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  • Italian Memories

    "Italian Memories" is a column written by Cookie Curci. Its purpose is to help preserve our Italian culture by sharing with you my family stories and memories.

    The Best Things Aren't Always the Finest Ones
    This Halloween, as my family lights the candles in our freshly carved jack-o'-lanterns, I'll be in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on my pumpkin pies. Baking the pies and handing out trick-or-treat candies to the neighborhood kids is something the grown-up me has learned to do. Every year I think back to that fateful day when my Grandpa made me a Halloween costume that outshined all of my friends.

    Body Gestures: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
    The written word is a powerful form of communication, and when put to use it has the capability to connect generations, enhance history, and store and create vital feelings. But, before there was the written word body gestures were used as a means of communications.

    Dr. Leo Buscaglia
    Anyone who enjoys reading a good book or watching public television is acquainted with the words of human-relations author Leo Felice Buscaglia (a.k.a. "The Hug Doctor"/ not one of his favorite titles.) The world-renowned writer, lecturer and former columnist for the New York Times sold nearly 11 million copies of his popular books during his career. Among them: Living, Loving, and Learning, Loving Each Other, Love, Bus 9 to Paradise and his 15th and last bestseller, The Love Cookbook. Writing extensively on the subject of love and selfless giving, Leo was known worldwide as the Doctor of Love.

    Eh, Paisano! Pour the Wine
    There is a lot that can be learned from having a glass of wine. Not only is it filled with family traditions it also plays an important role in healthy living.

    Ethnic Images
    This three part article looks at how the Italian American image has been portrayed in the movie industry. Part one looks at "Post War America", part 2 is titled "A New Image Emerges" and it concludes with part 3 "A Darker Stereotype & Hope For The Future".

    Ethnic Stereotyping: Going, Going, Gone
    When is it okay, in today's socially enlightened world, to laugh at someone's ethnic background? The answer is, of course, never! There was a time, however, when a generation of people of ethnic backgrounds laughed the loudest at ethnic humor.

    Family Traditions Burn Brightly With The Lighting of the Christmas Tree
    As a senior citizen who is a lifelong resident of my hometown community of Willow Glen, I've seen a lot of changes over the years. The one change I've noticed most this year is the scarcity of Christmas tree lots. Today, most folks just pick up a tree at the local pharmacy, department or grocery store. Things were different when I was a kid. You couldn't throw a stone this time of year without it landing near a vacant lot that had been converted for the holidays into a forest of freshly cut pines, green trees in all sizes, shapes and heights, sold in a variety of prices from 50 cents to 75 cents a foot.

    Food For Thought
    Research reveals that students who dine at home with their family make higher test scores. Today's experts are finding out what my parents and grandparents already knew about sharing mealtime, that making family meals a priority is more than worth the nourishment it brings to the body and soul, but it also sharpens our mental faculties as well.

    Frank Capra's Wonderful Film Gave America Hope When We Needed it Most
    During the dark decade of the 1930s, Frank Capra's films brought light where there was darkness and hope where there was despair to a nation in desperate need of an uplifting message. If only for a few minutes, in a darkened theatre, Capra's films inspired irrepressible optimism in American audiences and when they left the theater, they left feeling better about themselves and the future of their world.

    Grandma, How Does Your Garden Grow?
    Grandma's prolific vegetables were legend among family and friends, they grew to large and unusual sizes. And yet, she never used a commercial compost, fertilizer or bug repellent. She made compost from her kitchen scraps and garden debris; her garden bug repellent from stale beer.

    Grandma's Garden Yield's Magical Moments
    Long before I began nurturing my own backyard herb garden, I spent my summers watching my Nonna Isolina passionately cultivate her productive garden of carrots, zucchini, string beans, peppers, tomatoes, Swiss chard, rosemary, garlic, escarole, onions, parsley and arugula.

    Grandpa Pouted as Grandma Swooned for Valentino
    In an era of fast cars, flappers and bathtub gin, a restless and liberated generation searched for a hero. They found him in silent screen star Rudolph Valentino who, a decade earlier, was among the influx of poor Europeans who came to America.

    Grateful Memories: A Memorial To My Mom Sarah Curci
    When someone has given you inspiration, knowledge and creativity to excel at something, we often say these people are the "wind beneath our wings". Although those words have become cliché, I believe I can use them now without hesitation and with complete honesty when I describe my Mom, Sarah Curci.

    Holy Family Church
    In July 1904, these conscientious immigrants began working diligently with one goal in mind: to construct a lavish church that would embody the spirit of their newly established Italian community. It would be a church that represented century old traditions and beliefs. It would exemplify hope and prosperity.

    How Do You Spell Relief?
    In an active household, where hardly a day goes by without someone skinning a knee or suffering a mild body ache, a well-stocked medicine cabinet is essential. Maintaining that cabinet has become increasingly expensive. I couldn't help but remember when I was a kid in the 1940s. Our household medicine chest was a simple one, consisting of one jar of Vicks Vapor Rub, a bottle of aspirin and a box of baking soda.

    How Italian Influences Affected America's Taste For Glamour
    During the 1950s and '60s, what America wore, what its citizens drove, and how they looked, was, in a large part, dictated by Italy's trendsetters, which included fashion designers, film directors and automakers. If it originated in Italy, and the designer's name ended in a vowel, the American public was buying it.

    Interview With Italian American Author Tony Piazza
    Tony Piazza is the author of 4 bestselling novels: Anything Short of Murder, The Curse of the Crimson Dragon, A Murder Amongst Angels and Murder is Such Sweet Revenge.

    Italian-American Crooners Speak the Language of Love
    For nearly a century, the tantalizing recorded voice of the Italian crooner has touched the hearts of music lovers everywhere. This five part article takes a look at these great crooners and how they spoke the language of love.

    Italian American Innovators
    The entire world is familiar with the accomplishments of the great Italian inventors, artists and explorers. The artistic contributions of Leonardo da Vinci to the art world, the genius of Guglielmo Marconi to science, and of the discovery of America through the explorations of Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo). But what of the lesser known inventors and innovators, the ones whose creativity and inventions have given America some of its most beloved daily used products and places.

    The Italian American Woman's Tenacious Spirit
    Much has been written of the Italian male immigrant-- of his intrepid desires and accomplishments. But what of the tenacious Italian woman who came to America in search of success-- her numbers are also strong and many.

    Journey With Pasquale Esposito
    Much has been said and written of the Italian tenor... some say that they are as plentiful as the stars and as alike as penny's in a pond, but I say, each tenor brings something different to his performance, and the difference they bring can either create a great performer or just another penny in that pound. Pasquale Esposito brings something exceptionally different to his performances, the talent and charisma a singer must have to fulfill the true tradition of the admired and gifted tenor.

    Jukebox Amore
    As a writer of nostalgia, I have a passion for things and events that have faded into the past: things such as the grand old Wurlitzer jukebox that once held a place of honor in my Dad's 1940's soda shop, and the classic chromed Seeburg jukebox that later took center stage in the 1950's and '60s.

    Lady Liberty
    My grandfather never spoke much about his early days in America, or the long ship ride over the ocean, but he often mentioned the awesome feeling he experienced as a young boy when his steamer ship from Naples, Italy, approached Ellis Island. The moment was engraved in his memory.

    Local Tricarico Club Celebrates The Crowning Of New Queen
    On June 12th, the Tricarico Men's Social Club, in association with the Maria Di Fonti Ladies club, hosted their annual picnic honoring their patron Saint Maria. The celebration was held at Willow Glen's Assumption of Mary Croatian Catholic church in San Jose, Ca.

    Making It in America: Family Business Spelled Success for Italian Americans
    Success for the Italian American immigrant depended a great deal on family unity. Working together as a unit was the catalyst for achieving a successful goal in the New World. With that in mind six brothers sensed a golden opportunity to find some measure of success in a struggling economy and opened up a fast food diner. Were they able to find the success they were looking for?

    The Most Treasured Gifts Come Without Ribbons or Bows
    When I was a little girl, Christmas Eve was a time of family storytelling. One of my favorite childhood stories was one that Grandma told every Christmas Eve. "Sometimes the best gifts come without ribbons or bows," she would say to her family before beginning this favorite story.

    Mustard Greens--More Than Just a Pretty Valley Flower
    For those who enjoyed eating them, the pungent mustard greens were a fresh source of vitamin A. Valley ranchers generously allowed residents on to their land to pick the cherished greens. After a spring rain, my family and I were among the many mustard green enthusiasts to beat a path to the muddy orchards to gather our share of the bitter greens.

    My Interview with Versatile Actor Joe Mantegna
    Joe Mantegna is one of the most versatile talented actors in the business. That is the opinion of his fans, and judging by the countless awards and recognitions he has been given, the world seems to agree. I could fill these pages with Joe Mantegna's acting credits and awards. But recently I had the opportunity to actually speak to and interview him about his life, his career and his future and here's what he told me.

    New Year Brings Nostalgic Memories For The Past
    Like most of us, I've had plenty of time to say good-bye to the passing year- to decide what I'll miss most about it and to brace myself for the coming new year.

    Nonna's Sunflowers
    Nonna's sunflowers produced magical moments that will last a lifetime. Today, on hot summer nights, when I open my own bedroom windows overlooking my little garden, a sigh of sage, lavender, and sweet basil rise to greet me like Nonna's gentle touch. Her golden sunflowers still grace my garden always reminding me of her sunny smile.

    Old World Italian Style Romance
    With a little well meaning family interfering this "arranged" romance and marriage lasted a very happy fifty years.

    Old World Ways & Superstitions Are Still Alive
    A friend asks you how you're feeling. You answer, "Fine, knock on wood," and rap your knuckles on the nearest piece of lumber. Someone sneezes, and you respond, "Bless you." Are your responses motivated by tradition or superstition?

    Once Upon a Time in Pescara
    When I was a kid, my nonna Isolina would baby-sit me and my cousins by telling us fascinating family tales. Nonna had an endless supply of these intriguing Old World family stories. My cousins and I were happily bewitched by these wonderful tales.

    Papa's Radio: The Gift of True Friendship
    At a time when Italian immigrants were branded as enemy aliens and restrictions were set upon them a simple radio became the gift of true friendship between neighbors from varying cultures and lifestyles.

    The Romantic Italian Heartthrobs and How They Made American Women Swoon
    In my opinion, the two most romantic and dynamic Italian leading men, imported from Italy, were Marcello Mastroianni and Rossano Brazzi. Just saying and hearing their names titillated American woman......and when these actors emoted on the big screen...well, it was like every adult female in the audience believed it was for her eyes only.

    A Rose by Any Other Name
    Most all of us are given a first and last name when we enter this world. We have nothing to say about who chooses it or why. Our surname is the product of our family lineage, while our parents decide upon our first name after hours of agonizing deliberation. Chances are, after all the work and energy mother and father put into choosing our names, friends or family will replace it with a whimsical nickname.

    Short Fences Kept Italian American Folks Neighborly
    Most of the memories I recall from my childhood concern my family circle. They were the people who cast the greatest reflection on my life. However, there were times when a stranger became a close part of our daily living and in the process became a part of our family.

    Singer James Romick: Perfect Pitch Storytelling
    I recently had the pleasure of hearing his smooth resonant voice reading my favorite author Tony Piazza's book Anything Short of Murder on I must admit it was this enjoyable experience that piqued my interest in interviewing this fine actor and storyteller.

    Street Sign Gives Family Name Immortality
    The early settlers of our Santa Clara Valley have left their mark on our area's cultural history and, in many cases, their names as well. Whether it be inventions, commerce or agriculture, these early contributors to our valley have been remembered and honored by the city with streets baring their surnames.

    Table Tells Tale of Family Togetherness
    It's an unlikely- looking treasure, that old oak table of mine, with its cracks, weakening chairs and worn out corners, but it is a treasure to me. The memories it holds are timeless and priceless.

    The Tale of La Befana
    Traditionally, the Epiphany or Little Christmas is a holiday for children in Italy. La Befana goes around on the eve of the Epiphany giving gifts to good kids and lumps of coal to the bad ones.

    That Timeless Blue-Eyed Mystique
    I recall that fate filled day when I met Frank Sinatra. It will be a time that will forever be etched in my memory and one that I share with you.

    Things Your Italian Grandma Never Told You But Should Have
    Just what are some of the things your grandma never told you? This two part article shares with you memories of growing up with grandma and the secrets that she contained in her garden.

    Il Volo Takes Flight to Top of the Charts
    These three amazing young singers, whose names are, according to age, Piero Barone, Gianluca Ginoble, and Ignazio Boschetto have come to America to spread their wings and their songs. They are among the hottest most sought after singers in today's music world. They are here to make several TV appearances, among them the most popular of all, American Idol, which aired on May 19, 2011.

    The Wait 'N See Tree
    How nonna's little tree taught our family a big lesson in faith and patience. "Faith is believing in something when common sense tells us not to."

    When Accordion Music Ruled the Airways
    When my Italian grandparents, Isolina and Salvatore Rizzolo, immigrated to this country at the turn of the century, they knew there was a dream here worth attaining. Like many of their generation, they brought with them the music of their old country, music that both inspired and comforted them while they searched for that dream.

    When Dino Sang, That Was Amore
    Dean Martin's charisma appealed to all types and ages. The ladies were attracted to his dark good looks and romantic singing voice. Youngsters adored his silly shenanigans with partner Jerry Lewis. But it was Martin's bon vivant lifestyle that earned the envy of every man.

    Will The Real Italian American Actor Please Stand Up?
    There are many actors that people assume are Italian, but in fact are not. Just like there are many actors that people do not realize that they are Italian. This three page article looks at these actors and uncovers which ones are truly Italian and which ones are not.


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