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Going to the Movies in Italy

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Ah, going to the movies…the big screen, the packed seats, the laughter and the tears from a great film, the whispers of “whodunit?,” the couples holding hands, and the wafting aroma of…marinara sauce? One of the pleasures of Italy is going to the movies. It’s an experience all its own. I love movies, and while studying in Rome in the 90’s, most weekends I’d frequent a movie house in the Trastevere neighborhood. “Il Pasquino” showed American movies, typically ones I’d already seen, but it was a great taste of home. My first time at Il Pasquino was the most memorable, ...

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Celebrating Slow Food in the North End

From left: Rocco and Bartolomeo De Stefano, Carlos inside Boschetto Bakery (now closed).

The “Slow Food Movement” was founded in 1986 as an alternative to fast foods and with the goal to preserve and promote regional cuisines. Now an international movement, it was founded in Italy (of course) where it grew out of a protest against the building of a McDonalds near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Its “Manifesto,” initially endorsed by delegates from 15 countries in 1989, reads in part: A firm defense of quest material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life. May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long lasting enjoyment preserve ...

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Carnevale with the Vaudo Clan — In person, this time

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Last year I wrote about the Vaudo clan’s annual pre-Lenten Carnevale meal – a daylong event attended by over 60 people spanning five generations. This year I had the honor of participating in the meal at the invitation of Tommy and Rita Damigella. Held at their lovely home in Topsfield, Massachusetts, the gathering was an experience of a lifetime that brought back memories of my own past family meals and thoughts about the future of Italian and Catholic traditions. As you may recall, the Vaudo meal tradition was brought over from Gaeta, Italy, by Salvatore and Anna Vaudo and has ...

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The Italian Mercato: Finding Treasures Everywhere

Campo de' Fiori in Rome.

Just like fresh air revitalizes the soul, open air markets stimulate the senses. Rain or shine, tented tables regularly bring neighbors, tourists, and communities together from spring to fall, providing a taste of Earth’s bounty and a vast assortment of handmade collectibles and vintage wares. Grab your family and meet your friends at an open air market, because a visit is not always about what objects you procure but rather the experience you’ll savor. Crates overflowing with just-ripened fruits and vegetables, iced pallets of succulent seafood pulled from the water earlier that morning, and bunches of aromatic flowers at the ...

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Italians Take Their Superstitions Seriously

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I remember my grandmother’s panicked reaction to my nearly knocking a large mirror from a wall as a child. It wasn’t the cleanup or the possible injury she feared from it shattering to the floor. It was the fate of her granddaughter, strapped with seven long years of bad luck that would ensue from a broken mirror. When it happened, my nana set the mirror aside, hugged me tight, wiped the nervous perspiration from her nose, and walked me to her kitchen to find something sweet to eat. I’ll never forget it. Italian culture is rich with superstitions, both good ...

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Finding Something Positive in Boston’s Worst Winter

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Most Italians know that when you lose something, you should pray to Sant’Antonio. This small act of asking for help usually works. As such, I have been sending him desperate pleas quite often these past few weeks; I hope by the time this story is published, he will have answered my prayers and the city of Boston will have found its lost sidewalks. Or at the very least, I hope we can back out of our driveways without performing the sign of the cross and whispering a silent prayer that we don’t get hit. I don’t think I’m alone when ...

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An Ice Idea — How an 18th Century Boston Entrepreneur Saw Value in Ice

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“This Winter [1740 – 1741] was the Coldest the Old People ever I remembered. Boston Harbour was Froze up twice. In Cold February’ was the deepest Snow we have had for 25 Years. There was a Tent kept on Ice between Boston & the Castle’ for entertainment. Horses Crossed Charlestown & Winimit Ferry Daily. Sleds loaded with Wood came from Charleston to Barton’s point. The Snow & Ice in some of Streets was 3 feet deep and lay in part till Middle of April.” These words were written in the diary of John Tudor, who lived in the North End ...

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The American Connection

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A former colleague of mine, Patricia Park, once wrote an essay called “My Least Favorite Question,” which was published in The Guardian. You can find it here. In it she described her experience of often being asked her least favorite question: “Where are you from?” In asking this of Patricia, the questioner did not usually mean “where in the United States are you from” but “where outside of the United States are you from?” They asked her this because Patricia has Korean ancestry and so she ‘looks’ Korean. And because of this people assume she is not American, that she ...

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The Game of Bocce, Yesterday and Today

Playing bocce in the North End.

Bocce is a competitive sport, a strategic game, and a leisurely pastime, all rolled into one ever-popular activity. Dating back to the Roman Empire, bocce, in all its derivations, has since captured the hearts of players and spectators the world over, no matter the age or skill level, where the objective is to roll balls on a court as close to a target ball as possible to score points. And, if you peek into some of the backyards or parking lots of local hangouts across America, it seems the popularity of bocce has recently shifted into high gear, especially in ...

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Foul Faux Pas, or… No Birds in the House!

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Like most tales of woe, it started off innocent enough. My best friend Paul and I were lazily walking the holiday décor aisles of Target. We did that sometimes after dinner on a Friday night. We’d head to Walgreens or Target, peruse the dollar bins for knick-knacks and bargains, and pat ourselves on the back for treasure-hunting such amazing deals. If I’m being honest, we still do that today; we did it last week. But I digress. On the night in question we had grabbed a bite to eat at TGIFriday’s in Everett and had walked over to Target to ...

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Remembering Coach Dom Campochiaro of the North End

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In December, the Post-Gazette and the Regional Review both wrote in remembrance of Joseph “Dom” Campochiaro, who passed away on December 8 of 2014. I would like to add a few words here as well. I was one of the many lucky North End youth to have had Dom as a coach when I played Little League. Dom’s patience, as Sal Giarratani stated in a quote from his Post-Gazette editorial, was endless. He had a kindness about him that never wavered, and a certain smile in his eye that never left no matter what. In addition, it seemed to me ...

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Introducing Un Momento!, with Author Gina Fava

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Do you ever chuckle when you notice old-fashioned things from the past that have coaxed their way into the present? Isn’t it funny that the Nutella that could only be found in your Nonna’s pantry which she’d brought back from Italy in her suitcase is now found on every grocery shelf in America? I smile at the sweater that my dad handed down to me — a wool pullover he’d outgrown that his grandmother had knit him — because now my teenage daughter wears it skiing. You know the bocce courts behind some of the bars in Boston… Un momento! ...

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