I’m sure by now you figured out that Piero loves Pasta. So, I will make Pasta with Tomato Sauce.
In Sicily they use a very rich tomato sauce. But, before I get to the recipe, let me tell you a little bit about the town Piero lives in.
Naro is a small medieval town in the province of Agrigento,not far from the Valley of the Temples.
The hill town offers stunning views of the surrounding hills, all the way down to the sea.
This monumental city has a very ancient history, dating back to theSicani, the most ancient inhabitants of the island. According to ancient Greek writers, Sicans, where the original inhabitants of central Sicily. The Greek historian Thucydides believed the Sicani to be Iberians from Spain who were driven out by the invading Siculi into the central parts of the island. (From Sicans and Siculi derives the name Sicily.) They were also invaded by Arabs, Normans and Swabians. We can find remnants of their presence everywhere: from the ancient city gate, the only one left from the seven gates, to the mosque which was transformed into a Norman Duomo. There is also an ancient Jewish quarter and the Medieval Chiaramonte Castle which rises high above the city.
The monuments, also, tell us about Naro’s important history. The city received the title Fulgentissima (Splendor) and had a seat in the Sicilian Parliament. There are many churches, in particular, the Church dedicated to Maria SS Annunziata (Our Lady of the Annunciation). Within the church we find many treasures including the statue of the Madonna of the Chains by Antonello and Giacomo Gagini.This beautiful church also has a medieval baptismal font.
Note:When the Spanish invaded they brought along Empanadas which Piero mentions in his story and calls by its Sicilian name “impanate.” This is how Piero described them, “Impanate are rolls of pizza dough with vegetables inside, a typical dish of my area.”
In Naro, there is an old tradition which says, “The righteous, before going to paradise, take a tour of the island to say farewell to seven ‘special’ places in Sicily: the Castle of Naro, which is windswept day and night;Caltabellotta,coiled up around the rock; Mount Erice, that looks towards Africa; Ustica,a small island in a green colored sea; Stromboli,the volcano that mingles with the waves; Ortigia,the ancient Greek island…” (I count six – I checked and couldn’t find seven). Piero, do you know what the seventh one is???
The most important event for the inhabitants of Naro is the Feast of San Calogero, the black Patron Saint, who is celebrated on 18th and 25th of June. In nearby Sciacca you can visit the Sanctuary of San Calogero.
Now to the Tomato Sauce.
I’m going to give you two recipes. One is the actual recipe with whole tomatoes. It’s wonderful if you want to do the work. The other is a simpler version which is very easy to make. The sauces in this region are very rich.
Tomato Sauce from the region of Agrigento
2 1/4 lb. of ripe tomatoes (you can use vine tomatoes or plum tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion sliced thin or diced if you prefer
fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pasta of your choice
Wash and dry the tomatoes, cut them in half and crush them. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan together with garlic, (If you were making this for Piero, you would have to leave out the garlic because he’s allergic to it.), onion and basil. Add a small amount of water. A half cup should do. Cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and puree them. I’m sure you don’t have a mill to puree so, I suggest you take a colander and place it over a saucepan. Add the tomatoes to the colander and crush with your hands. Be careful it’s hot. You could use a spoon to do this.
This will allow the sauce to flow through and what will remain are the skins and seeds. Next, put the tomatoes back in the saucepan, add oil, salt and pepper and heat over a low flame to thicken the sauce. Cook for 30 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the water for pasta. Add salt.
When the water boils, add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the box. Try to have the pasta ready when the sauce is ready.
Before I get to the simple recipe, I want to mention Strattu. Strattu is Sicilian word for tomato paste. The Sicilians jar their tomatoes in the summer for winter use. While doing this, they take some of the tomatoes and spread them out on a ceramic or wooden tray and leave it out in the sun for two – three days, constantly stirring it, to turn it into tomato paste. It takes about seven pounds of tomatoes to make one jar of strattu!
The first sauce I gave you the recipe for is a plain sauce that would be used alone or with fish. When making a pork (ex. sausage) sauce or any meat sauce (meat balls) you would add strattu (a couple of tablespoons) to it because pork will thin your sauce and, strattu gives it a thicker consistency.
Simple Tomato Sauce
In place of ripe tomatoes use one can of plum tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands.
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion sliced thin or diced if you prefer
fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pasta of your choice
In a saucepan heat the olive oil, add onions, garlic (remember Piero is allergic to garlic) salt & pepper. Sauté a few minutes and then add tomatoes. Now add the basil. After the sauce bubbles, lower the flame. Let it cook for 30 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the water for pasta. Add salt. When the water boils, add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the box. Try to have the pasta ready when the sauce is ready. If you want to make a meat sauce add tomato paste (two or three tablespoons) as a substitute for strattu. Serve with red wine. Of course, my choice, is always Montepulcino d’Abruzzi.
In these days of quarantine, there are live videos, between our boys and their friends.
This is Piero with Jovanotti. I state that Jovanotti, (also called Jova, but his real name is Lorenzo Cherubini) is a famous Italian singer-songwriter, rapper and disc jockey.
The live is very interesting and therefore I translate roughly for you.
Friendly greetings between Piero and Jovanotti.
Piero says that he returned three days earlier from the US where Il Volo was on tour, but they did not realize from there what the situation was like in Italy.
He is now in Naro, and is in quarantine. He says that quarantine stimulates creativity, he must commit the days, the mind, he takes advantage of it to study, and read.
Jova asks where the other two are and Piero replies that everyone is at home, Gianluca is in Abruzzo and Ignazio in Bologna.
Jova asks if there is someone at home with him and Piero replies that he is alone, that he has not yet seen his parents and his sister. Piero says that in America they didn’t have the feeling of what was going on, that if you put on gloves and a medical mask, maybe you looked badly.
Now also in the US the situation is different.
Now everyone looks to Italy, also as an example and then we receive many messages from all over the world of solidarity and we must be proud of this. Jova asks if they were on tour and Piero replies that they were on tour since January and they have had to cancel the last three concerts.
Piero explains how fortunately they managed to return to Italy, because he says that after Trump’s speech where he said he would close all flights from Europe, and for Europe, Alitalia, sent a completely empty plane to the US to take the compatriots who wanted to return to Italy.
Jovanotti says that Italians always show the best side when there are emergencies. He says it is in these cases that Italy proves to be a united country.
He says his daughter was also in the US for study and managed to catch one of the last flights.
Then he asks Piero if he is afraid.
Piero replies no, because he is convinced that we live in the safest country in the world, even if he admits that in Sicily, the health facilities (hospitals) are not exactly vanguard, but there are many people of good will. Therefore, by contacting some friends from Agrigento, they thought that, for now there are few cases in Sicily, but if the contagion were to come as strong as in Lombardy, the health facilities would collapse immediately.
And so he and these artists from Agrigento decided to start this fundraiser to help these hospitals. They will channel the donations to this bank account, but they will not give the money, but they will ask what the hospital needs and will buy it and give it to them. All coordinated with local authorities.
Piero says that the duty of the artists is to spread this initiative and says that today there are no records sold or concerts. Today there is only one concert, that of staying united and carrying out this great battle.
Jova greatly appreciates Piero’s speech and tells him that he is “great”. He remembers that they met quickly in a waiting room of the Catania airport and exchanged their contacts.
Then Jovanotti (who has many followers) invites everyone to follow this beautiful initiative, very important.
Then he tells Piero that he wants to hear his voice, he says that he knows that Il Volo sings all over the world bringing the Italian melody, especially the songs in Italian, and says that they are a rarity.
Piero replies that it’s nice to see Americans, even the Japanese, who get excited even if they don’t understand the words.
At this point Jovanotti asks Piero to perform the NESSUN DORMA.
Piero says that his neighbors will be tired of hearing him, as long as he always sings. Jova says they told him that the summer rental agencies have requests to rent apartments near Piero’s !!
So Piero shows the view from his balcony and Jova says it is a beautiful place, a real historical center.
Then he tells Piero that he appreciates Il Volo, because they also love to joke and play down their image, also lending themselves to slightly different interviews, such as the one they did with Fiorello, proposing Il Volo in a rock version.
Piero confirms that they try to bring the message of bel canto to the younger generation too.
Jova asks if they have ever sung in China and Piero confirms yes, in 2015, the year of the dog. Then they do a search and discover that when Piero was born, it was the year of the rooster, then they try, laughing, to make a symphonic version of Jova’s song.
A message from Fiorello arrives (on their video) and recalls a Sicilian song and immediately Piero sings a piece of it. Jova is not Sicilian and does not understand the meaning, so he asks Piero who tells him to ask Fiorello. (It has a mischievous meaning, that’s why Piero replies like this.)
There is also a message from Ignazio saying that they have abandoned him. Jova says no and asks where Ignazio is, Piero replies that he is in Bologna and that due to the jet lag he cannot sleep
So they talk about the importance of sleep to have a rested and fresh voice before the concerts, and Piero also recommends eating apples, and also cold water.
Jovanotti asks Piero if he ever met Pavarotti and Piero says that he missed by two years before their start as Il Volo.
(In this 2013 video there are Pavarotti and Jovanotti in a song by Jova, during “Pavarotti and friends.”)
So they talk about the performances on people’s balconies, these days, and confirm that it is the most beautiful thing, that those videos have gone around the world and that everyone imitates us for this, because it is the most beautiful thing in the world.
Piero tells Jova, that his dad, when he had the auto bodywork shop, put him on the hood of customers’ cars and had him sing UN AMORE COSÌ GRANDE and GRANADA.
Jova says that he is almost 54 years old, Piero’s dad, Gaetano, is only two years older.
Piero says that La Boheme is his favorite opera and Jova says he saw it a year ago at the Metropolitan.
Then Piero sings a piece of the Cavalleria Rusticana.
Piero confirms that he is studying to do an opera, but it takes months and months of study and tries to do lessons via skype with his teacher from Bologna.
Jovanotti tells him that when he debuts at the opera, he wants to be there, then asks if Gaetano wanted to be a singer, and Piero says no, but his grandfather was sincerely sought for singing and says that he and his grandfather have the same voice and he tells how his grandfather noticed his potential.
So Piero tells of the economic difficulties that his father has suffered, in order to take him to various competitions or singing lessons, and Jovanotti says they seem like stories from centuries ago, instead they are recent and very beautiful stories and Piero says that Ignazio and Gianluca also have similar stories.
Jovanotti concludes that now that everyone has time, they must use it to rediscover many things that are not done during busy days.
Then they say goodbye with affection.
Piero has also made specific messages to persuade people to collaborate to raise funds for hospitals in Sicily in the Agrigento area.
On May 9th Piero was very busy. The GIRO D’ITALIA, stopped in Agrigento, and who lives near Agrigento? PIERO.
For those who do not know what GIRO D’ITALIA is, it is a cycling race in stages, very renowned internationally. This year the race started on May 4 from Jerusalem.
On Wednesday there was the fifth stage, starting from Agrigento.
And here’s who was at the start, who congratulated the cyclists.
Giro 04 Giro D’Italia – Agrigento 5/9/18
Giro 05 Giro D’Italia Agrigento 5/9/18
Giro 06 Giro D’Italia Agrigento 5/9/18
Giro 07 Giro D’Italia – Agrigento 5/9/18
Giro 08 Giro D’Italia Agrigento 5/9/18
Giro 09 Giro D’Italia Agrigento 5/9/18
Piero says that the Sicilians have a unique way of welcoming people and cyclists will not forget this stage.
And here is Piero in the company of our esteemed Marino Bartoletti, who is an excellent sports journalist.
Here’s what Bartoletti wrote on his Facebook page:
“Even the champions of music, accustomed to the audiences of the world, when they live close to a beautiful reality involving the Giro d’Italia become almost children with wide eyes. It happened to Piero Barone of IL VOLO in his Agrigento. He wanted to photograph himself with the pink jersey, shaking hands with dozens of runners, admiring their availability and humility, which are also its characteristics. It was missing only, that Piero asked the autograph of Aru. I think I gave him a little gift that he will not forget.”
And here is the video of Bartoletti’s interview with our Piero.
B=Dear Piero, great member of IL VOLO, do you know what this is? It is the “WITHOUT END” trophy, welcome to GIRO D’ITALIA.
P = Thank you, thank you, it’s an honor for me and a truly, a living experience.
B= I see you almost excited, you who live the great theaters, the great masses, the great moments.
P = To know new things is always a pleasure, it is good for everyone. When you phoned me to invite me, I had to free myself from some commitments, but it was really worth it.
B = Do we want to say that we are in Agrigento, and therefore at your house?
P = Yes, I’m from Naro, a village near here, but Agrigento is my land, I was born and raised here, and I keep coming often.
B = Do you love your land a lot?
P = I am in love with my land.
B = Then Piero, an unpublished day for you, what impression did you have of this GIRO D’ITALIA, now that the cyclists are aligning at the start?
P = Definitely I will bring it in my baggage of experiences, I am excited because the GIRO D’ITALIA belongs to everyone, all the riders will not forget this stage and we Sicilians, Agrigentini above all, we will not forget this great experience.
Very good Piero, with your presence you have done a great job!
‘Amore’: Italian-American Singers In The 20th Century
Apparently, Dean Martin didn’t much like the song “That’s Amore,” but in 1953 it became one of his biggest hits. It’s a song that seems to capture a moment in pop history when nearly every hit was performed by an Italian-American singer. The story of “That’s Amore” and the songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and others is told in a new book called Amore. Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz recently spoke with the author, Mark Rotella, about Italian singers in 20th-century America.
“That’s Amore” came from a movie called The Caddy, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; it’s about an Italian man who plays a golf pro and is followed by a faithful caddy. In the movie, when the two return to Italy and are greeted by their Italian family, they break into this song. When we hear it today, it sounds like a caricature of Italian culture. But, Rotella says, it served as an introduction to Italian culture for many Americans.
“It was one of the more obvious ones,” he says. “There were Italian singers before, but this led to other kitschy songs, like Rosemary Clooney’s ‘Mambo Italiano,’ and so many other songs that came after that were kind of kitschy but were also really pop and kind of fun.”
Rotella’s book isn’t just about Italian-American singers. It’s also about a turning point in 20th-century America when Italian entertainers started to be seen as American entertainers. Rotella says that there was a Golden Age of entertainment that started around 1947.
“This is when second- and third-generation Americans of Italian decent were coming of age,” he says. “This is post-war; it was a time of optimism. This era was basically the end of the big band and the beginning of the solo voice, and this lasted through the ’50s, up until I’d say 1964, with The Beatles.”
This was happening during a period when there was a great deal of discrimination against Italians in America. For example, this excerpt was taken from a profile on Joe DiMaggio from Life Magazine in 1939.
“Although he learned Italian first, Joe now speaks English without an accent. … Instead of olive oil or smelly bear grease, he keeps his hair slicked with water. He never reeks of garlic and prefers chicken chow mein to spaghetti.”
These kinds of comments were acceptable in mainstream dialogue, and yet a few years later, Italian singers would dominate the pop charts.
“This is the time when so many singers were now seen on TV,” Rotella says. “They were good-looking. They had a certain sensibility, a certain attitude that was open and charming.”
Rotella says that nearly every singer he interviewed named Enrico Caruso as an influence. Caruso was the first pop artist to sell a million copies of his music, offering his recordings on flat discs for the RCA Victor Vitrolas of the time. Rotella says that this shaped the way music was sold for years to come.
“They sold so much, this really defined how music was recorded and on what medium,” Rotella says. “It was going to be Victor on the flat plastic records.”
One of the singers Rotella includes in his book is none other than the king of the golden age of Italian-American music, Frank Sinatra. Rotella calls Sinatra’s song “Fly Me to the Moon” a metaphor for all of the breakthroughs that Italian singers achieved.
“When you hear the song, it’s optimistic,” he says. “It’s kind of dreamy, forward-thinking, but it’s tough. He says, ‘fly me to the moon,’ but it’s almost as if he’s there already. This is coming at a time when music was going to change. It’s the tail-end of the success of the Rat Pack. It was at this time that almost total assimilation of Italians had happened. In ways, I feel like after this [song], there were so many Italians that followed him. Not necessarily performing Italian music; we wouldn’t necessarily know them as Italians today. This song of reaching the moon seemed to me to be every immigrant’s dream of assimilating.
(Note: videos were added to this article ~Marie)
Descendants from Sicilian village keep their heritage alive in America
Between 1880 and 1920 over four million Italians were recorded as entering the United States. About three-fourths of these immigrants went through the Ellis Island immigration station with the majority being males between the ages of 24 and 45.
The island of Sicily and the region around Naples, both in the south, accounted for over half the Italians who moved to the U.S. looking for a better life.
According to manifest documents from the ships, so many Sicilians reported ‘Sciacca in Agrigento’ as their home village that immigration inspectors used “ditto” marks to record this information.
Many of these Italians settled in Little Italy neighborhoods all over the country, the most famous being in New York.
Discrimination between Italians in Little Italy was rampant.
Being fiercely provincial and proud of their own regions, the Italians from Naples, Calabria and Bari looked down on Sicilians, particularly those from Sciacca.
Given their humble beginnings, their descendants were taught to be proud of their Sicilian heritage.
Baseball legend Mike Piazza’s father’s family comes from Sciacca, and though he doesn’t speak Italian, the former Mets catcher is fiercely proud of his roots.
“I feel a strong tie to Sicily, since my heritage is there. My grandfather Rosario came from Sciacca, to the United States and my father grew me up following the Italian tradition. I think it’s in our DNA to strive to work hard and persevere,” Piazza said.
“One thing that was present in me was my father’s distinct love of his Italian heritage and Sicilian ancestry.
I can’t tell you how many times my father would say “Amuni a monjare, beddu”, and “mezza mortu”.
He would also take a strong stand against negative Italian American stereotypes saying that they “don’t represent the real Italians”.
Piazza also said he travels to Sciacca regularly. “It’s something I have great pride in knowing how proud my father and grandfather would be if they could see me here.”
Musician Jon Bon Jovi is another who is descended from emigrants from Siacca. In 2013, Bongiovi Sr. gladly shared his family’s pasta sauces – the recipes for which originated in Sciacca and were passed down through three generations.
Cartoon artist, director and producer Joseph Barbera, who formed Hanna-Barbera with William Hanna, is another who is descended from emigrants from Sciacca. Both his parents were born in Sciacca and he grew up speaking Italian.
Alicia Keys is another who has found out about her large extended Italian family. Her great-grandfather Michiele was from Sciacca.
Mike Marino, most famous for his hilarious segment about an Italian president from New Jersey, is another who is descended from emigrants from Sciacca.
As his grandfather once said: “YOU MAY LEAVE SICILY – BUT SICILY NEVER LEAVES YOU.”
Four Presidents, a Mountain and an Italian Chief Carver: the Long Forgotten History of Luigi del Bianco
Everyone knows Mount Rushmore, with its iconic representations of four of the most important presidents of US history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, F.D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. As a child, I remember being fascinated by their stoney, gigantic faces and I often wondered how someone could have made them look so perfect and lifelike; as you would expect from a 5 year old, I thought a single sculptor spent his entire life carving the mountain on his own, with his scalpel in one hand and a hammer in the other, failing to understand that a project of such a magnitude had very likely involved hundreds of people through a number of years.
Even if I had known that then, I certainly would not have been aware of the essential role of Italy in the creation of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, because its recognition came only in very recent times, when a previously unknown Friuli Venezia-Giulia migrant, Luigi del Bianco, was recognised as chief carver of the monument.
Bringing justice to Luigi
History tells us that, between the 4th of October 1927 and the 31st of October 1941, 400 people worked on the sculpting and carving of Mount Rushmore. They were led by Gutzon Borglum and his son, sculptors and artists of Danish descent.
Among those 400 workers, in 1935 made his appearance Luigi del Bianco, from Meduno, in the north eastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, who had studied carving in Venice and Vienna before trying his luck on the other side of the ocean and emigrating to the United States. Del Bianco’s name became known among historians and specialists of Mount Rushmore when his own grandson, Lou del Bianco, and his late uncle Caesar, began a strenuous campaign to have the role of their own ancestor in the making of the Mount Rushmore Memorial recognised.
Because Caesar and Lou both believed Luigi had been more than a simple worker at the site, they set on a quest: demonstrating it to the world. It was Caesar, son of Luigi, who started the amazing adventure in the late 1980s, when Rex Allen Smith published “The Carving of Mount Rushmore:” here, the name of his father never appeared. Caesar was gutted.
More than 20 years later D.J. Gladstone, the author of the ultimate work on del Bianco, “Carving a Niche for Himself” (2014), would say that talking about Mount Rushmore without mentioning Luigi del Bianco was the equivalent of talking about the Yankees without mentioning Joe DiMaggio: but how much research, work and perseverance was behind such a statement. The research, work and perseverance of Caesar and his nephew Lou, who explored libraries, unearthed documents and campaigned for recognition, refusing to let their relative fall into oblivion.
After Caesar’s death in 2009, Lou took up his mission in full and it’s also thanks to his relentless efforts that Cameron Sholly, current director of the Midwest region for the National Park Services, accepted to reassess Luigi del Bianco’s role in the inception and creation of Mount Rushmore. Shelley came to the conclusion that del Bianco’s grandson was right: Luigi had been, indeed, the main carver at the site, the artist who gave to America’s timeless stone presidents their life-like features and immortal gaze.
Who was Luigi del Bianco?
Chief carver at Mount Rushmore, of course, but his life held much more than that. He was born in 1892 aboard a ship near Le Havre, in France, while his parents had been returning to Italy from the United States. The family, as said, settled in the North East of Italy and it’s there that 11 year old Luigi started studying carving and understood how talented he was. Still an adolescent, he had travelled to the US for the first time and settled with relatives in Vermont: there, he became known as a skilful carver. After returning to Italy to serve his country during the First World War, he was in Vermont once more and then settled in Port Chester, where his family still resides today.
While in Port Chester, del Bianco met Borglum, with whom he began to work: it was the beginning of the collaboration who was to bring him to South Dakota and to Mount Rushmore where, as chief carver, he became responsible of refining the presidents’ facial expressions. According to The Times, he spent a particularly long time sculpting Lincoln’s face and his eyes, whose pupils were made more vibrant by inserting wedges of granite in them. He worked at Mount Rushmore from 1935 to 1941, when he returned to Port Chester. Here he died in 1969, at the age of 78, because of silicosis, a disease caused, tragically, by the same thing that gave him so much joy in life: stone.