“On Being Italian” Book | Connecting Point | Nov. 28, 2016

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>> THE ITALIAN AMERICANCOMMUNITY OF MIDWESTERN MASSACHUSETTS HAS A LONG ANDVIBRANT HISTORY.

NOW IT'S BEING CHRONICLED IN THELATEST BOOK FROM THE REPUBLICAN NEWSPAPER, HERITAGE BOOK SERIES.

IT'S TITLED, I AM BEING ITALIAN,AND WE COULD NOT THINK OF ANYBODY BETTER THAN OUR OWNCONNECTING POINT CORRESPONDENT CAROLEE MCGRATH TO SPEAK WITHTHE BOOK'S AUTHORS.

WAYNE PHANEUF, ROMOLA RIGALI ANDJOE CARVALHO.

>> IF YOU LOOK AT WHAT THEITALIAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY HAS GIVEN TO THE REST OF THECOMMUNITY, YOU KNOW, I MEAN, JUST TAKE A LOOK AT THE NUMBEROF ITALIAN RESTAURANTS.

>> YEAH.

I WAS GOING TO SAY, DELICIOUSFOOD.

>> RIGHT.

>> AND AS AN ITALIAN AMERICAN,BUT I WAS REALLY FASCINATED THAT THE FIRST ITALIAN CAME TOAMERICA, OR TO THIS PART OF MASSACHUSETTS IN THE 1700s.

THAT BLEW ME AWAY.

>> 1815, JUST THE PERIOD OF THENAPOLEONIC WARS, WHEN HE LEFT ITALY AND SETTLED AND MARRIED AYANKEE GAL AND STARTED A FAMILY AND SO HE WAS THE FIRST ONE.

BUT IT WAS REALLY NOT UNTILABOUT THE TIME OF THE CIVIL WAR WHERE MORTALLIANS STARTED TOCOME.

THE CIVIL WARS HAPPENING WITHGIRABALDI IN ITALY DROVE SOME PEOPLE OUT AND CAME TO THEUNITED STATES.

IT WAS THE 1807s AND 1980sWHERE YOU SEE THE ITALIANS STARTING TO COME AND ESTABLISHTHE COMMUNITY AT THAT POINT.

AND SO IT'S AMAZING HOW FARBACK.

PEOPLE THINK IT'S THE TURN OFTHE CENTURY, NO, REALLY IT'S 200 YEARS OF EXISTENCE HERE.

>> WHY WOULD YOU SAYSPRINGFIELD? LIKE MY GRANDMOTHER WENT TOBROOKLYN, AND THEN THEY, THEY PRETTY MUCH STAYED IN NEW YORKCITY.

WHAT DREW ITALIANS TOSPRINGFIELD? >> I THINK WAYNE, YOU CAN ANSWERTHAT.

>> BASICALLY THE JOBS.

THERE WAS A LOT OF — IT'S THATBASIC ONE-FAMILY COMES AND THEN THEY HAVE GOT A BUNCH OF FAMILYLEFT OVER OR PEOPLE COMING FROM SPECIFIC TOWNS.

THERE IS A COUPLE OF SPECIFICTOWNS WHERE THERE ARE LITERALLY HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE THAT LIVED INWESTERN MASSACHUSETTS THAT COME FROM –>> WE HAD A CHAPTER IN THE BOOK ABOUT IT.

FOR WESTFIELD, IT WAS PAZITANO,DIFFERENT TOWNS MIGHT BE ASSOCIATED WITH DIFFERENTGROUPS, AND YOU ARE RIGHT, IT WOULD BE — THEY CALL ITPATRONE, SOME LEADER, AND IN THIS CASE THERE WAS AN EARLYALBINO WHO BROUGHT MANY PEOPLE OVER, AND FIXED THEM UP WITHJOBS WHETHER IT'S THE STREETS ENGINEERING, THE WATERDEPARTMENT, MASONRY WORK, AND ETC.

, AND THERE WAS CERTAINACTIVITIES.

THIS WAS DURING THE GOLDEN AGEOF SPRINGFIELD, AND LATE 19th AND 20th CENTURY, AND WE WEREDOING TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF BUILDING.

THE FRENCH CANADIANS WERE THECARPENTERS, WOODWORKERS, AND THE ITALIANS WERE THE STONE WORKERS,AND SOME OF THE MAJOR EDIFICES IN SPRINGFIELD.

THOSE WERE ITALIANS THAT DID THESTONEWORK AND THE CARVING AND ETC.

AND MASONRY FOR MANY OFTHESE AND SOME OF THE WEALTHIEST PEOPLE IN SPRINGFIELD LIKE D.

B.

WESSON FROM SMITH AND WESSON HADITALIAN WORKERS DOING HIS STONE WORK, SO THERE ARE LOTS OFREASONS IN SPRINGFIELD, AND SPRINGFIELD HAD THE JOBS.

AND THEY CAME HERE.

BUT WHAT WAS REMARKABLE ABOUTTHE ITALIANS IS THAT THERE SEEMS TO BE A SPIRIT OFENTREPRENEURSHIP WHERE MANY OF THEM WENT OUT AND CREATED THEIROWN BUSINESSES.

SO YOU SEE IS A TREMENDOUSAMOUNT.

WE REFLECT THAT IN THE BOOK OFITALIANS CREATING THEIR OWN FOOD BUSINESSES, RESTAURANTS, FRUITAND VEGETABLE, BARBERSHOPS, SHOE-MAKERS.

AND OTHER THINGS, TRAVELAGENCIES, REAL ESTATE, AND AUTOMOBILES AND SO FORTH, GOTINTO THEIR REPAIR BUSINESSES, AND IT'S REMARKABLE.

AND PROVIDING JOBS FOR THEIR OWNCOMMUNITY OF FAMILIES.

>> SO WE REFLECT THAT IN THEBOOK.

>> AND ROMOLA IS YOUR PROPERITALIAN NAME.

>> YES, IT IS.

>> AND ONE THING YOU WROTE, AND I AM JOKING ABOUT IT ON THE FOODBUT IT'S TRUE.

FOOD WAS THE EARLIEST INSTANCEOF BLENDING ITALIAN AND NEW ENGLAND CULTURE AND THAT ISSOMETHING THAT I TOOK FROM THE BOOK.

AS AN ITALIAN AMERICAN I CANTELL YOU THAT ABSOLUTELY, IT ALL STARTS WITH THAT MEAL.

WHY IS THAT SO IMPORTANT? >> I DON'T KNOW.

I GREW UP WITH IT AND WE LIVEDWITH OUR GRANDPARENTS WHO WERE GRANTS, FROM THE LUCA REGION OFITALY AND FOOD WAS ALWAYS THE WAY THAT THEY GATHERED THEIRFRIENDS AND FAMILY, AND THE WAY THAT'S, THAT'S HOW THE ITALIANSSHOW LOVE.

>> IF YOU YOU ARE IN TROUBLE.

>> RIGHT.

>> AND YOU BETTER HAVE SECONDHELPINGS, SO I DON'T KNOW, IT JUST IS PART OF THE CULTURE.

FOOD IS ALMOST LIKE ART FORTHEM.

AND IT BETTER TASTE GOOD ANDALWAYS DID, EVEN WITH, NOT ALWAYS THE BEST INGREDIENTS BUTTHEY KNEW HOW TO THROW A MEAL TOGETHER.

>> AND THE TRUTH IS, YOU AREALWAYS JUDGING WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO SOMEBODY'S HOUSE, THEIRSAUCE IS NOT AS GOOD AS MINE RIGHT.

IT ALWAYS HAPPENS, THAT'S ASECRETIVE TO TELL YOU.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE SOUTH ENDAND YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT FOOD AND RESTAURANTS, AND THAT — THESOUTH END, HISTORY OF THAT, IN SPRINGFIELD IS SO SPECIAL TO SOMANY.

>> YEAH.

AND WE WERE LUCKY TO BE ABLE TOHAVE A LOT OF ARCHIVAL PHOTOS GOING THAT THEY LET US USE.

HE'S THE KEEPER OF THEPHOTOGRAPHER, OF THE SOUTH END FOR THE LAST 100 PLUS YEARS, ANDIT IS INCREDIBLE, WHAT A TIGHT KNIT COMMUNITY IT WAS AND ITREALLY WAS UP UNTIL THE TIME THAT THEY DECIDED TO PUT THISMAJOR HIGHWAY THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE SOUTH END, WHICH AT THATTIME FOR YEARS AND YEARS, PEOPLE THAT LIVED IN THE SOUTH END HADA LITTLE PLOT OF LAND, A LOT OF PEOPLE HAD A PLOT OF LAND OVERIN AGAWAM WHERE THEY USED TO GROW THEIR VEGETABLES, AND THENTHAT WAS THE PLACE THAT THEY WERE GOING TO BE BUILDING THEIRHOUSES BECAUSE THEY GOT DISPLACED BY THE BUILDING OF 91,WHICH REALLY KIND OF WENT THROUGH THE HEART OF IT, ANDHUNDREDS OF FAMILIES WERE DISPLACED AT THAT POINT.

>> WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SOUTHEND, TOO, AND IN THE BOOK YOU TALK ABOUT THIS IS A VERYIMPORTANT COMPONENT, IS THE FAITH PART, AND MOUNT CARAMEL ISIN THE SOUTH END, AND I HAVE SO MANY FRIENDS, AND THAT WAS THECHURCH OF THEIR FAMILY FOREVER.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT FAITHCOMPONENT IN THIS BOOK IN PARTICULAR? >> IT WAS A MAJOR THING.

IT'S ALL THE MAJOR POINTS OFYOUR LIFE FROM YOUR BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION, MARRIAGE, AND ALLTHE MAJOR EVENTS WERE THERE, BUT ALSO THE CHURCH IS A REGULARFEATURE OF THEIR LIFE, AND THE VARIOUS CLUBS THAT WEREASSOCIATED WITH THAT, WOMEN'S GROUPS, THE SPORTS GROUPS THATTHEY SUPPORTED, AND THE MEN'S GROUPS, AND, OF COURSE, ALL THEMAJOR FESTIVALS TO BE AROUND THE CHURCH.

THAT INCLUDED PARADES AND FOOD,AND IT WAS A WAY TO CELEBRATE IT AND ALSO REALLY THE COMMUNITY TOREALIZE WHAT A POWERFUL FORCE THE ITALIAN COMMUNITY HADBECOME.

YOU COULD SEE THE NUMBERS, WOW,THAT'S QUITE A COMMUNITY, AND IT WAS — THAT WAS PART OF IT.

WE STILL SEE THAT, AND PEOPLELEGALLY MOVED AWAY AND THEY COME BACK FOR THAT MOMENT.

BUT THERE REALLY, IN THE EARLYYEARS, THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WOULD COME IN AND BE PARTOF THAT.

PART OF WHAT CAME OUT OF THATEXPERIENCE, WE TALK ABOUT FOOD BUT TO REACH OUT TO THE LARGERCOMMUNITY IN A CULTURAL WAY, THE FOOD WAS IMPORTANT, THE CHURCHFESTIVALS, FOOD WAS PART OF THAT, TOO, AND THEENTREPRENEURSHIP WHERE THEY WERE STARTING NEW RESTAURANTS ANDFOOD VENDORS AND ETC.

, AND THEY BUILT COMPANIES LIKE THE WINDSORSPAGHETTI COMPANY, ETC.

, AND SPECIALTY MATERIAL, THE REST OFTHE COMMUNITIES FELL IN LOVE WITH IT, AND VERY QUICKLY ANDREMARKABLY SO.

BY THE 1940s ITALIAN FOODBECAME A MAJOR FEATURE IN WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS.

IT WAS A SPECIAL MOMENT TO GO TOTAN ITALIAN RESTAURANT, WHICH DID NOT HAPPEN WITH OTHERGROUPS.

THAT SHOWS HOW IT WAS EXPRESSED.

>> THIS IS AN EXCITING BOOK, ITAKE THIS PERSONALLY AND I WANT A CANOLI, THAT'S WHAT I WANTAFTER HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.

I WANT TO HAVE A CAW — CANOLI,THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

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