November 29, 2014

Ponderable Quote From "Naples: A Travellers' Companion" by Desmond Seward

A lament for the passing of the Two Sicilies by Giacinto de Sivo [pictured right], Storia delle Due Sicilie dal 1847 al 1861. Quoted from Naples: A Travellers’ Companion selected and introduced by Desmond Seward, Atheneum, 1986 p. 294-296
"I don’t say the old Regno was faultless, that it was a paradise. Wherever men govern each other there is always bound to be some discontent, whatever the country. Human good is relative – everything cannot be quite the same for everybody. Some nations are warlike, others consists of farmers, or of merchants, artists or manufacturers; what suits them is for them to decide. Only bad judges omit to weigh good against evil, since as many blessings as possible and as few ills are the real measure of a country’s prosperity. Political bias magnifies a government’s failings without taking the times and the circumstances into account, and crudely simplistic judgements obscure anything else worthwhile – as if perfection were attainable by human endeavours. Closing one’s eyes to all that is good makes everything else look bad and raises countless questions. Naples had fewer troops than France, fewer ships than London, less liberty than America, not so much of the fine arts as Rome, and less polish than Paris, though those are not the only things which make for happiness. Nonetheless, in relation to its size and status the country had enough of them to be second to none. Commerce, arts and letters, morality, religion, security, comfort, industry, civil rights, all these it had in plenty. People lived pleasantly and inexpensively, with an abundance of entertainment and amusements; anybody who avoided subversive politics enjoyed complete freedom and could do what he liked. In short the realm was the happiest in the world. Countless foreigners who came to it prospered so much that they settled.  
"During the last forty years the population increased by a quarter. There was a wealth of public buildings, of good roads, aqueducts, warehouses, free hospitals, bridges of stone, brick or iron, arsenals, arms factories, barracks, foundries, high schools, academies, universities, churches, royal palaces, convents, monasteries, harbours, docks, shipping, fortresses, prisons, orphanages, flourishing industries, scientific farming, prize herds, reclaimed marshes, reservoirs, rivers harnessed for irrigation, botanical gardens, pawnshops, corn exchanges, stock markets and finance houses, freeports, arts and crafts institutes, funded charities, savings banks, insurance agencies, shipping brokers, merchant banks, railways, electric and submarine telegraphs, and every other amenity of civilized life. As for crime, murder was rare. Paupers were few and hunger practically unknown, since there was provision by religious, private, municipal and government charities. There was no paper money, only gold and silver. Taxes were light and expenses small – one lived very well on a modest income. Work was plentiful, prices low and holidays many. There was respect for the gentry, for the law, for authority, safety and order for everyone everywhere. 
"Then Gladstone came and called the regime ‘the negation of God,’ fed with lies by the opposition who wanted to bring in their ‘God’, and ruined us…almost unbelievable calumnies were repeated in newspapers all over the world."

November 28, 2014

“Pompeii: The Exhibition” Coming to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington

Photo courtesy of the Soprintendenza Speciale per I Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompeii
February 7th—May 25th, 2015  
Experience Pompeii before and after the epic eruption 2,000 years ago. Imagine the moment their world vanished and discover the miraculous artifacts unearthed since. Witness the final moments of those entombed in ash – including the largest collection of body casts ever presented.
In the year 79, Pompeii vanished beneath thick layers of volcanic ash left by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. But what nature destroyed, it also preserved. Pompeii: The Exhibition tells the tale of this city, hidden from view and forgotten for centuries until its rediscovery over 250 years ago. From garden frescoes and marble statues to helmets and shin guards of the day's Gladiators, coins and currency to religious altars and shrines — all set in their original surroundings — you will experience daily life in this bustling Roman city. Then, as the floors shake and the walls rumble, relive the volcano's catastrophic eruption through an immersive CGI experience, culminating in the reveal of 10 full body casts of twisted human forms, asphyxiated by extreme heat and noxious gases and forever frozen in time.
Pacific Science Center
200 Second Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 443-2001
For more info visit

November 27, 2014

Presepio Napoletano at the Italian American Museum with Anita Sanseverino and Lou Barella

Anita Sanseverino with IAM President Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Lecture and Photo Exhibit by Anita Sanseverino
DVD presentation by Anita Sanseverino and Lou Barella

You are cordially invited to attend a lecture and photo exhibit dedicated to the Presepio Napoletano (Neapolitan Nativity Scene) at the Italian American Museum on Thursday, December 4th.  The evening's program will also feature a DVD based presentation with music and photos of Presepi taken by Anita Sanseverino throughout Naples and in the New York area including the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 18th century collection.
Anita Sanseverino loves her Italian Heritage. As a photographer she has documented the beauty of Italy and in recent years, has expanded her art form to include delving into the history of the traditions that make Italian culture so fascinating.  Every celebration has a story, and that includes one of the grandest traditions that continues to this day; that of the Presepio Napoletano. People may be familiar with the “Nativity Scenes” used in their own homes, or have seen the “Angel Tree” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Anita’s photographs and lecture document the process by which these figures for the Nativity Scene are made, and how they evolved over the centuries, including what makes them uniquely Neapolitan.
From views of the religious scenes of the Nativity, to the secular aspects of this tradition, you will see and hear how the Neapolitans shaped the story of the birth of Christ to include their own city.
Anita tells the complete story of the history and the traditions of the Presepio, including the symbolic meanings behind many of the figures and structures. It is a fascinating study of a tradition from the past that still continues to this day and is also a tribute to the city of Naples which elevated the Presepio to the highest art form.
Thursday, December 4th (6:30 P.M.)

Italian American Museum
155 Mulberry Street
(Corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets)
New York, NY 10013
Suggested donation of $10

To reserve a place for this event, please call the Italian American Museum at (212) 965-9000 or email:

November 26, 2014

Honoring the King

The Associazione Culturale Neoborbonica Commemorates the 120th Anniversary of the Death of King Francesco II di Borbone
A solemn prayer service was held in the Basilica Santa Chiara
Photos courtesy of Francesco De Crescenzo
In commemoration of the 120th Anniversary of the death of King Francesco II di Borbone, members of the Movimento Neoborbonico held a two-day celebration in Naples, which saw the participation of the Knights and Ladies of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, the Fondazione il Giglio, cadets from the Nunziatella military academy, and HRH Carlo di Borbone, Duke of Castro and head of the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
Beginning on Friday, November 21st, with a visit to the Royal Bourbon Chapel at the Basilica Santa Chiara, Prince Carlo and attendees paid homage to the last King of the Two Sicilies. During the solemnities, dignitaries placed flowers on his tomb and recalled the tragic figure of Francesco II, "the first of millions of southern emigrants." 
Celebrants take a stroll, or passeggiata, through the streets of Naples
After the prayer service, celebrants walked from the Basilica to the Via San Gregorio Armeno, the world-renowned center for artisan workshops specializing in the Neapolitan crèche. While admiring the monuments and touring the shops Prince Carlo was presented with several gifts, including a S.S.C. Napoli necktie and a small bust of Francesco II by master sculptor Errico Napolitano. As word spread of his presence, large crowds gathered in the streets, chanting, "Long live the King." The Prince was clearly touched by the warm reception. 
Prince Carlo does a little shopping on the Via San Gregorio Armeno
The next morning, Saturday, November 22nd, hundreds gathered to celebrate Mass at the Chiesa di San Ferdinando in the Piazza Trieste e Trento. To the delight of the crowd, the Fanfara dei Civici Pompieri delle Due Sicilie performed Inno al Re, the national anthem of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies composed by Giovanni Paisiello.
Afterward, Prince Carlo took part in a charity luncheon for 70 impoverished people. The event was a private affair so as not to embarrass any of the guests. The meal was generously provided by the Constantinian Order of Saint George in the church of Santa Lucia a Mare.
Mass was celebrated at the Chiesa di San Ferdinando
We are grateful to President Gennaro De Crescenzo and members of the Movimento Neoborbonico for their hard work and dedication. We stand in solidarity with their efforts to honor and preserve the history of the Two Sicilies. For more information about the Movimento Neoborbonico visit or find them on Facebook. Viva 'o Rre!

November 23, 2014

Christmastime at the Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, Connecticut

Madonna and Child by Antonio Caruso
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy
The museum’s 10th annual Christmas exhibition opens Monday, Dec. 1, and features Nativity scenes from Italy inspired by Italian crèche custom and heritage. The show features crèches from many regions of Italy, including a large Neapolitan diorama, and works by Italian artists in North America. The museum’s Christmas exhibitions, renowned for their quality and variety, have become a favorite seasonal tradition for southern New England residents as well as those traveling through the area at Christmastime. Admission and parking are free.
Wood Carving demonstration by Antonio Caruso
Italian-born artist Antonio Caruso, whose work is on display as part of the museum’s Christmas crèche exhibition, will present a wood carving demonstration Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, at 2 p.m. Now living and working in Toronto, Canada, Mr. Caruso is one of a few contemporary artists who excels at variety of techniques, including painting, sculpting and mosaic.
Knights of Columbus Museum
One State Street
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 865-0400

November 22, 2014

Lecture on Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II by Louis Hamilton

Federico II di Svevia, Palazzo Reale, Napoli 
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Southern Italy at the Crossroads of European and Mediterranean Cultures
Monday, November 24th (6pm)

Italian Cultural Institute of New York
686 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065

The extraordinary and sometimes underestimated legacy of Frederick's reign between 1220 and 1250 is the subject of a lecture by Louis Hamilton. The era of Frederick's rule has justifiably been described as the "first Renaissance." However, whereas the later Italian Renaissance flourished primarily in the center and north of the peninsula, this first flowering had its origins in Sicily and the South, the epicenter of Frederick's empire, from which this free-thinking, multilingual emperor (apart from several Western tongues, he also knew Hebrew and Arabic) conducted his affairs. The spirit of the art-loving emperor who presided over the first great rediscovery of the classical arts in Southern Italy. His artistic and cultural contributions were for centuries obscured by the damnation of his memory by the Catholic church. Dante placed him in the sixth circle of hell, eternally burning in a fiery tomb along with other Epicurean heretics.

November 21, 2014

“Pompeii: The Exhibition” Closing January 11

In the year 79 A.D., Pompeii vanished beneath thick layers of volcanic ash left by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. But what nature destroyed, it also preserved.
Pompeii: The Exhibition features over 150 precious artifacts on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy, which offer a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle and tragic end of this ancient Roman society forgotten for centuries until its rediscovery over 250 years ago.
From garden frescoes and marble statues to gladiator armor, coins and currency to religious altars and shrines — all set in their original surroundings — experience daily life in this once vibrant Roman city. Then, as the floors shake and the walls rumble, relive the volcano’s catastrophic eruption through an immersive CGI experience, culminating in the reveal of full body casts of twisted human forms, asphyxiated by extreme heat and noxious gases and forever frozen in time.
Through excavated artifacts, multimedia experiences, and hands-on science exhibits, guests will learn the science of archaeology, volcanology, and Roman engineering while exploring the ancient civilization of Pompeii.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037
(323) 724-3623

For more info visit

November 20, 2014

Honoring Francesco II di Borbone at Santa Chiara

Celebrants pack Santa Chiara to pay tribute to King Francis II 
Photos courtesy of Real Circolo Francesco II di Borbone
On Saturday, November 15th, members and supporters of the Real Circolo Francesco II di Borbone (Royal Club Francis II of Bourbon) gathered at the Basilica di Santa Chiara in Naples to celebrate Mass in memory of the 120th anniversary of the death of Francesco II, the last King of the Two Sicilies.
Festivities included a wreath laying ceremony, complete with honor guard dressed in period costumes, and an orchestral performance of Giovanni Paisiello's Inno al Re, the national anthem of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Honor guard present the wreath
A newly commissioned bust of Francesco II by local artist Domenico Sepe was on display in the Royal Bourbon Chapel. The work, referenced from an old black and white photo, masterfully depicts the Neapolitan sovereign during the final years of his life. Carved in clay, a single copy will be cast in bronze. A limited number of signed copies in plaster and ceramic will be available for purchase.
(Left) Bust of Francis II on the altar in the Royal Chapel
(Right) Portrait referenced by sculptor Domenico Sepe
Real Circolo Francesco II di Borbone is a pro monarchist, Catholic Association dedicated to promoting Neapolitan culture and the rediscovery of the History of the Two Sicilies. For more information about the association visit or find them on Facebook.

November 18, 2014

New Music

Neapolitan Keyboard Music performed by Stefano Innocenti

Label: Brilliant Classics
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Audio CD: $7.99
Number of Discs: 1

Available at

Read description

November 17, 2014

Brief Excerpts From “The Spiritual Combat” by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I recently started reading The Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, a sixteenth century Theatine born in Otranto, Apulia. First published in 1589, Father Scupoli’s handbook provides insightful and practical guidance for spiritual growth and discipline. Made up of sixty-six succinct chapters "based on the maxim that in the spiritual life one must either 'Fight or die,'" The Spiritual Combat instructs the reader how to successfully battle one's inner demons. A valuable resource, I thought I would share a few snippets I highlighted on my morning commute.
From Chapter Sixteen: The Soldier of Christ Must Prepare Early for the Battle*
“THE FIRST thing to do when you awake is to open the windows of your soul. Consider yourself as on the field of battle, facing the enemy and bound by the iron-clad law—either fight or die.” 
* * * 
“It does not matter how weak you are—how strong the enemy may seem, either in number or in power. Do not be discouraged. The help you have from Heaven is more powerful than all that Hell can send to destroy the grace of God in your soul. God, the Creator and the Redeemer, is Almighty and more desirous of your salvation than the devil can be of your destruction. 
“Fight courageously, then, and do not neglect to mortify yourself. Continual war on your inordinate inclinations and vicious habits will gain the victory, acquire the kingdom of Heaven, and unite your soul to God forever.” 
* * * 
“There is a great lack of vision in one who does not avoid a great deal of trouble in this life, followed by endless agony in the next, and yet shirks small difficulties which will soon end in an eternity of happiness and the never ending enjoyment of God.”
* Quoted from The Spiritual Combat and A Treatise on Peace of Soul by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, Tan Books, 2010, pages 51-52

November 15, 2014

The Molise Region and Its Beauties

Saturday, November 22, 2014 (2:00pm)

Although Molise is one of the smaller regions in Italy, it has surprising qualities. It is a mysterious land rich in art and history and steeped in cultural traditions. It has fine cuisine and uncontaminated landscapes stretching from the mountains to the sea. The event will start with a presentation by Francesco Paolo Tanzj who will recite some of the poems from his latest book From Italy, Poems and Beauty From the Heart of Italy.

Discover and taste the beauties of this region. Marvel and learn about the history of ancient art of the Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli, Marinelli Pontifical Bell Foundry considered to be the oldest foundry in the world. Admire the exquisite artisanal ceramics Raku pottery by Antonio Zaccarella, and the artistic handiwork of artisanal store La Ramera. Enjoy a wine tasting of the wines from Azienda Agricola Cirulli, while sampling renowned cheese of Caseificio Di Nucci and tasting most refine and distinguished blend of olive oil P.D.O. (Protected Denomination of Origin) of the estate Principessa Marina Colonna all accompanied by traditional old recipes with premium quality whole grain pasta La Molisana. Indulge your palate with the sweet confetti and fine confectionery pastry from renowned bakery Dolciaria Carosella.

Must Register and Prepay in Advance.
Members $25, Non-Members $30

Westchester Italian Cultural Center
One Generoso Pope Place
Tuckahoe, New York 10707
(914) 771-8700

November 14, 2014

“La Figlia Di Jorio” Returns to the United States

La Figlia di Jorio by Francesco Paolo Michetti
The Italian folkloric group La Figlia di Jorio, originating from Orsogna, Chieti in the region of Abruzzo will arrive in the United States for a two-week tour starting on November 19th in Everett, Massachusetts.  The group will first perform for the Orsognese community, “Sons of Orsogna” and then continue on to perform for the Orsognese community in the New York City metropolitan area.
The folkloric group, hailed as the oldest continuance performing folkloric group in Italy, was founded in 1921 in the small town of Orsogna in the Abruzzo region. This historic folkloric group is internationally acclaimed and has performed throughout Europe and South America. This will be their third tour in the United States in 34 years. Arriving with them will be the Mayor of Orsogna Fabrizio Montepara.
The three sponsoring organizations, Sons of Orsogna, Orsogna Mutual Aid Society and the New Orsogna Athletic Club have prepared a series of events for their community which are numbered in the thousands and have settled mostly in Everett, MA and Astoria, New York. The majority of the Orsognese immigrant community arrived in the United States as refugees from World War II after their small town was completely destroyed during one of the most brutal battles in the Italian peninsula.
The folkloric group’s arrival coincides with the Orsogna Mutual Aid Society’s 75th anniversary and the New Orsogna Athletic Club’s 55th anniversary of its founding. The folkloric group is also preparing to celebrate its 95th anniversary since its inception. The name “La Figlia di Jorio” was taken from the famous painting by Francesco Paolo Michetti who in 1895 depicted a local peasant girl, Giuditta Saraceni, in typical Orsognese dress as she passed his vacation home in Orsogna. The painting inspired noted Italian poet and playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio to pen his famous play, “La Figlia Di Jorio”.
The highlight of their visit will be a performance on Sunday, November 30th at the Italian mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Astoria singing ancient liturgical hymns. After the mass, there will be a dinner and performance at Riccardo’s by the Bridge.
Mario Tenaglia, Esq., musical director of the folkloric group stated, “Our visit is two-fold, one for our Orsognese community in the United States to relive and reconnect their strong emotional bond with their culture and for the newer generation to discover the deep common roots of their ancestors.”
The tour is sponsored in part by the Consiglio Regionale degli Abruzzesi Nel Mondo (CRAM).
For tickets to the performance at Riccardo’s by the Bridge, contact Rocco Pace at (718) 309-2435.
Reprinted from the Italian American Museum Press Release

November 13, 2014

Another Fine Day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(L-R) Ludwig Van Beethoven monument and Bethesda Fountain, Central Park
By Giovanni di Napoli
Now that the Feasts in my area are done for the year, my weekends are open to pursue some of my other interests.(1) So when my friend asked me to accompany her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I jumped at the opportunity. Normally I like to go to the Met every few months, but I’ve been so busy of late I think my last visit was back in early February.
After an enjoyable breakfast (caffè and croissant) at Le Pain Quotidien and a pleasant stroll through Central Park, we started our tour in the museum’s world renowned European Painting Galleries (1250-1800). In addition to seeing my old friends Luca Giordano, Mattia Preti and Salvator Rosa, we reveled in the presence of some of Europe’s greatest masters: Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Nicolas Poussin, among others.
We also got to see one of the Met’s new exhibits, Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age
Loaded with many masterpieces from the first millennium B.C., the exhibition explores the extensive interaction between the ancient Near East and the lands along the Mediterranean. The comprehensive collection—consisting of some 260 works made of stone, ivory and gold—is absolutely stunning and should be seen in person, if at all possible. Many of the objects on view are on loan from foreign institutions and would be difficult to see again in this context. 
Naturally, we spent a large part of our day admiring its many treasures. 
Before leaving, I wanted to visit the Greek and Roman Galleries (150-176) for some additional photos of Castor and Pollux to include with Lucian’s Echoes of Gemini article. Unable to do this in time for its publication back in October, I felt obliged to do it now while I had the chance and post them belatedly. My companion indulged me as we made our way to the mezzanine galleries (170-171) to see the three works I had in mind.(2) 
As luck would have it, at the foot of the stairwell leading up to the mezzanine, there are a pair of marble statuettes of Castor and Pollux in Gallery 169. Unfamiliar with the pieces, I was excited to discover something new. Unfortunately, aside from being labelled Roman from the first half of the 3rd century A.D., I cannot find any information about the figures.(3)
Castor and Pollux, Roman, Third Century A.D.
It goes without saying we would have liked to have continued our excursion, but there is simply too much to see in a day. Besides, we were getting hungry and had a long trip back to Brooklyn ahead of us. 
I look forward to returning soon and visiting the critically acclaimed El Greco in New York and Bartholmeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague exhibits, as well as the upcoming Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche opening November 25th.
(1) As of press time, rumors that the Feast of Santa Lucia in Hoboken, New Jersey will be revived have not been confirmed
(2) Terracotta hydria attributed to the Washing Painter, Greek, ca. 430-420 B.C.; Limestone cippus base, Etruscan, ca. 500-450 B.C.; and Bronze handles from a large volute-krater, Etruscan, ca. 500-475 B.C.
(3) As far as I’ve been able to tell, the statuettes are missing from the Met’s website. Strangely, I’ve came across the same problem with Giovanni Battista Caracciolo’s Tobias and the Angel (c. 1622)
View highlights:
Tobias and the Angel by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo
The Penitent Magdalen by Corrado Giaquinto
Saint Margaret of Cortona by Gaspare Traversi
Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Massimo Stanzione
The Dream of Aeneas by Salvator Rosa
Also see:
New Discoveries at the Met
Celebrating Southern Italian Art at the Met
An Epiphany at the Met: A look at 'The Renaissance Portrait: From Donatello to Bellini' and The Robert Lehman Collection
An Early Christmas Gift
Sacred Art from Abruzzo at the Cloisters
Spotlight on the Met: Saints Peter and Andrew by Giuseppe Picano
Visions from the "Grand Tour" — The Mezzogiorno Through Foreign Eyes
Spotlight on the Met: Bronze Medal of Mary of Burgundy
Metropolitan Museum of Art's Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Prespio
A Day of High Culture
Discovering Our Heritage at the Met

November 12, 2014

The Search for our Ancestry (VI)

Butcher, Baker, Basket Maker

By Angelo Coniglio
Today, most Western names consist of one or more given names combined with a family name, or surname. Surnames are a relatively recent phenomenon in human history.  Nobility and landowners may have had identifying surnames, but ordinary residents of most countries didn’t use them until they were required by law, some not until the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Combining the ‘given’ name with a surname identified an individual within a family, and resulted in the ‘John Smith’ type of name we’re now familiar with.  
Many surnames developed so long ago that after generations of being passed on in the family, no one can remember why the surnames were originally applied, or what they meant. Many areas, including Scandinavia, Spain and Ireland had naming conventions for surnames; traditions similar to but often more complex than the customs for choosing given names.  These conventions could differ widely between countries.  

Early surnames, in any locality, identified a person by some physical attribute, such as Long, Short or White; or an occupation like Butcher, Baker or Cooper; or a place of origin – Calabrese, Palermo or Licata. Some were based on parentage or ancestry – Johnson, Svenssen, Di Carlo, Di Francesco, etc. Knowing the meanings of surnames can even help to identify ancestors who came to America after a couple of generations in another country, where they may have changed their surname to the local language, to ‘fit in’.
Surnames derived from a person’s occupation (in Italian, English, French and German), include:
Molinaro: (Miller, Meunier, and Müller)
Macellaro: (Butcher, Boucher, and Fleischman)
Ferraro: (Smith (from ‘blacksmith’), Forgeron,
and Schmied or Schmidt)
Furnaro: (Baker, Boulanger, and Bäcker)
Surnames derived from a person’s appearance
(in Italian, English, French and German), include:
Russo: (Redd, Laroux, and Rotkopf)
Bellanca: (White, Leblanc, and Weiss)
Bruno: (Brown, Lebrun, Braun)
Nero: (Black, Le Noir, Schwarz)
Luongo: (Long, Long, Lang)
Piccolo: (Little, Petit, Klein
In searching for an ancestor from Italy, remember that not just the given name, but the surname as well, may have been anglicized in America.  For example, if your Italian grandfather went by the name Anthony Smith, you may have to search passenger manifests and Italian birth records for Antonio Ferraro, and so on.

The naming conventions in Italy and especially in the Mezzogiorno often resulted in numerous people in a town or community with exactly the same name, both given name and surname.  Methods were adopted to differentiate between such individuals.  For example, there might be three boys in the same town, all named Pietro Coniglio; one short, one fat, and one red-haired.  They might be nicknamed lo Curto, lo Grosso and lo Russo; or Shorty, Fatty, and Red. These nicknames would then result in their names being given as Pietro Coniglio lo Curto, Pietro Coniglio lo Grosso, and Pietro Coniglio lo Russo.   Often, to identify the offspring and descendants of these individuals, the nickname was applied to them as well.  In some cases, the original surname might be dropped, so that the nickname actually became the surname. So the grandson of Pietro Coniglio lo Grosso might be known, commonly and officially, as Pietro Grosso.

These descriptive names are called sopranomi (‘nicknames’) or ‘ngiurii’ (‘insults’), because they were often derogatory. In many towns, a man’s associates might not even know his actual surname. Unfortunately, the evolution of nicknames into accepted surnames is not well documented.  But knowing a person’s nickname can be very helpful if you visit his birthplace, where living descendants or neighbors might recall the connection.  Even if the nicknames were not officially adopted, several subsequent generations of a family may have used it. For more on this topic, see my page at 

As an aside, many American descendants of Italian and Sicilian ancestors have (probably unwittingly) continued this charming custom. I’d venture that many of us know people referred to by names like ‘Charlie the Hat’, ‘Joe Nerves’, ‘Sammy Sideways’, and so on.

Visit Angelo's website,, and write to him at He is the author of the book The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia), based on his genealogical research of Sicilian foundlings. Order the book in paperback or on Kindle at 

November 9, 2014

From Bethlehem to Belvedere at Notre Dame Academy

Casa Belvedere and Majestic Castle Music Productions Presents Calabrian Tenor Micheal Castaldo at the 2nd Annual Christmas Benefit Concert

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 at 2pm

The 2nd Annual Christmas Benefit Concert for Casa Belvedere will feature award-winning tenor Micheal Castaldo, accompanied by the Richmond County Orchestra Strings. Special Guest will be the award winning UK Soprano Rebecca Newman, traveling all the way from York, UK to sing some favorite Christmas carols in English.

The 2pm concert will be held at Notre Dame Academy Auditorium
78-134 Howard Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10301
Doors open at 1:30pm and there is secure parking on site.

Don't miss this live concert including songs from Castaldo's Chart-Topping CD, "Extravergine: Christmas in the Mediterranean," and to benefit Casa Belvedere.

Admission $25
VIP Reception $75
Toll Free Box Office (800) 838-3006

For more information, contact The Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere
79 Howard Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10301
(718) 273-7660

November 8, 2014

Remembering King Francesco II of Bourbon

Neapolitans to Mark 120th Anniversary of His Death
Sponsored by the Movimento Neoborbonico
For more information or (347) 849-2762

November 7, 2014

Commemorative Markers Honoring Super Cop Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino Unveiled

Portrait of Lt. Joseph Petrosino by master sculptor Carter R. Jones
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Wednesday, November 5th, members of the Italian American community, the NYPD and NYC Parks Department gathered at Petrosino Square (Kenmare St., Lafayette St., and Cleveland Place) in Manhattan for the unveiling of new markers honoring heroic police officer Lt. Joseph Petrosino (1860-1909).
To the delight of the crowd, the bronze bas-reliefs (mounted on the brick columns at the Kenmare Street park entrance) were unveiled around noon. They were created by master sculptor Carter R. Jones, FNSS. 
After the formalities, celebrants mingled and admired the park's new artwork. Later, we were invited back to the Italian American Museum (155 Mulberry Street) by President Dr. Joseph Scelsa to keep the festivities rolling.
For more on Lt. Joseph Petrosino see Knight Without Fear and Without Reproach
The ceremony kicked off with the National Anthem
Police Chaplain Reverend Monsignor Joseph J. Zammit
gives a Benediction and blesses the plaques
Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Art & Antiquities for the NYC Parks Department
James C. Lisa, President of the Petrosino Association in America
Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, Founder and President of the Italian American Museum
Lt. Petrosino's grandnephew, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Petrosino
Pipers from the NYPD Emerald Society pay tribute to Lt. Petrosino
The plaques are unveiled
Celebrants and organizers take a group photo
A proud moment for the Petrosino family
President of the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Queens
Joseph DiPietro with Assistant District Attorney Joseph Petrosino
Plaque immortalizing Lt. Petrosino's achievmments

November 6, 2014

Downtown Brooklyn’s Newest Hotspot

Forno Rosso, Pizzeria Napoletana and Bar
Executive Chef Giuseppe Marrone 
presents one of his masterpieces
By Giovanni di Napoli

I was grumbling recently to a co-worker about the lack of quality eateries near our office. Luckily for me, she had just discovered a new wood oven pizzeria called Forno Rosso (Red Oven) and, knowing how picky I am about pizza, recommended that I check it out.

Excited to try something new, my colleagues and I visited the new establishment with high hopes. Warmly greeted, we were promptly seated and taken care of by a friendly and attentive wait staff. If the familiar smells and the smiling faces of the patrons around us weren’t enough, the Bourbon flag prominently displayed on the wall above the traditional Neapolitan wood oven told me I was in the right spot before I even took my first bite.

For connoisseurs, Forno Rosso is a welcome addition to Downtown Brooklyn’s burgeoning Neapolitan pizza scene. Chef and owner Giuseppe Marrone has brought authentic Neapolitan fare to life in this rapidly changing neighborhood.

A taste of Naples at Forno Rosso
Located at 327 Gold Street, Forno Rosso’s spacious dining area with high ceilings and skylights offers a relaxed and easygoing atmosphere reminiscent of the unpretentious pizzeria’s I frequented in Campania. More importantly, the classic dishes stay true to their roots by using only the finest ingredients, bringing me back not only to my beloved Napoli, but also to my grandmother’s kitchen in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, many of Giuseppe’s dishes are cherished recipes handed down from his nonna

As one would expect, I’ve become a regular and enjoy working my way through the menu and daily specials. The food is always delicious, the service is excellent, and the prices are modest.

Without a doubt, my favorite dishes were the frittatina di pasta, savory fried macaroni balls (think rice balls, but with macaroni) and perfectly cooked paccheri pasta with a complex and tasty wild boar ragù.

Boasting a full bar, Forno Rosso is sure to become a neighborhood favorite for locals and company outings alike.

I wish Giuseppe, his partners and staff, all the best in their new endeavor. May the red oven burn bright with success for many years.

Highlights from Forno Rosso's official Grand Opening Party:
(L-R) Manager Giulio, pizzaiolo Ciro, chef-owner Giuseppe and friend Alberto
(L-R) Ciro, Giulio, Michele, Giuseppe and Stefano
Opening night was a huge success
Therese (above) and the boys (below) are a hardworking, friendly staff
(L-R) Alessandro, Giuseppe and Alan
Crispy flat bread with lentils in olive oil
Panzarotti (crocchè di patate), potato croquettes
Involtini di Melanzane, Eggplant Rollatini
Classic Pizza Margherita
Perfectly cooked paccheri with veal ragù
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Forno Rosso ★★★★★
327 Gold Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 451-3800

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