On Monday March 16th Arthur Brocato and staff came in on their normally closed day to build their annual St. Joseph’s Altar. Just as they were finishing, the city announced restaurants and bars would be closed to inside dining.
Arthur made a decision to move the altar from the back of the gelato parlor to the front window of the store.
The Quest to erect Historic Markers to the Sicilian Migration to New Orleans on Contributions to Safety, Culture, and Economic Development started in 2017.
Sicilians began arriving in New Orleans in the 1820s on the lemon boats and worked in French Market and the docks of New Orleans. By 1860, approximately 1,200 Sicilians lived in New Orleans. Italy did not become a country until 1861.
Starting in the 1880s, over 60,000 Sicilians were brought into Louisiana via New Orleans to work on plantations. Within three years, many had oved to New Orleans and opened grocery stores, which they lived above. Estimates are over 50% of grocery stores in Louisiana were owned by Sicilians by 1910.
In 1897, the Dingley Tariff was passed on imported pasta. As a result eleven pasta factories opened in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The Taromina Pasta Factory was across the street from the proposed marker site.
The marker application process started in February of 2019 by attending a class by the state of Louisiana.
In May of 2019 two submissions are made to the State of Louisiana Dept. of Tourism for Historic Markers.
In June of 2019 after approval by the Dept of Tourism, the submissions are sent to LSU History Dept.
In July 2019 after approval by the LSU History Dept., the submissions are sent to a State Commission for Approval.
Marsala, who is President of the American-Italian Federation
of the Southeast, suggested three locations for the marker: 1. In Jackson Square near the former site of
the Taromina Pasta Factory. 2. On
Decatur Street near other Historic Markers.
& 3. Near the Marker to the Transatlantic slave Trade.
City Council Member Kristin Palmer, who represents the French Quarter, suggested during the Quality of Life Committee meeting that a commission of several organizations be formed to study historic markers before the Sicilian Markers could be erected even though for years she has been working on the committee that was erecting the Transatlantic Slave Trade Markers without oversight.
Palmer stated her office would organize the committee. Following the meeting, she emailed that she spoke in error and the Council has no jurisdiction over markers. Her staff also apologized for not responding for three weeks to Marsala’s email, until the hour after he spoke at the council meeting.
New Orleans Parks & Parkways later responded that Jackson Square is not designed to honor military, even though there is a statue to Major General Andrew Jackson and annual ceremonies in honor of all those that fought in the battle of New Orleans. Neither the council member Palmer nor the Director of New Orleans Parks & Parkways would meet with Marsala to resolve the issue.
Plans are to donor additional markers for Salvatore Catalano, who piloted Stephen Decatur’s ship and for Mother Cabrini, who has a park named for her. Mother Cabrini arrived in New Orleans in 1892 to open a orphanage for victims of the Yellow Fever pandemics.
In late 2019, Mayor Cantrell announced she wanted to allocate approximately $3 million per year to non-profits that promote the Culture of New Orleans as that benefits New Orleans tourism.
The Sicilian quest to obtain city approval to recognize the contributions of Sicilians to the safety, culture, and economic development of New Orlerans is to erect 4-8 markers in the area of the French Quarter that was once known as “Little Palermo” or “The Spaghetti District.”
The State of Louisiana has a posted, efficient, and formal process to review and approve markers. An applicant has to provide validation of all text in the marker. The next needed step is a equal, fair, and clear process at the City of New Orleans.
The Story of the Taormina Pasta Factory becoming Progressive Foods
Below is an excerpt from “That’s Amore: Italian Food in America,” the first chapter of The World on a Plate.
The burgeoning Italian community [in late 19th century New Orleans] clamored for tomato paste, anchovies, cheeses, and other products that only their homeland could supply. Sicilian importers like Giuseppe Uddo, the founder of Progresso Foods, responded to this craving. The eldest of six children, Giuseppe grew up in Salemi, a small Sicilian village twenty-five miles from the Mediterranean. After the third grade, he quit school to help support his family. The nine-year-old drove a horse-drawn cart selling olives and cheeses in Salemi and nearby towns. Giuseppe was a venditor, a traditional Sicilian vocation.
On one of his trips, the peddler met Giuseppe Taormina, a successful food merchant, who had many relatives in New Orleans. Taormina took to the young salesman and introduced him to his daughter, Eleanora. The two married and decided to try their luck in New Orleans. Giuseppe and Eleanora, both then twenty-four, sailed from Palermo and landed at the Canal Street docks in 1907.
Since the food trade was “all he knew,” his son Frank said, Giuseppe went to work for his brother-in-law, Francesco Taormina, who had an import business. He lost the job when Francesco closed down to return to Italy to fight in the army. Eleanora’s cousins, also food merchants, hired Giuseppe to work in their warehouse.
The Uddos lived in a crowded tenement in the French Quarter, which was dubbed Piccola Palermo (Little Palermo). They shared a toilet with the other dwellers. Laundry hung in the outside courtyard.
Giuseppe was stranded on Christmas Eve of 1909 when his employers went bankrupt. He now had two young children to support and wondered what he would tell his wife. On his way home through the French Quarter, he met a Mr. Cusimano, who owned a macaroni factory in the district. Cusimano asked the disconsolate Sicilian what was worrying him. After hearing Uddo’s tale of woe, he offered him goods to start his own business and promised him credit to buy more.
Giuseppe was ready to strike out on his own. He had a supply of olives, cheeses, and tomato paste but no way of transporting them to sell. He went back to Eleanora’s cousins and implored them: “If you’re going to go bankrupt, give me your horse.” They agreed and Giuseppe borrowed the money to buy Sal. A godsend, “the horse knew where to go,” Frank said. Since his father adamantly refused to learn English, he depended on the horse to take him on the sales routes to Italian customers. According to Frank, this was the beginning of Progresso: “The horse started the business.”
Giuseppe left home about 3 A.M. to travel to Kenner, Harahan, and other Italian truck-farming communities outside New Orleans. “The roads were terrible and the mosquitoes were so big, you could put saddles on them,” his son, Salvadore, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. After three days on the road, the peddler returned home and prepared his wares for another trip. He and his wife spiffed up and relabeled the cans of tomatoes they had gotten from Cusimano.
As business grew, Uddo expanded his venture. He replaced Sal and bought trucks. He purchased a small warehouse in the French Quarter on Decatur Street, installing his family upstairs to live and running his peddling operation below. He also opened a grocery on the ground floor and placed his brother, Gaetano, recently arrived from Sicily, in charge.
Just before World War I, his father, Frank remembered, decided to “gamble everything.” Giuseppe took out a loan and bought three thousand cases of tomato paste. When an embargo closed Italian ports, Uddo’s sales boomed, and he used his profits to bring the rest of his family to New Orleans. His parents, Salvadore and Rose, and his sisters, Tomasa and Francesca, joined him. The patriarch made all his family members stockholders. Giuseppe “did not believe in paying salaries,” Frank said.
After the war, Uddo bought a factory in Riverdale, California, owned by the Vaccaros, the New Orleans fruit magnates, which manufactured tomato paste. He sent his brother Gaetano out to run it. The plant was the first in the United States to make the product, which had previously been available only from Italy. The war had taught Uddo that it was too dangerous for his company to rely exclusively on imports.
Giuseppe was always dreaming up new enterprises. He started New Orleans’s first movie theater, built a cigar-rolling factory, and opened a ship chandler’s business in Galveston, Mississippi. But he was “never a good follow-up man,” Frank discovered. Once he began making candles in the back of his warehouse, but they all melted in the city’s torrid heat.
The California cannery was turning out more tomato products than the company could sell in Louisiana. Uddo wanted to tap new markets, especially in the rapidly growing Italian enclaves in the Northeast. “There are more people in New York than there are in Rome,” he told Frank.
Giuseppe joined forces with the Taorminas, the members of another Sicilian trading clan, who had begun a struggling import business in New York City. Frank G. and Vincent Taormina, distant cousins of Eleanora Uddo, and their cousins, Frank R. and Eugene, were floundering when Giuseppe rescued them. Giuseppe advanced the Taormina “boys,” as he liked to call them, vital capital and brought his family to New York in 1930 to help out the firm. Three years later, Frank G. Taormina married Giuseppe’s daughter, Rose Marie. As Frank Uddo tells it, this alliance “cemented things” in the Uddo-Taormina company, the newly merged enterprise.
Francesco Taormina, Eleanora’s brother, sent olives, pomidori pelati (peeled Italian plum tomatoes), and other staples from Sicily to their Brooklyn headquarters. The California cannery sent carloads of tomato paste to New York for distribution. Olive oil was shipped from Tunisia, where Giuseppe’s cousin owned a factory.
Sicilian imports poured into Brooklyn. The business sold sardines, anchovies, and incanestrato, a cheese molded in a wicker basket (canestro), to ethnic groceries. It roasted peppers and marketed salted chickpeas (ceci), which Italians snacked on during feast days and other celebrations. Caponata was a signature item. The Sicilian appetizer, a traditional summer dish, combined eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and celery in a sweet-and-sour blend made piquant with capers, olives, and anchovies.
The company prospered. It developed a clientele among both retailers and wholesalers. The major Italian middlemen who worked the Northeastern market bought large orders of Uddo-Taormina tomatoes. “We were playing both ends of the stick,” Frank Uddo, who was now working with the company, said.
World War II boosted sales. “During the war you could pack anything and sell it,” Frank said. The company had to increase domestic production because “they couldn’t import any product,” John Taormina, Vincent’s son, recalled. In 1942 they bought an old factory in Vineland, New Jersey.
John Viola and Rossella Rago of the Italian American Podcast spent the weekend in New Orleans as part of the St. Joseph’s Society Marching Club’s events.
Friday started with the 50th annual pasta celebration, which is 500lbs of pasta. Since 2006 the pasta has been prepared by Chef David Grecco.
Pictured with the “Bowl of Pasta” are Peter Gilberti, President of the St. Joseph’s Society; Anabella Imbornone, Queen for 2020; John Viola, Rossella Rago, Michael Fave, of De Cecco Pasta; and Chef David Grecco.
For 2020 Italian American Podcast filmed the places to experience the Sicilian Migration to New Orleans. John and Rosella started Saturday at the Jazz Museum, which has an exhibit for Louis Prima during 2019-2021.
Umberto Mucci is the publisher of www.WetheItalians.com in Rome Italy. Charles Marsala is the President of the American-Italian Federation of the Southeast.
The 45-minute interview covers several topics including what happens after the lock-down ends. Mucci explains the rules of the lockdown and how his family is adapting. Mucci noted that Italy is 11.5 days ahead of the US in the development of the Corona-19 Virus.
The lockdown is designed to stop the spread to southern Italy and Sicily, as they do not have the facilities to deal with mass hospitalization.
Italy is classifying any the death of any individual with complications of the Corona virus-19 as having died from the virus regardless of any pre-existing illnesses.
One concern is what happens after Italy ends the lockdown, but other countries in Europe are still dealing with spikes. Will travelers from those countries be allowed into Italy?
As of Monday March 9, 2020 New Orleans had no cases of Corona-19 by Monday March 16, New Orleans had 105 cases.
Italy started on March 13th at 6pm (Italian time) or noon New Orleans time singing the national anthem.
Marsala suggested American Italians sing the Italian National at 6pm in support.
One of the oldest popular traditions in Sicily is St. Joseph’s Day, whose celebrations take place on March 19th. Sacred and profane mix together during this day, because it’s surely a moment of deep devotion and homage to St. Joseph, but it’s also a folkloristic feast rich in traditions and joyful moments.
Although it’s also celebrated throughout Italy, this day has a special meaning for Sicilians. According to legend, during the Middle Ages, Sicily was affected by a terrible drought and famine: many people died of starvation and Sicilians started praying and begging St. Joseph promising him to celebrate his day with the “St. Joseph’s table”, an altar with special foods, flowers and devotional object as their thanksgiving for his great miracle.
New Orleans was the place of immigration for over 60,000 Sicilians during 1884-1915. The tradition of be grateful and giving on St. Joseph’s Day continues began in New Orleans and has spread throughout America.
The St. Joseph’s Society feeds the poor, teaches altar building, and parades in New Orleans, and transfers the heritage and values of Sicilian ancestors from generation to generation.
Their honoring of St. Joseph begins on the Friday before the parade with a 500lb bowl of pasta and the presentation of scholarships. Their parade for 2020 has been postponed due to the Corona Virus.
The Fairgrounds horse Race Track of New Orleans hosted sixty members of the Societa Italiana di Mutua Beneficenza Cefalutana on Sunday March 8, 2020.
Cefalù is a city located geographically in the middle of the northern coast of Sicily. The word “Cefalutana” comes from the old Sicilian dialect, meaning “of or from Cefalù.”
The Società Italiana di Mutua Beneficenza Cefalutana was founded in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 19, 1887, and incorporated on August 10, 1887.
Its officers are: David Matassa, President; Christopher Series Bardes, First vice-president; Peter Lamanna Sr., Second vice-president; Rose Brocato, Secretary; Lisa Serio, Treasurer; Edwin Reeves, Jr., Financial Secretary; and Conchetta MAresciallo, Grand Marshall.
The original purpose of the Società Cefalutana was for mutual benefit (Mutua Beneficenza) of the many immigrants who came from Cefalu`. They assisted each other in times of illness, death, financial need, language/cultural difficulties, etc. These early members, working together in a true spirit of brotherhood with their “paisani,” enabled the mainstreaming of the entire group into American society. Thanks to their efforts, and those who followed them, the ideals of the Society have not changed.
During World War I the Società raised funds from throughout the South for the defense of Cefalù, including purchasing a cannon for their mother village.
On June 5, 1908, the Società Cefalutana joined with other Italian immigrant societies to form the Italian Hall Association. This organization was responsible for the purchase, on July 1, 1912, of the building at 1020 Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, thereafter called the Italian Hall. Members were either immigrants or descendants of immigrants who had struggled to make a new life in America. The Italian Hall was used as a meeting place for these societies. Historic records show many parties and dances were held there to help raise money for the less fortunate. In 1966 this historic building was sold, and converted to luxury condominiums. Still on and with the building are the Italian Coat-of-Arms inscribed with the words “Unione Italiana” located on the top of its front and two lions which guard its front entrance.
Membership is open only to those over the age of 18 who have blood ties to Cefalù. Spouses may be associate dues-paying members and are entitled to all benefits. Children of adult members will be considered members until they reach their eighteenth birthday, at which time they can apply to become full members.
The Jean Lafitte facility of National Park Service of New Orleans for March is presenting information on the Sicilian Migration into New Orleans. As part of the month’s activities Charles Marsala presented 60 slides in one hour on the history from 1682 to present.
Charles Marsala’s presenation began with Henri de Tonti landing in Buras in 1682 and Bayou Goula in 1686.
The presentation included information on the new New Orleans Insider tour app for “Little Palermo.” which has forty stops in the French Quarter of New Orleans. AWE News has created eight playlists of 30 minutes each on the Silian Migration.
Marsala’s presentation include products and concepts Sicilians and Italians brought to Louisiana or were involved with developing: The Muffaletta, the individual cocktail, the LSU Fighting Tigers, changing the name from Jass to Jazz, advising Lincoln to make the war of 1861 to end slavery.
March is an important month for New Orleans Sicilians has the infamous lynching of March 14, 1891. On March 14, 1891 a mob of 5,000 lynched eleven Sicilians. Nine were shot and two were hanged. In 2019, Mayor Latoya Cantrell aploogized for the involvement of then Mayor Joseph Shakspeare in the lynching.
Through Louisiana numerous cities will celebrate St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th. On July 17th the State Italian Federation will host a convention followed by the Baton Rouge Italian Society’s Festa on July 18th. Lena Prima will perform on the night of the 17th.
The IASJS St Joseph’s Day poster celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Parade! This piece is artfully crafted by Miss Olivia Angeline Christensen, 19. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to own a piece of history celebrating 50 years of honoring St Joseph and Pride In Our Italian Heritage!
Olivia’s first year as an IASJS Parade Maid was at 4 years old (2005). She currently is a freshmen at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina studying Design and International Business. The love of art, her family heritage and tradition inspired her to design the 50th Anniversary Poster for the Italian American St. Joseph Society.
The poster is offered in two sizes. 12″x18″ (Small) @ $25 each and 24″x36″ (Large) @ $45 each. This treasure will be available for sale at both General Membership Meetings at the KC Hall on Vicksburg St (March 4 & 11), the Maid Presentation at the Piazza d Italia (March 8), the Pasta Party (March 13) and the night of the Gala (March 14).
Grand Marshal for the 2020 50th Anniversary Parade, Michael Badalucco, a Brooklyn native, got his start in the entertainment industry at a very young age, going to work with his father Giuseppe, a Sicilian-born immigrant, who worked as a carpenter on movie sets.
In 1963, during the filming of Fail Safe starring Henry Fonda, a photo of a young boy was needed. Eight-year old Badalucco posed for the picture, and thus began his acting career. He went on to Xaverian H.S. and got his first taste of theatre there in musicals like A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and dramas like Shaw’s St. Joan. He began his formal acting studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. It was there that he cut his teeth on stage, performing in over 20 plays. He graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Arts in 1976.
In 2003, his alma mater conferred upon him an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, citing his “extraordinary success while never losing perspective on what is important in life.” His first speaking role was in the feature film Raging Bull, directed by Martin Scorsese, which led to additional roles in movies such as Broadway Danny Rose, directed by Woody Allen.
Throughout the 1990’s, Badalucco appeared in a series of memorable supporting roles in such acclaimed films as Miller’s Crossing, Sleepless in Seattle, Jungle Fever, The Professional, and Mac. His performance in the romantic comedy One Fine Day,prompted star Michelle Pfeiffer to recommend Badalucco to her husband,David E. Kelley, for a role in his ABC television series The Practice. Not only did Badalucco get the part, but his performance as Jimmy Berluti would ultimately serve as his breakout role. In 1999 he received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Next, on the big screen, he portrayed serial killer David Berkowitz in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam.
He then stepped into the shoes of notorious gangster George “Baby Face” Nelson for the throwback Coen Brothers comedy, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and appeared in their subsequent film, The Man Who Wasn’t There.
In addition to Badalucco’s love of acting, he has been involved with a number of charitable organizations which include The Jimmy Fund and The Little Sisters of the Poor. In 2003, Habitat for Humanity of Los Angeles presented him with the Building Hope Award. He received the Heart of the City Award from Heartshare Human Services of New York in 2005. In 2013, he was inducted into the Diocese of Brooklyn Hall of Fame. Mr. Badalucco is privileged to support Italian-American causes through his work with the National Italian American Foundation and Arba Sicula, an organization which preserves, studies, and promotes the language and culture of Sicily.
Anabella Odillie Imbornone was born in Metairie, LA on July 25, 2001 to Daniel and Sylvia Imbornone. Her father Daniel C. Imbornone is board member and treasurer for our organization and her uncle Charles A. Imbornone is also a board member. Her brother, Antonio is a member as well as her grandfather Charles J. Imbornone and all of her uncles and cousins.
Anabella has participated in our organization since she was 4 years old, making this her 15th consecutive year as a Maid. She graduated from St. Martin’s High School in May 2019 with academic honors including earning the award of Commended Scholar for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. She was a member of the National Honor Society and earned athletic awards from both St. Martin’s and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. Anabella lettered in cross country, indoor track and track and field her four years of high school.
She has been a volunteer for organizations like Race for the Cure, Nola BlueDoo Run, Habitat for Humanity, Luna Fete Arts Council of New Orleans, Terraces on Tulane Nursing Home, Homer-A-Plessy Community School and Kehoe France School during her high school career. Anabella was awarded three academic scholarships from Auburn University in Auburn, AL where she is currently majoring in early childhood education. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority where she holds three different director and chairwoman positions.
She spends her free time volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club of the cities of Auburn and Opelika, AL, as well as Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Columbus, GA. She also volunteered the past two years with our organization at the St Jude Community Center to help provide food for the less fortunate, a tradition she hopes to continue. Anabella is humbled and honored to be representing her family, her heritage and our organization in our 50th anniversary as our 2020 Queen.
From Nola.com’s 2018 series on the 300th Anniversary of the founding of New Orleans.
“Starting in 1884 and continuing through to 1924, an estimated 290,000 Italian immigrants — a great deal of them from Sicily — arrived in New Orleans, fleeing economic and political turmoil. In short order, their indelible influence would be felt on the city.
With the French Quarter no longer a fashionable address, many of the city’s more well-heeled residents moved Uptown, leaving the city’s newcomers to set up shop there and in surrounding neighborhoods. In fact, they did so literally: So many Italian-owned mom-and-pop corner groceries dotted the French Quarter, and so many Italian farmers sold their wares in the French Market, that the Quarter eventually became unofficially known as “Little Palermo.” “