NEW YORK (CBSNew York) – Italian-American Heritage Month is celebrated in October to honor the contributions of Italian immigrants and their families to our country.
Many neighborhoods in which they have settled are still very attached to culture.
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Like a true Italian, Carmine Gangone graciously welcomed CBS2 into her family’s “second home” – Carmine and Son’s.
“My dad started in 1979, so I was here when I was a little boy, running around, helping,” Gangone told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.
His father came to the United States in 1968 among the many Italian immigrants who settled in Brooklyn.
“Nothing was given to them. They fought for this country, ”Gangone said. “I mean, I’m very proud of my heritage.”
Heritage is at the heart of Graham Avenue restaurant and the Williamsburg neighborhood where Gangone grew up.
“The neighborhood has been an Italian enclave for a very long time, since the late 1800s,” said Raymond Guarini, founder of the Historical Society of Italian Enclaves.
He started the association about two years ago with the mission of preserving and promoting Italian-American enclaves, documenting neighborhoods across the country in an online catalog.
“We found so many different places, so many different churches and neighborhoods in Italy that we never imagined we could have existed,” Guarini said. “Being able to distinguish all of these particular areas helps us go back and correlate all the contributions that have been made.”
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So far, the organization has documented around 160 Italian enclaves across the country, of course, with Little Italy being one of them.
“If I had to pass by and the good Lord came to me and asked me where I would like to live and grow, I would say here,” said Ernie Rossi, owner of Italian gift shop E.Rossi & Company. .
The store has been in business and in its family for over 100 years.
The last pandemic year has been unimaginable, with the business taking a hit so far, Rossi has lost both a longtime employee and his wife to COVID.
For him and Anthony Fontana of Caffe Napoli, Little Italy is home.
“You have your blood, sweat and tears in these places. You put your life in these places. You don’t want to see it dissolve, ”Fontana said.
But just like their ancestors, they will never stop working to preserve Italian heritage and culture.
You can consult the growing list of Italian neighborhoods created by the Historical Society of Italian Enclaves at italianenclaves.org.
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Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been set up to help E.Rossi & Company. Make a donation, Click here.