This is the Italian American Podcast, and in this episode, we will answer some questions from our listeners on a variety of topics including Italian American food traditions, the Italian culture, Little little Italys as well as genealogy and ancestral research. Andiamo!
You can find each question below and a summary of Dolores and Anthony’s answers below in bullet points. Please feel free to add your thoughts by leaving comments at the bottom of this post.
I find that as I am getting older, I am trying to find a balance between upholding Italian American food traditions (high-carb) and eating better and staying active for health. Do you struggle with this? How do you handle this and how? – Joe DeGiorgio
- A lot of Italian Americans do not only love the taste of traditional foods, but also love cooking them. You have to accept the fact that you can’t eat these Italian American favorites every day, because they can potentially cause health problems.
- What I do, is I don’t eat pasta or pizza, or anything traditional that is not so good for me when I am alone, or even with my husband on a random weeknight. I take this approach so that when I do then get together for traditional dinners, I know I can eat whatever I want and not worry about it, because I know I didn’t have pizza or pasta already three times that week.
- We have to sit back and realize that the tradition of eating these favorites every day is a tradition, but it’s not really a deeply rooted one, as our ancestors did not have the money or luxury to eat such delicacies every day. So, the actual food and amount of food that we are eating right now, is not necessarily the same type of food that our ancestors ate back then.
- A lot of us fall into patterns and traditions from people that cause us to eat a certain way and unfortunately, certain diseases that are prevalent in for instance the United States are directly related to that.
I am considering a trip to Italy to visit the towns my family come from, Fabricio and Cuzanno Muto. I was hoping to stay at B&Bs in the towns and possibly just really steep into the culture by staying in each town for a few weeks. Do you have suggestions of how I can find relatives in these towns that are trustworthy and open to spending some time with our family members? – Christine Melillo
- I recommend staying at different places for about 5-7 days at a time. Visit different stores and cafes to get into the rhythm of the town.
- Try to search for relatives you might have in Italy before you go. A great tool you can use to do this is paginebianche.it where you can type in your surname and the village in Italy your ancestors came from.
- Always remember to be cautious and try to get any evidence by doing some research on your own on the ancestral websites to match the names of the people you find to your lineage. If you really can’t evidence, proving they are your relatives, just meet them at a public place and don’t go to their house.
- Even if you don’t find any living relatives in Italy, you should still go and visit your ancestral villages. Going back to the villages that your ancestors came from can be a moving and life changing experience.
When I visit cities in the US, I always look up to see if they have a Little Italy. If they do, it’s always on my agenda to visit. Oddly enough, I am from Houston, Texas and we don’t have one and we are the fourth largest city in the country. Why are Italians not concerned with promoting our culture as so many other cultures seem to be? – Marilyn Walden
- This is a very interesting question and the way you phrased it is very interesting to me. Little Italys were not created to promote our culture, they were historical hamlets where Italians congregated when they came here from Italy as immigrants. They were dubbed Little Italys because all Italians were living there.
- If you don’t see a lot of Little Italys in a lot of towns you visit in the US, it’s just because at this point in time, we don’t live in little Italys anymore.
- Little Italys were created as places for Italians to live temporarily until they could find a permanent residence, but the point was, that they were always supposed to leave, eventually.
- The fact that Little Italys aren’t as prevalent anymore, does not mean that we are not interested in promoting our culture, it just means that our culture is at a different place in its time than other cultures.
What are the most important questions to ask of our Italian families here and abroad? – Karen Whitney
- You can use all of the online tools you want in terms of genealogy research, but there is nothing like getting the real stories from your family.
- I like to ask about stories because the stories are the things you can’t necessarily find on these genealogy websites. Things like: “What was your father like, tell me some stories about him?” What are some things that you and your siblings did?
- You should still try and find facts, years and dates for research purposes, but you can’t find the stories anywhere else. Through the stories, you will learn so much about your family and you will also learn about the personalities of the people who make up your DNA.
- Through stories, you also learn a lot about the culture your ancestors lived in the values they had. Once you get people talking about little things like this, really big things tend to come out.
Have you dreamed of reconnecting with your ancestral homeland by becoming an Italian citizen? Since a change in Italian law has allowed dual citizenship between Italy and the United States, thousands of Italian Americans have done just that. Italian citizenship by descent is granted to those individuals who can prove Italian ancestry (even if through several generations). If you or a family member is interested in pursuing their Italian citizenship, contact the law office of Michael De Sapio for a free consultation to see if you qualify. They are a full service law firm based in New Jersey that has served clients throughout the United States in assisting with dual citizenship applications. Mike will work with you, and his experienced network of researchers, genealogists and translators both in Italy and the US to guide you through the process. Don’t miss the opportunity to reclaim your right to be an Italian citizen. Contact them at 908-996-6766 or www.desapioesq.com for more information.
Anthony Fasano and Dolores Alfieri Taranto
Co-Hosts, The Italian American Podcast