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 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. 

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

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 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

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

Announcing the 2013 Festa di San Donato, Waterbury, Connecticut

Organized by the Pontelandolfo Community Club
San Donato Procession
Photos courtesy of the Pontelandolfo Community Club
August 1st – 4th

380 Farmwood Road
Waterbury CT, 06704

Come enjoy live traditional and contemporary Italian music, sporting events (soccer, bocce), carnival rides, games, raffles, beer and wine, and the best Italian-American cuisine, all in a family-friendly environment.

• Mass (celebrated in Italian) on Sunday, August 4th (10:30 AM) at St Lucy's Church (24 Branch Street, Waterbury, CT 06704). Bus transportation beginning at 9:00 AM will be provided from the Club for those who wish to march in the procession from the Church. The walk is approximately 2 miles. For those who wish to participate in the tradition of carrying the saint in the procession, a sign-up sheet will be available through Saturday evening at the Raffle table at the upper pavilion. The Statue of San Donato will be displayed at our chapel.

• Fireworks (weather permitting) will fill the sky at 10:00 PM on Sunday. 

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

For more information call the Pontelandolfo Community Club at (203) 575-0504 or email them at ponteclub@sbcglobal.net

Pontelandolfo Community Club chapel

April 4, 2013

Announcing 'The History of the Town of Craco'

Now Available at Amazon.com

• The History of the Town of Craco by Dino D'Angella (translated by the Craco Society)

Publisher: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Paperback: $29.95
Language: English
Pages: 176


Also see:

Click here to see more books

April 3, 2013

Pizza and Paulaner

Celebrating the Feast of San Francesco di Paola
"LITE FARE" — Soppressata, caciocavallo, olives, 'nduja, pizza and beer
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
By Giovanni di Napoli

In addition to the obligatory Lenten dietary restrictions (no meat on Fridays, etc.) members of my family usually give up one or two additional things for Lent. Customarily for me its macaroni (the food I love most in the world). This year I also gave up beer. Admittedly, I don't drink a lot of beer, but I do enjoy an occasional pint every now and again, especially when I have pizza. 
Last night some friends and I got together to celebrate the Feast of San Francesco di Paola. It was nothing extravagant, just a small gathering with some lite fare. I thought it would be apropos that my first beer since beginning my abstention was in honor of the holy man. However, it could not just be any beer, it had to be Paulaner bier from Munich. Reputedly, the monks who started making this most excellent brew in 1634 to support their charities were members of the Order of Minim founded by Saint Francis. Apparently, Paulaner is a corruption of Paola, the town in Calabria where Saint Francis was born.

Evviva San Francesco! 

April 1, 2013

New Books

Some new and forthcoming titles that may be of interest to our readers. All are available at Amazon.com

Learn Sicilian / Mparamu lu sicilianu (English and Italian Edition) by Gaetano Cipolla

Publisher: Legas
Publication Date: February 21, 2013
Paperback: $32.00
Language: English
Pages: 336


Medieval Amalfi and its Diaspora, 800-1250 by Patricia Skinner

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: June 1, 2013
Hardback: $60.71
Language: English
Pages: 336


Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily by Anthony Di Renzo

Publisher: Guernica Editions
Publication Date: December 1, 2013
Paperback: $13.60
Language: English
Pages: 160


Click here to see more books

Announcing the 2013 Feast of Saint Anthony of Padua in The Bronx, NY

June 12th – 16th

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
627 East 187th Street
Bronx, NY 10458

The Dancing of the Giglio will be on Saturday, June 15th. Anyone interested in being a lifter (paranza) at this year's Feast should visit their Facebook page and message them your name, e-mail address and shirt size. The procession with Saint Anthony will be on Sunday, June 16th. There will also be music, games, rides, raffles and plenty of great food!

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

For more information visit Belmont Giglio on Facebook 

Also see: