A pizzeria wonderland

I’m sure many of you recall the movie “The French Connection.” Well, I’m about to discuss “The Roseland Connection!” The “French Connection” was all about a bad habit. But the “Roseland Connection” involves a good habit: Roseland pizza! In the ’60s, there were plenty of smaller pizza places scattered throughout the area. Whenever Facebook conversations have centered on the neighborhood over the years, local pizzerias would always pop up. They were a popular weekend treat, a lively place to hang out or a good bet for a first job. These were the neighborhood spots, but what if you were shopping …

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Pasolini’s playground among the Roman ruins

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1962 “Mamma Roma” stars Anna Magnani as the title character, a Roman prostitute determined to change her life and give her son the opportunities she never had. She seizes the opportunity to leave her life on the streets behind when her pimp (Franco Citti) gets married and frees her from his control. Mamma then goes to the small provincial town of Guidonia to fetch her son, Ettore (Ettore Garofolo), and bring him to Rome to embark on their new life together. She buys a pushcart, finds an apartment in a nice neighborhood, and uses her connections to …

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Why are so many people in our family named Joseph?

We always talk about the “old days” when we followed traditions the family held onto, mostly in reference to food, family gathering, religious practice etc. These are all a great part of our family history, but they don’t help us with our genealogy research. Some of those traditions are so ingrained that they are never talked about. They just “are.” One of the areas of ‘tradition’ we look at as genealogists is the way our Italian families named their children. Even if we grow up Italian and choose to not research the family tree, if we see a chart made …

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A blast from our past

After more than 30 years of editing Fra Noi, I thought I knew a thing or two about the challenges our ancestors faced in America at the turn of the 20th century. I’ve learned from countless articles about the crowded tenements and abject poverty, the dangerous jobs at scant pay, and I can enumerate the Sicilian-born laborers lynched by a New Orleans mob in 1891. But to know is one thing and to understand quite another. My eyes were truly opened to the gross indecencies our forebears endured when I attended a preview screening of “Cabrini” on Oct. 24 at …

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Talking About Emotions (2)

Bench in front of homes on the island of Murano where people can talk about their emotions

Talking about one’s emotions is complex, both in one’s native language and certainly in an adopted language.  In Italian, many  phrases used to convey emotion are idiomatic, and the choice of verbs can differ with even minor differences in a situation. For instance, an upcoming event may make one happy and generate positive feelings of excitement and anticipation. Although it is nice to have something to look forward to (as we discussed in Part 1 of this series about emotions last year), given the repetitiveness of daily life, we all feel bored at one time or another. It is a …

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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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Talking to someone special

A bench outside of an Italian home where people can sit and talk about someone special and love

Meeting someone at a gathering — Piacere di conoscerla… Where do two people who form a lasting relationship have their first encounter? Many times soon-to-be couples are introduced by a friend, often at a festa (party). The Italian verb conoscere is used when two people first meet. In a previous blog, The Holidays in Italy,  we discussed the many variations of friendly Italian introductions, and the most common reply, “Piacere di conoscerla,” for, “It is a pleasure to meet you.” This phrase uses the formal “la” to mean “you.” More commonly, though, and especially at informal gatherings of young people, the familiar …

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Where and how to dig up naturalization petitions

Last month we were looking for the town of birth of our ancestor using American records, for those of us who may not know the exact small town our Italian ancestors came from. We were able to use one search method on FamilySearch to simultaneously find the naturalization records and passenger lists. Last month I showed you:, “search”, “records”, “type”, “immigration and naturalization.” Let’s start with the difficulties of looking for naturalization petitions. As I mentioned last month, there’s no guarantee your ancestor became a citizen. As I forgot to mention last month, there may be no petition for …

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A love letter to Roseland

As we look forward to Valentine’s Day, I’d like to look back at some of the places in Roseland that we came to love. As we took advantage of the many opportunities offered to us while we were children growing up in Roseland, we had no idea we were making deposits in our memory bank of the things we love. We grew up with the love of our relatives and close friends and we returned that love. What we didn’t realize is that those feeling of love extended beyond just the people in our lives. As we lived our lives …

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MoMA to host expansive Morricone retrospective

The Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted a retrospective spanning the nearly 60-year career of composer Ennio Morricone. The film series took place in December and January and featured more than 35 films with 17 new digital restorations plus 35mm archival prints. “This Ennio Morricone retrospective is the largest MoMA has ever devoted to a movie composer,” said Joshua Siegel, curator of the Department of Film at MoMA. Among the films screened were classics like Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso,” Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars,” and “Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.” One archival treasure in the lineup was …

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