Each year, NIAF sends a selection of Italian American college students to experience Italy for the first time through our Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery program. This week, 34 students will depart on the 2010 NIAF Voyage of Discovery, a 9-day trip to Campania and Umbria from May 29 to June 8, 2010.
Envious? Don’t be! Now you can participate too! This year’s Voyage of Discovery participants will be blogging daily about their experiences in Italy. Visit www.niaf.org/voyageofdiscovery/for the latest on how these students are experiencing the land of their ancestors.
Past Voyage of Discovery participants pose while visiting Scilla, Italy.
This week on the blog, you'll find videos of participating students introducing themselves and a post describing the trip's first planned visit to Campania's Vallo di Diano. Once the students are on the ground in Italy, their daily posts, images and videos will create a fascinating travelogue.
To receive automatic updates and to share your opinions and thoughts, join us on tumblr., at niaf.tumblr.com/. Once you join, you can easily link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay updated at all times. If Twitter is your thing, join us at twitter.com/NIAFVOD. Or, if you have a Facebook account, join our groups: NIAF Voyage of Discovery 2010 and The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF).
Are you a past Voyage of Discovery participant? If so, help us send off this year's participants by POSTING COMMENTS BELOW THAT SHARE YOUR MEMORIES of the experience with us!
In New York, a city where most social activities revolve around a degree of exclusivity, one restaurant is even harder to get into than the rest: Rao's.
Founded in 1896 in Harlem, the original Rao's has only 10 tables and offers one seating per night. It is closed on Saturdays and Sundays and the only form of payment accepted is cash.
Why the fuss? For decades Rao's existed as a neighborhood restaurant. Its local customers would fill the tables with such regularity that eventually they were given standing reservations - bookings that persevere to this day. The Rao's phenomenon exploded in 1977, when New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton gave Rao's a gushing, half-page, three-star review, outing a well-kept secret to millions of readers. Today, year-long waits for reservations are not uncommon, according to the restaurant website.
But now you have a chance to dine at Rao's too. Starting TODAY through June 3, 2010, NIAF is offering a chance to bid on dinner for four (4) at the restaurant on July 27, 2010. Dinner includes Rao's famous Neapolitan cuisine, house wine and taxes (although gratuity is not included).
Click here to place your bid! Please note that dinner is only valid for the night of July 27, 2010. No exchanges will be permitted.
Fun fact: Rapper Jay-Z filmed part of the video for his single "Death of Auto-Tune" on site at Rao's Restaurant, including a poker game played in the back with actor Harvey Keitel. Click the link below to view the video (restaurant scenes start 1:28 into the video, the poker game is at 3:22).
Have you dined at Rao's? If so, share your experiences!
In a fascinating article published today in, among other publications, the Washington Post, the AP reports that Italy's prosecutors of organized crime are campaigning against a bill designed to tighten wiretapping restrictions -- and recently found an ally in the U.S. to help their fight.
Sicilian prosecutors say the law proposed by Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government -- which would severely limit the use of electronic eavesdropping, including wiretaps and video surveillance, and stiffen fines for publication of transcripts of wiretaps from ongoing investigations -- would make it nearly impossible to catch fugitive mafiosi or discover their crimes, reported AP writer Frances D'Emilio.
According to her article, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who oversees the Justice Department's criminal division, declined to directly comment on legislation, now in Italy's Parliament. But Breuer added that U.S. prosecutors don't want anything done that would choke off the flow of what he called "extraordinarily helpful" information from Italian organized crime prosecutors.
The article writes:
Pressed by reporters about the proposed legislation, Breuer said the Americans hope that "we would still have the same valuable information" that Italian organized crime investigators regularly share with their counterparts in the United States.
"From a prosecutor's point of view, we don't want anything to occur" that would hamper the Italians from doing their job in fighting organized crime, Breuer said.
What do you think?
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has announced that he will accept President Barack Obama's offer to visit the White House next week on May 25, 2010. He will be accompanied by Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini, according to a press release from the Quirinale.
The NHL's Mike Modano is interviewed before NIAF's Texas Gala.
On Saturday, NIAF celebrated its first Texas Gala in Dallas at the historic Adolphus hotel. It was a night to see and be seen in the Lone Star State.
The pictures really do say it all...
NIAF Honoree Jay Lombardo and his wife, Heather.
During the celebration, NIAF presented awards to the following Italian Americans:
- Jay Lombardo, president and CEO of Lombardo Custom Apparel
- Mike Modano, Stanley Cup champion and seven-time NHL All-Star for the Dallas Stars
- Bruno Mascolo, CEO and co-founder of TONI&GUY, an international hair care business
- Victor "Vic" Salvino, dealer principal of Texas Kenworth Co.
NIAF honoree Bruno Mascolo addresses guests.
Additionally, NIAF honored Gaetano Mascolo, also a co-founder of TONI&GUY, posthumously. Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven, Inc., served as dinner chairman.
NIAF's Texas Gala dinner chairman Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven, Inc., speaks with media before the event.
Bianca Tamez-Buccino, recipient of the NIAF Ken Aspromonte Scholarship, and NIAF Board Member Ken Aspromonte.
Debbie Turano and Charles Turano III, wife and son of NIAF Area Coordinator Charlie Turano, Jr., enjoy the evening's silent auction.
Writer article on i-Italy.org.examines authentic Neapolitan pizza -- what goes into it, where you can get it, and how to try making your own -- in a recent
Fusco interviews Fred Mortari, co-owner of A Mano in Ridgewood, N.J., one of only three U.S. restaurants certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana and Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani to make certified Neapolitan-style pizza, according to the article. To make his perfect Neapolitan pie, Mortari says it's all about ingredients, technique and equipment.
Although Mortari uses a specially commissioned oven complete with a volcanic soil floor imported from Italy, he encourages Italophiles of all backgrounds to try making more authentic pizzas in their ovens at home.
"The secret is to use little yeast and to let the dough rise a very long time outside of refrigeration. The resting part is very important," said Mortari.
- Try cooking with a pizza stone, which is more effective at heating the pizza.
- Knead the dough by hand.
- Use freshly made mozzarella.
- Spring for Italian "00" flour, now often found at specialty food stores.
- Gently cook tomatoes in olive oil before putting them on the pizza and baking.
What are your favorite pizza-making techniques?
A Nevada News article (published by the University of Nevada - Reno) last week by Claudene Wharton highlights Reno's Little Italy. Didn't know Reno had a Little Italy? Apparently you're not alone.
"Anyone who has been in Reno for a short while soon discovers the city’s rich Italian heritage, with many Italian names in our community. What many people don’t know is that the beautiful historic neighborhood located just north of the Truckee River between Keystone and Arlington Avenues was largely built and populated by Reno’s Italian-American community, making it Reno’s own Little Italy."
According to the article, an exhibit titled “An American Dream in Little Italy: Work, Play, and Geography in the Powning Addition,” is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays this month at the McKinley Arts & Culture Center, 925 Riverside Drive, Reno. The public is also invited to a free opening reception of the exhibit 5 to 7 p.m., this Friday, May 7.
The exhibit was cosponsored by the University and the Historic Reno Preservation Society and focuses on the Italian American community that once dominated the neighborhood, which dates back to the 1880s.
The Minetto family, Reno, circa 1905. Photo courtesy George Yori.
Have you been to this neighborhood? Do you know of any other Little Italy's that don't often get recognition?
Last week, Reuters reported that a Muslim woman in the northern town of Novara was fined for wearing a black niqab (a garment that covers the face except for the eyes) while walking with her husband to praryers.
The Italian police fined the woman, an immigrant from Tunisia, the equivalent of $650 for violating a bylaw banning the wearing of any clothing that prevents identification by police, according to the article.
Northern Italy, and Novara in particular, are strongholds of the Northern League, a political party known for its strong anti-immigration stance.
Detractors say laws banning the veil in Italy (and their enforcement) are discriminatory. But supporters say veils are demeaning to women -- and that laws helping police easily identify area residents are legitimate. What do you think?
According to Times reporter Daniel J. Wakin, Italy's main opera houses are largely dependent on government financing and often suffer strikes or the threat of them. These latest strikes are in response to an emergency decree signed by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano that now must be weighed by Parliament. The decree imposes new regulations on operas and symphonies. Unions have said it would cut salaries for orchestra players, stagehands and chorus members; limit outside work; and reduce the number of temporary workers, according to the article.
Click here to read more.
In a resolution adopted recently, the U.S. House of Representatives commemorated the 400th anniversary of the use of the first telescope by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. The motion was passed as part of a celebration of The International Year of Astronomy.
The resolution declares that "Galileo's body of work enabled subsequent generations, in particular the United States, to build on the tradition of scientific research, to be in the forefront of new scientific endeavors, specifically in medicine, technology and space exploration."
Last May, a replica of Galileo's telescope was brought aboard the Atlantis shuttle of the International Space Station by Italian American astronaut Michael Massimino.
Since December, a contingent of Italy's Carabinieri have been working in western Afghanistan to train more than one thousand Afghan policemen, according to the Italian Embassy.
These members of the Carabinieri, Italy's uniformed national police force and a branch of the country's armed forces, are involved as part of either a Specialty Training Team (STT), as well as a newly created "Police Operational Mentor and Liaison Team" (PomLt). They have already trained 60 Afghan instructors and are currently teaching 300 policement from the Afghan national civil order police, according to the Embassy.
Additionally, they are running a new training center -- the largest police school in the country -- in Adraskan, 40 kilometers from the city of Herat.
A photo from Home & Design's article on Villa Firenze. The article's photos were taken by Virginia-based photographer Lydia Cutter.
This month's Home & Design magazine features a special tour of Villa Firenze, the residence of Italian Ambassador to the U.S. Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, Antonella Cinque and their two-year-old twins, Giulio and Nina. Additionally, the accompanying article by Sharon Jaffe Dan describes how the Ambassador and his family are settling into life in the grand, Tudor-style estate.
According to the article:
"Since arriving in Washington, Ambassador Terzi has hosted a wide array of dignitaries at Villa Firenze: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her Italian counterpart President Gianfranco Fini, Italian government ministers and members of Parliament, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito and business leaders including CEOs from Fiat-Chrysler Group, Eni, Enel and Finmeccanica. Plus, journalists such as Thomas Friedman and Arnaud de Borchgrave.
'Villa Firenze is not only a symbol of our countries and a meeting of cultures, but it is also an extremely useful and appreciated facility,' says Terzi. 'We are asked by many important cultural, scientific and humanitarian organizations to give use of this place and we are very keen on making it available.'"
Visit Home & Design's Web site for a photo tour of Villa Firenze, one of Washington, D.C.'s most exclusive addresses.
Yesterday, Italian Americans Danny DeVito, Susan Sarandon and Frankie Valli were inducted into New Jersey's Hall of Fame.
Italian American Bruce Springsteen introduced DeVito; the two then teamed up to perform Springsteen's "Glory Days" in honor of their state.
DeVito and Valli are both former NIAF honorees (in 1993 and 2006, respectively) and have attended many NIAF events.
Danny DeVito poses with legendary actress Gina Lollobrigida at a past NIAF gala.
The Embassy of Italy, along with all European Union embassies in Washington, D.C., will hold an open house on Saturday, May 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Italian embassy's open house will of course offer delicious food and fun for the whole famiglia!
Free shuttle buses with two routes will drop participants at various embassies, which this year will be highlighting the theme "Green Europe: Good for the Economy and the Environment." Click here to download a brochure, which provides a map of the bus route.
The open house kicks off Europe Week in the United States, a celebration offering special programs at European Embassies in Washington, D.C., from May 9-16. Events at the Italian Embassy include a May 13 lecture about "Dante, Our Contemporary: Reading the Commedia as the Journey of Our Life" by Frank Ambrosio and a concert by Italian guitarist Carlo Pezzimenti.
In a New York Times article last week, writer Elisabetta Povoledo details work by Italy's Zamperla Group, an amusement ride manufacturer, for the late May opening of Coney Island's latest attraction, Luna Park -- yes, named after the original Coney Island amusement park.
The article features a slideshow, "Coney Island's Revival," with shots of workers testing roller coasters and building new rides in addition to a shot of the original Luna Park.
In addition to manufacturing rides, Zamperla is the majority shareholder of Central Amusement International, a New Jersey group that signed an agreement with New York City in February to build and manage Coney Island's amusement park area, Povoledo reports. The agreement left the group with three months to build and open the park; crews are now working around the clock to complete the project.
But perhaps just as interesting is the Zamperla Group's story. According to Povoledo, the Zamperla family has been building amusement park attractions in Altavilla Vicentina since the early 1960s. "...Umberto Zamperla opened one of the first movie houses in Italy, then moved into carnival attractions. His [son] Antonio Zamperla, worked in traveling shows before deciding to settle in this Veneto town to start inventing and manufacturing rides."
Today, the company employs 185 employees in Italy, with an additional 270 around the world.
For more on the project, click here.
In a report released this week by Rome's Isae Institute (Institute for Studies and Economic Analyses) and reported on by Bloomberg, Italian consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in April due to increased optimism about the outlook for jobs. The improvement was "due to a more favorable view of the labor market, which is corroborated both by the state of family budgets and intentions to purchase durable goods," Isae said.
The Isae Institute's consumer confidence index climbed to 107.9 from 106.3 in March, the lowest since June, the Italian research center said today in an e-mailed statement. With companies such as Fiat SpA, Italy's biggest manufacturer, cutting jobs, unemployment has weighed on consumer spending, which contracted 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, Bloomberg News reported.
Spending could take as much as five years to return to pre-recession level, retailers' lobby Confcommercio said last month, Bloomberg reported.
Amid much talk about financial woes in Greece, today the Washington Post turned its eye to the country's Mediterranean cousin, with an article on how the economy has impacted the small Italian town of Recanati.
Thanks in part to "deepening financial crunch from a range of woes encompassing bad investments, plummeting tax revenue, high debt levels and rampant overspending," reports Anthony Faiola, the town is now being forced to sell off park land, eliminate a public kindergarten, reduce aid for senior citizens and cancel planned repairs to streets and buildings.
The article also examines how Italy at large has been affected by the international economic crisis.Writes Faiola, "...in Italy alone, an estimated 519 cities and towns are facing more than $1.3 billion in losses from derivatives deals, according to a report from the Bank of Italy."
What do you think?
Today hundreds of dignitaries, city leaders, and members of the Italian American community gathered at the corner of 19th and Q streets in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the many accomplishments of Diego D'Ambrosio, il Barbiere di Dupont, with the renaming of the 1900 block of Q Street as "Diego D’Ambrosio Way."
D'Ambrosio celebrates with his staff.
Since 1965, D'Ambrosio has operated Diego’s Hair Salon at the corner of 19th and Q in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood. The salon is a gathering place for the local community, with neighbors and those who work nearby having come to D'Ambrosio for 20, 30 and even 40 years for hair cuts. "It's a real crossroads," said Rev. James M. McCann, S.J., director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and one of many loyal customers gathered on the sidewalk to wish D’Ambrosio well.
D'Ambrosio's salon on Q Street.
But despite his community activism, D'Ambrosio is better known for serving presidents, ambassadors, prime ministers, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, clergy and more. The walls of his small store-front salon are covered with photos of his impressive clientele, bearing witness to the unique access that mild-mannered D'Ambrosio has in this power-hungry town.
Hundreds gathered to celebrate D'Ambrosio's career.
"Heads of state, members of Congress, everyone comes here," said Bill Edwards, a client of D’Ambrosio’s for 39 years who recently retired as Hilton's area vice president of operations for the Mid-Atlantic region. "Look at all the pictures of all the powerful people on his wall…he's the only guy that keeps their heads straight.
"He’ll get emergency calls before a summit because he has to go fix someone’s hair," Edwards added with a laugh.
As if to prove that reputation correct, the audience at today's street-naming included Martha-Ann Alito, wife of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (looking lovely in a wide-brimmed pink hat), Argentina's Ambassador to the U.S. Héctor Marcos Timerman, Nicaragua's Chargé d'Affaires Alcides Montiel, Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez, Madagascar's Ambassador to the U.S. Jocelyn Radifera, the Dominican Republic's Ambassador to the Organization of American States Virgilio Alcántara, and Judge Timothy Dyk of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s parents were also in attendance, as was the mayor himself.
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (left) officially re-named the 1900 block of Q Street in honor of D'Ambrosio (right).
As D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty explained to the crowd, the street naming -- one of only three or four done by the city to honor residents who are still alive -- recognized D'Ambrosio’s service to the Dupont Circle community, his special role within the nation's capital and his many accomplishments since immigrating to America.
"As Diego just told me, it's very lucky for me that he's not running for mayor, with all these people here,” joked Fenty. "Diego is not only the most fantastic barber this side of Rome, but he is also a true Washingtonian, which is how he has come to be known as 'the Mayor of Dupont.' You can never have too many mayors."
Late last year when MTV's "Jersey Shore" first aired, NIAF joined other Italian American organizations in deriding it as a missed opportunity for presenting positive portrayals of Italian Americans. Now, amid talk of filming for the show's second season, one Italian American academic is taking a closer look at the origins and implications of the term "guido."
In a video created by i-Italy.org, Fred Gardaphe, a distinguished professor at New York's John D. Calandra Institute, traces guido culture to "Saturday Night Fever," and, even earlier, to silent film legend Rudolph Valentino. Rather than reacting to the label as offensive, Gardaphe urges the broader Italian American community to examine why young people are turning to "guido culture" as a source of identity.
"Italian American culture must take responsibility for having made the guido one way or another," Gardaphe says in the five-minute spot, "whether we did it intentionally or we did it by ignoring our Italian American youth and not giving them viable alternatives.
"I can tell you that the students that I teach at Queens College and the students that I used to teach at Stony Brook University, when they took my courses in Italian American studies, they saw a variety of ways of identifying as Italian Americans," Gardaphe continues. "These kids [the cast of "Jersey Shore"] suffer from not having had that variety. I bet you none of these kids have ever been to Italy. You pick them up and bring them to Italy, and you'll see how fast that guido attitude...will change."
Despite arguing for more cultural options, Gardaphe does not believe that the term guido is by nature offensive, noting that, "In the wrong context, it can be derrogatory." He elaborates,"If someone says to me, 'Hey, you, guido,' I would take that as offensive. But if somebody says, 'Hey, I'm a guido,' Idon't think anybody should take that [as] offensive, except for maybe the kid's family if they don't like it."
Here at NIAF, one concern is that in today's media, perception is reality and that repetition of these negative stereotypes increase the perception that Italian Americans dress, speak and behave in a certain way.
What do you think?