My Turn

Cinematic sea change

I can’t be the only Italian American who watches movies well after they’ve ended to search for Italian surnames in the credits. Do you do it, too? As the film’s countless contributors scroll by, I feel a twinge of pride every time a paesan appears among them. Often there are quite a few, holding positions ranging from best boy, stunt double and key grip to writer, producer and director. With so many Italian Americans helping to put the sparkle in Tinseltown, one has to wonder: Why does Hollywood continue to treat us so shabbily? Our enormous positive impact on the …

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Reaching for the stars

The readers of Fra Noi never cease to amaze me. Any time I’ve asked you to lend a hand in times of need, you’ve come through in spades. When you learned a couple of months ago that inflation had taken its toll on our bottom line, you didn’t miss a beat. Hundreds upon hundreds of you — more than 10% of our total readership — opened up your hearts and your pocketbooks, filling our coffers with funds sufficient to cover a mind-boggling 80% of our projected deficit for the year. Week after week, white envelopes have flooded into the Fra …

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The best is yet to come

I don’t mean to brag, but I may have the best job on the planet. Let me count the ways. I work with a small but mighty staff that dispatches its duties with professionalism and pride. Our crack team of correspondents are as passionate as they are talented, delivering engaging features on a dizzying array of topics. Our publication is so beloved by our readers that they renew their own subscriptions and give them as gifts at an unparalleled rate. Our fiercely devoted advertisers lend their financial support month in and month out, providing the fuel that drives the magazine …

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An oasis of italianità

The cover of Fra Noi reads “Embrace your inner Italian”: words that inspire us to explore every aspect of our heritage and community. In my case, the catchy phrase opened the door to the Italian Cultural Center at Casa Italia. An oasis of italianità in Stone Park, the center is home to a hardy band of volunteers who truly live this calling. I paid my first visit in 2015 and was introduced to Dominic Candeloro, a pensive curator with glasses that often slide down his nose. He, in turn, introduced me to the vast cultural riches of the center: its …

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A journey of 35 years

As a third-generation Italian American born in the baby boomer era, I remember growing up getting bits and pieces from my parents about my paternal grandparents who emigrated from Southern Italy around 1910. My aunts and uncles also provided insight into their upbringing as children of Italian immigrant parents. I grew up in the Little Italy of South Philadelphia, and my childhood was filled with the typical Italian-American experience of family traditions that so many of us enjoy. In my mid-20s, I started to wonder about my family tree: Where did my grandparents, Francesco and Caterina Leto, come from in …

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My dad, Aaron Judge and me

I am writing this the morning after Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hit his 62nd home run of the season, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record of 61, which he set 61 years ago. I immediately thought of my dad, his youth, my life as his son and our relationship with the American pastime. Anthony Quilico was born in 1901 in the coal mining Italian enclave of Seatonville in Bureau County, Illinois. His dad worked the mines until 1909, when the mine fire in nearby Cherry, Illinois, convinced him to take a job with the railroads. Many miners …

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My Sassanese sojourn

Between 1893 and 1940, hundreds of Italians from Sassano, a small commune in the region of Campania in Southern Italy, settled on Armour Avenue (now known as Federal Street) between 47th and 51st streets in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. My sojourn began in 2002 when my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, received an assignment from her eighth grade social studies teacher, Dan Wall, to “Find out which ancestors came to America, when and why.” My father’s sister, Rosemary Cavallone, and her husband, Rosario di Miele, told the tale of Francesco “Thethen Cheek” Cavallone and Rosa Libretti, who were among the first …

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Stamps of approval

Between July 1, 1847, and July 14, 2021, 5,614 U.S. stamps were issued. Among them, eight Italians and 21 Italian Americans were depicted. Thirty showed Christopher Columbus. He initially appeared on two stamps in 1869. In 1893, a set of 16 stamps commemorating the discovery of America was released, 12 of which portrayed Columbus. In 1992, the Postal Service issued a modified version of one of the 1869 stamps; reissued the set of 16 with the date changed from 1892 to 1992; and released a new set of four stamps for the quincentennial of Columbus’ first voyage. The first Italian …

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A precedent-setting visit

A delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) recently concluded a historic trip to Rome, Italy. It was extremely important to embark on this initiative because our ties to our homeland have become weaker with each passing generation. It was time to reconnect with our roots. We were fortunate enough to meet with important leaders of both the Italian government and the Vatican. The primary goals of our delegation were twofold — first, to establish strong cultural and economic bonds between the Italian-American community and the Italian government, and second, to acknowledge the significant role …

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My Mother Goose

Born in poverty-stricken Calabria in 1932, my mother didn’t have the luxury of a formal education. When her father died of tuberculosis, she took to the nearby fields to pick figs, olives, grapes and whatever else the harsh soil would relinquish. Although my mom never took classes in literature, math and the sciences, as so many of us have been lucky enough to do, she had no less imagination, desire and drive. She saw to it that her children had all the things she was forced to do without so many years ago. Literature isn’t solely the realm of “Beowulf,” …

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