April 28, 2013

Arthur Avenue Walking and Tasting Tour With Renée Restivo

Renée Restivo
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

When I heard there was going to be a walking and tasting tour on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx I signed up immediately. I was eager to return to this Southern Italian oasis, and upon learning that our guide was going to be Renée Restivo, cooking instructor and founder of Soul of Sicily*, I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity. Renée has an amazing knowledge of Sicilian food and culture and a passion for Sicily that few can rival. She was recently featured in the April 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler with a heartwarming article about returning to her ancestral homeland and reuniting with family.

Arthur Avenue styles itself "The Real Little Italy of New York" and, if demographics are the criteria, they may have a point. While both neighborhoods are home to many fantastic old fashioned, family-owned artisan shops, restaurants and cafes, Arthur Avenue (unlike Manhattan's Little Italy) still has a sizable Southern Italian population. This fact alone makes it, in my opinion, more authentic than Manhattan, however, I'm not sure this necessitates the coveted appellation. Historically, Manhattan's Little Italy was never the largest Italian neighborhood, so numbers alone do not decide. If they did, perhaps parts of Staten Island, Brooklyn or Queens would be more deserving of the designation.

I believe calling Arthur Avenue "Little Italy" isn’t necessary. Consider "The Hill" in St. Louis or the "North End" in Boston; what these places are to their respective cities, “Arthur Avenue” is to the Bronx and New York City. Besides, more than one traditional Italian neighborhood in a city can only be a good thing!

Arthur Avenue continues to have a strong Italian presence, with many thriving gourmet and specialty shops. The neighborhood also hosts an annual "Ferragosto" festival, albeit in September, and a Feast in honor of Saint Anthony at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church every June. While popularity for these two festivals continues to grow, Manhattan's San Gennaro Feast is under siege from disgruntled newcomers who would like to see the celebration cut short, if not shutdown altogether. Unreasonable rents are also hurting the remaining shops.
Pianist at Arthur Avenue Retail Market
Our tour began at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, a bustling indoor bazaar reminiscent of Philadelphia's famous Reading Market, except it's a lot smaller and much more Italian. Built in 1940 by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to house the city's pushcart peddlers, the numerous vendors offer a wide selection of authentic Italian products, including baked goods, fresh produce and garden supplies. They also have tobacconists hand rolling cigars, a bar to have a drink while watching the Bronx Bombers, and a pianist to greet visitors at the front entrance. Fittingly, there is even a café named after the Piazza del Mercato, Naples' famous market square.
Great food and service at Joe's Deli
From the market, our intimate group leisurely made its way up and down busy Arthur Avenue, taking in the many sights and smells. Curious locals would offer helpful suggestions and give their unsolicited opinions on where to visit and who makes the best cheese, bread or salumi. Renée would take us into various shops, introduce us to the shopkeepers, give us a brief history of the business and describe what they offer. Renée's expertise in Sicilian wine was impressive and her lesson was most welcome. She introduced me to the celebrated sweet Malvasia wine from the Aeolian Islands off the coast of northern Sicily.
Pasta demonstration at Borgatti's
The merchants, of course, were happy to have us and we were warmly welcomed. They gave interesting demonstrations on how they make their specialty wares, answered all our questions, and, to our delight, let us try some samples. We had fresh creamy ricotta, crusty rustic breads still warm from the oven, thinly sliced prosciutto and spicy sopressata, fresh mozzarella, scamorza, and, interestingly, a piquant pecorino from Holland. I especially liked the spicy Crotonese cheese coated with hot pepper flakes.
Spicy cheese at Calabria Pork Store
Obviously, this left little room for lunch, so we stopped only for some lite fare and lively conversation, recapping all the wonderful things we discovered. For example, I was happy to learn some culinary traditions I thought lost are still alive. It’s been a long time since I saw capozelle (lamb’s head) available at the butcher’s. I was tempted to buy one, but alas, I don't think my more fussy friends would eat it. Maybe I'll surprise my guests at my next dinner party.
Coal oven and rustic bread at Terranova Bakery
Part of our tour included a brief stop at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and, as always, it was a pleasure to return to this beautiful church. We also passed by Vincent Ciccarone Playground. Opened in 1934, the park honors a local soldier born in the province of Chieti, Abruzzo, who died in WWI.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
After we said our goodbyes to the tour group, my friends and I took advantage of the nice weather and explored the area some more. We relaxed for a bit beneath the gazebo at D'Auria-Murphy Triangle, a tranquil little park with a giant bust of Cristoforo Colombo. Named after John D'Auria and Henry J. Murphy, two young men from the neighborhood who lost their lives in WWI, the park was the perfect spot to temporarily escape the teeming thoroughfare.
Cosenza's outdoor oyster bar
Rested, we eventually moved on to Palombo's for dessert, a corner bakery with a casual atmosphere and good service. I enjoyed a delicious rum baba with my espresso while my friends savored some gelato. Afterward, we backtracked to some of the stores we visited earlier and finally did some shopping. I picked up a few "essentials" (i.e. friselle and some fresh cavatelli for Sunday dinner) and stocked up on the hard to find nduja. I also purchased a new Napoli scarf to show my team support. Humorously, like the locals who have their favorite spots to shop, we all had different thoughts on where to go to get the best products. Though I must admit, I was happy to return to the other stores.
Dry-curing nduja and sopressata at Calabria Pork Store
My friends and I are grateful to Renée for the wonderful tour and we look forward to her next one.

If you haven’t visited Arthur Avenue before, I highly recommend it. If you value traditional culture and good food, you won't be disappointed.
Statue of Columbus at D'Auria-Murphy Triangle
* Soul of Sicily is a culinary project based in Noto, a town in the Sicilian province of Siracusa.

April 27, 2013

Feast of Our Lady Crowned

Viva Maria!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

The last Saturday of April is the Feast Day of Our Lady Crowned (Madonna Incoronata), an ancient tradition dating back to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.  To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting Praise to the Queen of Heaven (Salvi Rigina), a traditional Marian prayer from Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated by Peppino Ruggeri.(1) The accompanying photo was taken at St Lucy's Church, National Shrine of Saint Gerard in Newark, New Jersey.  

According to legend, the Count of Ariano got lost while hunting in the forest near the River Cervaro in Foggia, Puglia. He took refuge in a nearby cottage when the woods turned unusually dark. At dawn the Count noticed a bright light shining through the trees. Drawn to the mysterious radiance, a vision of the Madonna appeared before him. Wearing a magnificent crown and levitating above a large oak tree the Blessed Mother revealed a statue of the Black Madonna perched in the branches. Awestricken, the Count promised to build a chapel to house her miraculous icon.

Soon after, a shepherd named Strazzacappa, who was grazing his oxen close by, was also drawn to the light. Immediately recognizing the vision as the Blessed Mother, the humble herdsman set up a makeshift votive lamp with his caldarella beneath the tree in her honor. It is said that the oil was not consumed by the flame.

The Count fulfilled his vow and news of the miracle spread far and wide. The shrine quickly became a popular destination for devotees and those making the pilgrimage to the nearby Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael at Monte Sant'Angelo in the Gargano peninsula. Today, after several renovations, the Basilica Santuario Madre di Dio Incoronata is a major religious center visited by thousands annually. The Black Madonna and a branch from the oak are still on display.

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

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

April 25, 2013

Feast of the Madonna delle Armi

Viva Maria!
Photos courtesy of Olivia Cerrone
By Giovanni di Napoli

April 25th is the Feast of the Madonna delle Armi, or Our Lady of the Cave.(1) She is the patroness of Cerchiara di Calabria, an ancient town in the province of Cosenza, in northeastern Calabria. The accompanying photos (courtesy of Olivia Cerrone) were taken at the Santuario Santa Maria dell Armi on the slopes of Mount Sellaro above Cerchiara. Built in the fifteenth century over the ruins of a Byzantine monastery, the sanctuary houses a sacred stone depicting the Blessed Mother and Child.

According to legend, in 1450 a group of hunters from nearby Rossano were tracking a stag through the oak woods of Mount Sellaro. As they closed in on their prey the animal ascended the rocky ridge and squeezed into a small cave in the side of the mountain. The huntsmen followed the deer into the crevice, but to their surprise the animal was nowhere to be found; instead they discovered two wooden tablets depicting the Holy Evangelists. Excited about their discovery the hunters decided to take the icons back to Rossano. 

The interior of the Sanctuary
The next day, however, the icons were missing. The men returned to the cave and were surprised to find the tablets exactly where they first discovered them. Three times the hunters tried to bring them back to Rossano, but each time they would miraculously translate back to the cave. Finally, the Rossanesi decided to build a chapel outside the grotto to protect the icons and allow pilgrims to visit them.

During construction of the sanctuary an oval stone unsuited for the structure kept finding its way into the hands of a mason. Fed up with the troublesome stone the mason struck it with his mallet, splitting it perfectly in two. Incredibly, one side revealed the image of the Blessed Mother and Child, the other Saint John the Baptist. Sadly, the half with St. John is missing (some believe it was smuggled to Malta). In 1750 the Duke of Monteleone had an ornate silver reliquary made to properly display the sacred stone.

Over the centuries, many miracles have been attributed to the relic. The most famous taking place on April 25, 1846 when the desperate townspeople of Cerchiara invoked the Virgin Mary to help save their failing crops from the oppressive heat. Our Lady of the Cave immediately answered their prayers, saving the harvest and preventing a famine. Grateful for her divine grace, the locals celebrate the Blessed Mother's intervention to this day with a spectacular festival in her honor. 

(1) Armi is said to be a corruption of the original Greek name for the grotto, Των αρμων or Tōn armōn.

April 23, 2013

Feast of San Giorgio

Viva San Giorgio!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
April 23rd is the Feast Day of San Giorgio di Lydda (St. George of Lydda), patron saint of valor, chivalry and soldiers. He is also the protector of Reggio Calabria, Modica, Ragusa, Prizzi and Barano d'Ischia, among other towns throughout southern Italy. In commemoration of the great warrior saint I'm posting a Prayer to Saint George. The accompanying photo was taken at Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary and Saint Stephen's Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Invocation of Saint George

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end. Amen

April 21, 2013

Titan of the South: Francesco de Mura

Two door panels with
Faith, Hope and putti 
attributed to Francesco de Mura,
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

In recent years I've made it a personal goal to pay homage to some of my favorite Southern Italian artists on their birthdays by viewing their works in person. Somehow, this tradition makes me feel connected to the artists; their greatness is a source of inspiration and pride. It's a simple gesture on my part and I find it to be a very rewarding.

Luckily for me I have easy access to a few of their works, thanks to the proximity of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Unfortunately, due to the museum's vast collection and limited space (which is mind boggling considering the massive size of the place), I was unable to view Francesco De Mura's preparatory sketch for The Assumption of the Virgin because it was out of circulation. A very helpful gentleman at the information desk told me that the museum rotates their collection, but sometimes it takes as long as three years before some works are put back on public display. He did, however, give me a phone number to request a special viewing of the drawings and prints in storage, but they need at least two weeks advanced notice.

Needless to say, it's impossible to stay disappointed at the MET for very long. The institution is home to one of the world's greatest art collections and I was not about to waste an opportunity to take some of it in. I made my way to the European Painting galleries on the second floor and leisurely wondered through its hallowed halls. Gazing in awe, I found myself surrounded by the esteemed works of some of Europe's most celebrated artists: Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt van Rijn, El Greco, Caravaggio, Anthony van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin, Jusepe de Ribera, et al. Continue reading

April 19, 2013

Corrado Giaquinto

The Penitent Magdalen
by Corrado Giaquinto
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
When I first viewed The Penitent Magdalen by Corrado Giaquinto at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was surprised to see that it was classified as Italian. I wondered about that, because many of the "Italian" paintings are classified by region. At first I thought it might be an oversight, or possibly a slight against the artist's birthplace in Puglia. Uncomfortable with my own wild speculation I decided to investigate. I found that the regional labels had more to do with particular artistic styles than the origin of the artists themselves, although in many cases they were identical. Corrado Giaquinto was a special case. He was known to adopt the style of the various locations where he painted, making classification difficult, and his work even more interesting.
Corrado Giaquinto was born in Molfetta, Puglia, in 1703. At sixteen he travelled to Naples and studied under the tutelage of Nicola Maria Rossi, a pupil of Francesco Solimena. Eventually, he would receive art instruction from the Neapolitan master himself. After several years of apprenticeship in Solimena's studio Giaquinto would seek his fortunes elsewhere. Unfortunately, only one work by the artist from this period is known to exist, a copy of one of Solimena's paintings. Continue reading

April 17, 2013

A Brief Sketch: Onofrio Avellino

Madonna in Glory with Saints
and Angels by Onofrio Avellino
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Little is known about Onofrio Avellino's life. He was probably born in 1674 in Naples and as his surname suggests, his family may have originally hailed from Avellino, a small town nestled between the foothills of the Apennine Mountains in Campania. He first apprenticed under Luca Giordano in Naples, sometimes putting finishing touches on his master's work. In fact, Avellino was so adept at emulating his instructor the copies are often mistaken for the original. His older brother, Giulio Giacinto Avellino, was also a painter.
After Giordano's departure to Spain in 1692 Avellino trained with Francesco Solimena. Under his new teacher's guidance the young artist drifted away from the vibrant Giordanesque style of painting towards a more classical idiom. He painted a variety of subjects, though portraits were considered his forte. Examples of Avellino's early work can be found in the small coastal town of Vico Equense and the Church of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples. Continue reading

April 15, 2013

Corrado Alvaro: An Introduction to His Life and Work

Corrado Alvaro
By Giovanni di Napoli
Not too long ago, while discussing with some friends the tenets of Tom Verso's article, Towards an American Terroni "Education Manifesto," one name came up repeatedly as a "must-read" candidate for any future curriculum specializing in Southern Italian historiography—Corrado Alvaro. Embarrassed that I've only read his Revolt in Aspromonte, I dusted off my copy and reread it. Subsequently, I made it a point to find other works by the author, but discovered that only two others—Man is Strong and The Long Night of Medea—were available in English. Luckily, I found the former at my local library and the later at a used bookstore. Needless to say, now I understand why my friends were so adamant about his inclusion. Continue reading

The Colossus of Watts

Sam Rodia – Designer and Builder of the Watts Towers
Sabato “Sam” Rodia
By Niccolò Graffio
“Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings, and also experience them.” – Lyof N. Tolstoy: What is Art?, 1898
When I was a teenager my father would take us every summer down south to places like South Carolina and Florida. On one of those trips we visited Coral Castle, a sprawling stone structure located just north of the city of Homestead, Florida in Miami-Dade County.
Coral Castle is a remarkable edifice consisting of hundreds of tons of oolitic limestone that have been shaped into furniture, walls, carvings and a castle tower. The largest of these stones weighs 30 tons. What makes Coral Castle all the more incredible is the fact the entire structure was apparently built by only one man, an eccentric Latvian immigrant by the name of Edward Leedskalnin! The methods Leedskalnin used in building Coral Castle are shrouded in mystery. When questioned he always gave polite but evasive answers. Though some claim to have figured out how he did it, to this day it remains a mystery. If you ever travel down to Miami-Dade County, Florida it’s worth a trip to see Coral Castle. Continue reading

April 14, 2013

One Tin Soldier

The Frank Serpico Story
Frank Serpico
By Niccolò Graffio
“When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway, The post of honor is a private station.”– Joseph Addison: Cato, IV, 1713
Francesco Vincent “Frank” Serpico was born on April 14th, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Vincenzo Serpico, was born in the town of Marigliano, in the province of Naples, in the region of Campania, Italy. His mother, Maria Giovanna, was born in Ohio but returned with her family when she was young to Italy where she later met and married Vincenzo.
Frank Serpico’s childhood was an innocuous one. At the age of 18 he joined the U.S. Army and was shipped off to Korea, where he remained stationed for two years. Returning home, he enrolled in Brooklyn College, CUNY, while working part-time as a private investigator and youth counselor. Continue reading

April 13, 2013

Announcing the 65th Annual Procession and Feast of Maria SS. Addolorata, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Viva Maria!
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary
St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church
108 Carroll Street
Brooklyn, New York 11231

• Procession at 3 PM     
• Fireworks at 7 PM
• Mass at 7:30 PM

* All schedules and activities are subject to change, so please check with organizers for any updates.

For more information visit mariaaddolorata.com

Also see:

April 11, 2013

Announcing the 2013 Feast of the Madonna Dei Martiri, Hoboken, New Jersey

Our Lady of Martyrs
Photo courtesy of the 
Madonna Dei Martiri Society
Organized by the Madonna
Dei Martiri Society

September 5th — 8th

Sinatra Park
401 Sinatra Drive
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Click here for directions

Daily entertainment will include live performances by Michela Musolino and John LaBarbera (Sept. 7th, 3:30-5:00 pm) and Philadelphia tenor Frank Tenaglia (Sept. 7th, 5:30-6:30 pm). For complete schedule of events please visit the Hoboken Festival website.

There will be plenty of delicious food, fun games and a Super 50/50 raffle. Drawing will be held Sunday, Sept. 8th, at 10:00 pm.

Mass will be celebrated at Saint Francis Church (308 Jefferson Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030) on Saturday, Sept. 7th. Procession to follow through the streets of Hoboken. Click here for procession route

Fireworks (weather permitting) will light the night sky at 9:15 pm on Saturday, Sept. 7th.

* All schedules and activities are subject to change, so please check with organizers for any updates.

April 10, 2013

Announcing NYC's 87th Annual Feast of San Gennaro

Organized by the Figli di San Gennaro, Inc.

Viva San Gennaro!
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
September 13th — 23rd

Most Precious Blood Church
109 Mulberry Street, 
Little Italy, NYC

Although this is an annual celebration of faith, the Feast of San Gennaro is known the world over for its festive atmosphere, an 11-day event featuring religious processions and colorful parades, free musical entertainment every day, charming restaurants and cafes, and a wide variety of food delicacies. The central focus of the celebration takes place every September 19th, the official Saint Day when a celebratory Mass is held in Most Precious Blood Church, followed immediately by a religious procession in which the Statue of San Gennaro is carried from its permanent home in the church through the streets that comprise Little Italy.

Event Schedules:

Thursday, September 12th – Opening Day
• Blessing of the stands (6-7 PM)

Saturday September 14th – Grand Procession
• Parade of floats with marching bands (2 PM)

Thursday, September 19th – Official Feast Day
• High Mass at Most Precious Blood Church (6 PM)
• Procession (7 PM)

Sunday, September 22nd – Blood Drive
• 11:30 AM–6:30 PM at St. Patrick's Basilica Youth Center, 268 Mulberry Street (between Houston and Prince Streets)

* All schedules and activities are subject to change, so please check with organizers for any updates.

For more information please visit the Figli di San Gennaro, Inc. website at http://www.sangennaro.org/

April 9, 2013

AcquAria to Perform 'Songs To The Sea: The Music of Sicily' at East Meadow Public Library

Michela Musolino
Sunday, April 21 (2:00 PM)

East Meadow Public Library
1886 Front Street
East Meadow, NY 11554
(Downstairs meeting room)

The musical tradition of Sicily includes many songs that speak of the sea, sing its praises, or are sung by those whose work connects them to the water. Together, acclaimed musicians Michela Musolino and Vincenzo Castellana, pay tribute to Sicily's sea through their music. Musolino, a vocalist known for her performances of Sicilian Roots Music, and Castellana, a noted percussionist of the Sicilian drumming tradition, have created a work of song, percussion and recitations which illustrates the intimate connection of Sicily, its history and its culture to the sea which surrounds it.

Vincenzo Castellana
Admission is free to the public, but attendees must have a reservation. 

Reservations can be made at eventkeeper.com, www.eastmeadow.info, or by phone at 516-794-2570 ext. 560. Two person maximum per reservation.

Also see:

April 8, 2013

Feast of the Annunciation

The Annunciation by Renato Rossi, hand painted ceramic tiles on the facade of the Confraternity of Annunziata and Rosario (next door to the Chiesa San Giovanni) in Vietri sul Mare. Photo by New york Scugnizzo
The Annunciation recalls when the archangel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary and announced she would conceive a Child by the Holy Spirit. Normally, the Feast is held on March 25th, however, because it took place during Holy Week this year the celebration was translated to April 8th, the day after the Feast of Divine Mercy, or Mercy Sunday. In celebration I'm posting The Angelus, a devotional prayer honoring the Blessed Mother's role in the Incarnation, which should be repeated three times daily (morning, midday and evening).
The Angelus

Prayer at dawn:
Verse The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary:
Response And she conceived by the Holy Spirit

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Prayer at noon:
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.
Hail Mary…

Prayer at twilight:
V. And the Word was made flesh:
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary…

Conclusion after each prayer time:
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen

April 7, 2013

Running With The Devil

The Biography of "Fra Diavolo," Michele Pezza
Michele Pezza
By Niccolò Graffio
“The free man is a warrior. He tramples ruthlessly upon that contemptible kind of comfort that grocers, Christians, cows, women, Englishmen and other democrats worship.” – F.W. Nietzsche: The Twilight of the Idols, 1889
Though Nietzsche obviously meant it philosophically in the context he wrote it, he could very well have had Michele Pezza in mind when he penned that quote. More than once in his short life on this earth, Pezza eschewed the creature comforts many of us today take for granted to “trample ruthlessly” upon those who he felt threatened his freedoms. It has been pointed out often enough “the winners write the history books”, and Pezza ultimately was not on the winning side. Thus, much of what we know about him comes from the pen of his enemies. The truth, sadly, depends on who you ask.
To some (like the French) he was a murderous brigand; to his fellow Campanians, on the other hand, his memory is enshrined as a folk hero. To many students of history he is remembered (as one author put it) “an inspirational practicioner [sic] of popular insurrection.” Since genuine objectivity is often lacking in articles of this nature, my purpose in writing this is to try to sift through the propaganda surrounding him in order to paint a clearer picture of this admittedly fascinating individual. Continue reading

April 6, 2013

'Life is a Great Game' Book Presentation and Multimedia Lecture on Sicily and Immigration

Thursday, April 25 (6:30 PM)

155 Mulberry Street
(Corner of Grand 
and Mulberry Streets)
New York, NY 10013 

Suggested donation 
$10 per person

Authors Salvatore Cottone and Susan Mannino will be presenting their new historical-fiction novel, Life is a Great Game on Thursday, April 25th at the Italian American Museum in New York’s Little Italy (6:30 PM). They will read excerpts from the book as well as show slides of exclusive images focusing on Sicilian immigration before and after WWII. Afterward enjoy delicious Sicilian pastries from La Bella Ferrara of Little Italy (108 Mulberry Street, NYC). Visit them on Facebook.

The Kindle edition of the book is available at Amazon.com

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Publication Date: March 6, 2013
Kindle: $9.99
Language: English
File size: 4408 KB (print length 207 pages)

Seats are limited so PLEASE RESERVE EARLY  
To RSVP please call the Italian American Museum at (212) 965-9000 or email: ItalianAmericanMuseum@gmail.com

April 5, 2013

Feast of San Vincenzo Ferreri

O' Munacone
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
April 5th is the Feast day of San Vincenzo Ferreri (Saint Vincent Ferrer), patron saint of builders and protector of Naples. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer to Saint Vincent Ferrer. The accompanying photo of the winged saint, known as the "Apocalyptic Angel" for his fiery sermons, was taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sculpted in 1750 by the great Giuseppe Sanmartino, the work in terracotta depicts San Vincenzo with flames above his head, symbolizing his divine gift of tongues.

Prayer to St. Vincent Ferrer

O almighty and eternal God, you bountifully enriched St. Vincent Ferrer, your holy servant, with many graces and merits, and through his intercession have given a return to health to so many sick and infirm. Grant, we beg you, that by following his example and aided by his prayers, we may obtain the grace to despise the things of this world and to look to those of heaven, and thus be cleansed of our sinfulness. Grant that through his powerful aid we may be freed from all evils of body and soul. Amen.

Learning Sicilian at the Italian American Museum

Professor Cipolla Presents His New Book
(L-R) Professor Gaetano Cipolla and Dr. Joseph Scelsa
(Photos by New York Scugnizzo)
By Giovanni di Napoli

Recently, I had the privilege of attending Professor Gaetano Cipolla's book presentation at the Italian American Museum (155 Mulberry St.), where the esteemed author, educator and president of Arba Sicula spoke at length to a packed audience about his new book, Learn Sicilian/'Mparamu lu sicilianu: A Comprehensive, Interactive Course (Legas 2013). 

Professor Cipolla touched on many interesting facts about the Sicilian language, including how it developed earlier than the other regional languages of Italy (e.g. Tuscan), easily dispelling the popular misconception that Sicilian is a corruption of Italian. He gave us a brief history of the language, beginning with the Court of Holy Roman Emperor Federico II (Frederick II) and the Sicilian School of poetry up until the present.

I was aware of the social and political suppression of Sicilian, so I was shocked to learn that the Sicilian Assembly recently passed a law to teach the language in public schools. Unfortunately, I was not surprised that the law has not yet been implemented. Apparently, Sicilian is learned at home among family and friends, while "Italian" (i.e. Florentine) is taught in classrooms. I was also saddened to hear that Sicilians will speak first in Italian to strangers, even other Sicilians, because they do not want to appear uneducated.

This reminded me of an exchange I once had with a waitress at a Sicilian restaurant in Brooklyn. When I asked her how to properly enunciate something on the menu, she dismissed it as unworthy to pronounce. Instead of answering me, she said with a wave of her hand: "It's bad Italian." I wanted to correct her mistake, but not wishing to antagonize my food handler I dropped it. The scars of northern cultural hegemony run deep.

Despite these difficulties, Prof. Cipolla is confident the Sicilian language is not in danger of being lost. "The Sicilian people," quoting the critic Licio Zinna, "are becoming more jealous of their language than they are of their women." I'm not sure I share their optimism. 

One thing's for certain, this book is an important step in the right direction in helping to prevent that loss. At 336 pages long, it is a welcome addition to Prof. Cipolla's earlier work, The Sounds of Sicilian (Legas 2005) and Dr. J. Kirk Bonner's Introduction to Sicilian Grammar (Legas 2008). It comes with an easy to use interactive audio CD featuring The Sounds of Sicilian, which offers students an opportunity to practice their pronunciation.

According to Prof. Cipolla the volume was designed for the classroom and self-learners. It will provide the linguistic tools and cultural information needed to communicate. The assignments highlight the island's vast history and vibrant culture. Regional geography, cuisine and historical personages are used to help instruct students. Even the Greek myths about Persephone, Odysseus and Daedalus (among others set in Sicily) are featured. Poetry and tongue twisters are used as well.
Professor Gaetano Cipolla
Following the lecture, a question and answer period ensued. When asked if he was planning a second book for more advanced students, Prof. Cipolla smiled (alluding to the exhausting work he put into this volume) and said, "let's see how well this book does first." The title was available for purchase and I got my copy. I also picked up one for our friends at H.E.L.P., the Hellenic Education and Learning Program in Astoria (30-96 42nd St.). I think they will enjoy the learning exercises employing the Greek myths. I'm looking forward to begin my lessons.

It needs to be mentioned that Dr. Scelsa, founder and President of the Italian American Museum, has generously donated 20 copies of the textbook to schools in Palermo, matching Arba Sicula's donation.

The conversation continued late into the evening as Prof. Cipolla joined us for dinner at Grotta Azzurra (177 Mulberry St.), a Neapolitan restaurant in the heart of NYC's Little Italy. We had a lively and informative discussion about all things Sicilian. 

Many thanks to Prof. Cipolla for his hard work and commitment to our community. We wish him the best of luck and much success with his new book. Of course we cannot forget Dr. Scelsa and the Italian American Museum for hosting this wonderful event. The IAM continues to do a wonderful job organizing events that promote our Southern Italian culture and heritage. 

Prof. Cipolla will speak again on April 19th (7:00 pm) at Stony Brook University. The event will be held in the Center for Italian Studies in the Frank Melville Memorial Library, Room E4340. For more info contact: josephine.fusco@stonybrook.edu or visit their website

Additional reading:
• "Is Sicilian a Language or a Dialect?" by Gaetano Cipolla, Siciliana: Studies on the Sicilian Ethos, Legas, 2005, p. 99-120
• "A Dream Realized: A Modern Grammar of Sicilian Is Now Available," Sicilia Parra, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, Fall 2012, p. 1 and 3