August 27, 2012

A Look at the 2012 Festa di San Rocco in Queens

Viva San Rocco! 
By Giovanni di Napoli

This weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending The Societá Gioventú Quagliettana's Annual Festa di San Rocco at St. Rocco's Place (37-04 28th Ave) in Astoria, Queens. In my eagerness to venerate the Saint I showed up a little early, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that several people remembered me from the 2011 Fiaccolata. I was invited into the social club before the revelry and got to see the newly restored statue of the patron before it was presented to the public.
Votive candles, baskets of fruit and pasta are offered in thanks
Just like last time, the close-knit community extended a warm welcome and treated me like one of their own. There was plenty of laughs, stories and, of course, good food, which was generously donated by a local food merchant [I apologize for not getting the establishment's name, they deserve a plug]. Because there were no food stands or game booths the atmosphere was more like a block party than a street bazaar and far more intimate than your average feast. This gave me an excellent chance to mingle with some of the guests and learn more about this wonderful society. I especially loved seeing the old photographs and listening to the childhood memories of the Festa back in Quaglietta. People from as far away as Connecticut and even Italy make the trip to partake in this magnificent celebration. 
The statue emerges from the social club and is presented to the jubilant crowed
Even though I thought there was a substantial turnout I was assured that the attendance was nothing compared to year's past. Naturally, this is to be expected as neighborhoods change and people move away, but we "holdouts" need to take advantage of these opportunities and support each and every one of these events whenever possible. Despite the many similarities, each festival brings something unique and culturally significant to the table. So bring your children, have them participate and explain to them the cultural and spiritual meanings behind the rites and rituals. They'll get a small taste of the old country, an opportunity to experience their heritage firsthand and (hopefully) continue the traditions that we all love for generations to come. 

I salute the Societá Gioventú Quagliettana for a job well done and thank them for their kindness and hospitality.
Long-time society members Ersilia, Vincenza and Teresa warmly welcomed us
The festivities begin with a prayer
Tradition lives on in Astoria
The color guard were all smiles
The procession makes its way to Saint Joseph's Church for Mass
The next generation gets in on the act
Women took turns carrying le cinte, a candle headdress, on their heads
Another look at glorious Saint Rocco making his way through the neighborhood
(Above and below) A magnificent show of devotion
Photos by New York Scugnizzo

Announcing the Fifth Annual Procession of Maria SS. Addolorata in Bensonhurst

Prayer is a beautiful and private expression of gratitude. However, on special occasions, publicly displaying thankfulness on a grander scale shows upmost respect and grace. Show your appreciation and enthusiasm by participating in St. Athanasius Church’s Fifth Annual Procession in honor of Maria SS. Addolorata on September 8th — the birthday of the Madonna. Join 2012 Grand Marshals, Angela and Michael Stephan, and Monsignor David Cassato for High Mass at 5:30 PM. After the beautiful ceremony, which will include a highly anticipated performance of "Ave Maria" by Alfred Mendez, there will be a procession through the neighborhood of St. Athanasius (Bensonhurst, Brooklyn) followed by refreshments served in the school’s auditorium. Leading up to this holy event, sponsored by the Associazione Culturale Pugliese Figli Maria SS. Addolorata, is a nine-day novena that will begin everyday at 8 PM. For more information or to volunteer your time, please call Lucrezia at (917) 509-2803. 

September 8, 2012 (5:30 PM)
St. Athanasius Church
2154 61st Street
Brooklyn, NY

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August 25, 2012

Feast of Santa Patrizia, Patroness of Naples

Saint Patricia (1625) by Leonardo Carpentiero
Photo courtesy of Electra Napoli*
By Giovanni di Napoli
August 25th is the feast day of Santa Patrizia (Saint Patricia), patroness of Naples. Each year the faithful gather at the Chiesa di San Gregorio Armeno (Church of St. Gregory of Armenia) to venerate the saint and view the miraculous liquefaction of her coagulated blood. The church, believed to have been built by Saint Helena (c. 246-330 AD) on the site of the Roman Temple of Ceres, underwent several significant renovations and is the latest resting place of Santa Patrizia and her relics. Continue reading
* Photo reprinted from The Treasure of San Gennaro: Baroque Silver from Naples, Electra Napoli, 1987, catalogue for the exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum of Art (Oct. 28, 1987 - Jan. 18, 1988).

August 24, 2012

It's Back! The Santa Rosalia Feast Returns to Bensonhurst

The statue of Santa Rosalia at the center of the Feast
After a year's hiatus the 18th Avenue Feast in honor of Santa Rosalia has returned to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Yesterday was the first night of the celebration and I saw some familiar faces and a few new ones. Hopefully some of the neighborhood expats clamoring online for its return will make an effort to show up and support this wonderful tradition. The Feast ends on September 2nd.

There will be a procession leading to the Santa Rosalia Church (63rd St. & 14th Ave.) on September 2nd at 2:00 PM.

We wish the event success and hope for its return the same time next year!
Festival lights shine above the crowds of participants
I made my mandatory pit stop at Gino's Focacceria for a panelle special
It is always a pleasure to see our friends at "Cuzzin" Vinny's Sausage Stand

After tasting a free sample from this authentic Palermitani food stand (above) we simply had to buy some delicious Sicilian pastries (below)
Photos by New York Scugnizzo

The Legacy of Our Buried Past

Vesuvius looming over the temple of Jupiter at Pompeii
(Photos courtesy of New York Scugnizzo)
By Lucian

The anniversary of the destruction of Pompeii reminded me of my visit to the ruins. It was easy to feel that greatness while walking among the stones of the ancient city, preserved for centuries by the deadly ash of Vesuvius. It also humbled me to behold the legacy of the eruption, a destructive force of nature that, within a day, turned a vibrant city into a tomb.

Vesuvius has erupted several times since Pompeii. The last was in 1944, destroying a B-25 Bomber group located in Capodichino Airport (Aeroporto di Napoli, Capodichino) in Naples. The Allied occupational forces, which had taken the city a few months earlier, assisted in evacuating nearby villages. This was a relatively minor eruption compared to 1906, 1872, or 1631. Earlier eruptions during the Roman Empire caused ash to fall as far as Constantinople. In 1845 the Osservatorio Vesuviano (geological observatory) was opened in the Kingdom of Naples, and is the oldest scientific institution dedicated to studying volcanoes. Surviving the Risorgimento, it was allowed to continue its work, and can still be seen today after miraculously escaping the lava flows of the 1872 eruption. Continue reading

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August 22, 2012

Anthony Riccio Featured in 'Act Two' Magazine

Dear readers, 
I'm pleased to inform you that author, photographer and historian Anthony V. Riccio was featured in the Fall 2012 issue of Act Two magazine. The in-depth article covers Mr. Riccio's life, work and passion for the Italian American experience. Please give it a look.

Also of interest, Act Two has an article about The Bellarmine Art Museum in Fairfield, Connecticut. The museum recently showcased Mr. Riccio's first ever photo exhibit 'From Italy to America' and is home to several wonderful works of art, including the magnificent "Andromeda and Perseus" by Paolo de Matteis.

August 20, 2012

A Look at the 123rd Annual Feast of Saint Rocco

Viva San Rocco! Yesterday, members of the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza carried its glorious patron through the streets of Two Bridges, Manhattan during their annual Festa
Members of the Associazione Culturale Pugliese Figli Maria S.S. Addolorata from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn came out in force to participate in the celebration
The procession makes its way from Saint Joseph's Church (5 Monroe Street, Manhattan) towards Little Italy
Local parishioner Kathryn Archipolo holds a wax ex-voto of a leg. Anatomical votive offerings (vote di cera) like this are made in gratitude for a Saint's intercession and healing of ailing body parts
Our friends Theresa and Carmela Marzigliano partook in the festivities
Another look at the procession. Society president Stephen S. LaRocca (holding statue, right) deserves special praise for his hard work and devotion
Members of the Associazione Culturale Pugliese Figli Maria S.S. Addolorata (above) and Saint Joseph's Society from Lodi, New Jersey (below) joined in the celebration
Devotees carry a litter bearing votive candles
A look at beautiful Saint Joseph's Church
A nostalgic collage showcasing the Feast's storied past is on display inside the church
After the procession family and friends of the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza enjoyed a wonderful meal in the basement of Saint Joseph's Church. Peppino’s Brick Oven Pizza & Restaurant from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn graciously donated the food
Photos by New York Scugnizzo

August 18, 2012

Casa Belvedere Sponsors Historical Novel about Sicily

Foundation Continues Exploration of Italian National Identity through Literary Project
Piazza Pretoria, Palermo
(Photo courtesy of Casa Belvedere)

(GRIMES HILL, STATEN ISLAND, NY) All roads lead to Sicily via Staten Island. The Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere is sponsoring an online fund raising campaign to support Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily. Written by Anthony Di Renzo, this historical novel—like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard—chronicles the destruction of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the Italian Revolution.

“We absolutely embrace this initiative,” said Louis Calvelli, Casa Belvedere’s executive director. “While the proof of Italy’s rich heritage is aplenty, Casa Belvedere is actively working on building upon the Italian cultural landscape by formally sponsoring an arts project. Once the restoration of the mansion is complete, we look forward to providing a venue for Italian and Italian American artists to showcase their work.”

Di Renzo’s novel reflects Casa Belvedere’s institutional mission. Last year, the foundation capped its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Risorgimento with a public debate on Italian Unification. Moderated by Cavaliere Vincenzo Marra, this lively exchange between Pino Aprile, author of Terroni (Piemme 2010), and Lorenzo del Boca, author of Polentoni (Piemme 2011) touched upon the often painful historical and political issues discussed in Trinàcria.

Did unification benefit or ruin the Mezzogiorno, the ancestral region of most Italian immigrants? Guernica Editions, an independent press in Toronto, Ontario, believes Di Renzo’s novel “could contribute significantly” to the ongoing review of this fundamental question on both sides of the Atlantic. Dedicated to promoting new works of global literature and shattering stereotypes, Guernica considers Trinàcria “a timely book.”  

Because Guernica’s government funding does not extend to non-Canadian authors, Di Renzo and consultant Roberto Ragone considered several organizations. “Casa Belvedere emerged as our sponsor because of its mission,” Ragone explained: “to preserve and promote an appreciation of Italian language, arts, literature, history, fashion, cuisine, and commerce.’ It was a perfect fit.” 

The book’s author called the partnership “a stroke of fate, la forza del destino.” “I am grateful for Casa Belvedere’s support and hope my novel will contribute to its success,” said Di Renzo, associate professor of writing and Italian American history at Ithaca College. “By uncovering buried stories about our collective past, the foundation is positioning itself to play a unique role among Italian American organizations.”

Di Renzo’s novel also digs up the past. Its title derives from the ancient Greek name for Sicily. Trinàcria refers to the island’s triangular shape and the three-legged gorgon on its regional flag.  It is also the nickname of the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Zita Valanguerra Spinelli (1794-1882), Marchesa of Scalea, whose turbulent life mirrors Sicily’s rocky transition from feudalism to capitalism. 

The story begins when a Hollywood film crew invades Palermo to shoot an epic about the Italian Revolution. Researching the past, the director visits the city’s Capuchin catacombs. Preserved in the catacombs among over eight thousand mummies is Marchesa Spinelli. Dead for eighty years, she remains haunted with memories, and her spirit recalls her complicated relationships with her scientist father; a British wine merchant, whom the Marchesa failed to marry; her patriotic and rebellious granddaughter; and Giacomo Leopardi, the doomed Romantic poet. 

Organized by Roberto Ragone, whose professional motto is “Transforming Vision to Value,” Trinàcria’s online fundraising campaign intends to raise the necessary funds to cover the book’s editing, design, printing, promotion, and distribution. Based on their giving level, the site bestows donors with an aristocratic rank from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (e.g. Baron/Baroness, Count/Countess, Prince/Princess, King/Queen). Each title offers its own gifts and privileges, from bookmarks, calendars, and posters to formal acknowledgment in the printed novel and an invitation to its official book launch.  

This book campaign will run until December 13, 2012. All future royalties will benefit the Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belverede. For more details, visit:

For further information, please contact ROBERTO RAGONE at: 917-923-4765 or

Reprinted from the Casa Belvedere press release

August 16, 2012

Discovering The Riace Warriors

By Giovanni di Napoli

On August 16, 1972 Stefano Mariottini, a young chemist from Rome, was on holiday in Monasterace, a small town in the Southern Italian province of Reggio Calabria. Enjoying the pristine waters of the Riace Marina, located along the magnificent Ionian Coast, Mariottini made a discovery that has been referred to as "one of Italy's most important archaeological finds of the last 100 years."

While swimming—almost 340 yards off the coast and about 27 feet deep—Mariottini spotted an arm protruding from the sandy sea floor. So lifelike was the limb he thought he found a corpse. The startled diver soon realized that the lifeless appendage belonged to a bronze statue. Upon further inspection he found the leg of a second statue sticking out of the seabed.

Excited by his discovery, Mariottini reported his find to the authorities. With his help the Carabinieri unit from Messina, Sicily—supervised by the Archaeological Superintendency of Reggio Calabria—recovered the sunken statues from their watery resting place with air balloons. A crowd of curious locals and vacationers gathered on the beach and watched intently as the statues were rescued. They applauded with great delight as they were brought ashore. Continue reading

August 15, 2012

The Feast of the Assumption

Madonna dell'Assunta, Ravello
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
August 15th is The Feast of the Assumption, the celebration of the Blessed Mother's corporeal ascent into Heaven. In honor of this joyous occasion I'm posting "Praise to the Queen of Heaven" (Salvi Regina), a prayer from Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated by Peppino Ruggeri.(*) The accompanying photo was taken during my 2010 pilgrimage to the Duomo in Ravello. Founded in 1086, the Duomo was originally dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. It has since been consecrated to San Pantaleone.

Praise to the Queen of Heaven

Hail to you Mary, Mother of Mercy
Life, sweetness, and spring of joy
In you we trust when in trouble or pain
To you we come when we are in tears
In affliction your comfort we obtain.

Hear our pleas, our sweet defender
Virgin Mother with all sorrow laden
To our God you prayers direct
Because our actions have no effect
The door of paradise open to all
When death for comes to call

(*) Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated into English by Peppino Ruggeri, Legas 2009, p.139

Buon Ferragosto!

Fonderia Chiurazzi replica of Diana,
Temple of Apollo at Pompeii
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

August 15th marks the Ferragosto, the modern manifestation of the ancient Roman Feriae Augusti. Instituted in 18 B.C. by the Emperor Augustus, the month long celebration paid homage to the gods for a bountiful harvest as well as the changing seasons. The goddess Diana was especially revered during the festivities.

With the advent of Christianity, the festival was eclipsed by the Assumption of the Virgin. Today the various towns of Southern Italy celebrate the holiday in their own fashion, usually with fireworks, large meals or a leisurely trip to the beach.

Some of the more interesting celebrations include The Feast of the Madonna della Madia in Monopoli, Puglia, where townspeople reenact the discovery of the Marian icon that washed into the harbor on a raft in the eleventh century; and the so-called "Burning of the Svevo castle" in Termoli, Molise, which recalls a vicious attack by the Ottoman Turks in 1566.

In the spirit of the occasion I'm reprinting "And It Won't Rain Anymore," a poem by Alessandro Dommarco.(*) The accompanying photo of Diana Saettatrice, or "Diana as an Archer," was taken during my 2007 visit to Pompeii. The original (dating from 100 B.C.—79 A.D.) was discovered in the Temple of Apollo at Pompeii in March 1817.

And It Won't Rain Anymore

Summer you were. As you came in the room
with you came in the sea, seaweeds and rocks:
and the sun came in and through the olive trees
came the cicadas, and the countryside
of an August night stars in the sky and quivering of crickets.
Scarlet August moon, a full moon you were
inside the room: and you ran within me
laughing in my veins, deep within my blood.
You were, my love, the light, the air,
the scent of earth, the colors, the flowers of the summer.
Summer you were. And like a mellowed fig
you melted in my mouth, sugar and love:
you let me nibble you grape after grape like a juicy bunch.
And I caught fire like a vine shoot, and burned before your eyes.

(*) Reprinted from Dialect Poetry of Southern Italy: Texts and Criticism, edited by Luigi Bonaffini, Legas, 1997, P. 44

August 14, 2012

The Ides of August

Roman Dinner at Cacio e Pepe
In between courses Neapolitan tenor Antonio Guarna regaled us
with a fabulous rendition of Maria, Marì! (Russo; Di Capua)
By Giovanni di Napoli

What better way to celebrate the Nemoralia and the Ferragosto than with a Roman meal with New York City's Sicilian Food, Wine and Travel Group? Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of joining this wonderfully hospitable group for their Ferragosto celebration at Cacio e Pepe, a delightful little trattoria located in Manhattan's East Village that serves some of the best Roman fare I've had outside of Rome. 

We were treated to a bevy of sumptuous courses specially prepared for our party by our gracious host Giusto, a Sicilian restaurateur who also owns nearby Cacio e Vino and Ballarò Caffé e Prosciutteria. The wine flowed like the Acis River and the food kept coming in a grandiose repast that would make the most pompous Roman patrician proud.

Like any meal, the food is only as good as the company you share it with, and I couldn't have asked for better company. The Sicilian Food, Wine and Travel Group are truly a festive bunch and remarkable for their wide range of interests and expertise. As always, the group's president and organizer, Vincent Titone did an excellent job and deserves a lot of praise for his hard work and dedication. It’s no easy task making these types of gatherings possible, especially as frequently as he does.
To our delight Sicilian tenor Vincent Titone belted out a few notes from Puccini's La Bohème
Our outdoor feast begins with Polpettine di Carne, Pomadoro e Basilico (Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Basil)
Next up was the delicious Timballo di Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan Timballo)
My favorite was the Tortino di Polpo con Patate, Battuto di Olive Nere e Fiori di Zucchine Fritto (Octopus, Potato, Black Olive Paste layered with Fried Zucchini Flowers)
Penne con Pomodoro, Mozzarella Filante e Pesto di Basilico (Penne with Tomato, Melted Mozzarella and Basil Pesto)
Fettuccine all'uovo con Ragu di Tre Carni (Homemade Fettuccine with Three Meat Sauce)
Ravioli di Carciofi, Crema Densa di Parmigiano, Zenzero e Lime (Artichoke Ravioli, Parmesan Cream, Ginger and Lime)
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (Tonnarelli [handmade Spaghetti] tossed in Pecorino with Black Peppercorns)
For dessert we had Tiramisu alle Fragole con Crema Inglese al Limoncello (Strawberry Tiramisu with Lemoncello Creme Anglaise), Panna Cotta al Cocco con Zuppetta d'Ananas e Rum (Coconut Panna Cotta, Pineapple Rum Puree) and Cannoli Ripieni di Mousse al Cioccolato con Gelato di Vaniglia (Chocolate Mousse Cannoli with Vanilla Gelato)
Photos by New York Scugnizzo