Articles by: Otylia Coppola

  • Facts & Stories

    ASILM Celebrates 51 Years

    Yet another special evening was organized by ASILM (The American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit) for the occasion of its 51st year. Under the guidance of president and Knight of the Grand Cross Lucio Caputo, the evening saw the unity of those who received one of five Italian honors.

    For those who aren't familiar with the Honorary Orders, they consist of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Order of Military Merit, Order of Labor Merit, Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, and Order of Vittorio Veneto. These are awarded by decree of the President of the Republic who by virtue is the “head” of all Italian Orders of Knighthood. Each is internationally recognized as being rooted in Italian history and as a privilege of Italian sovereignty.

    ASILM was founded in 1965 on the basis of strengthening the traditional bonds of friendship between Italy and the United States. It’s national in scope, international in spirit, and functions at the highest levels of the chivalric, diplomatic, and beneficent arenas. While providing financial assistance to a wide range of cultural and humanitarian endeavors, ASILM’s prestige as a pre-eminent institution, headquartered in New York’s splendid Columbus Townhouse, ranks the Society as an important American base for conveying the shared interests of both nations to a wider audience.

    The event was held at the prestigious Essex House in front of Manhattan’s Central Park. Notable representatives from Italian institutions, businesses, and press were all present in New York.

    President of ASILM Lucio Caputo and Consul General Francesco Genuardi enthusiastically opened the honorary portion of the evening and bestowed the annual Grand Award of Merit. This year’s guests of honor were judge of the US Court of Appeals Guido Calabresi, author and journalist John Mariani, art conservator & partner of Grassi Studio Professor Marco Grassi, and the famous political analyst & Professor Emeritus at Yale Joseph LaPalombara.

    The event began with an elegant cocktail reception. It then continued with a dinner full of exceptional Italian food and wine. Music was an important ingredient for an evening that unfolded in a typically Italian climate, full of friendship and good times.

    Closing the evening, dancing got almost all the guests up and on their feet.

    For more information please visit. >>

    American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit
    Officers     (01-01-2017 – 01-01-2019)
    Cav. di Gran Croce, Dr. Lucio Caputo
    Executive Vice President
    Uff. Hon. Eugene Nardelli
    Cav. di Gran Croce, Lawrence E. Auriana
    Cav. Carlo Romairone
    Gr. Uff. Guido Calabresi
    Comm. George M. Pavia, Esq.
    Chief of Protocol
    Gr. Uff. RoseMarie Gallina-Santangelo

    Directors     (01-01-2017 – 01-01-2019)
    Cav. di Gran Croce, Hon. Dominic R. Massaro, Honorary Chairman
    Comm. Stefano Acunto
    Gr. Uff. Amb. Daniele D. Bodini
    Cav. Vivian Cardia
    Uff. Francesco De Angelis
    Cav. Gaetana Marrone-Puglia
    Cav. Berardo Paradiso
    Cav. Joseph Perella
    Comm. Salvatore Rotella
    Comm. Enzo Viscusi
    Uff. Dr. Thomas S. Bellavia, M.D., Regional Vice President

    Amb. Armando Varricchio, ex officio
    Amb. Sebastiano Cardi, ex officio
    Min. Francesco Genuardi, ex officio


  • Facebook i-Italy
    After publishing a few articles critical of Trump's Executive Order, our Facebook "likes" remain in equilibrium.

    Italian Americans are Split over Trump—But Conservatives are More Vocal than Liberals

    Of the first three articles on Trump's EO published by i-Italy, the one that received the most Facebook activity up to now is “'Immigration Ban,’ An Italian American Perspective,” by Stanislao G. Pugliese, professor of modern European history and the Queensboro Unico Distinguished Professor of Italian and Italian American Studies at Hofstra University. In his piece, he asks how a Christian country could turn away refugees. He also calls Trump a dictator and accuses White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer of not understanding a “basic premise of American society,” i.e. that the press holds the government accountable, not the other way around. Overall, he calls on Italian Americans to remember their history and to ask why “this generation of immigrants is so different.”

    Professor Pugliese's very first Facebook commenter, Peter Bonifacio, expressed his disappointment, to which many responded approvingly. He wrote that the article “does a disservice to all Italian Americans.” He continued to say that Italian immigrants of the past are not comparable to today’s immigrants fleeing from the seven terrorist countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) affected by Trump’s order. Many agreed on this front.

    Michelle Piscitello-Blodgett explained that her family came to America in 1935 proudly and legally. They learned English, changed their last name, and got jobs. She argued that in contrast, today’s immigrants expect “free things given to them by the tax payers” and that many “impose chaos, violence, and implementation of radical practices that ultimately harm and kill people of our great land.” (Admittedly, one may be a little puzzled that Ms. Piscitello doesn't seem to be bothered by the fact that many of her Italian ancestors even had to change their vowel-ending names in order to assimilate...)

    Jessica Messina took the point home: “There is a huge difference. Immigrants from countries back then wanted to assimilate to American culture while still enjoying and celebrating their own. They respected what America afforded them. They respected our flag. The issue now is wanting to come here and NOT assimilate but expect Americans to assimilate to them.”

    Robert Genta argues the opposite: "It is mind boggling to see multiple posts in this thread saying we're different, we overcame the prejudice, as a means to justify that prejudice. Do you not remember/are familiar with the injustice we went through? My goodness."

    The second article we published came from Cristina Lombardi-Diop, a senior lecturer at Loyola University Chicago. She is in agreement with Genta. Her abstract in “After Ellis Island? Italians at the Border in the Age of Trump” reads, “Italians do know what it means seeking entry to the United States with fear of detention, deportation, and refusal.” Lombardi-Diop is an Italian immigrant who married a Muslim man and fears whether or not her family will be safe here following “Trump’s immigration ban.” She also worries that “thousands of others” may not receive the same opportunities as her son.

    In response, Facebook user Tristine Fleming acclaimed that the law is “about terror and that many of us Americans DEMANDED for years! And now we're getting it. This isn't a ‘ban,’ this is a ‘resting period’ to figure out the vetting process and make it better so that we can keep our people safe.”

    In “Walls and Bans. A View from San DiegoClarissa Clò, a professor at San Diego State University, begins with her disapproval of the wall, arguing that it is both “preposterous” and “unnecessary.” She goes on to say that “the wall has never discouraged people from crossing it, legally or illegally.” In the second half, in the same rhetoric, she disapproves of the executive order. She describes the countries as “primarily Muslim” and claims that it bars entrance to all refugees, explaining the selection as “arbitrary.”

    Facebook user Sofia Monamur pointed out that in 2011, Obama “imposed the same thing” when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. and in an earlier comment thread, Vito Delledera passionately repeated, "It's not a ban on Muslims." He continued, "If it were a ban it would include Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, India and [so forth]." He explained that the countries are banned as a result of the terrorists in the areas. Lynne Meyer reiterated, "it's not a Muslim ban" but rather a ban on "seven countries that sponsor terror." She concluded, "We still allow 40 Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, etc. Sal Favarolo clarified that Trump simply adopted the Obama Administration’s list of “countries of concern” in order to improve the vetting process "labeled as having an improper paperwork trail" and being "potentially dangerous."   

    A few comments in favor of the articles suggested a parallel between Mr. Trump and Mussolini. Ariel Fedrigotti for instance wrote, "I find it amazing that after all our people have gone through, there are still fascists among us, supporting the actions of a demented narcissist, denying our history of struggle for freedom and rights. But yes, after all Mussolini was Italian too." Some of Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be ashamed at the comparison. Writing that “I wish there's a TRUMP IN ITALY,” Giovanni Colla even proudly attached to his post a picture of Il Duce.

    From a brief analysis of our Facebook page we gathered the following: While the hundreds of "likes" and "shares" received in the first 24 hours show that the majority applaud the content, many of the comments and replies suggest otherwise—most defend Trump’s reasoning and argue with the opinions presented in the articles. This proves that not all Italian Americans are of the same mindset. It also reflects a historical shift in public behavior that has already been observed many times in America: liberals tend to constitute a more "silent" majority online (they are content with pressing the "like" button) while conservatives are more vocal and tend to occupy the sphere of public discourse (they use the "comments" tool more frequently).

    In the next few days we will continue to monitor the social activity on our Facebook page and will report. Stay tuned.


  • Columbus Day Parade
    Facts & Stories

    Angelo Vivolo: “Preserving Our Heritage, Planning for the Future”

    Mr. Vivolo, can you tell our readers something about the history of the Columbus Day Parade?

    It started decades ago and has evolved over the years. The Columbus Day Parade held in New York City is the largest in the world and began in 1929 when New York City businessman and Italian immigrant Generoso Pope led a parade from East Harlem to Columbus Circle. Columbus Day was declared a federal holiday to recognize Christopher Columbus for opening up the gateway from Europe to The New World. Italian Americans, facing much discrimination and bias, saw Columbus’s Italian origin as a way to legitimize their status as true American citizens.

    Since then, the parade has evolved to celebrate all things Italian- American. It recognizes our past, but also looks ahead to the contributions Italian Americans will continue to make for the United States. In addition, it is a wonderful day for us to celebrate the special relationship between Italy and America. On Columbus Day, we celebrate not just the United States and Italian Americans, but also the nation of Italy and the Italian people as well. 

    How do you pick your Grand Marshals and the Honorees for your traditional Gala evening?

    Each year there is a Grand Marshal and several Honorees that are recognized for their contributions to Italian and Italian-American culture. Their contributions have and continue to take all forms – excellence in arts, positions of leadership in the world of business and technology, humanitarian efforts and many more. Our Grand Marshal and Honorees are presented with awards during the Gala event on Saturday, October 8 at the Waldorf Astoria, and of course they lead off the of cial Columbus Day Parade on Monday, October 10. Previous Parade Grand Marshals are a Who’s Who of famous Italians and Italian-Americans, including Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Tony Bennett, Frank Bisignano, Roberto Cavalli, Mario Andretti, Susan Lucci, Joseph Plumeri, Maria Bartiromo, Joe DiMaggio and the recently passed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

    This year you have picked Mr. Robert LaPenta as the parade’s Grand Marshal. Why?

    Robert LaPenta is a game changer in the world of business, and we are incredibly honored to have him not only as Grand Marshal of this year’s parade but also as a member of our Foundation. Robert is Founding General Partner of Aston Capital Partners and is renowned for his leadership experience in the aerospace, defense and electronics industries. He is also a noted philanthropist who believes in giving back to future generations. He was the rest in his family to attend college and is responsible for donating the largest single gift to his alma mater, Iona College. His selection as Grand Marshal exempli es the core purpose of the Columbus Day Parade – to celebrate the achievements, success and heritage of the Italian Americans.

    You are also celebrating Italian cuisine and fashion by honoring Mario Batali and Federica Marchionni. A few words on these choices?

    Mario Batali and Federica Marchionni are not only leaders in their respective industries, but they are also true visionaries admired throughout the city. Their selection as honorees is a testament to their many accomplishments. To have our Grand Marshal Robert LaPenta lead the parade with Mario and Federica by his side speaks to the vitality and importance of Italians and Italian Americans in the elds of food, fashion and business.

    Your activities are not limited to the Parade. Could you describe the work of the Foundation?

    The Columbus Citizens Foundation, through a broad range of philanthropic and cultural activities, provides opportunities for advancement to deserving Italian-American students through various scholarship and grant programs. In the coming school year, the Foundation is providing scholarship assistance to over 700 students. In addition, the Foundation actively supports organizations, causes, and relief efforts 

    that impact Italy and Italian-Americans. Following the terrible earthquake in Italy this summer, we immediately began raising funds through our members to help those in need as a result of that heart- breaking tragedy.

    What plans do you have for 2016-2017? Anything in the pipeline that you could anticipate? In particular, initiatives that can involve the new generations?

    To begin with, we really do start planning our 2017 Columbus Day Celebrations right after the 2016 Parade ends – so as Fifth Avenue is being returned to normal that Monday afternoon, our minds are already on the year ahead – and we start securing sponsors, considering potential Grand Marshals and strategizing on how to keep growing the parade and its audience year after year. From a Foundation membership point of view, we continue to grow. We love when a former scholarship recipient has used their education to succeed in their eld and returns to the Foundation as a member – nothing beats this full circle of our mission statement, which we see realized often. We also recently launched a Young Adult membership that has seen an in ux of under 30’s enter the Foundation to carry on our work. In addition, 2016 saw the creation of our rst mentorship and intern program which places former scholarship students into businesses run by our members, and this is an effort we hope to grow signi cantly in 2017. 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Culinary Wonders of Abruzzo

    Brought up among pots and pans, the smells of basil and fresh-cooked pasta, and the flavor of authentic tomatoes, Rosanna is used to gathering around a table for good food. “When I was a young girl, my job was to cook for my little sisters,” she says. “While my friends were cooking for their dolls, I had real people to feed, since my parents were at the restaurant.”

    You can see where this is going, right? A young girl grows up to run the family restaurant. Wrong. Rosanna decided to pursue a different thing altogether. Yet she never abandoned her passion for cooking.

    What is sometimes taken for granted is the courage it takes to leave a secure job and try cooking not only for Italy but New York, the city of her dreams.

    Rosanna Cooking’s American Adventure “During dinner one summer, one of my guests was an American couple. They were getting their first taste of dishes from my region. That August evening is when my American adventure began.”

    Partly for fun, partly as a challenge to herself, Rosanna invented a new world: she began traveling to New York to cook for the couple and hold events. Her first was at the Marymount School. “On those occasions, I realized that my simple, authentic recipes with real Abruzzese flavors were piquing people’s interest.”

    So, trip after trip, as she got to know more and more people in the American community, Rosanna realized that the great city, the image of which she’d grown up with on the TV, might have room for her and her brand of Abruzzese cooking.

    “Both in my kitchen and my day-to-day life,” she says, her eyes shining, “I try to combine my experience in Italy with my experience in New York. The result is a perfect mix of New York scruple and organization, and the carefree flair of nostra bella Italia.”

    Abruzzo: the Rugged and the Gentle
    Abruzzo is often overlooked by people who, right or wrong, are only familiar with the country’s famous cities, Venice, Florence, Rome. Yet once you encounter Abruzzo, you’re not likely to forget it.

    The Huffington Post recently called the region, with its mountains on one side and sea on the other, “the world’s fifth factor into our local products and have spawned our ‘surf and turf’ cuisine. Obviously, change is synonymous with growth, and Abruzzese cuisine is constantly evolving. For example, its use of spicy chili pepper. You could never do our dishes without it, but increasingly it is used as a final touch, to make our dishes mild...”

    Nevertheless, one characteristic of Abruzzese cooking is to respect tradition. “Our mountains and sea are the foundation of many recipes handed down from generation to generation to preserve our customs. Some examples are Campotosto mortadella, Solina bread, Ventricina dell’alto Vastese (Vasto-style sausage), Seven Virtues Minestrone. Then there’s Mazzaferrata di Cupello artichoke, Bocconotti, Ricotta cheesecake, Caciocavallo di Grotta, Aquila-style salami, Mosto Cotto, Vasto-style soup...”

    Rosanna could keep going
    Of course you could speak as highly about the wine, beginning with Montepulciano di Abruzzo, one of the best know wines in the world, and lighter rosés like the famous Cerasuolo. For a long time, Rosanna has collaborated with the Abruzzese company Collefrisio, becoming the brand’s ambassador and promoting good quality reds and whites.

    “We also have Trebbiano, the most widely planted varieties of white grape in the region. And then there’s Pecorino, an excellent wine that has been called “a red disguised as a white”; our region holds the record in Italy for producing the most Pecorino. Falanghina IgT is one of the oldest varietals – probably the oldest in the world – and was adopted by our neighbors in Campania. It can be found in Abruzzese cellars at its most pure. In recent years Abruzzo is producing a lot of sparkling wine, too, i.e., the classic Abruzzo DOC Spumante.”

    We hope you’ll get a chance to sample one of Chef d’Abruzzo Rosanna Cooking’s dishes soon! 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    The Fitzcarraldo Dream

    Ever try Northern Italian fare in Williamsburg east of Bedford Avenue? Maybe a tasty Ligurian pesto? Shocking as it sounds, it’s possible to do. In fact we’re here to tell you about just such a place that will knock your socks off. If you don’t like driving and don’t want to take a taxi, hop on the L train to Morgan Avenue.

    Walk a few blocks and amid the many warehouses, industrial buildings, and abandoned lots covering the area, you’ll come across a venue with a truly special, welcoming air. Once inside, you’ll forget all about the neighborhood you just tramped through: you are indeed in the heart of post- industrial Brooklyn, a.k.a. Bushwick.

    A fascinating location
    Livestream—the famous webcasting platform—occupies a 30,000 square foot loft space in a former warehouse. On the first oor of the same building is the restaurant we want to tell you about. It’s called Fitzcarraldo.

    Ready to be stunned? Inside you’ll find a venue with a mostly Northern Italian-inspired kitchen with roots in Liguria (you’ll also find Roman dishes and dishes that bring Naples to mind). The ambience is immediately enchanting. Before you is an enormous twelve-foot high window with iron bars. Fitzcarraldo also boasts a bar and Brooklyn-style open kitchen whose unexpected coziness will catch you by surprise.

    Everything contributes to create a bistro feel: tile foors, iron and wood furniture, hanging plants, decorations made with delicious recycled (or, as they say at Fitzcarraldo, sustainable) pieces. You’ll also find this place suited for several different kinds of dining experiences: from quiet and intimate dinners to large groups of friend, from lavish brunches to simple breakfasts. The ambience is not the only thing that makes for a unique experience; so does the menu. The kitchen juggles various traditional infuences and hints of the avant-garde.

    As we mentioned before, the place gets its inspiration from the Ligurian Riviera and the Italian Alps and they serve a lot of pesto, polenta, nebbiolo braised mushrooms and farinata, though you’ll also find their interpretation of the Roman dish cacio e pepe.

    Managing partner Henry M. Rich (who also manages Rucola a few blocks away with his cousin and fellow Brooklynite Julian Brizzi and Chef Joe Pasqualetto) says his interest in the cuisine and culture of Northern Italy was sparked by the Slow Food Movement. Slow Food, an international organization headquartered in Piedmont, guarantees a very careful selection of ingredients. Coming from New York and the surrounding area, the food at Fitzcarraldo travels “zero kilometers” and is of the highest quality.

    New Dreams, new Plans
    “It’s only the dreamers who ever move mountains,” says the star of Fitzcarraldo. In Herzog’s film, the dreamer dreams of building a large opera house in a small village in the Amazon. Fitzcarraldo the restaurant has a dream too, which is to transform the restaurant into a restaurant-cum-arts and sustainability platform.

    Though it will remain open for dinner on Friday and Saturday, Sunday through Thursday, the space will be used to pursue a few objectives in line with their values.

    As Henry Rich tells us, “We have been inspired by the actions, however small, of writers, entrepreneurs, and activists who have made progress against income inequity and climate change through their actions. Up until now, we’ve kept our focus on serving healthy food for fair prices with a focus on lower carbon footprint plants. It’s simply not enough...”

    So what else does Fitzcarraldo have in mind? First of all, starting in the spring, on the first Sunday of every month there will be talks on various subjects, continuing a series begun last year when they talked about global sustainability, the Paris COP21 conference, therapy, and wellness (speakers included Rich M. Harris as well as Dayna Tortorici of N+1, Alex Provan of Triple Canopy, and Max Schorr of Good Magazine).

    These events will be accompanied by a ten- dollar-all-you-can-eat dinner as “a sustainable challenge” for the restaurant: food must be healthy, environmentally sustainable, delicious and cost less than ten dollars.

    Secondly, they are launching a partnership with local art galleries and registered 501(c) (3) entities to offer discounts for events and meetups at Fitzcarraldo—they are working with Issue Project Room, N+1, Triple Canopy, React to Film and Slow Food among others (some events will be streamed live thanks to a partnership with

    Last but not least, Fitzcarraldo will be hosting pop-ups of innovative restaurants and bars from around the world—Rich is working with Cookies/Cream from Berlin on a pop-up in April. So check their website to keep tabs on what’s coming up. Those interested in finding out more about this original place— Italian inspired and New York styled—can write to [email protected] and [email protected]