Looking Back

One blessed moment

La Signora Vincenza Tomasello and her five daughters were busy shopping, baking and preparing their home for visitors on a very special day, a truly glorious day. The women were thrilled because it was March 19 — St. Joseph’s Day — but it was so much more than that. The year was 1946, World War II had finally ended and their men were home at last. The Tomasello women were preparing for their annual St. Joseph’s Table, and every detail had to be perfect. Three tiers tall and topped with a statue of San Giuseppe, the table would be laden …

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My mother’s stove

My parents, Cataldo and Santa DeAngelis, emigrated from the small town of Castro dei Volsci in Central Italy. My father came in 1953 with two suitcases: one carrying a few belongings and the other his prized possession, a Scandalli accordion. My mother followed in 1954 with a suitcase in one hand and my 7-year-old brother in the other. They nestled first in Detroit. Possessing little more than the dream of starting a better life in America, they made do with hand-me-down furniture and appliances — hence their Universal brand stove. This heavy-duty white porcelain beauty was the center of our …

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Our homey top floor

Imagine you just finished huffing your way up to our floor, the sixth and topmost of our South Bronx tenement, 95 steps above the torrid sidewalk of East 148 Street, late on a summer afternoon of 1958. In the first apartment on the landing, jolly old Maria Torlona the Egg Lady, whose door is open, might well try to sell you a carton of her wares — or even a case — fairly cheap. Next door to Maria and her cache of “farm-fresh” eggs is the residence of blue-haired Mrs. Pugliese and her tall feisty brunette daughter, Gloria. That young …

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Heavenly ravioli, made by Momma

I’m a little girl waking up. It’s Thanksgiving and there it is — the metallic tap, tap of my mother’s spoon against the rim of the large stainless steel pot. Della Serritella Rocco has been alone at work long before first light. Inside the pot are pork neckbones, inexpensive but delicious, together with fresh tomatoes and herbs, creating the luscious gravy — no one called it sauce back then — that would dress the divine homemade ravioli momma is about to create in her humble kitchen. This is a labor-intensive effort, reserved for holiday feasts like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. …

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And the band played on

Hear the band as they play a resounding rendition of the Italian National Anthem. Listen to the Marche Reale performed by the Piandelagotti band in the town square with vim and vigor reflecting their youthful enthusiasm. The coordinated effort offered a splendid meshing of alto and bass horns, beating drums et al. as the music resonated throughout the town’s center piazza and well beyond. The townspeople loudly applauded accompanied with shouts of bravo as the song hit its stirring ending. The town’s photographer, Signor Batti Piancentini, moved in to ready the band for a photo. He had positioned the big …

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