October is Italian Heritage Month and if there’s one thing we know in Brooklyn, it’s our Italian heritage. Heck, NYC has the largest Italian population in the country. In Brooklyn, you’ll find Italian neighborhoods everywhere like Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst (which is known as Brooklyn’s “Little Italy”). And you can see the influence from places like L&B Spumoni Gardens, Villabate Alba and Bamonte’s. Then there are the celebrities. So let’s dive into some of the most famous Italian celebrities from Brooklyn!
Both of Jimmy Durante’s parents were from Salerno, Italy. They had four children and their youngest was James “Jimmy” Francis, born on February 10, 1893. He was a natural piano player and was playing in clubs by the time he was 16.
Marisa Tomei went to Edward R. Murrow High School and grew up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn before playing one of the most iconic Brooklynites in movie history in My Cousin Vinny! Both of her parents are of Italian descent. Her father’s ancestors came from Tuscany, Calabria, and Campania; while her mother’s ancestors are from Tuscany and Sicily.
Paul Sorvino was born and raised in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. His mother Angela Maria Mattea was of Italian descent and his father was an Italian (Neapolitan) immigrant. Paul attended Lafayette High School.
Have you ever wondered how to say Buscemi? In interviews, Buscemi says he’s following his father’s pronunciation, and says he doesn’t begrudge anyone who says it differently. It turns out, though, that his fans have it right—or at least mostly right. On a trip to Sicily to visit family, Buscemi recounted recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he noticed everyone saying “Boo-SHAY-me.” Via Mental Floss
The Taxi star was born and raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn. His mother, Anne, was an Italian immigrant, and his father, Matty, was also of Italian descent.
You’ll love this interview with Tony Danza. Here’s how he replied when asked what he misses most about Brooklyn:
“I miss my youth, I miss the years, I miss the relationships. The other night we had the feast of San Gennaro. We had great weather, great feast.”
Brooklynite Vic Damone was born Vito Rocco Farinola in Brooklyn on June 12, 1928. He grew up in the Italian section of Bensonhurst and even has an album called “Italian Songs” with Vic Damone by Vic Damone. Vic also attended Lafayette High School.
Eat This…It’ll Make You Feel Better! by Dom DeLuise was published in 1988. Give this recipe a try if you want a taste of his Italian heritage.
Dom’s Mom’s Meatballs
For as long as I can remember, my mother has never worn makeup. Also, she simply combs her hair straight back in a bun. Can you believe that when I was a child, I thought that bun was filled with meatballs? Good old Mom.
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
2 cups Italian-flavored bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped very fine
1 onion, minced
1/2 cup pignoli (pine nuts) (optional)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Let stand 1/2 hour. Shape into medium-size meatballs. Fry gently in olive oil until lightly browned, or place on foil on a cookie sheet and bake for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees. Gently place in your own hot spaghetti sauce and cook on medium-low heat for 1 hour.
Joe Torre grew up in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn on the corner of Avenue T and East 34th Street and played ball at St. Francis Prep when it was in Brooklyn. You might not know this, but he carried the Olympic Flame when it went through Brooklyn. His mom came to the United States from Salerno, Italy at the age of 8.
Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913, in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn to Enrico “Harry” Lombardi and Matilda “Mattie” Izzo. Harry’s mother and fatheremigrated from Salerno, Italy. Mattie’s father and mother, Anthony and Loretta, emigrated from Vietri di Potenza, Basilicata.
Chef Michael Lomonaco
Chef Lomanaco grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn and was influenced by his mother’s Sicilian home cooked meals. He comes from a large, Italian family so mealtime is important to him.
He was once asked what he cooks when he is home to which he replied, “I like to make a roasted chicken, a pasta dish, homemade pizza or a big salad with grilled meats or fish in it. I also cook a lot of home-style Italian dishes that my wife and I grew up with.”