May 30, 2016

Photo of the Week: A Sphinx from Axel Munthe’s Villa San Michele, Capri

A Sphinx from Axel Munthe’s Villa San Michele, Capri
Photo by New York Scugnizzo

May 28, 2016

Remembering the Battle of Bitonto

Neobriganti Gather in Brooklyn, New York for the Eighth Annual Battle of Bitonto Commemoration
Revelers rally around our ancestral flag before dinner
Photos by New York Scugnizzo and Luca Lerario
By Cav. John Napoli
As part of our yearlong tricentennial celebration of the birth of HM King Carlo di Borbone (1716-1788) we decided to bring back our semipublic Battle of Bitonto Commemoration, a celebration of faith, culture and history. In the past we had trouble locking down commitments from participants or finding a suitable place to celebrate because of the Anniversary’s proximity to Memorial Day Weekend; however, thanks to our good friend Giuseppe Marrone, we finally found the perfect venue at Forno Rosso.
Admittedly, the numbers are still low (only about half our guests could make it), but I gave up the idea of having large festive celebrations long ago and resigned myself to smaller, more intimate gatherings of like-minded individuals to network and discuss important issues concerning our community, while still having a good time.
This year, friends and colleagues from the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza, the Comitati Due Sicilie USA, and the U.S. Delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George came together to remember and honor the Great Restorer, Carlo di Borbone, and extoll the virtues of our Borbone Monarchs.
This year's invitation
Celebrants mingled and enjoyed a few cocktails before dinner. Some pamphlets about the pivotal battle were distributed and each guest received a small packet of prayer cards, buttons and a scapular. This year three lucky winners went home with door prizes. Marco and John each won a Concertos for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies CD (Hyperion, 1999), and Andrew carried off a first edition copy of Nino Zchomelidse’s Art, Ritual, and Civic Identity in Medieval Southern Italy (Penn State University Press, 2014).
Knowing how terribly disappointed I was at being unable to join my confratelli in Rome and attend the recent Confirmation of TRH Princesses Maria Carolina and Maria Chiara of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Cav. Charles Sant’Elia thoughtfully presented me with a copy of the program and a Constantinian Order handbook. They are very considerate keepsakes, which I will cherish forever. Charles was also kind enough to bring me back a beautiful handmade Argenio silk tie adorned with the crimson and gold insignia of the Constantinian Order of Saint George. It was an extremely generous gift that I will wear often and proudly.
Spirits high, we finally sat down for dinner. My dear friend Marcantonio Pezzano said grace, then we all raised our glasses and made a toast to our ancestors and the memory of the combatants. Throughout the night, the beer, wine, laughs and interesting conversation continued to flow freely.
For our first course, Chef Marrone treated us to a delicious assortment of Neapolitan delicacies. Each of us were given a large dish laden with Frittatina di maccheroni, Panzarotti Napoletani, Mulignan a fungitiell, Polpo alla griglia, Bruschetta and Insalata mista e CapreseThe antipasti was followed with a perfectly cooked Penne alla Sorrentina, al dente pasta served in a simple tomato sauce with basil, mozzarella and pecorino cheese. 
After a short breather, our pizza entrées were brought to the table. First we had the classic Pizza Margherita, a true Neapolitan culinary masterpiece. Then came Pizza ’nduja, a spicy Calabrese specialty made with the famous spreadable salumi from Calabria.
Our sumptuous repast was capped off with caffè, dessert and some shots of limencello and amaro, the perfect after dinner digestivi.
I cannot thank Chef Marrone enough for letting us hold our celebration in his restaurant. Giuseppe is a genuine friend and remarkable host. As always, the food was delicious and the service was great. He and his hardworking staff went above and beyond to make us feel at home and accommodated our every need. We couldn't have asked for anything more.
Special thanks to all the attendees, it was an honor and a privilege to celebrate with you and I look forward to doing it again next year. Viva ‘o Rre! 
Giorgio, Stephen, John, Andrew, Mike, Giuseppe, John, Marco and Charles
Some information about the battle and the Neapolitan Bourbons was on hand
Attendees received a small packet of prayer cards, buttons and a scapular
This year's door prizes 
Confratelli Cav. John Napoli and Cav. Charles Sant'Elia show their pride
Programs from the Confirmation of TRH Princesses Maria Carolina and Maria Chiara of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and a Constantinian Order handbook
Charles presented me with a beautiful handmade Argenio silk tie
The beer, wine and laughs continued to flow freely
Frittatina di Maccheroni, Panzarotti Napoletani, Mulignan a Fungitiell, Polpo alla Griglia, Bruschetta and Insalata Mista e Caprese
Perfectly cooked Penne alla Sorrentina
Pizza Margherita, a Neapolitan masterpiece
Pizza 'nduja, a spicy Calabrese specialty
For dessert we enjoyed chef Marrone's Coccole Con Nutella, deep fried sweet dough with Nutella, strawberries and powdered sugar
Luca, Giuseppe, Mike, John, Andrew, John, Giorgio, Stephen and Charles
pose for one last picture before calling it a night

May 27, 2016

A look at the 2016 Feast of Our Lady of the Audience, Kansas City, Missouri

Viva Maria!
Photos courtesy of Robert Kearney
Thank you Robert for sharing your wonderful pictures of the Feast of Our Lady of the Audience (May 22nd). Each year devotees gather at Holy Rosary Church in Kansas City, Missouri to celebrate the Feast of the Madonna dell'Udienza, patroness of Sambuca, Sicily. Festivities included live music, refreshments and the highly anticipated rose petal shower, where celebrants ritually wipe the face and arms of the Blessed Mother and Child with cotton balls and rose petals.
Holy Rosary Church was packed for the celebration
(Left) Donations are pinned onto the Altar Society Standard
Our Lady of the Audience departing Holy Rosary Church
After Mass, the statue is processed around the neighborhood
Upon her return, the Madonna is placed beneath a canopy
and showered with rose petals 
A close-up of the canopy
Devotees swab the statue with cotton balls
and rose petals to collect the Blessed Mother's blessings
Afterward, celebrants enjoyed some refreshments in the church hall

May 26, 2016

Evviva Santa Rita! A Look at the 2016 Feast of St. Rita of Cascia in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Evviva Santa Rita!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

Sunday's Feast of Saint Rita of Cascia was a huge success as hundreds gathered at St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for the festivities. Mass was celebrated by Msgr. David Cassato, who blessed the parishioners and the sea of roses filling the pews.

After Mass, members of the Associazione Culturale Pugliese Figli Maria SS. Addolorata carried the statue of St. Rita through the neighborhood singing hymns and praying. Thankfully the thunder storms in the forecast never arrived and we had picture perfect weather for the procession.

Afterward, we returned to the auditorium for some coffee, dessert and an all-around good time. Blessed loaves of bread were distributed to all attendees.

Thank you President Lucrezia Nardulli, Vice President Josephine DiDonna and the rest of the Association for your hard work and dedication. It is always a pleasure to celebrate our faith and culture with you. Evviva Santa Rita!
Members of the Associazione Culturale Pugliese Figli Maria SS. Addolorata carry St. Rita into the nave. The statue is displayed next to the altar with baskets of blessed loaves of bread, which were distributed to participants
Msgr. David Cassato blesses the roses
After Mass, Josephine and Lucrezia carry the statue out of church
and begin the procession through the neighborhood 
The procession wends its way through the neighborhood
Devotees pray and sing hymns to St. Rita
(Above & below) Members take turns carrying our beloved patroness
(Above & below) The procession saunters back to St. Athanasius Church
Back at St. Athanasius, participants pose for a group picture
Salvatore and Oronzo are ready to party
St. Rita was set up for veneration in the auditorium
It's always great to see our friends Marcantonio and his mom, Teresa
(Above & below) Just some of the delicious goodies partygoers enjoyed

May 24, 2016

A Taste of History and Culture: Day Tripping Around Philadelphia

Emmanuel Fremiet's equestrian statue of Jeanne d'Arc, Philadelphia, PA
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Our Philly day trip began with a memorable lunch at Brigantessa, a terrific little forneria that dishes up traditional southern Italian comfort food in a warm, inviting atmosphere (See: Visiting South Philly’s Brigantessa for all the details). Stuffed to the gills, and blessed with some nice weather, we decided to walk off our meal and do a little exploring.
Not realizing we were just a stone’s throw away from bustling South 9th Street, we unexpectedly happened upon the historic Italian Market and found ourselves caught between the long partisan lines of hungry customers outside Pat’s and Geno’s famous cheesesteak restaurants. Just like my last visit—but for very different reasons—I was unable to try their celebrated hoagies and finally decide for myself which one I like better. Walking all the way to the iconic Frank Rizzo Mural on Melrose, we did a little window shopping before making our way back to the car.
The Mayor Frank Rizzo Mural in Philadelphia's Italian Market
With the Feast of St. Rita coming up (May 22nd), how could we not visit the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia at 1166 South Broad Street? Offering us a brief respite from the bustling crowds, we lit a few candles and said our prayers inside the monumental church. 
Inside the National Shrine of St. Rita
Feeling refreshed, we continued on to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.) to admire its world-renowned collection. Perusing the European Art galleries, we saw so many wonderful treasures, including the works of Auguste Rodin, Antonio Mancini, Luca Giordano and Giuseppe De Nittis. Luckily, this time around I was able to get a clear photo of De Nittis’ Return from the Races.
Moving on, my friend wanted to bring his wife home some quality tea so we stopped by the Melange Tea and Spice Shop at 1042 Pine Street. While he was deciding what kind of tea to buy her, I took the opportunity to pick up some aromatic Spanish saffron for my upcoming attempt at making pasta allo zafferano. We were interested in seeing more of this quaint area, but unfortunately the heavens abruptly opened up and the rain came pouring down.
Unsure of what the traffic would be like, we decided to head back to Brigantessa. I know there are plenty of other terrific restaurants to try (and one day I hope to do so), but we enjoyed our lunch at Brigantessa so much we made reservations for dinner. They have valet parking, but as luck would have it we arrived sooner than expected and found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant.
Return from the Races, oil on canvas (1875), Giuseppe De Nittis (1846-1884), Philadelphia Museum of Art
Seeing that we were early, and the rain had subsided somewhat, we decided to check out the neighborhood a little bit more in the opposite direction. I’m glad we did because we discovered so many things to see. 
The Singing Fountain
Strolling down E. Passyunk Avenue we quickly stumbled upon the “Singing Fountain” at the intersection of Tasker and 11th Streets. If the weather had been nicer and we didn’t already have other plans for dinner, I’m certain this mini oasis—complete with benches, greenery and a chess board—would have been an ideal place to relax and listen to the fountain’s music while enjoying a slice of pizza from nearby Gennaro’s Tomato Pie. 
Since everything in my mind is somehow distantly connected to Naples and southern Italy, I naturally assume the mermaid figure at the top of the babbling fount is suppose to be the legendary “maiden-voiced” siren Parthenope, who famously killed herself after failing to entice the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin), King of Ithaca. According to legend, her body washed ashore at the isle of Megaride in the Bay of Naples and was the name of the original Greek settlement there.
Some exhibits inside the History of Italian Immigration Museum
Continuing our walk, we noticed there was no shortage of Italian eateries. Passing Marra’s, Birra and Stogie Joe’s Tavern, we eventually came across the History of Italian Immigration Museum (1834 E. Passyunk Ave.). Happy to discover it was still open, we decided to take the tour. Though small, the museum is packed with Italian American material culture. The eclectic collection includes artifacts from the earliest Italian immigrants to contemporary arrivals. Among the many items on display are parts of Sam Rosati’s old barbershop, including a vintage child’s swivel chair complete with rocking horse head.
The Joey Giardello Statue by Carl LeVotch
While everyone is familiar with the famous “Rocky” statue located outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, across the street from the History of Italian Immigration Museum is the lesser known Giardello Statue. Unveiled in 2011, the bronze and granite sculpture was the work of artist Carl LeVotch in honor of local boxing legend Carmine Orlando Tilelli, better known as Joey Giardello. Born in Brooklyn, Giardello lived most of his life in East Passyunk and was the middleweight champion of the world from 1963 to 1965. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Mural celebrating the culture of the Abruzzo outside Le Virtù Restaurant
Still up for more exploring, and having a little more time to kill before our reservation, we continued our passeggiata and spotted a large mural celebrating the culture of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy. The painting faces the patio dining area of Le Virtù (1927 E. Passyunk Ave.), a restaurant specializing in Abruzzese cuisine. As it turns out, the owners of Le Virtù also own Brigantessa. We took a peek inside and checked out the mouthwatering menu and, of course, loved what we saw. It seems I added another thing-to-do to my burgeoning Philly bucket list.
Details of the mural show the Serpari, or snake handlers, of Cocullo, L'Aquila, putting snakes on their patron San Domenico di Sora; a lady from Orsogna, Chieti, with la conca (copper pots) on her head; and the endangered Marsican, or Apennine brown bear, indigenous to the forest of the Abruzzo National Park
It was time for dinner, and we worked up a hearty appetite, so my friend and I headed back to Brigantessa for another phenomenal meal. Satiated and content, we said goodbye to Philly and made our trek home to NYC, rehashing the events of an all around great day.