneers in 1827. While Los Angeles possesses the nation’s fifth-largest Italian population today, little is known about its Italian history which has been examined by only a handful of historians over the past 50 years. Much of LA’s historic Little Italy has been masked by subsequent ethnic settlements, however, the community’s memory lives on. From pioneer agriculturalists and winemakers to philanthropists and entertainment personalities, Italian Americans left a lasting impression on the city’s social, economic and cultural fabric and contributed to Los Angeles’ development as one of the world’s major metropolises.

San Pedro Port

While the downtown cluster (St. Peter’s Italian Church, Casa Italiana and the Italian Hall) may loosely be construed a Little Italy, San Pedro today represents one of the few visible local nuclei of Italians. This clustering on the Los Angeles landscape has arisen for a unique reason. Until recently, San Pedro was geographically and occupationally compact due to its function as Los Angeles’ port and due to what was, formerly, a significant fishing industry. San Pedro Italians came from two Italian island fishing communities: Ischia and Sicily. Although they arrived with the migrations of the early 20th. century (the Sicilians later), the independent nature of this group’s trade and the relative geographic compactness of San Pedro, fostered the preservation of ethnic loyalty.

Attracted by the mild climate and abundance of fertile land, Italians came to the Santa Clara Valley from all regions of Italy. Beginning in the 1880s, Italian men, women and children filled the numerous canneries and packing houses, supplying the rest of the nation with fresh produce. Once the largest ethnic group in the valley, the Italians’ impact on the region has been profound. Here are some of their stories:

Rodolfo Mussi was born in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania in 1914 to an Italian immigrant father, who worked in the coalmines. Rodolfo’s mother died at a young age forcing the family to return to Italy. The village of Riccione in Northern Italy did not offer much hope to young Rodolfo, who at age sixteen returned with his father’s permission to the United States. His father let him leave Italy on one condition: that he head to California not Pennsylvania. At sixteen with little money, no family or friends or command of the English language, Rodolfo went to work in the mud baths in Calistoga. He later moved to Stockton and went to work on a farm. He noticed a plot of land that was not being farmed and inquired about the property. He had no money to purchase the land or equipment to farm it, but his determination impressed the landowner, Mr. Lucas, who leased the land to Mussi. After thirty years, Mussi secured a twenty-five year lease and his sons still lease and farm the same land today

Joseph Solari II’s great grandfather arrived in Stockton in 1877 and his family was among the first to grow cherries in the area. Four generations of the Solari family farmed in Stockton and their products are sold around the country through the California Fruit Exchange, founded in 1901. The cherries and plums are packed on the Solari Ranch and then sent to the east coast. The Solari family was also involved with the founding of two additional organizations: the San Joaquin Marketing Association (1922) and the San Joaquin Cherry Growers (1935).

In addition to cherries, Stockton was also known for its tomatoes. Two families cornered the market for quality tomatoes and tomato products. The Cortopassi family business began in 1942 with fresh-packed canned tomato products. Today, their products are available only through food service distributors in the United States and Canada. George Lagorio began farming in 1945 on thirty acres. Today the Lagorio family farms over 10,000 acres. The ACE Tomato Company founded in 1968 ships worldwide today. Their Specialty Products include olive oil, walnuts, cherries and wine grapes. George’s daughter, Kathleen Lagorio Janssen and her husband Dean expanded the family business a few years ago with the purchase of olive orchards. Now the company also produces extra virgin olive oil.

Italian immigrants to San Jose, located south of San Francisco in the Silicon Valley, came from many Italian regions, but a majority of them arrived from villages in southern Italy and Sicily. There were two primary Italian neighborhoods in San Jose,  as its population grew in the early to mid twentieth century. The Goosetown neighborhood included Auzarias Avenue and North 1st. Street. This neighborhood bordered Willow Glen, where many Italian Americans still reside. The second neighborhood was around North 13th. Street and it included Holy Cross Church and Backesto Park. One Italian immigrant who eventually made his home in San Jose was Mario Marchese, who was born in 1878 in Palermo Sicily. He left home for New York in 1903 with other family members and, when he arrived in NY, he took a job moving furniture. In 1907 he married his boss’s daughter, Domenica Pavia. Shortly after the birth of their first child, they took the train west to California in search of a better opportunity. Mario and Domenica had ten children and lived in the Italian neighborhood known as Goosetown. Mario initially worked as a prune picker and was eventually hired by Navelete’s Nursery to oversee the orchards.

 

Brothers Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo were born in Messina, Sicily and emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and 1911 respectfully. They eventually settled in Boston, went to college and fought for the U.S. in World War I. They started D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of Massachusetts in 1923. Stefano travelled to California in 1925 on a wine grape buying trip. He observed the fertile farmland in San Jose and, soon after, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California was launched and they were growing vegetables in San Jose. The broccoli seeds arrived from Italy and were planted over twenty-eight acres, making them the first to introduce broccoli to the public under their brand, Andy Boy, trademarked in 1927. They remain one of the largest fresh produce growers in the country and the company is still family run.

Women Cannery Workers 

The Bisceglia Brother’s Canning Company employed many Italian immigrant women and was located on South First Street close to the Goosetown neighborhood. They earned less pay than the men but worked less hours. The women worked on the assembly line peeling, cutting, pitting and slicing by hand. By the 1930s and 1940s women were promoted to supervisors, better known to the employees as floor ladies. These women supervised thirty-five to forty-five women on the production line and they typically supervised their own ethnic group.

More than most people realize, the Italian Americans helped to shape the cultural landscape of California and the modern West. The enterprise and success of these Italian pioneers is a unique legacy – one shared by all of us. 

(Sources: We Are California: Stories of Immigration and Change A California Stories Project of the California Council for the Humanities.  www.weareca.org  The California Italian American Project is designed to make available to students and researchers basic information and resources about California’s original Italian communities.)                       

California is where pizza became “boutique” food, starting in the 1980s, as part of a larger attraction to the Mediterranean cuisine. Alice Waters put a wood-burning oven into her café at Chéz Panisse and Wolfgang Puck became famous by feeding Hollywood stars $100 caviar pies. Puck’s pizza man, Ed LaDou, went on to found the California Pizza Kitchen chain. The chain is widely known for its innovative and non traditional pizzas, such as the “Original BBQ Chicken Pizza”, BLT, Thai Chicken and Jamaican Jerk Chicken pizzas. They also serve various kinds of pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. The chain has over 230 locations in 32 US states and eleven other countries, including 26 California Pizza Kitchen ASAP kiosks designed to serve passengers at airports and shopping malls. The company licensed its name to Kraft Foods to distribute a line of premium frozen pizzas in 2000 and Nestlé purchased Kraft’s pizza lines in 2010.

Chéz Panisse’s wood-burning oven

Italian Recipes That Make Use of California’s Bounties

Sweet Pepper Martini

Makes 2 Drinks

Giuseppe Luigi Mezzetta, founder of G. L. Mezzetta, immigrated to America from Italy to start a new life. He eventually saved enough money to bring his new wife, Columba, to California where their son, Daniel, was born in 1918. Giuseppe continued to work hard and was soon able to earn a better wage as a janitor for two large import/export firms. In 1935, father and son decided to open a small storefront business and the new company began importing Italian peppers, olives and other staples of the Mediterranean table.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Mezzetta Roasted Bell Pepper Strips, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 2 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 basil leaves, cut into strips
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vodka or gin
  • 4 Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers, to garnish

Directions:

In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker add and mix all of the ingredients except the vodka. Fill the skaker with ice and add the vodka. Shake vigorously.

Strain the drink, using a fine mesh strainer, and pour into two martini glasses. Garnish with sweet cherry peppers.

(Note: to prepare simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. Boil until the sugar has dissolved. Cool the syrup before using.)

Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

During his 25 years as a chef/restaurateur, Michael Chiarello has been acknowledged by the Culinary Institute of America, IACP, Food & Wine Magazine and many more for his success as both a Chef and restaurant professional. He has developed over 10 restaurants, including his hugely popular Bottega Restaurant in Yountville, California (Napa Valley), his new Spanish restaurant Coqueta on Pier 5 in San Francisco and his first in California, Tra Vigne, of which he was executive chef/partner until 2000. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

I visited Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega, two years ago when I was in California, and the food was outstanding. Restaurants don’t come any better than this one.

Recipe from Bottega by Michael Chiarello (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Makes 16 arancini; serves 4

Arancini, or rice-balls filled with a melting cheese, are for leftover-risotto days. I never make the rice from scratch when I’m making arancini at home. If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can make these balls from cooked Arborio rice but be sure to add a teaspoon or two of salt while the rice cooks. (Honestly, you’re better off making a big pot of risotto and then making arancini the next day.)

Arancini always remind me of my friend Mariano Orlando. He always made arancini the Sicilian way, his rice balls the size of oranges. We talked once about arancini and he kept saying in Italian, “telephone wire,” making a motion with his hands as if to stretch a length of cord. “What are you saying?” I asked him. “Why are you talking about telephone wire?” The cheese, Mariano said, should stretch like a telephone wire when you take a bite from a perfect arancini and pull it away from your lips.

Our arancini don’t have that same telephone wire of cheese; we use a little less cheese in the middle and a lot more cheese in the risotto. You can add more cheese to the middle if you want to go for the telefono filo effect. If you want to make these a few hours ahead, pour panko crumbs into a baking dish and rest the arancini on the panko before covering the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerating.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups leftover risotto or cooked Arborio rice, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups Blanched Basil Pesto, double recipe below
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably bocconcini
  • Peanut oil, corn oil, or canola oil for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Directions:

Line a platter with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir the risotto and pesto together until blended. Divide the rice into 16 more-or-less-equal portions.

Cut off about 1/2 teaspoon of mozzarella and then with your hands ball up one serving of rice around the cheese so it’s completely encased in rice. Gently place on the prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini. Slide the platter into the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the balls to firm up.

Before you take the rice balls from the freezer, set up your dredging station. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl; the eggs into another shallow bowl; and the panko into a third shallow bowl.

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer. While the oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off the excess. Dip in the egg and then in the panko. Gently drop 4 to 6 balls into the oil and cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Don’t overcook them or the cheese will leak out into your oil. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to cook the remaining arancini. Serve at once.

Blanched-Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

Powdered vitamin C- also called ascorbic acid-is my secret for keeping pesto a fresh, appetizing green. The herbs go in boiling water and then straight into an ice bath, so I like to use a large sieve or colander to transfer all the herbs in one smooth move.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, preferably ground sea or gray salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Set up a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Place the basil and parsley leaves in a sieve or colander that fits inside the pan. Lower the sieve full of herbs into the boiling water, and use a spoon to push the leaves under so the herbs cook evenly. Blanch for 15 seconds, and then transfer the sieve to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let the herbs cool in the ice bath for 10 seconds. Remove the sieve, let drain, and then squeeze any water that you can from the herbs. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

In a blender, puree the herbs with the oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and ascorbic acid until well blended and somewhat smooth. Add the cheese and whir for a second or two to mix. Transfer the pesto to a bowl; taste and adjust the seasoning.

Press plastic wrap directly top of the pesto to keep it from turning brown and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 1 month.

Chef’s Note: Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over low heat, shaking the pan frequently. Heat for just a minute or two; as soon as you smell the fragrance of the pine nuts, slide the nuts out of the pan and onto a plate so they don’t burn.

Chicken in Tomato & Olive Braise

Chef David Katz, owner of Panevino, and faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America created this recipe to specifically pair with Mirassou wine. Chef Katz has spent nine years in the Napa Valley as a working chef and instructor at CIA Greystone focusing on the business of cooking and on food and wine education.

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken thighs, 5-6 ounces each
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced about 1/8th inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch hot pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup Mirassou Pinot Noir
  • 1 large can (1 pound 12 ounces) excellent quality diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole pitted green olives, rinsed
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 loose cup whole parsley leaves, plucked from the stem

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F.  Select a 3 to 4 quart oven-safe baking dish, and set it aside. Heat a large, heavy skillet over a medium-high burner. While the pan is heating, season the chicken with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet, allow it to heat through, then add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes, then turn and brown equally on the other side, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet, and return it to the stovetop over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir often for 3 minutes, or until it smells sweet. Stir in the pepper flakes and fennel. Deglaze with the wine, stirring against the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the browned juices. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives, and bring the skillet to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then pour the tomato mixture into the oven-safe baking dish. Arrange the chicken pieces over the tomato mixture, skin-side up, and sprinkle the shaved cheese over the chicken. Place the baking dish on the center rack of the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees in the center of the largest piece of chicken.

Garnish the dish with parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with soft polenta or your favorite short pasta and a crisp green salad.

Italian Padella

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

“Padella” is Italian for skillet, as “paella” is in Spanish.

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/4 pound sliced ham
  • 1/4 pound salt pork
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1-1/2 pounds squid, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups cooked peas
  • 24 mussels, scrubbed
  • 24 clams, scrubbed
  • 8 large prawns, shelled, deveined and cooked
  • 2 tablespoons pimientos

Directions:

Combine 2 tablespoons oil, oregano, peppercorns, garlic, salt and vinegar; mix with mortar and pestle to make a paste. Rub chicken with oregano paste.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; brown. Add sausage, ham, salt pork, onion, green pepper, capers and coriander. Reduce heat to low; cook 10 minutes.

Add rice and tomato sauce; cook 5 minutes. Add medium shrimp, squid, broth and saffron; mix well and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in peas.

Steam mussels and clams in water until open; add large prawns and pimientos. Transfer rice mixture to large serving platter; top with mussel mixture.



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