December 29, 2018

Photo of the Week: Low Relief of San Michele Arcangelo at Villa San Michele, Capri

Marble tile with low relief of San Michele Arcangelo at Dr. Axel Munthe's Villa San Michele in Anacapri, Capri. Photo by New York Scugnizzo

December 27, 2018

La Vigilia and Other Christmas Traditions

Insalata di mare
By Giovanni di Napoli
Like many Duesiciliano Americans, my family keeps the tradition of La Vigilia di Natale, the southern Italian ritual of eating seafood and eschewing meat on Christmas Eve. Despite regular and varied claims to authenticity, I believe the so-called Festa dei sette pesci, or the Feast of the Seven Fishes, is a recent fabrication. Though more lavish then in the past, according to our matriarchs there were never a set number of dishes served. We simply ate what we could afford, and what was fresh and available.
Fritto misto di mare and Panzerotti
Today, we normally have shrimp, calamari, seppia, clams, mussels and scungilli (whelk), which all can be prepared in a variety of ways. Capitone fritto alla napoletana (fried eel) use to be the main course, but nowadays—since the passing of my grandparents—we sometimes have aragosta (lobster), ricci di mare (sea urchin) or baccalà (salt cod).
Baked clams and Spaghetti alle vongole
As always, the ladies outdid themselves and treated us to another memorable dinner.
Following the fish bonanza was another southern Italian specialty: panzerotti, delicious deep fried crescent-shaped dough filled with mozzarella and tomato; ricotta; or onions and capers.
Sautè di cozze and Lobster tail
Next came fruit, roasted chestnuts, caffè and an assortment of delicious sweets, including Pasticciotti Leccesi and struffoli, the quintessential Neapolitan Christmas dessert that will satisfy the most stubborn sweet tooth. There is no panettone in my house.
Baccalà with tomato, onion and olives
The vigil, of course, is not just about food, it's also about family and faith.
After dinner we played games (tombola) with the kids and attended Midnight Mass in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Afterward, we walked through the neighborhood to see the spectacular Christmas decorations. My family has been doing this for as long as I can remember, though originally it was in East New York, Brooklyn, where my maternal grand- and great-grandparents were from.
White wine and espresso
Christmas morning we exchanged presents, made the rounds and visited family and friends until dinnertime. No less extravagant than the Eve, Christmas dinner was a culinary tour de force with plenty of hot and cold antipastiinsalata, pizza, baked manicotti and a American-style Christmas ham. Fruit, dessert and caffè complete the meal.
Struffoli, Neapolitan honey fritters
Not quite finished yet, December 26th is Saint Stephen's Day. In honor of the Feast of Santo Stefano, the first martyr (and my saintly Confirmation namesake), we usually celebrate with torrone, a sticky nougat candy made from honey, nuts and egg whites that dates back to Roman times. I like mine with a glass of Strega or AmaroBuon Natale!
Soft torrone from Avellino
Amended 2018

December 22, 2018

Remembering Ciro

Ciro Esposito's mother cries on her son's coffin
Photo courtesy of
Enjoying the usual gabfest and drinks at one of our favorite watering holes the other night, my recent post about Italian football (see One Day Suddenly) came up and true to form it was not well received by one of my more argumentative acquaintances, who shall remain nameless. Not in the habit of responding publicly to criticism, I made an exception this time because it affords me the opportunity to finally pay my respects to Ciro Esposito, the Napoli supporter who died after pre-match violence at the 2014 Coppa Italia Final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
If I’m not mistaken, my detractor’s biggest problem with the article was the so-called “glaring omission” of ultra violence, particularly the death of Ciro Esposito at the hands of notorious Roma ultra Daniele De Santis. It should go without saying; no slight was intended by omitting the four-year-old incident. My post was more or less about a minor confrontation and a personal anecdote that took place in Italy, with a little posturing against calcio moderno and its suppression of local identities thrown in for good measure. As much as I appreciate our friend’s passion and devotion to Ciro’s memory, I believe conflating my own petty experience with Ciro’s death would have been inappropriate and in bad taste. 
Ciro Esposito
For those who are unfamiliar, back on May 3, 2014, Napoli faced Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia Final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Before the match violent clashes erupted between the teams’ opposing ultras as well as between bitter rivals Napoli and local Roma supporters. However, during the mêlée three Neapolitans were shot by De Santis, including 27-year-old Ciro Esposito. Details of the fight are conflicting, but according to many, Ciro and the other Neapolitan combatants were defending a bus with women and children in it from the Romanisti.
Somewhat controversially, because it revealed the influence of the ultras, the cup tie was halted for 45 minutes by incensed Napoli supporters, who were placated only after infamous ultra capo Gennaro De Tommaso, nom de guerre Genny ‘a Carogna, or Genny the Swine, met with Napoli captain Marek Hamšík. After the delay, Napoli went on to take the cup by beating Fiorentina 3-1. Marred by the violence, the victory was no consolation for the bloodshed.
Tragically, fifty-three days later Ciro died, succumbing to his wounds on June 25th in the Agostino Gemelli University Hospital in Rome. It was reported that over 7,000 people attended his funeral in Scampia, a suburb of Naples. Draped with team flags and scarves, Ciro’s coffin was carried by pallbearers through the throng of mourners. A local square was renamed Piazza Ciro Esposito. In 2017, on the third anniversary of Ciro’s death, Napoli Mayor Luigi de Magistris officially dedicated a public park, complete with football field, to his memory.
Meanwhile on June 27, 2017, De Santis won an appeal and had his 26-year prison sentence for murder reduced to just 16 years. Telling his side of the story to the weekly news magazine Panarama, De Santis naturally claimed the shooting was in self-defense. Not surprisingly, the Roman ultras have sided with their own and the following year, during the home fixture against Napoli, sections of the Curva Sud unfurled banners contemptuously accusing Ciro’s grieving mother Antonella Leardi of shamefully exploiting her son’s death by speaking out against fan violence and writing a book about him called Ciro Vive (Graus Editore, 2015). 
A holdover from a bygone era, the primeval tribalism of the tifosi, with their carnivalesque pageantry, haughty expressions of group identity, and sometimes offensive taunting, is shocking to modern sensibilities. Like it or not, taunting is a part of sports. Provocation and trash-talk are ingrained in its culture, and players and fans alike engage in it. From time immemorial people have been gesticulating and shouting obscenities at each other while trying to best their opponent. It can be rude, uncivil and sometimes painful, but just because one doesn’t like some of the derogatory chants or disagrees with the opinions on display in the terraces, I will never get behind criminalizing speech and restricting language. 
Wanton violence and vandalism on the other hand are a different story. No matter how much I may disdain the opposition (e.g. Juventus) or enjoy the pomp (who didn’t get gooseflesh seeing Napoli’s Curva B orchestrate an erupting Mt. Vesuvius against the Old Lady in 2012/13?) I cannot condone mob violence and physical altercations, even if it were committed by my own side. I love the sport, sometimes I even enjoy the bickering, but rioting over a result or against an adversary (which is hardly limited to calcio) is shameful and repugnant. It is not a legitimate excuse for violence.
Curva B orchestrate Mt. Vesuvius at the San Paolo Stadium, Napoli
Renowned for their passion, both Rome and Naples (like all major football cities) can sometimes be unruly and dangerous, especially during a derby. Following the breakdown of the gemellaggio, or twinning, between the two clubs in the late ’80’s, the once festive Derby del Sole (Derby of the Sun) between Napoli and Roma has become one of the most contentious in Italy. 
While the Final was technically not a derby, Rome’s ultras were not going to sit idly by on their home soil and miss an opportunity to duke it out against their hated southern rivals. This was the seething cauldron that Ciro and thousands of other fans from Napoli, Florence and elsewhere entered when they converged on the Capital to support their respective teams and enjoy the spectacle of il bel gioco (the beautiful game). 
For many on both sides the feelings of betrayal and anger runs too deep and any notion of reconciliation is unthinkable. Thankfully, there are others who would like to see an end to the hostilities and foster a renewed concord between the supporters of these two historic clubs. Instead of fueling the animosity, Ciro’s death can serve as a catalyst for rapprochement between these former friends. Ciro's ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten; let’s hope his memory will serve a higher purpose. Forza Napoli Sempre! Ciro Vive!

December 20, 2018

Salerno's Mini Winter Wonder Land

Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Williamsburg, Brooklyn's Salerno Service and Gulf Gas Station (451 Lorimer St.) transforms into a mini winter wonder land for Christmas.

December 19, 2018

A Christmas Tradition: John Miniero's Presepe Napoletano in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Photos by New York Scugnizzo
If you’re planning to visit the spectacular Dyker Lights Christmas light displays in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, be sure to stop by John Miniero’s house on 14th Avenue, between 79th and 80th Streets, to see his wondrous outdoor prespioThe Neapolitan Christmas tradition has been a neighborhood favorite for many years and continues to amaze onlookers with its whimsy and complexity.

December 17, 2018

Photo of the Week: Bronze Head of Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, at Villa San Michele in Anacapri

Bronze head of Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep,
 in the loggia at Axel Munthe's Villa San Michele in Anacapri, Capri
Photo by New York Scugnizzo

December 16, 2018

The Search for our Ancestry (LIV)

Finding Living Relatives
By Angelo Coniglio
Frequently, readers make requests like the one below, with minimal information about the ancestors they wish to research. In these cases, it’s impossible to give detailed answers, but the general process is addressed in my answer, applicable for anyone searching for their ancestry and for living relatives in Sicily or Italy.
Q: I expect one day to take my daughters to Sicily, in hopes that I may find living relatives of my family. I would love to take my girls to the place where their family history originated. Is there any advice that you may give me?  I have a search started but I have come to a dead end. Where do I go from here?  
I would also love to put people’s names to the faces in my parents’ photo albums. I have gotten just so far and am at a dead end on photos, as well. I think I have come across something in Sicilian records, but I'm not sure if what I have is correct. How do you know if what you even have is the right thing? 
A: Without knowing more details (names, dates, places), or where your "dead ends" occur, or what your research skills are, it's difficult for me to give you any specific advice. When you ask "Where do I go from here?" what I need to know, is where is "here"?  How far have you gotten? 
If your goal is to find living relatives in Sicily, there are two major things you must do.
1) Determine the exact town from which your ancestors came; and
2) build as complete a family tree as possible, identifying not only your direct ancestors, but their siblings and the descendants of their siblings (that is, their collateral relatives).
These two efforts are intertwined, and to some extent, one depends on the other. Family photos are wonderful to have, but they don't provide much help in genealogical research. Further, very few of our ancestors in the 1800s had the means to be photographed. Here's how to proceed. I'll use your paternal side as an example, but the same process should be followed for your maternal side.
Find your father in the 1940 U. S. Census. If he was born after 1940, find his father in the 1940 census. To find censuses, you can search on-line on or the free Mormon site Federal censuses were done every ten years, and some states also had periodic censuses. Keep working back to earlier censuses until you find your ancestor listed with his parents, and so on, until you find a census that indicates when the earliest immigrants came to the U.S. Unless the immigrant came from a large city like Rome, the censuses give only limited information about origins, like ‘Italy’ or ‘Italy South’.
Search passenger ship manifests for the immigrants, using the information developed from the censuses. These manifests are available on line on several venues, for example, and Passenger manifests often gave the name of the town in Sicily where the immigrants lived or were born. If that fails, try to find family records that indicate the town, or go to the county clerk in the place in the U.S. where they lived, and inquire about their naturalization papers. If found, those papers should name the town of origin.
Once the ancestral town is known, using the resources of the Mormon church, in on-line sites or at a physical Family History Center (FHC), find the microfilms or on-line venues that have birth, marriage and death records for that town, and begin searching for the records of your ancestors. This must be a step-by-step process; find one generation at a time, then find the records for that person's parents, then his or her parents, etc. As you find information, record it and develop a 'family tree'. Include siblings if you can find them, for each ancestor. The best way to build a tree is by entering the data in a computer program that will organize the information and allow you to print family tree charts, list of descendants or collateral relatives of your ancestors, and so on. Such programs are available to be ordered on-line for $30 or so and downloaded to your PC. It is possible to ‘build’ family trees on on-line venues such as, familysearch, MyHeritage, etc. but I STRONGLY urge you to build and maintain your primary tree off-line on your PC, where it is completely under your control. If you’re not computer-literate, your local Mormon FHC has charts and forms on which you can manually record your tree and family information.
When you have completed the family tree as far as possible, and knowing the ancestral town, when you visit Sicily you can go to the town's municipio (town hall) and parish rectory and ask if they know of any families with the surnames in your tree. These may not be the surnames of your father or mother, because some of your ancestors' female relatives would have descendants with other surnames; - they're still your relatives. You can also check local telephone directories for familiar surnames. Once you meet the potential relatives, show them your family tree. If they recognize someone in it as their ancestor, you will have found a living relative!
Coniglio is the author of the book The Lady of the Wheel, inspired by his Sicilian research. Order the paperback or the Kindle version at Coniglio’s web page at has helpful hints on genealogic research. If you have genealogy questions, or would like him to lecture to your club or group, e-mail him at

December 15, 2018

An Evening of Faith and Fellowship in New York City

After Mass, members of the Order take a commemorative photo
Tuesday evening, during the second week of Advent, the Knights and Dames of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George, attended the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (325 E 33rd St.) in Kips Bay, Manhattan. Concelebrated by Rev. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan and Fr. Cav. Michael G. Lankford-Stokes, the Order, led by our esteemed Delegate HE Cav. John M. Viola, was warmly welcomed by the congregation.
HE Cav. John M. Viola welcomes everyone to the reception
After Mass, our party made its way to the historic Union League Club (38 E 37th St.) in nearby Murray Hill, Manhattan for a little fellowship and fundraiser for the Order’s many charitable endeavors. Guests mingled and enjoyed a celebratory cocktail (or two) in the stately Ulysses S. Grant room, appropriately adorned with the portrait of the 18th president of the United States and other Civil War heroes, while traditional Neapolitan Christmas music played in the background. 
Our esteemed Delegate offers a toast to our Grand Master 

Afterward, a few night owls adjourned to the gentlemen club's old-timey cigar lounge for a smoke and brandy. 
Our friend Frédéric Zerbib of Tribeca Vini graciously treated us
to a delightful glass of Amaro Nostrum from Sicily
A big hearty thank you to Cav. Tom Crane (second from left) and Cav. Charles Sant’Elia (second from right) for organizing a most enjoyable evening. 
A memorial for President George H. W. Bush was erected in the lobby
Originally posted in The Constantinian Chronicle