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The Italians of Lake Village Arkansas & Sunnyside Plantation

Four thousand handmade meatballs to feed 2,000 people at the 100th annual pasta luncheon.

The 110th Annual Lake Village Spaghetti Lunch at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. Delta Italians~Italians of Sunnyside, Lake Village, Arkansas, The 125th Anniversary is planned for Memorial Day 2020. On the Church property there is a detailed Museum of the Italian history of Sunnyside Plantation. The museum was developed by Libby Borgognoni, who has produced three books on history of Sunnyside Plantation. Libby has also produced a cookbook from the local Italian cooks of Lake Village.

The Sunnyside Plantation was a cotton plantation near Lake Village in Chicot County, Arkansas, in the Arkansas Delta region. Built as a cotton plantation in the Antebellum South, from the 1890s to the 1910s, it used employed immigrants from Northern Italy, many of whom were subject to peonage.

By 1886, it was acquired by New York banker Austin Corbin as repayment of debt incurred by Calhoun.

With the help of Emanuele Ruspoli, 1st Prince of Poggio Suasa, who served as the Mayor of Rome from 1892 to 1899, Corbin brought Italian immigrants led by Pietro Bandini to work on the plantation. The immigrants came from Marche, Emilia and Veneto, setting sail from Genoa and arriving in New Orleans, Louisiana. They lived in a house on their own twelve-and-a-half acre lots of cotton, which they were obligated to pay back over the next twenty years, with an annual rate of five percent. Each immigrant picked the cotton on his own lot, which Corbin agreed to purchase. When Corbin died in 1896, many Italians stayed on the plantation. Moreover, Prince Ruspoli visited the plantation in 1896.

In December 1898, Corbin’s heirs leased the plantation to Hamilton R. Hawkins, Orlando B. Crittenden, Morris Rosenstock, and Leroy Percy. However, the businessmen were accused of “peonage”.[10] In 1907, after hearing many complaints from immigrants, Edmondo Mayor des Planches, the Italian Ambassador to the United States, visited the plantation.[9] As he explained in his 1913 report, Attraverso gli Stati Uniti per L’Emigrazione Italiana, he was unimpressed by Percy’s rosy rewriting of reality.[9]

Shortly after, Mary Grace Quackenbos, an attorney with the United States Department of Justice, visited the plantation to look into repeated reports of peonage. In her report, she agreed that it was practised, and added that only prosecution could put an end to it.

Today over 1,000,000 American-Italians can claim a connection to Sunnyside Plantation.

That’s a lot of meatballs.
The annual pasta feed is a multi-generational event.
Staff gets to enjoy the meal.
Located at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Lake Village
Walking out the church to a view of the lake, which was once part of the Mississippi River.
The Chefs

The Lake Village Foundation is run by Dr. Anthony Borgognoni and his wife Gina. The Museum was created by his mother Libby Borgognoni.
The history of each family is in the museum.
Pasta chefs and descendants of the 1896 migration.

Family and patriotism

Nina & Pinta Toured by Gulf Coast Italian American Cultural Society

Members of the Gulf Coast Italian American Cultural Society (GCIACS) toured the Nina & Pinta in Biloxi Mississippi

GCIACS President Joseph Ventura organized a wonderful tour on a beautiful day for twenty members of the GCIAS. The ships are in Biloxi for a few weeks as they tour the Western Hemisphere.

Prior to the tour, Dee Zee – a former history teacher and the ships’ historian, spent fifteen minutes giving a detailed talk on the history of Christopher Columbus and the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. “Dee Zee” talk educated the group on what to look for as it toured the ships, which also had staff on board to show details.

In 1450 the Ottoman Turks closed off the land trade route to the Far East. In 1476, Columbus was on a ship that was sunk by Barbary Coast pirates of Africa, but survived by holding on the a board and swimming two miles to land outside of Portugal. The pirates of the Barbary Coast believed the non-Muslims had to pay a “tribute.” This belief lasted for over 400 years until 1804 and the Barbary Coast Wars. Hence the words in the Marine Hymn: “To the shores of Tripoli.”

Columbus was motivated to find a safer trade route to the Far East. After 1491 and the Treaty of Granada with the Muslim Moors was signed, funds were available for the exploration.

Columbus was a great navigator and knew the winds blew east to west near the Azores to the Caribbean and west to east to the north. Using the stars he knew the ships on a straight line for 33 days.

First Mate “Dee Zee” was a history teacher in Wisconsin who joined the Foundation to sail the ships and inform the public. With Joseph Ventura, President of the GCIAS.

The Santa Maria’s draft was 12′ feet compared to the Nina & Pinta, which had a draft of 7′. The Santa Maria ran into a reef following the Nina & Pinta and had to scrapped. The Captain decided to take a nap and told a less qualified person to “just follow the Nina & Pinta.”

The Santa Maria was made into a hut and Columbus was forced to leave over 30 men from the Santa Maria. The men were killed by natives before Columbus returned to pick them up.

The Nina & Pinta replicas provide a great appreciation for what life was like for sailors, as all slept on deck. Below deck was where livestock and food were keep. The “cabin boy” was the only person allowed below deck.

The ships are docked near Harrah’s and the Biloxi Yacht Club.
The ships are steered as it was 1492, with a rudder and tiller.
For a moment, Italians re-flagged the ship.
The Ships Store sells a few items such as post cards and children’s learning books.
History of exploring the New World.
Trade between the two worlds also included bring diseases.

Names of the crews

Feb 16th, 1804 America & Sicily attack Barbary Coast Pirates

US Navy Lt. Stephen Decatur’s ship was piloted by four Sicilians to enter Tripoli and blow up the USS Philadelphia, which had been taken by Libyans in the first Barbary Coast War

When you here the words in the Marine Corps Hymn : “To the Shores of Tripoli,” walk on Decatur Street in New Orleans, or visit any city in America named “Decatur.” Do you wonder the history of those words or the reason for the naming of the street Decatur?

When the First Barbary Coast War started in 1804, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was its own country compromised of both the Island of Siciliy and the lower half of the Italian Peninsula.

The Pirates of the Barbary Coast Countries of Northern Africa, (Lybia, Morroco, Algeria, and Tunsia), had been taking slaves and stealing ships form Europeans Countries for centuries.

President Thomas Jefferson had decided to quit paying the tribute to the pirates. When American ships and sailors were captured, Jefferson sent the USS Philidelphia to the area. The Philadelphia ran aground and was captured. A plan involving Lt. Stephen Decatur was to send a ship from Syracuse Sicily piloted by Salvadore Catalano and three other Sicilians into Tripoli with 75 men to blow up the Philadelphia.

Thomas Jefferson awarded US Citizenship to Salvador Catalano

Sicily and its neighboring islands had been raided frequently. Estimates are over 1,000,000 Europeans were captured by the Barbary Pirates between the years 1,450AD and 1,830AD and sold into African and later Arabian Slavery.

One confirmed raid is September 8, 1762 when pirates from Tunisia took 70 Ustician as slaves back to Tunsia. New Orleans and San Francisco both have large populations from Ustica. Today in Louisiana move than 30,000 claim Ustician heritage.

The history of the Barbary Coast Pirates can be traced to the Almohad Caliphate which lasted from 1147AD to 1269AD.

Almohad Caliphate from 1147AD to 1269AD.
Lt. Stephen Decatur

HISTORY from 1776 to 1804 of the Barbary Coast Pirates

Before the Treaty of Paris, which formalized the United States’ independence from Great Britain, U.S. shipping was protected by France during the revolutionary years under the Treaty of Alliance (1778–83). Although the treaty does not mention the Barbary States in name, it refers to common enemies between both the U.S. and France. As such, piracy against U.S. shipping only began to occur after the end of the American Revolution, when the U.S. government lost its protection under the Treaty of Alliance.

This lapse of protection by a European power led to the first American merchant ship being seized after the Treaty of Paris. On 11 October 1784, Moroccan pirates seized the brigantine Betsey. The Spanish government negotiated the freedom of the captured ship and crew; however, Spain advised the United States to offer tribute to prevent further attacks against merchant ships. The U.S. Minister to France, Thomas Jefferson, decided to send envoys to Morocco and Algeria to try to purchase treaties and the freedom of the captured sailors held by Algeria. Morocco was the first Barbary Coast State to sign a treaty with the U.S., on 23 June 1786. This treaty formally ended all Moroccan piracy against American shipping interests. Specifically, article six of the treaty states that if any Americans captured by Moroccans or other Barbary Coast States docked at a Moroccan city, they would be set free and come under the protection of the Moroccan State.

American diplomatic action with Algeria, the other major Barbary Coast State, was much less productive than with Morocco. Algeria began piracy against the U.S. on 25 July 1785 with the capture of the schooner Maria, and Dauphin a week later. All four Barbary Coast states demanded $660,000 each. However, the envoys were given only an allocated budget of $40,000 to achieve peace. Diplomatic talks to reach a reasonable sum for tribute or for the ransom of the captured sailors struggled to make any headway. The crews of Maria and Dauphin remained enslaved for over a decade, and soon were joined by crews of other ships captured by the Barbary States.

Captain William Bainbridge paying tribute to the Dey of Algiers, 1800

In March 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to negotiate with Tripoli’s envoy, ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman (or Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja). When they enquired “concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury”, the ambassador replied:

It was written in their Koran, (that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise). He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.


In 1476, Barbary Coast Pirates attacked a ship Christopher Columbus was on. Columbus survived and eventually reached shore. Avoiding the Barbary Coast Pirates was one motive, Columbus sailed West for a safer trade route to India.

Mardi Gras and Decatur Street

While people are celebrate New Orleans Mardi Gras in the French Quarter on Decatur Street in 2020. We should remember that 216 years ago, four Sicilians and 75 US Marines and Navy were fighting America’s first international battle.

Contessa Entellina Society


The Contessa Entellina Society celebrates September 8th as its anniversary. September 8th is also the birthday of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Society was formed in 1886 as a benefit society for Sicilians of the town of Contessa Entellina. The society has a mausoleum in Metairie Cemetery, surrounded by the mausoleums of other Italian societies.

September 8th, 2019 Annual Celebration of Contessa Entellina Society

Contessa Entellina Mausoleum in Metairie Cemetery

The foundation is attributed to about 1450 on the ruins of a remote farmhouse seniority, the “Comitissa”, but the chapter officers, the granting of fiefs, were built in 1520, when he start the rebuilding, upgrading and restocking of Albanians from Albania and subsequently also by the southern Morea, from Albanian communities where they lived from 1300.

In ancient times it was near them the ancient Elymian city of Entella, in fact, with the discovery of archaeological ancient site, to give relief to the old site, you would add the name of the country, even the term Entella.

Today Contessa Entellina keeps the Albanian language, the culture of their ancestors, and holds the Byzantine-Greek rite; but lives a very difficult period. From earthquake of Belice to date have followed many migrations, halving the population and depopulating the city center, the Albanian language is also taught to fewer and fewer young people, so the community is constantly lost and stolen the identities.

Mother Cabrini, Salvatore Pizzati, & Yellow Fever Statue

Captain Salvatore Pizzati at the Cabrini Orphanage in New Orleans

At the age of 40, when Mother Cabrini crossed the ocean for the first time to begin her work in America, she was penniless, alone, and couldn’t speak English. Without doubting herself, she pioneered the building of schools, hospitals, clinics, and orphanages. She was not satisfied with simply establishing the facilities, so she dedicated her life to working in them.

Mother Cabrini once said, “The greatest heritage to a girl is a good education.” Her story is told by Sister Renee Kittelson.

In her schools, intellectual interests were cultivated, which prepared the girls for intelligent civic and social activities. Education in the necessary, the useful, and the beautiful was offered to them, completing the whole student academically and aesthetically.

In 1892, she opened her first New Orleans Orphanage on St. Phillip Street in the French Quarter. This was during the Yellow Fever epidemics of New Orleans and one year after the lynching of 1891.

In 1905 she built the Sacred Heart Orphan Asylum at 3400 Esplanade Avenue. In 1959 the buildings of her orphanage were reborn as Cabrini High School.

Mother & St. Francis Cabrini

Captain Salvator Pizzati donated money to Mother Cabrini to build the historic building. In 1959 the structure became part of Cabrini High School. Mother Cabrini’s very own bedroom, which features her bedroom furniture and several of her personal belongings, serves as a precious reminder that her presence is still there.

Captain Pizzati’s sculpture is located on the second floor of the Esplanade building right down the hall from Mother Cabrini’s bedroom.

On Esplande Avenue in New Orleans near the entrance to City Park is Cabrini High School which served as an orphange from 1904-1959. Prior to that St. Francis Cabrini operated an orphange from 1892-1904 on Ursuline Street in the French Quarter. 

Captain Salvatore Pizzati, who also donated the first gate to City Park, donated $75,000.00 to Mother Cabrini to open the orphanage in 1904.

New Orleans does not have a statue to honor and educate about the long term battles with Yellow Fever Epidemics that plagued the city for decades.

St. Francis Cabrini recently placed first in New York in a poll for erecting monuments to women who contributed to New York.  We support the petition effort in New Orleans to erect a statue for her where the statue of PGT Beauregard once stood.

Louis Prima Exhibit at Jazz Museum

The Louis Prima exhibit is in New Orleans at the Jazz Museum

Louis Leo Prima was born on December 7, 1910. He was an American singer, actor, songwriter, bandleader, and trumpeter. Prima touched on various genres throughout his career: he formed a seven-piece New Orleans-style jazz band in the late 1920s, fronted a swing combo in the 1930s and a big band group in the 1940s. He was one of the opening acts in Las Vegas in the 1950s.

Prima made prominent use of Italian music and language in his songs, blending elements of his Italian identity with jazz and swing music. At a time when “ethnic” musicians were often discouraged from openly stressing their ethnicity, Prima’s conspicuous embrace of his Sicilian ethnicity opened the doors for other Italian-American and “ethnic” American musicians to display their ethnic roots.

His daughter Lena, who performed internationally, was interviewed at the Saenger Theater about her father.

Jewel of the South Bar

Nick Detrich of Jewel of the South in New Orleans

The brandy crusta was created around the 1850s by New Orleans bartender Joseph Santini, who owned the orginal “Jewel of the South” bar.

The Brandy Crusta was created shortly before the Sazerac. Chris Hannah has brought it back to New Orleans in a sugar-rimmed glass.

Jewel of the South also offers tremendous food pairing to go with their selection of New Orleans specialty drinks.

Joe Lombardi, New Orleans Saints Quarterback Coach

Joe Lombardi is the Quarterback Coach of the New Orleans Saints

Joseph Philip Lombardi Joseph Lombardi is currently the quarterback coach of the New Orleans Saints. He is the grandson of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi.

Joe played Tight End at the Air Force Academy, where he graduated in 1994.

During Saints Training Camp, he spoke on working with the unique Saints Quarterback situation of Drew Brees, Tyson Hill, and Terry Bridgewater.

Saints Trophy Case
Drew Brees at Training Camp

Creole Italian with Two Tony’s


The Montalbano family has been in the restaurant business for over 50 years. Two Tony’s originally opened in the French Quarter in 1987.  The restaurant moved to Bucktown in 1993 and offered more table service and a friendlier environment for families.  The most recent move to West End added 45 more seats in the dining room, a full-service bar that seats 32, and a private dining room for up to 40 guests. Link to interview with Tony.

Tony Jr. grew up in his father’s family restaurants located in the New Orleans French Quarter, where he cultivated his passion and talent for preparing mouth watering Italian and seafood dishes.  People return on a regular basis to enjoy  Chef Tony’s homestyle  meals – the marinara dishes being some of the most requested.  It has often been noted that you are getting a great meal at a place that feels like home. 

The menu includes fine Italian dishes, fresh gulf seafood prepared to your specifications , and great soups, salads, and appetizers.. Complete your dining experience with a glass of wine from our well-rounded wine list.

Sculptor Franco Alessandrini

Franco and Margaret Alessandrini in front of his recent work of art in New Orleans, a monument to the Latino Workers who helped rebuild New Orleans after Katrina.

World renowned artist and sculptor, Franco Alessandrini was born in Sansepolcro, Italy in 1944.  At the early age of 14, Mr. Alessandrini was recognized as a master artist, beginning his career with his first one man show in 1958.  His formal study of art and training was in Florence.  He quickly continued building his portfolio and his reputation throughout Italy with his countless exhibitions and winning numerous prestigious awards. 

It was in 1968 that he began exhibiting his art internationally, winning the first prize in the Tenth Annual Southern Contemporary Arts Festival in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and in 1970 winning the prize in the Eighth Annual Benedictine Art Awards in New York.  In the 1970’s Franco became a permanent resident of Louisiana, traveling back to Italy for shows and commissions.  In 1984, he was the Artist in Residence of the Italian Village in the World Exposition held in New Orleans. His works for the Italian Community are now on display in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Charles Marsala, Franco Alessandrini, and Michael Santo meeting at Franco’s Monument to the Immigrant to discuss a monument in honor of Italian Contributions in New Orlerans.

Franco’s work includes a unique painting style of New Orleans Jazz Musicians. In this interview he explains how he transforms the emotions of the subject to art. His most recent sculpture in New Orleans is a monument to Pope John Paul II, who visited New Orleans in the 1980s.

Christopher Columbus Sculpture by Franco Alessandrini in Baton Rouge