On Sunday, March 21 at 1 p.m., the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is proud to host the publication launch party for Italian Staten Island. Author Andrew Paul Mele, columnist for the Staten Island Advance and the Italian Tribune, will introduce his new Arcadia "Images of America" book. With over 200 photos, the book tells the stories of some of the people who, over the years, have helped give Staten Island its decidedly Italian accent.
At the event the book will be available for sale and can be personally autographed by the author, as well as some of the folks featured in the book who will be our special guests that day. (Only books purchased at the event may be autographed.) Seating is limited. A $5 donation is suggested. The event includes a light reception and music provided by Jack Funari.
Between 1820 and 1920 over four million Italians immigrated to America, many of them settling on Staten Island. In the early 1960s the opening of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (named for Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Italian explorer who "discovered" New York in 1524), brought a second great influx of Italian immigrants to the island, this time from the rest of New York City. By the end of the 20th century the population of Staten Island had doubled, and today Richmond County still has the largest percentage of Italians and Italian-Americans of any county in America.
In Italian Staten Island, Mele celebrates the island's leaders in education, business, government, medicine, sports and entertainment, as well as the everyday people whose Italian heritage has influenced all aspects of life on this small island. Beginning with explorer Verrazzano, inventor Antonio Meucci and Italian freedom fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi, Mele explains who these people were and why they are important in Staten Island's history. He tells stories about Staten Islanders whose names have become "generic," like Rocco from Rocco & Loreto's Deli in Annadale, and Mario Ariemma from "Ary's" (Ariemma's) on Hylan Boulevard. He discusses all manner of famous, or infamous, Islanders-current Borough President James Molinaro (who wrote the introduction in the book), past Borough President Guy Molinari and the late Senator John Marchi; war heroes Nicholas Troianiello (WWII), Faust Sofo (Korea) and Father Vincent Capodanno (Vietnam); artist Gregory Perillo, actor Robert Loggia and singer Vito Picone; football coach Sal Somma, SuperBowl star Joe Andruzzi, and Golden Gloves champ Gabe Perillo, Jr., just to name a few. He discusses Italian POWs on the Island, the history of the Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine and his friend Tom Siracusa's description of how to really appreciate a homegrown tomato. It's all there-the richness of the Italian-American experience as lived every day on this special island.
Mele, himself an immigrant from Brooklyn in that second great migration of Italians into Staten Island in the 1960s, is the author of two books of baseball history in Brooklyn, as well as several short stories. His columns on Staten Island history appear periodically in the Staten Island Advance, and he writes on Italian issues for the Italian Tribune.
The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum was the home of Antonio Meucci, the true inventor of the telephone, and a refuge to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the legendary hero who championed the unification of Italy. For over 50 years the museum has fulfilled its mission to preserve the legacies of these great men, and to promote understanding of the Italian-American heritage through cultural, artistic and educational programs and classes.
Regular museum hours are 1 p.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 per person, members and children under 10 are free. Call ahead for groups of 10 or more. The first floor of the museum is wheelchair accessible, but the restroom is on the second floor. At press time, program funding has been provided through the Order Sons of Italy in America; by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Office of the Staten Island Borough President, Richmond County Savings Foundation; Northfield Bank Foundation, and by grants allocated by New York State Senator Diane Savino and New York City Council members Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo. The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is owned and operated by the Order Sons of Italy in America.