November 24, 2015

The Patriotic Gangster

Charles “Lucky” Luciano: One of the "Founding Fathers" of Modern Organized Crime
America’s Original "Dapper Don":
Charles “Lucky” Luciano
By Niccolò Graffio
“Let me remember, when I find myself inclined to pity a criminal, that there is likewise a pity due to the country.” – Matthew Hale: History of the Pleas of the Crown, 1736
For as long as men have walked the earth there have been those who, in the evolutionary competition for this planet’s finite resources, proven themselves superior to those around them in the acquisition and hoarding of said resources. In the beginning, this competition was for such basic, mundane things as food and shelter. According to evolutionary psychologists, this was/is done with an eye on attracting mates, thus insuring the survival of the competitor’s genes. This behavior is widely observed as well in the rest of the Animal Kingdom.
Later, with the rise of civilization, ambitious types turned their attention to amassing symbols of wealth like land, money and power. Though the rules of the game seem to have changed, the underlying motive, the acquiring of mates, remains, at least according to evolutionary psychologists.
Such a tacit system invariably resulted in a marked disequilibrium in the distribution of resources (and mates) among mankind. For purposes of expounding on his theories of class struggle, 19th century German-Jewish philosopher and political economist Karl Marx simplistically divided the competitive masses of mankind into two main groups: the “haves” and the “have nots”. Continue reading

November 23, 2015

Feast of Santa Felicita

Evviva Santa Felicita!
November 23rd is the Feast Day of Santa Felicita Martire (St. Felicity the martyr), patron saint of widows and grieving parents. Principal protectress of Torricella Peligna (CH), Collarmela (AQ) and Isca sullo Ionio (CZ), she is commonly known as the mother of the Seven Martyrs whose Feast is celebrated on July 10th. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a prayer in her honor. The accompanying photo of silver miniature was taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Dated 1762, the prized statuette was copied after Giacomo Serpotta's (b. 1652 Palermo–d. 1732 Palermo) stucco figures of Augustinian nuns in Sant'Agostino, Palermo.
Prayer to St. Felicitas
All-powerful, ever-living God, turn our weakness into strength. As you gave your martyrs St. Felicitas and her sons the courage to suffer death for Christ, give us the courage to live in faithful witness to you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Photo of the Week: The Divine Coast of Amalfi

Apropos of the upcoming Feast of Sant'Andrea (Nov. 30th), patron of Amalfi
The Amalfi Coast (Photo by New York Scugnizzo)

November 22, 2015

Solemnity of Christ the King

Christ Pantocrator, Photo by Niccolò Graffio
Celebrated on the final Sunday before Advent, the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King celebrates the authority of Christ as King of the cosmos. In commemoration, I'm posting A Prayer to Christ the King. The accompanying photo of Christ Pantocrator (Christ Almighty) was taken at the Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily.
A Prayer to Christ the King
O Jesus Christ, I acknowledge you as universal King. All that has been made has been created for You. Exercise all Your rights over me. I renew my Baptismal Vows. I renounce Satan, his pomps and his works; I promise to live as a good Christian. And, in particular do I pledge myself to labor, to the best of my ability, for the triumph of the rights of God and of Your Church. Divine Heart of Jesus, to You do I offer my poor services, laboring that all hearts may acknowledge Your sacred kingship, and that thus the reign of Your peace be established throughout the whole universe. Amen

Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Nov. 24, 2015—Jan. 6, 2016

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 

The Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a long-established yuletide tradition in New York. The brightly lit, twenty-foot blue spruce—with a collection of eighteenth-century Neapolitan angels and cherubs among its boughs and groups of realistic crèche figures flanking the Nativity scene at its base—once again delight holiday visitors in the Museum's Medieval Sculpture Hall. Set in front of the eighteenth-century Spanish choir screen from the Cathedral of Valladolid, with recorded Christmas music in the background, the installation reflects the spirit of the holiday season. The exhibit of the crèche is made possible by gifts to The Christmas Tree Fund and the Loretta Hines Howard Fund.

November 21, 2015

The Secret of Grandma's Sugar Crock

Tony DiNapoli and Maria Carmela
By Cookie Curci
Through the years, I've discovered bits and pieces of the past that when put all together, make up my extraordinary grandmother Maria Carmela Curci-DiNapoli. I knew that she came to this country as a young immigrant from Italy and married my grandfather Antonio Curci in 1910. A few years later, she was widowed with three children. I had heard family stories of how Grandma had  struggled to find work, to pay her debts and to keep her family together during those difficult years. In all of these stories, one fact remained prominent—Grandma's deep religious devotion guided her through each problem and task.
But it was only recently that I would discover yet another missing piece to Grandma's past that would help me know her just that much better. My memories of Grandma begin on an Almaden ranch in the heart of California's prune country during W.W.II. By then, she had married her second husband, Grandpa Tony DiNapoli, and had settled into rural ranch life, raising a family of seven boys and one girl.
During world war II a government-issued flag imprinted with five blue stars hung in the  front room window of my grandparents old farm house, meant that five of their sons were off fighting in the war. without the boys to work the land the ranch was short handed. grandma and grandpa had to work twice as hard to produce a bountiful fruit crop.
During harvest time, every member of the family pitched in to help, including grand kids like myself. Even so, it was a difficult time for Grandma: rationing was in effect, there was little money, and worst of all there was the constant worry over whether her five sons would come home safely.
The ranch was a lovely place, especially in the spring when the orchards were white with plum blossoms. During the  summer, while we  harvested the prune crop, Grandma cooked up fine Italian lunches. We would all sit on blankets spread out on the orchard ground, enjoying not just the wonderful food, but also the satisfaction of being a part of such an important family effort.
To encourage the ripe fruit to fall, Grandpa used a long wooden pole with an iron hook at the top to catch a branch and shake the fruit loose from the trees. Then the rest of us would crawl along, wearing knee pads that grandma had sewn into our overalls and gather the plums into metal buckets. We dumped the buckets of plums into long wooden trays, where the purple little plums were soon sun-dried into rich, brown prunes.
Maria Carmela, Tony Curci
and Tony DiNapoli
After a long, hard day I would walk hand-in-hand with Grandpa through the orchards while he surveyed what had been accomplished that day. I'd enjoy eating fresh plums off the trees, licking the sweet stickiness from my fingertips.
On each of these walks, Grandpa would stoop down and pick up a handful of soil, letting it sift slowly and lovingly through his strong work-callused hands. Then with pride and conviction he would invariably say: "If you take good care of the land, the land will take good care of you." 
As dark came on the ranch, we'd all gather together on the cool, quiet verandah of the front porch. Grandpa would settle comfortably into his rocker,under the dim glow of a flickering moth-covered light bulb, and there he'd read the latest war news in his newspaper. Grandma sat nearby on the porch swing, swaying and saying her perpetual rosary. The quiet squeak of grandma's swing and  the low mumbling of her prayers could be heard long into the night. 
The stillness of the quiet ranch house painfully reflected the absence of the five robust young men. This was the hardest part of the day for Grandma; the silence of the empty house was a painful reminder that her sons were far, far away, fighting for their country.
On Sunday morning, after church, Grandma was back out on the porch, again, repeating her rosary before going into the kitchen to start cooking. Then she and grandpa sat at the kitchen table, counting out ration slips for the week ahead and what little cash there was to pay the bills. Once they were finished, Grandma always took a portion of her money and put it in to an old sugar crock, placing it high on the kitchen shelf. I often asked her what the money in the jar was for, but he would only say, "A very special favor."
Well, the war finally ended, and all five of Grandma's sons came home remarkably safe and sound. After a while, Grandma and Grandpa retired, and the family farm became part of a modern expressway.
Cookie with Maria Carmela's ex-voto
I never did find out what the money in that old sugar crock was for—until a week or so before last Christmas. Completely on impulse, perhaps feeling the wonder of the Christmas season and the need to connect with its spiritual significance, I stopped at a little church I just happened to be driving past. I'd never been inside before, and as I entered the church through the side door, I was stunned to come face to face with the most glorious stained- glass window I'd ever seen. I paused for a minute to examine the intricate beauty of the window more closely.
The magnificent stained-glass depicted the Holy Mother and child. Like an exquisite jewel, it reflected the glory of the very first Christmas. As I studied every detail of its fine workmanship, I found, to my utter amazement, a small plaque at the base of the window that read, "For a favor received—donated in 1945 by Maria Carmela Curci-DiNapoli." I couldn't believe my eyes. I was reading Grandma's very words! Every day, as Grandma had said her prayers for her soldier-sons, she'd also put whatever money she could scrape together into her sacred sugar crock to pay for the window. I had always thought grandma was saving the money to buy herself some much needed new clothes, but in all those years she never wore a new garment or new shoes, and now I know why.
Her quiet donation of this window had been her way of saying thank you to the Holy Mother Mary for sparing the lives of her beloved five sons.
Through the generations, the family had lost track of the window's existence. Finding it now at Christmas time, more than half a century later, not only brought back a flood of precious memories, but also it made me a believer in small but beautiful miracles.

Contact Cookie Curci at

November 20, 2015

Jarring Tomatoes: From Castrofillipo to Brooklyn

Rob and Enza preserving their heritage
Photos courtesy of Enza Agliata
By Enza Agliata
In 1975, my grandparents, father, and uncle immigrated to America, a foreign place where they were expected to assimilate and learn the American way of life. They settled in Brooklyn, New York. Their new home was over 4,500 miles away from Sicily; however, their customs and culture would not die. These traditions have been in my family for generations. Forty years later, we are still practicing and preserving these precious traditions. One of my favorite’s is jarring homemade tomato sauce.
The ladies prepare the tomatoes
Jarring tomatoes is a multi-day affair; especially, when you’re jarring 30 bushels! We jar our crushed tomatoes on the first day. At the crack of dawn, my nonna and nonnu are already at my house preparing. At the sound of their arrival, my sisters and I know it’s time to start washing the tomatoes while the men lift and set up all the heavy equipment. After rinsing the tomatoes with water and draining them, we put the tomatoes into a boiling cauldron of water. After the tomatoes are done boiling, the most fun part of the process begins, crushing the tomatoes!
Filling the cauldron
We all take turns crushing the tomatoes through the tomato-milling machine. It is so tempting to taste the freshly crushed sauce; you can even smell the freshness of the tomatoes from the house! We pour the boiling hot sauce into mason jars with nothing but fresh basil from my nonnu’s garden. The mason jars are sealed tight and we boil them one more time. This is the longest part of the process. All those who help throughout the day get to enjoy the fruits of their labor when my mom prepares the freshly made sauce for dinner. There is nothing more rewarding then to taste how rich and delicious the sauce is. Fortunately, we get to savor the wonderful taste every Sunday for the whole year!
Rob carefully removes the boiled tomatoes 
Day two begins just as early as the first. Only today we are doing things a little different; we are jarring whole tomatoes (pomodori palati). After we clean and boil the tomatoes, we peel off their skin instead of crushing them. We jar these tomatoes whole, seal them, and boil them in the jar just as we boiled the crushed tomatoes. The pomodori palati are used for special dishes like muscles with marinara sauce.
Everyone takes turns crushing them
This beautiful tradition has traveled from the farmlands of Castrofilippo, Provincia di Agrigento, Sicily to Brooklyn, New York. Without fail, every August we will jar our tomatoes for the year. The Southern Italian traditions brought by the courageous immigrants who longed to call America home will live on for future generations.
Boiling the filled mason jars

November 19, 2015

Dyker Height's Neapolitan Nativity

John Miniero’s latest acquisitions from Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples 
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
It’s that time of year again when local artisan John Miniero builds his annual outdoor presepio in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn (14th Avenue, between 79th and 80th Streets). The Neapolitan Christmas tradition has been a neighborhood favorite for many years and continues to astonish onlookers with its whimsy and complexity. 
I met up with Mr. Miniero this week as he was putting the finishing touches on his magical crèche and I was not disappointed. With its teeming scenes of life in 18th century Naples and many secretive nooks and crannies, the sprawling diorama truly is a wonder to behold. I can’t thank John enough for taking the time from his busy schedule to show me around his workshop and pointing out some of the new details from this year’s masterpiece.
The Magi set up camp next to the manger
Mr. Miniero recreates Piazza Tasso in his native Sorrento, including the famed Chiesa della Madonna del Carmine with working clock in the bell tower
The central part of the tableau
Devotee praying in a grotto with dripping water
A vendor roasting chestnuts
Mr. Miniero shows us some of his more modest creations
Some unused treasures
Presepi were everywhere
A wonder to behold

Feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Evviva Santa Elisabetta d'Ungheria!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
November 19th is the Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, patron saint of nurses, the poor, the homeless and widows. Living a life of prayer and sacrifice, her compassion towards the sick and the poor endeared her to the whole of Christendom. To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a Prayer to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. The accompanying photo was taken at Most Precious Blood Church (109 Mulberry Street), the national shrine of San Gennaro, located in New York City's historic Little Italy.
Prayer to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Our father in heaven, Your servant, Saint Elizabeth brought care to the sick, food to the hungry and hope to the hopeless, grant us thy blessing that we may follow in her footsteps with love and joy in our hearts. Amen.

November 18, 2015

I Giullari di Piazza to Perform "La Cantata Dei Pastori: A Neapolitan Renaissance Christmas Concert" at the Italian American Museum

A special fund raiser to celebrate I Giullari di Piazza's 35th anniversary

Tuesday, December 8th (8:00pm)

Italian American Museum
155 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10013

La Cantata Dei Pastori was written by A. Perrucci in the 16th century and re-written and directed by Alessandra Belloni in 1984, with music composed and arranged by John T. La Barbera. La Cantata dei Pastori has been a favorite in I Guillari's repertory for 20 years.

The evening includes: Food & refreshments, a raffle, a performance, and the honoring of those who have been our supporters throughout the years.

Featuring the Neapolitan singer/actor Giuseppe de Falco in the role of Razzullo (the Pulcinella character at the center of the story); Alessandra Belloni as Mary; Mark Mindek as the Angel Gabriel on stilts; Max McGuire as la Befana; dancer Francesca Silvano; Wilson Montuori on guitar; and violinist Joe Deninzon as the devil.

Reservations and more information

Tickets & Donations:
$60 general admission
$75-friend - includes a listing on the program
$100 –Angel - includes a program listing and a CD of your choice
$150 –Archangel- includes a program listing and Alessandra Belloni’s Book – Rhythm is the cure

Also see:
The Song of the Shepherds in NYC

November 16, 2015

Feast of San Giuseppe Moscati

Evviva San Giuseppe!
November 16th is the Feast Day of San Giuseppe Moscati, the "Holy Physician of Naples." Born on July 25th, 1880 in Benevento, Giuseppe was the seventh of nine children of Rosa (née de Luca, Marchesi dei Roseto) and Francesco Moscati, a magistrate from Santa Lucia di Serino. He studied medicine and surgery at the University of Naples, graduating summa cum laude in 1903. In 1906, during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, he risked his own life evacuating patients from the crumbling Riuniti Hospital in Torre del Greco.
With the outbreak of WWI, Dr. Moscati volunteered his services and cared for thousands of wounded soldiers. After the war, he returned to his practice in Naples caring for the poor at the Hospital for the Incurables. Not only did he refuse payment from his impoverished patients, Dr. Moscati would often give them money for their prescriptions. He tragically died on April 12th, 1927 at the age of 46. Beatified on November 16th, 1975 by Pope Paul VI, he was canonized just sixty years after his death on October 25th, 1987 by Pope John Paul II. He is the patron saint of physicians and bachelors. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a prayer to Saint Giuseppe Moscati. 
Prayer to Saint Giuseppe Moscati
Dear St. Joseph Moscati, true model of Christian doctors, in the exercise of your medical profession, you always took care of both the body and soul of every patient. Look on us, who have recourse to your heavenly intercession, and obtain for us both physical and spiritual health, and a share in the dispensation of heavenly favors. Soothe the pains of our suffering people; give comfort to the sick, consolation to the afflicted and hope to the despondent. May our young people find in you an ideal, our workers an example, the aging a comfort, the dying the hope of eternal salvation. To all of us be a pattern of industriousness, honesty and charity; so we may comply with our Christian duties and glorify God our Father. Amen.

Photo of the Week: Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso

Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Matera, Basilicata
Photos courtesy of Andrew Giordano

November 15, 2015

Michéal Castaldo Book Signing and Performance at the Italian American Museum, Little Italy, NYC

Michéal Castaldo
Thursday, November 19th (6:30 P.M.)
Italian American Museum
155 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10013 

You are cordially invited to attend a book signing and live performance by award-winning Italian classical-crossover tenor, Michéal Castaldo at the Italian American Museum on Thursday, November 19th. Castaldo will present his first Christmas Music Folio, entitled Extravergine: A Mediterranean Christmas Folio, (in Italian, Natale nel Mediterraneo). The Folio offers up sacred, liturgical Christmas carols in Italian and Latin in lead sheet form. Castaldo has arranged these carols completely with the power deserving of these immense classics with some special effects and novel interpretations of Christmas classics.
The folio includes the music for 15 carols, including the following seasonal favorites: “Oh Santa Notte (Oh Holy Night),” “E Nato Il Bambino Gesu (What Child Is This?),” “Batte nel Cuore, Suona Natale (Little Drummer Boy),” a very upbeat, uplifting spirit for the Christmas Season, “Gioia Nel Mondo (Joy To The World),” “Puoi Sentire Quel' Che Sento Io? (Do You Hear What I Hear?),” “Astro Del Ciel (Silent Night).” In addition, “Piccolo Jesu,” an Italian translation by Castaldo of the well-known Polish carol, “Jezus Malusuenki.” Castaldo is said to be the first to perform this lovely carol in Italian on his “Extravergine” CD. Completing the perfect package, Castaldo also offers up a mash-up medley of “Day’o” (The banana boat song) and the classic Italian carol, “Gloria In Excelsis Deo,” as well as “Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle,” “Va Pensiero,” and “Adeste Fideles (Oh Come All Ye Faithful).” Rounding off the folio’s final musical selections are “Ave Maria,” “Panis Angelicus,” and Leonard Cohen’s “Allelulia.”
Extravergine does not shy away from embracing songs of faith. For Italian-Americans, the folio serves as an Italian language lesson. We know almost every song and can sing them in English. And now thanks to Castaldo’s translation efforts, we can grasp the meaning of a host of Italian words in the best way possible, through song. Playing these carols repeatedly, an Italian-American wanting to learn Italian can benefit by singing along with Castaldo arrangements.
The folio also contains photos, a “Community Connections” page, and a reprint of a review of the Extravergine CD by the Primo Magazine editor, Truby Chiavello, who proclaims: “Italian-Americans are indebted to Michéal Castaldo who raises the bar on the music of Italian-Americans. He brings the appreciation of the Italian language to a broad audience, but this time through beautiful Christmas melodies. Michéal has contributed mightily to the great canon that is the music of the Italian-American experience. The Extravergine Music Folio is highly recommended for Italian-Americans to purchase as a Christmas gift for a loved one or friend, or yourself, any time of the year.”
Castaldo's work has been called a “plush world of ballads and utter sweetness” by celebritycafe and “the perfect complement to an Italian music collection” by La Gazzetta Italiana.
Suggested donation of $10 per person
For reservations, please call the Italian American Museum at 212.965.9000 or Email:
For more information go to

November 14, 2015


Call to Arms by Auguste Rodin 
Rodin Museum, Philadelphia, PA 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of the November 13th Islamic State terror attacks in Paris. May St. Denis, St. Genevieve, St. Joan of Arc and St. King Louis IX protect and watch over you.
A Prayer to St. Joan of Arc
In the face of your enemies, in the face of harassment, ridicule, and doubt, you held firm in your faith. Even in your abandonment, alone and without friends, you held firm in your faith. Even as you faced your own mortality, you held firm in your faith. I pray that I may be as bold in my beliefs as you, St. Joan. I ask that you ride alongside me in my own battles. Help me be mindful that what is worthwhile can be won when I persist. Help me hold firm in my faith. Help me believe in my ability to act well and wisely. Amen.

It Took a Tough Woman to Make a Tender Home

Maria Carmela with her son Tony Curci
and his step father Tony DiNapoli
By Cookie Curci
Our Santa Clara Valley is known the world over as Silicon Valley, where high-tech companies spring up overnight and blossom and grow to unbelievable heights.
But long before the computer companies began to grow, the Santa Clara Valley was known for something else—fruit. Thousands of acres of fruit trees flourished and the valley was the nation's leading grower of prunes, apricots, walnuts and cherries; and it was in the shade of these trees that my own family flourished.
My grandmother Maria Carmela came to this area from the town of Tricarico, Italy. The daughter of a tight-knit Italian family, she and her siblings came to America after her parents had both died of influenza. Rather than face life in the town orphanage, the children pooled their money and boarded a ship for America. Maria Carmela dreamed of starting her own family, having her own children to love and care for in the same way that she had felt loved. Her dreams of the family she would soon start kept her going on the long sea voyage from Italy, through the processing center at Ellis Island, and as she traveled by train across her strange new country to California.
Days after arriving on these shores, she stepped off the train at the Southern Pacific depot in San Jose, and into her new life.
A prearranged marriage awaited her. Although she and her intended husband, Antonio Curci, had never before laid eyes on one another, when they finally did meet it was love at first sight. The newlyweds settled into the poorer section of town, in a roomy wood-frame house that struck Maria as a palace. So many wonderful rooms—she and Antonio could fill them with children!
The few years after their marriage passed quickly—two children arrived and Maria and Antonio both proudly received their American citizenship papers. But their happiness together was not meant to last. While working on the railroad lines, Antonio contracted pneumonia. Only 32 years old, the strapping young man couldn't believe that a mere chest cold could have such dire consequences.
When he died, Maria sat in shock next to his coffin in their living room, her belly swollen with their third child. Well-meaning friends and relatives sat down next to her, anxious to help her in her grief. Each one had the same suggestion: "Why don't you give Rosie and Rocco to me for a while? Just until your life settles down." 
Or, more frightening still: "Maria, you can't manage with all of these children and no money. You will have to send the two older children to an orphanage."
But without Antonio, her children were all she had left. She had no money, no insurance, no job and a large pile of bills. But she had the children she'd so longed for and wanted, and one more on the way. She would survive.
The Santa Clara Valley's main industry was fruit-growing, harvesting, packing and shipping fruit all over the world. Large packing plants and canneries employed thousands of people; surely there would be a job for her, too. But my grandmother soon learned that despite the appearance of abundance, jobs were scarce. All over the valley, men were working double shifts to support large families. It was only natural, in the thinking of the time, that they received preferential treatment over women. Wherever Maria went, the answer was always the same for a woman: "No work available."
With her savings depleted, her children suffering from influenza and the loan officer from the bank due to evict her any day, she made one last attempt to find work at a canning plant near her home. She'd been turned away dozens of times before, but on this day she knew that it was her last chance to save her children, her last chance to keep them all together as a family.
Carefully closing the door of her beloved American house behind her, she set out down the road to the Del Monte cannery with a new resolve, a prayer in her heart and her rosary beads in her hand.
That day, a brand-new foreman was on the job. Maria told him of her plight and he took sympathy. Antonio DiNapoli saw the bright spark of determination in her eyes, and he found her a place in his line of cannery workers.
Cannery work was laborious and tiring. In the winter, an icy chill crept in through the cracks and crevices of the old brick building. In the summer, workers sweltered from the noisy machinery's steam and heat. But Maria worked on. She earned five cents for every bucket of tomatoes she peeled, but it was enough to pay her debts, feed her three children and keep her family together.
The new foreman, a widower with six children, was moved by Maria's determination and motherly loyalty. In time their friendship grew into love and they married. More children arrived, bringing the total between them to 11. Tony and Maria purchased a fruit orchard in Almaden, and raised their big family and grew prolific crops of prunes in the rich soil of the valley.
Throughout her life, Grandma Maria Carmela Curci-DiNapoli held on tightly to the dream she'd sought as a young girl arriving in America. With faith and tenacity, she hung on tightly to her children as well. She worked to make her dream a reality for herself, her children and her grandchildren.

Contact Cookie Curci at

November 13, 2015

Feast of Saint Frances Cabrini

America's first saint
November 13th is the Feast Day of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants. The first United States citizen to be canonized, she came to America on March 31, 1889 at the urging of Pope Leo XIII to help Italian immigrants. She founded numerous institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the uneducated and the sick, including the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer to Mother Cabrini. The accompanying photos were taken at the Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in Washington Heights, New York.
Prayer to Mother Cabrini
Almighty and Eternal Father, Giver of all Gifts, show us Thy mercy, and grant, we beseech Thee, through the merits of Thy faithful Servant, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, that all who invoke her intercession may obtain what they desire according to the good pleasure of Thy Holy Will. (here name your request) St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, beloved spouse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, intercede for us that the favor we now ask may be granted.

Siege of Gaeta (1860)

HRM Francis II
By Giovanni di Napoli
"I do not know what the independence of Italy means. I only know the independence of Naples!" – Francis II on the idea of Italian unification
November 13th, 1860 marks the beginning of the Siege of Gaeta. Under the command of General Enrico Cialdini the Piedmontese forces sought to finish off the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies begun by Giuseppe Garibaldi on May 11th, 1860. (1) The resistance was the heroic last stand of the one hundred twenty six year old Bourbon dynasty in Southern Italy against the House of Savoy.
Without a formal declaration of war Garibaldi’s redshirts disembarked at Marsala, Sicily, under the guard of British warships. Thus began their improbable subjugation of the independent and sovereign Kingdom. Capitalizing on a recent revolt, Garibaldi stoked the flames of rebellion with false promises of wide-ranging social reforms that, of course, were never to materialize. By the time the discontented masses of Sicily realized the true nature of the invasion, the course of events could not be stopped. It should also be noted that without the help of corrupt traitors, massive bribery, treacherous revolutionaries and Masonic elements the so-called "Thousand" could never have defeated the largest standing army on the Italic peninsula. Continue reading

November 12, 2015

Compra Sud — Stephen S. La Rocca, PLLC

Let's support those who keep our traditions and folkways alive

Stephen S. La Rocca, PLLC
Attorney at Law
11 Broadway
Suite 868
New York, N.Y. 10004

Tel: (212) 785-8127
Fax: (212) 248-2960

Also see: An Interview with Stephen La Rocca, President of the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza in New York

Visit our Compra Sud Directory for complete listing

* Our recommendations will be unsolicited, and only from our personal experience. No second hand suggestions will be made.

Presepio Napoletano Exhibit at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center, Tuckahoe, New York

Dec. 5, 2015 — Jan. 16, 2016

Westchester Italian

Cultural Center
One Generoso Pope Place
Tuckahoe, NY 10707

Nativity scenes are very popular in Italy and are generally found in every household during the holiday season. The nativity originated in Italy in the 13th century when St. Francis of Assisi asked Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the nativity was turned into an art form in Naples and included representation of daily life in the city at that time. Today, many artisans are dedicated to the craft of creating handmade figures for presepi. Presepio Napoletano represents our rich cultural and spiritual traditions. It portrays a bustling village located at the base of Mount Vesuvius. The landscape is handcrafted in wood, cork and papier-mâché, while the figures, many standing over a foot tall, are made ofterra cotta, hemp and wire.

For more info visit

November 11, 2015

Feast of Saint Martin of Tours

Grape harvest
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
November 11th is the Feast Day of Saint Martin of Tours. Traditionally a time of feasting and revelry, the commemoration coincides with the Fall harvests and the drinking of new wines before the penitential season of Advent. Coincidently, among his spheres of influence, Saint Martin is the patron of wine makers and is credited with introducing viticulture to parts of Gaul. 
Cantina del Vesuvio vineyard
in Trecase, Campania
In Southern Italy the Feast is typically celebrated with wine tasting and regional delicacies, such as fried cod or zeppole. L'Estate di San Martino, or Saint Martin's Summer, denotes a period of unseasonably mild weather similar to our Indian Summer. Due to climate changes this is less pronounced than in the past, but some of the traditions associated with the seasonal cycle persist, including celebratory bonfires and winter food preparations. Many, however, celebrate with a simple glass of fortified wine and biscuits.
In celebration I'm posting a Prayer to Saint Martin of Tours. The accompanying photo of a grape harvest painted on ceramics is from Vietri. The picture of the cluster of grapes was taken at the foot of Mount Vesuvius at Cantina del Vesuvio, a vineyard in Trecase, Campania famous for its Lacryma Christi (Christ's Tears) and Greco di Tufo varietals.
Prayer to Saint Martin of Tours
Dear well-beloved Saint, you were first a soldier like your father. Converted to the Church, you became a soldier of Christ, a priest and then a Bishop of Tours. Lover of the poor, and model for pagans and Christians alike, protect our soldiers at all times. Make them strong, just, and charitable, always aiming at establishing peace on earth. Amen.

Award-Winning Tenor Micheal Castaldo & Friends to Perform “An Italian Christmas Journey” at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Bronx, New York

“An Italian Christmas Journey,” a traditional Christmas concert featuring award-winning Italian tenor Micheal Castaldo will take place on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 5:00p.m. at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 687 East 187th Street, Bronx NY 10458. The concert celebrates the renewal of the music program at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
Castaldo will perform classic Christmas and Advent songs, most of which are from his chart-topping best-selling album, “Extravergine: Christmas in the Mediterranean.” He will be accompanied by the Scarsdale Strings Quartet. Tickets are available for $25 at 1-800-838-3006 (mention event #2149141) or online at
This Christmas/Advent concert will capture your heart and imagination with the spirit of the holidays in the beautiful century-old, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the Bronx. Even those who don’t speak Italian will be moved by the setting, the songs, and Micheal’s powerful and melodic voice. Over the past ten years Michéal Castaldo has entertained more than 500,000 people across the USA, Canada, and Europe with creative and rousing renditions of classic Italian songs. Castaldo’s performances are enchanting, heartfelt, and authentic. He treats the audience to stories, spoken in English, in between songs that share moments from his Italian upbringing, tidbits about his musical journey, and insight that went into his song choices.
Live performance of songs from Castaldo’s Extravergine CD will include “Oh Santa Notte” (Oh Holy Night), “E Nato Il Bambino Gesu” (What Child Is This?), “Batte Nel Cuore, Suona Natale” (Little Drummer Boy), “Gioia Nel Mondo” (Joy To The World), “Puoi Sentire Quel’ Che Sent Io?” (Do You Hear What I Hear?), and “Astro Del Ciel” (Silent Night). Castaldo translated the well-known Polish carol, “Jezus Malusuenki” now entitled, “Piccolo Jesu,” which will be featured, along with “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” “Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle,” “Va Pensiero,” and “Adeste Fideles.” Also to be performed are two songs traditionally sung during Advent, “Ave Maria” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
At the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, a great number of Italian immigrants entered America through the Port of New York. Some traveled westward but most stayed in the East. Many came and settled in the Bronx, especially in the Belmont section. Along with their desire to improve their economic lot, they brought with them a strong faith and strong family values. They worked to build railroads, tunnels, subways, reservoirs and skyscrapers. Some owned or worked on farms and others established small businesses. What kept them together was their common language and faith. During the Christmas season, their faith was celebrated at OLMC–Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 687 East 187th Street. In 2016, OLMC will celebrate its 110th anniversary. The parish is now led by The Reverend Jonathan Morris. For more information visit
Cibelli Productions and Majestic Castle Music Productions are partnering to help promote the Italian culture and heritage at this Italian Christmas/Advent Concert while raising funds to help Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Bronx reach its fundraising goals in time for its 110th anniversary.
Tickets are available for $25 at 1-800-838-3006 (mention event #2149141) or online at Tickets are available at the church Rectory and following the 11am Mass. 
For more information go to 
Contact Majestic Castle Music at 877-642-7271 or 

November 10, 2015

Feast of Sant'Andrea Avellino

Evviva Sant'Andrea!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
November 10th is the Feast Day of Sant'Andrea Avellino (Saint Andrew Avellino), patron saint of stroke victims and against apoplexy. He is also the protector of Castronuovo di Sant'Andrea (formally Castronuovo), a small town in the Province of Potenza in Basilicata, where he was born in 1521. To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a prayer to Saint Andrew Avellino. The accompanying photo was taken at Saint Andrew Avellino Roman Catholic Church (35-60 158th Street) in Flushing, New York.
Prayer to Saint Andrew Avellino Against Sudden Death 
I. O most glorious saint, whom God has made our protector against apoplexy, seeing that thou thyself didst die of that disease, we earnestly pray thee to preserve us from an evil so dangerous and so common. Pater, Ave, Gloria. 
Verse  By the intercession of St. Andrew, stricken with apoplexy.   
Response  From a sudden and unprovided death deliver us O Lord. 
II. O most glorious saint, if ever by the just judgment of God we should be stricken with apoplexy, we earnestly beseech thee to obtain for us time enough to receive the Last Sacraments and die in the grace of God. Pater, Ave, Gloria. 
V.  By the intercession of St. Andrew, stricken with apoplexy. 
R.  From  a sudden and unprovided death deliver us, O Lord. 
III. O most glorious saint, who didst endure, before dying, a terrible agony, through the assaults of the devil, from which the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael delivered thee, we earnestly beseech thee to assist us in the tremendous moment of our death.  Pater, Ave, Gloria. 
V.  By the intercession of St. Andrew, stricken with apoplexy. 
R.  From a sudden and unprovided death deliver us, O Lord. 

Book Presentation and Signing with Karen Haid, Author of “Calabria: The Other Italy”

Tuesday, November 17th (6pm)
Lake Wildwood Community Center
11255 Cottontail Way
Penn Valley, CA 95946 

Free and open to the public, please RSVP by calling 530-432-3260
Author Karen Haid will present her award-winning book Calabria: The Other Italy along with an illustrated introduction of this lesser known region in the toe of the Italian boot. A book signing will follow. The public is invited to attend and an RSVP is requested. Call 530 432 3260. There is no admission charge.
Based on her four-year experience living, working and traveling in this lesser-known region in the toe of the Italian boot, Calabria: The Other Italy weaves observation, personal anecdote, salient historical information and social commentary into a nonfiction narrative that combines travelogue with an exploration of everyday life and culture. This engaging work, at times humorous, at others poignant, portrays the joys and challenges of the “other Italy,” and captures the essence of contemporary Calabria and Southern Italy.
For more information visit Calabria: The Other Italy on Facebook 

November 9, 2015

Feast of Sant’Agrippino di Napoli Vescovo

St. Agrippinus pray for us
November 9th is the Feast Day of Sant’Agrippino di Napoli (Saint Agrippinus of Naples), third-century bishop and protector of Naples and Arzano (NA). Believed to have been the sixth Bishop of Naples, he was the city’s first in a long line of patrons. Many miracles have been attributed to Sant’Agrippino, including the sinking of a saracen flagship as it attacked the city.* His relics, along with the bodies of Saints Eutiche and Acuzio (companions of San Gennaro), rest beneath the high altar in the Duomo di San Gennaro in Naples. To commemorate the occasion I’m posting a prayer to Sant'Agrippino.
Prayer to Saint Agrippinus of Naples
God our Father, enable us who honor the memory of Saint Agrippinus, bishop and protector of Naples, to share with him in the joy of eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
* “In the time of Pope John XII the Saracens beseiged Naples. Lacking any human aid, the Neapolitans prayed to their patron saints Januarius and Agrippinus. The saints caused the largest Saracen ship to sink, and the other ships fled.” — The Cronica di Partenope: An introduction to and Critical Edition of the First Vernacular History of Naples (c. 1350) by Samantha Kelly, Brill 2011, p. 241