Forum Posts

Christopher Forte
Jun 28, 2022
In Welcome to the Forum
San Diego, CA- On Sunday, June 26th, 2022, Cardinal-elect Robert McElroy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego led a religious procession through the streets of downtown San Diego, CA. It marched from Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, an Italian National Parish in Little Italy, to the Cathedral of San Diego called St. Joseph's. Hundreds of Catholics were there, including numerous sisters, monks, priests, and other clergy and religious. But what was most inspiring to me were all the hundreds of just plain lay Catholics of diverse races and backgrounds, including many Italians of course, that walked with it, all singing and praying. As we paraded through the streets, stunned onlookers, many of them tourists or residents who just didn't know about our procession that day, looked on in awe and interest. Many just enjoyed the spectacle of so many Catholics in religious garb, the candles, the incense, the gold Monstrance holding the Eucharist that was seated on a bed of flowers, the different banners of the many church societies and groups, with the singing and praying parading through the city streets lined with high-rises. Some onlookers, of course, were religious themselves and enjoyed this event in a special way, some were not who may have been upset at seeing such a religious display in the street that also momentarily blocked some roads and traffic. While this procession was not about abortion, or anything political, there were some signs held by marchers that were pro-life, so this too may have upset a few spectators. The procession was led by the 4th Degree Color Guard of the Knights of Columbus. I was there representing my Knights of Columbus council and my parish, carrying our banner. My Knights of Columbus council has mostly Italian members being based out of an Italian National Parish and in Little Italy. Other parishioners provided security, as well as America's Finest police force, the San Diego Police Department who assisted in blocking off the streets and in keeping pro-abortion protesters away. There were reports from law enforcement that some po-choice extremists have threatened violence both against the churches and the procession. However, while there were a few protesters that morning at the 12 noon Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary, there were none during the procession that started at 4:00 pm, and it went off without any issues. To be clear though: yes, as Catholics we are against abortion and there were some pro-life signs there, but this was not a "protest." Of abortion or anything else. This was a call to Catholics to have a better relationship with God and the Eucharist, to convert and change the world for the better by following Jesus Christ and being examples as Christians. We hold religious processions like this a lot, they have nothing to do with politics. The procession ended at St. Jospeh's Cathedral about 6 blocks away where inside there was a benediction and sermon given by Cardinal-elect Robert McElroy. I am eternally grateful to the young members of the Our Lady of the Rosary choir that took turns with me holding my Knights of Columbus council banner. And to the San Diego Police Department #SDPD #sandiegopolice for providing security. #backtheblue You can watch the videos here and here. The Roman Catholic Diocese of SAN DIEGO Knights of Columbus: San Diego Diocese Chapter 16San Diego Knights of Columbus Chapter#catholicchurch#catholicfaith#catholiclife#sandiego#sandiegoliving#sandiegocatholic#church#Christianity#Christians#eucharist#prayerworks#prayers#prayerchangesthings#sdcatholic#california#californiacatholic#DTSD#downtownsd#downtownsandiego
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Christopher Forte
Mar 08, 2022
In Welcome to the Forum
Joseph Balistreri of D’Aquisto Farms Keeps the Family Farm & His Family’s Italian American Heritage Alive by Christopher Forte According to the American Farmland Trust (AFT), California loses 50,000 acres of farmland annually, and is facing a “crossroads” as the housing supply crisis accelerates development and as the State, like the rest of the world, faces Climate Change. AFT, like many others, believe that farmland is necessary for the security of the nation’s food supply and can be used as a way to fight Climate Change. At the same time, the majority of the American-born descendants of Italian immigrants have shown little interest in their cultural heritage because they are so well integrated into American culture and life. It is not that they hate or are ashamed of their Italian heritage, it is just that it never really occurred to them because many have just always considered themselves plain old American. And while it is only right that one does become a part of the nation they choose to live in or are born in, this does not mean one needs to totally give up their history and culture. Indeed, cultural diversity is one of America’s strengths. I for one would find it boring if all we had to choose to eat, as an example, was just Hamburgers and Hotdogs. And maybe Buffalo Wings. And while I do enjoy those, I also need my tacos and pizza! There is good news, however. According to the San Diego County Farm Bureau, “More than 3 million people live in San Diego County, and more than 5,000 farmers call it home and make their living on 250,000 acres.” The Farm Bureau also states that San Diego County is the “19th largest farm economy among more than 3000 counties” in the US and has “more small farms (less than 10 acres) than any other county.” And according to Joseph Balistreri of D’Aquisto Farms, “the demand for locally grown agricultural products is ever increasing as consumers want to support local food systems and want to develop relationships with the people who grow their food.” Speaking of Joseph Balistreri of D’Aquisto Farms, there is yet more good news; there are farmers and many others like Mr. Balistreri in Cailfornia and throughout the United States that are trying to keep their Italian heritage alive and pass it on to the next generation. In the following interview we discover how Joseph Balistreri does this and how his Italian American heritage intersects with and inspires his small-scale family farming. How did you get into farming? Why did you do so? I’ve always had a love for rural life and dreamed of being a farmer from my earliest years as a child. My grandfather or Nono as we called him, had a large garden in his backyard in Claremont. Watching him grow things like tomatoes, zucchini, basil and eggplant was my earliest inspiration. My dad was always very supportive of my passion early on. We would take car rides through the outskirts of San Diego County to see the all the fields planted. Ultimately, he set me up with a 10×24 garden in our backyard in Scripps Ranch when I was about 10 years old. When I became a teenager, I abandoned the idea of ever being a farmer. It seemed too farfetched and an unlikely dream to have. I got into music and became a pro Radio and club Dj in the San Diego music circuit and ultimately landed on XHTZ “Jammin” Z90 in 2004 after years of honing my craft in high school. I was 24 years old. By the time 30 came around and had my first and only child out of wedlock I had completely fell out of love with music and the lifestyle associated with it. I yearned for what my heart has always been attached to: the soil. Over the next ten years, Slowly, doors would start to open for me that would ultimately lead me to my present location which is farming 10 acres in Bonsall, Ca. What did people, particularly your family, say when you started farming? Or told them you wanted to farm? I think that anyone who really knows me knows that I have always had an innate desire to work the land since I was very young. It was a matter of how or when it would eventually happen. Where do you grow your products? I grow on 10 acres in Bonsall, California 35 minutes north of my home near MCAS. Miramar. Where do you sell them? I sell the majority of my produce directly to the public as a certified producer at Poway Farmers Market every Saturday from 8am -1pm. I also sell to chefs and wholesale such as specialty produce during the week. How do you get them to the marketplace? Pretty simple actually! I usually pick to order and use my pickup truck to transport from Bonsall to market. I also use very old-fashioned methods of maintaining freshness without the use of expensive and prolonged refrigeration. Do you have help? Employees? Finding reliable help has been one of the greatest challenges in growing my business. Fortunately, with the guidance of my mentor Anthony Maciel, I have learned how to maximize production with minimal effort. Does your Italian heritage play any part in your life? Your work? Italian Americans are known to be very tactile, industrious, and entrepreneurial people. Especially those from the south of Italy and where my father is from in Sicily. Italians and south and Western Europeans are very agricultural people. While I don’t have any direct relatives in farming, it is said that this burning desire that I have to grow food for people to eat is inherited from my Great Grandfather Vitale and his brothers who were tomato exporters in Sicily between 1910 and 1915. Has that been any inspiration? My fathers father, Nono Pietro Balistreri, was a fisherman and stone Carver in Aspra, Palermo, Sicily. He would excavate by pick and shovel blocks from the earth to be used in construction. He would also dig caves in the surrounding hillsides to shelter families from bombs dropping during the onset of World War II. I believe that hard work is in my genes. I think about all the long hours toiling in the hot sun my grandfather put in whenever I feel overwhelmed with farming. If he could do it, I could do it too. It makes me feel a connection to my ancestors and my identity as an American with Italian roots. Can you talk about your family? I was born and raise in the suburbs of northern San Diego County. In a middle-class family, the youngest of three brothers and son of a Sicilian immigrant father and Mexican American / Sicilian mother. My parents owned Italian restaurants from the late 1960s to the late 1980s: in order they were Leonardo’s, on Clairemont Mesa Blvd, 1967 – 1976 , Ciao on Miramar Road from 1976-1982 and lastly Rocco’s Pizza on the corner of Grand and Cass in Pacific Beach from 1982-1988. I was only 8 years old when my parents sold Rocco’s. My father made a life and owned a home in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in San Diego by blood, sweat and tears and long hours in the restaurant business. Life was good as a young person in the 80s in the suburbs. We were free to roam the canyons and play outside until the streetlights came on. We had a huge family and extended family. Lots of cousins, aunts and uncles who were headed by the grandparents. We were always together and were always celebrating something a holiday it seems. Mom insisted on Sunday dinners around the table as an immediate family and always either included one of her sisters and her kids or her parents. We were the stereotypical Italian American family you see in movies. Huge families around the dinner table and a strong foundational support system. Does your Catholic faith play a part in your life? in your work? For many Italian Americans our Catholic faith is foundational to our identity, our culture and traditions. For me it is about a relationship with Jesus Christ the founder of the Church we call home. I believe that Christ calls us to vocation and opens doors and opportunities if we cooperate and discern his will for our life. Our faith teaches us to place Gods will above our own. I can’t live without the Eucharist, Mass and Holy Days of Obligation. My faith keeps me centered. Farming isn’t easy, in fact to me it seems miraculous that one man can feed so many people. Sometimes it feels impossible, but I remember that God didn’t bring me this far to drop me off at the curb. Have you “grown” or learned anything through the years you have been farming? Farming for a living is a sure way to learn to accept life as it comes to you. Before I became a farmer, I can remember really kicking and screaming when things didn’t go my way. When things don’t go well in farming for you, you really, really feel it in the pocketbook. But here is where you must rely on faith and trust God to provide. Farming is in a way a microcosm or metaphor for life itself. There are many successes and there are also failures. I have learned and continue to learn to maintain my peace, peace through it all but I am still a work in progress. It helps that the successes bring immeasurable joy to me. This is how I know I am cooperating with Gods plan. The more you put in, the more you get out. The more you sow the more you reap. What have you learned farming? Can you share any wisdom or advice? I’ve learned that anything that is worthwhile is going to have difficulties. Nothing is easy. I love what I do but it can be extremely difficult physically and emotionally taxing at times. I could have a desk job, out of the elements in a nice warm office with a nice view of downtown San Diego but for me that would be difficult too because I wouldn’t feel like I am doing what my heart desires. I’ve learned that every choice you make has a consequence and there is a price for every move you make in life. Can you talk about the state of small farming in Southern California? Is it under threat? Or is there a movement to preserve it? Is it thriving? According to the San Diego County Farm Bureau there are 6000 small scale farms in San Diego County, under five acres, which is more per capita than any other county in the United States. I can attest nobody is getting rich from doing this. Even though there is a large community of small farmers in our county, we are all being met with the same challenges: Access to affordable land, water and the cost of municipal water, access to reliable labor. Aside from that the great thing about farming in our region is the unbearable 365 day a year growing season that affords is the ability to provide a multitude of crops to our community. In addition, the demand for locally grown agricultural products is ever increasing as consumers want to support local food systems and want to develop relationships with the people who grow their food. Can you talk about your family’s history? When they immigrated from Italy? From what part of Italy? How and where did they settle originally? How/why did they (and you) end up in San Diego? My father immigrated to San Diego’s Little Italy in 1960 from Aspra, Palermo, Sicily with his family. It was here he met my mother, who was half Sicilian and half Mexican American. She lived in a home that was well over 100 years old in Bankers Hill. Her Mexican father, my grandfather, was a First Sergeant in the Marine Corp and served several tours in the South Pacific during World War II, Vietnam and Korea. My mom’s mother was 100 percent Sicilian and her family hailed from Portociello, Sicily which is the next town over from Aspra. She was born in Racine, Wisconsin and moved to San Diego when she was a young girl. She became a Cannery worker here in San Diego. How do you feel when you are out on the farm? And when you see the finished product being sold to hungry customers? How do I feel out on the farm ? Well, the cool thing is that I am always excited to be there and there is always something cool to do. I’m constantly prioritizing and knocking out tasks. Breaking down projects into bite size manageable projects makes it very product exciting and fulfilling. Things don’t always go according to plan however and it is extremely tiring at times. In the midst of the day to day the number one priority is my body. How do I feel? Overtired? Overwhelmed? Stressed? If any of those feelings present themselves I have to scale back work to self care. Getting sick can be catastrophic. I was recently out with Covid for one week and I was unable to get my product to market. It was a God awful feeling to be bed ridden while missing out on money and when bills are due. Still if you don’t have health you are not in business. The body comes first ALWAYS. As far as how do I feel selling my product at the market? I feel a sense of pride and fulfillment. It’s probably my favorite thing about being a farmer. My customers are extremely great full loyal and rave about the quality of my produce. I feel like food really brings people together. Me, my dad and daughter have made great friends with some of our regular customers. They come out and support us rain or shine and they couldn’t be happier to do so. I feel like we need each other, and I am so humbled by this. It really encourages me to put out the best of what I grow and to always strive for the utmost quality. Can you talk about being a father and a farmer? Does that cause any challenges? Or any joy? I previously mentioned stressors in the last question. If there is one thing in the world that is more difficult than raising vegetables on a large scale, it’s raising a teenage girl by yourself. When you pair those two things together you have my life in a nutshell. I am not complaining but I’m not exaggerating either. I literally ask myself every single day how on earth I am still standing. I will tell you that some days are plain and simply unbearable, but the bright side is that they do come to pass and the blessings of being a father far outweigh the tough times. Being a dad to a teenage daughter is a lot like raising a very sensitive and needy crop – say like sweet corn. There’s this phase that corn is very vulnerable to insect infestation. It requires you to keep a watchful eye and act accordingly. When I think about this particular crop in comparison to a teenage girl, I see strikingly similar characteristics. I am literally at both tasks alone. They both rely on me and me alone. If I’m not present things can go very bad. I’ll say that I especially enjoy when my daughter comes to help sell at the farmers market. It’s not her favorite thing to do but I feel like not only am I earning a living, but I am teaching her responsibly and life skills at the same time. I also see that it helps build her confidence, people skills, customer service, cash handling, business and a platform for her to shine. It’s very rewarding for me to spend time with her in action at the market. Selling my produce alongside my daughter is something I thoroughly look forward to each week! What is your business’ name? Do you have a website? A social media page? D’Acquisto Farms. The Sicilian surname, which so happens to be my Great-Grandmothers maiden name, which translates into “Good Acquisition” or “Good Purchase” You can find us on Instagram and Facebook under the same name all one word no Apostrophe in “D’AcquistoFarms” What is your business phone number and email? 858-361-9926 farmer Joseph direct line Email dacquistofarms@gmail.com What is your goal? your long-term plan or “dream”? Where do you see yourself in 10 or even 20 years? My ultimate end goal is to live on a family farm of my own in the county I call home. I hope to grow my business to employ a labor force and expand operations to larger acreage in the areas surrounding Bonsall. I hope to become more and more proficient in the crops I currently grow while experimenting with new specialties and take on more clientele. In the short term I hope to start a coop farm stand at my current farm site and become a one stop shop for fresh picked farm goods like watermelons, our already famous sweet corn flowers, our sweet onions, pumpkins in the fall as well as tree fruit from local growers and all of our other seasonal produce. Do you keep any Italian traditions or customs in your life? Food is a huge part of our family. Maintaining those traditional recipes often used around the holidays or Sunday dinners is an integral part of the Italian American experience. I always say that my love language is food. Growing up I couldn’t understand why for my grandmother there was nothing better in the world than to see her children and grandchildren around the table enjoying a meal together. Now that my family is much smaller, I find myself carrying on those same traditions.
Down on the Farm, Italian Style content media
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Christopher Forte
Dec 14, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
The Italian American Civic Association of San Diego (IACA) held their annual Christmas party fundraiser on Sunday, December 12th, 2021. It was held at Gaetano’s Pizza Ristorante in Lakeside, California. This annual party raises funds for the Association itself and for the various charities it supports. Each attendee was asked to bring a non-perishable canned good or item that will be donated to the needy. There were about 40 people in attendance, including IACA officers like President Steve Asaro, Vice President and my good friend James Cardinale-Hill, and Treasurer Errico (Rick) Perrotta. James Cardinale-Hill sang “Felice Navidad,” and a few members at my table sang “Silent Night.” Some members also passed out Christmas cards to each other and the Association presented a gift to the youngest attendee. The cuisine included Fettucine Alfredo and pasta with tomato sauce, pizza, and desserts were Italian cookies, biscotti, and cannoli, among others. Wine was at the tables. The food was delicious and the attention given by the restaurant staff was excellent. The ambience was like that of being in a small country restaurant with an Italian vibe out in the country, which is basically what Gaetano’s is, and was very enjoyable. I do recommend it. The IACA does not have a website or social media presence yet, but is working on that, so for now to get more information and perhaps even to join you may email Rick Perrotta at eaperrottasr@gmail.com. Grazie! Buon Natale! Contributor Christopher Forte with IACA President Steve Asaro (second from left), VP James Cardinale-Hill (back) and IACA Treasurer Errico (Rick) Perrotta (last on right) Canned goods and other nonperishable items for the needy brought by attendeesCanned goods and other nonperishable items for the needy brought by attendees Canned goods and other nonperishable items for the needy brought by attendeesCanned goods and other nonperishable items for the needy brought by attendees IACA VP James Cardinale-Hill sings “Felice Navidad” IACA VP James Cardinale-Hill sings “Felice Navidad” IACA VP James Cardinale-Hill presents a gift sponsored by the Association to the youngest attendee IACA VP James Cardinale-Hill presents a gift sponsored by the Association to the youngest attendee The meat and cheeses appetizer buffet The party was held at Gaetano’s Ristorante in Lakeside, CA The party was held at Gaetano’s Ristorante in Lakeside, CA The party was held at Gaetano’s Ristorante in Lakeside, CA Share this:
Italian American Civic Association of San Diego (IACA) Holds Annual Christmas Party Fundraiser
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Christopher Forte
Dec 06, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
After being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Little Italy San Diego’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Christmas Village was back. I was able to capture the Tree Lighting Ceremony that had dignitaries like San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and State Assemblyman Christopher Ward. Other speakers included New City America and Little Italy Association (LIA) Chief Executive Administrator Marco Li Mandri, LIA Board President Steve Galasso, and San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn of District 3. All of them gave updates on the status of the Little Italy neighborhood and encouraged guests to patronize local small businesses. At the end the chief pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, an Italian National Parish, Fr. Joe Tabigue gave a prayer and blessing then helped with the tree lighting countdown, done in Italian of course! You can view the video here. I encourage you to shop and eat in San Diego’s Little Italy this holiday season! Buon Natale!
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Christopher Forte
Nov 30, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
Christmas season 2021 is almost here and that means getting excited for familiar and comforting traditions, great food, gifts, parties, and getting together with family. For many it is their favorite holiday, not so much for the material or financial gifts they receive but for the gifts of family, friends and togetherness they celebrate. Much like the American Thanksgiving, but on a universal level, being shared by just about every peoples across the world. Here is a link to actual Christmas traditions in Italy, but for purposes of this article I want to focus on the American descendants of the great wave of Italian immigrants. You see, many of us have "Americanized" and integrated so well into American society that there is little that distinguishes us as "Italian," other than our last names, and for some even that has been changed. Christmas is no different. Many Italian American families today celebrate it the American way: Mass or church attendance on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, Christmas light looking, a big dinner and family get together, the story of Santa Claus, the one popularized by American writers, cartoonists and corporate advertisers like for Coca Cola, (go here and/or here for more about the history of Santa Claus), and the unwrapping of presents, usually on Christmas Day but sometimes on Christmas Eve. These are all great, fun and wonderful traditions, but fort those who want to reclaim a bit of their Italian heritage, or for non-Italians who simply want to add something different to their holiday traditions or enjoy some cultural diversity, here are some ideas on how to make your Christmas more "Italian American." 1.) Buon Natale! If you forgot or never knew it, try learning and speaking Italian, starting with saying "Merry Christmas" in Italian, "Buon Natale!" "Happy New Year" is "Felice Anno Nuovo!" You may already have the Italian colors of red, white and green around of course! 2.) Attend Traditional Masses: You could attend The Mass of The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics anyways, and of course, and when the Christmas season in Italy gets "into high gear" according to The Proud Italian, and a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. I suggest attending ones that are held in Italian. Even if you're not Catholic, many parishes will do something special for Christmas. My parish, Our Lady of the Rosary, an Italian National Parish in San Diego's Little Italy, for example holds a Christmas play involving young parishioners dressed up as the Holy Family reenacting the first Christmas, then would sing Christmas carols before the final Midnight Mass. Christmas Carols at Our Lady of the Rosary: Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary: 3.) Presepi For the Presepi, or for Americans the traditional Manger or Nativity Scene, according to The Proud Italian, "Italians take pride in the amount of love and detail they put into all things creative. When it comes to building their own unique versions of the Nativity Scene, this is no different. They combine the traditional scene and add their own personal twists into their creation by adding Ferrari’s, football players, and a variety of other 'Italian things.' Not only are these masterpieces called presepi all individual and very personal. They are also created by their makers using all sorts of materials, including pasta and nuts, to name a few." You may want to personalize your American Nativity Scene in some way to imitate an Italian Presepi. 4.) La Befana! Italians have the story of La Befana, the Christmas Witch. According to The Proud Italian, "Christmas gifts to the children in Italy are believed to be given by the ever searching, good-hearted witch called La Befana. The legend goes that she was asked by the shepherds to accompany them on their journey to visit the baby Jesus. Apparently, she declined due to having had too many house chores to complete. It is said that she later had a change of heart and followed suit. She is believed to still be searching for this child today, and leaves gifts for the kids, wherever she goes along in her journey. To find out more about this magnificent and mysterious woman, read our La Befana Article." In addition to Santa, try telling the story of La Befana as well, it just makes the holiday that more fun and culturally diverse. 5.) Music Of course, your choice of music is subjective and either way you'll have some Christmas songs playing. But try listening to Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, and Dean Martin just to name a few old Italian American favorites, or to actual Italian Christmas music in Italian. 6.) Food Next to Jesus Christ and family, food is the next important thing at Christmas time to Italians of course! Many Italian American families eat traditional American Christmas dishes, but, like in Thanksgiving, add something Italian to the table, usually a pasta dish like lasagna. Desserts of course include Italian cookies, cannoli, and such. Try adding something "Italian" to your Christmas dinner and dessert! Panettone, an Italian type of sweet bread with a cupola shape, is also an Italian Christmas food tradition some families have. You can learn more about it here and here. In addition, some families still celebrate The Feast of the Seven Fishes. Eataly.com says this about this "Italian tradition": "Typically, the family gathers around a feast of seven different seafood dishes or one or two different types of fish prepared in seven different ways. "Despite its popularity among Americans, many Italians do not even know about the tradition — or its origin. Surprised? The answer can be found in the biodiversity of Italy: the country boasts so many differences between the north and south. "...The ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic custom of abstinence from meat and dairy products on the eve of certain holidays, including Christmas. The number seven is rooted back in ancient times and it can be connected to multiple Catholic symbols: in fact, the seven seems repeated more than 700 times in the Bible. Also, according to the Roman Catholic Church, seven are the sacraments, the days of the Creation, as well as the deadly sins. Hence seven courses! "Flash forward to the early 1900s, when the official "Feast of the Seven Fishes" first emerged. Italian-American families rekindled the Old Country's Christmas Eve tradition by preparing a seven-course seafood meal (hence the name of the newly found tradition) that both made them feel close to their homes, while celebrating the sea, a major connection in Italy. Today, it's considered one of the oldest Italian traditions — but we give America credit for that!" If you have the time and energy and feel adventurous, why not have a meal of seven types of different seafood dishes and celebrate The Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas? 7.) Family togetherness....crowded and loud! The most important part of Christmas is in fact celebrating the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but next to that is the gathering with family....or people we consider family. Why not make it a crowded one? Oh sure, because of covid now you might want to keep it smaller and have some social distancing, but that's not typically easy for Italians! Even if it has to be outdoors, I suggest having a big gathering of "family" and make sure, like any Italians, they talk loud and use their hands a lot! You non-Italians can watch and learn! lol 8.) Honorable Mention: Visit a Little Italy at Christmastime Though not easy for everyone, I suggest visiting a Little Italy neighborhood at Christmastime. On the West Coast we have North Beach in San Francisco, Little Italy San Jose , Little Italy in San Diego, and now a "Little Italy" in LA (in San Pedro) and in Sacramento! Normally these neighborhoods, like any American neighborhood, would be decorated very festively for Christmas and other holidays and be bustling with holiday shopping and food, and sometimes even with events and activities like the Christmas Village and Tree Lighting in San Diego (Video of 2019) (2021 flyer). Well, that's it, that's what I have found through some quick research and from family memories on ideas on how to make Christmas "Italian American." If there is anything I left out or if I made any mistakes, please let me know (respectfully) in the comments, and feel free to share how your own family and friends celebrate Christmas! Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!
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Christopher Forte
Nov 09, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
After a year and a half of being closed by the covid lockdowns and mandates, the House of Italy at Balboa Park in San Diego has resumed in-person meetings. Its next meeting is Sunday, November 21st where Louis Pechi will share his book "I Am Lobo" from the Italian perspective and Megan Rigby will present an SDG&E update on its CARE & EE program. The House of Italy "...(HOI) plays a major role in maintaining the Italian Americans’ cultural identity. It keeps our unique Italian American heritage alive by helping its members live and remember their heritage, pass it down to the next generation, and introduce it to non-Italians." It is a part of the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in San Diego's iconic Balboa Park and grew out of the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935. The House of Pacific Relations International Cottages "is a consortium of ‘houses’ representing 32 cultures. The HPR promotes multicultural goodwill and understanding through educational and cultural programs. The park contains historic 1935 Exposition cottages plus 4 newer cottages where HPR member cultures can offer visitors a window to their culture, history and traditions. We are in the process of building 5 new structures that will house 9 cultural units." You can read about the history of the House of Italy here. The House of Italy's objectives are: - To Preserve and foster the art and culture of Italy - To promote a spirit of goodwill amongst all nations - To extend hospitality to all visitors - To provide a family atmosphere for its members and guests, - To sponsor activities and programs throughout the year, - To inform visitors about Italian organizations in San Diego - To have fun enjoying Italian cuisine, fine wine and good friends. Come and visit us on Saturday and Sunday afteroons in the International Cottage area of Balboa Park between noon and 5:00 PM. Or become a member and join us for an Italian family-style dinner on the third Sunday of the month to have fun and make new friends. For location and hours of the cottage and to attend a meeting or event, please go here. I also encourage you to join and/or donate to the House of Italy, Grazie!
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Christopher Forte
Nov 09, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
The Convivio Society in San Diego which "...provides advocates, donors, and volunteers the organizational capacity to advance Italian cultural identity, preserve Italian cultural-heritage assets, cultivate community and fellowship, and foster multicultural awareness through the humanities," has created Italian San Diego to "cultivate and promote fellowship within San Diego’s Italian community." The site wants to unite the Italian community in a "virtual piazza" that will have resources including links to Italian organizations, a business listing, special offers in partnership with local merchants, and a blog with articles relevant to the Italian community of San Diego, and more. I encourage all Italian and Italian American clubs and organizations that have a Statewide presence join and support Italian San Diego, including the organizations and sponsors of this almanac, of The Italifornian. I pray many Italian-owned and/or themed businesses that have a location in the San Diego area will also want to sign up for its business listing and partner with it on special offers that would be a positive marketing tool. You can view the home page here, the Organizations listing here, and its Business listing here. To sign up as an organization or business, please click here.
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Christopher Forte
Nov 09, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
On Sunday, October 24th the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA) Fratellanza Garibaldina Lodge #1627 in San Diego, California announced their "Italian American of the Year" for 2021. It was at their 89th Anniversary Dinner Dance and unfortunately their honoree, Tom Cesarini was unable to attend, so I acted as his representative, being that I am the Facilities Coordinator for the Convivio Society, a nonprofit Mr. Cesarini founded and chairs, and that I sit on his other creation, the Little Italy Heritage Commission. I spoke a few words about my boss and good friend Tom Cesarini, and shared his nonprofit's website and social media links. Below is a bio of Tom Cesarini followed by photos and videos from the dinner dance. Tom Cesarini, Advocate for the Italian Community of San Diego & OSDIA San Diego Lodge's "Italian American of the Year" by Sal Denaro, OSDIA Fratellanza Garibaldina Lodge #1627 President As an advocate for the local Italian community, Tom Cesarini has helped to promote Italian arts, culture, and heritage for numerous local Italian cultural organizations. Noting an absence of a singular point of reference for San Diego’s myriad Italian groups, Tom founded Convivio in 2003 and the Italian Historical Society of San Diego in 2006 with the goal of establishing a multifaceted Italian cultural center and museum in San Diego. Tom’s vision for a collaborative cultural venue includes a reference library, media lab, historical archives, performance and event space, cafe and market, and an exhibition area. Currently, through Convivio, Tom directs the Amici House in Little Italy, which serves as the event, heritage, and visitor center for the community. In addition to his work with Convivio and many other organizations, Tom was appointed the Italian Honorary Consul in San Diego in 2019 and proudly serves the community in this important role, helping co-nationals with a variety of needs. Tom holds a PhD in leadership studies and an MA in nonprofit leadership and management from the University of San Diego. Tom’s doctoral dissertation is titled, The Multiple Meanings of San Diego’s Little Italy: A Study of the Impact of Real and Symbolic Space and Boundaries on the Ethnic Identities of Eight Italian Americans. For this work, Tom was a nominee for the university’s William P. Foster Outstanding Dissertation Award. In this research study, Tom examined identity perceptions of San Diego Italian Americans with a connection to Little Italy by analyzing narrative constructions of the participants’ life stories. Tom’s family members hail from Aspra, Sicily, and he remains grateful for their stories, lessons, and experiences as immigrants. Tom credits his parents’ and grandparents’ emphasis on preserving their cultural heritage for his passion and his commitment to San Diego’s Italian American community. _______________________________________________________ Me (right) with Tom Cesarini, OSDIA San Diego Lodge's "Italian American of the Year" From Tom Cesarini: Thanks, Chris, for representing and accepting on my behalf and for the kind words. I regret not being able to attend, but I am grateful to the Sons and Daughters of Italy board for the prestigious honor. I share the recognition with everyone in the community, individually and through their respective groups, who serve the preservation and advancement of our Italian American culture and heritage. For the work we do, we are all Italian Americans of the year--each and every year. And to quote Father Louis, "Sempre avanti!" From Tom Cesarini: Thanks, Chris, for representing and accepting on my behalf and for the kind words. I regret not being able to attend, but I am grateful to the Sons and Daughters of Italy board for the prestigious honor. I share the recognition with everyone in the community, individually and through their respective groups, who serve the preservation and advancement of our Italian American culture and heritage. For the work we do, we are all Italian Americans of the year--each and every year. And to quote Father Louis, "Sempre avanti!"
OSDIA Fratellanza Garibaldina Lodge San Diego Announces Tom Cesarini Their "Italian American of the Year" for 2021 content media
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Christopher Forte
Oct 28, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
On Sunday, October 24th, 2021, the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America OSDIA Fratllanza Garibaldina Lodge #1627 Vice President Grace Ingrande gave a wonderful and insightful talk on "What Empowerment Means to Italian American Women Today." The talk was given at the lodge's 89th Anniversary Dinner Dance which I will post more of later and Grace is the first female VP in the lodge's 89 year history. Until recently, OSDIA was known as OSIA, Order of the Sons of Italy in America and only men could hold offices. That all changed a number of years ago. Please enjoy the video. Grazie! Auguri! -Christopher Forte, The Italian Californian
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Christopher Forte
Oct 06, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
San Pedro's "Little Italy" In 2019 the Los Angeles neighborhood of San Pedro, located on the coast adjacent to the Port of Los Angeles, the largest in the nation, was officially designated "Little Italy" by the Los Angeles City Council. These ethnic designations of different neighborhoods, like Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, etc.., are not meant to be discriminatory and segregate, but to recognize the majority group of people who once and in some cases still live in certain neighborhoods and were a huge part of their history and development. In some cases it is a way of memorializing that ethnic group, in a sort of living museums, and to share that history with the world, particularly if that historic population is now dispersed. It is a way for a people to say "We were once here. We helped build this." However, that said, segregation is now illegal in the United States, as well as restrictive housing covenants, so any group of people can live in any neighborhood they wish, no matter its name. You don't have to be Chinese to buy or rent a home in Chinatown, and you don't have to be Italian to live in San Pedro's Little Italy. However, you should learn and respect the history of your chosen community and while contributing your own culture and adding on your own story to it, you are also encouraged to help preserve and share the culture of the neighborhood that has been there for generations or had created that community. This designation was not without controversy though, as San Pedro, like most of Los Angeles, and indeed like the United States as a whole, was a diverse area with many ethnic groups, though through my research the two most visible were yes, the Italians, but also Croatians. Yes, Croatians. According to Richard Foss in "San Pedro’s ‘Little Italy’ Raises Historical Fiction Question," published in Random Lengths News, "As a historian, I was puzzled when I heard that part of San Pedro would be designated as Historic Little Italy at the instigation of Councilman Joe Buscaino. Though a large Italian community did exist here, most coming from the coast and islands near Naples, the area’s Croatian community has been more active in recent decades. It’s worth noting, though, that to Angelenos in the 19th century they were the same. Angelenos routinely referred to coastal Croatians as Italians, because it was a linguistic designation, not a national identity. Before 1871 there was no nation called Italy. Due to the trading importance of Venice most coastal Croatians spoke Italian as a first or second language and shared a food culture and in 1870s LA there were Italian restaurants owned by people with names like Markovich and Illich. In San Pedro the two communities, both Catholic and involved in the fishing trade, were commingled almost from the outset." Just as there were also Portuguese, along with smaller ethnic populations, in the neighborhood now called San Diego's "Little Italy," so were there Croatians, among other groups, in San Pedro. While, as an Italian American, I am delighted that there is now a spot on the map of the City of Los Angeles with the words "Little Italy," I must, in good conscience, recognize the Croatians and other groups that once called it home with many still living there today. Designating San Pedro "Little Italy" is meant in no way to erase the heritage and contributions of the Croatians and others, simply to recognize one of the pivotal populations as there is still, along side the Croatians, a visible Italian population in San Pedro with Italian American Club, Trappeto Club and Mary Star of the Sea church, among a few historic businesses that are owned or cater to Italians in particular, like A-1 Grocery and Marabella Winery, though none of those are within the borders of today's "Little Italy" San Pedro. Ironically, today, and for many decades now, all things Italian are loved and desired, when a century ago Italians and our culture were nearly despised, so this designation is also used as a branding and marketing tool to attract economic activity to a depressed region that is experiencing rebirth and redevelopment. As Councilmember Joe Buscaino and Former Assemblyman now Little Italy of Los Angles Board Chair Mike Gatto point out, and as I explained here above, all are welcomed to San Pedro's Little Italy and all cultures, particularly those indigenous to the neighborhood, like the Croatians, are welcomed to share and celebrate their heritage there. I hope whenever you are in the Southern California area you visit Little Italy of Los Angeles and immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Italians of San Pedro, while also learning about the other ethnic groups and cultures that make San Pedro, and Los Angeles in general, the awesome multicultural American city it is today. Grazie! Auguri! -Christopher Forte, The Italian Californian In 2019, I attended the official unveiling of the Little Italy San Pedro gateway sign and after a year and a half of the pandemic, I was able to attend the first big in-person event in that neighborhood, Festa Italiana that was held on Saturday, October 2nd, 2021. Below are videos of those two events. Commemoration of the Official Designation of Little Italy Los Angeles and Sign Unveiling 2019: Los Angeles City Councilmember along with Former Assemblyman now Little Italy of Los Angles Association Chair Mike Gatto Welcomes Guests to Festa Italiana and Awards the Night's Honorees, October 2nd, 2021: Links: Little Italy Association of Los Angeles Photos of Festa Italiana 2021:
San Pedro's "Little Italy"
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Christopher Forte
Mar 31, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, an Italian National Parish in San Diego's Little Italy, in April 2019, pic by Christopher Forte Ciao! It is Holy Week for us Catholics and my parish is just so beautiful I have to share it! It is an Italian National Parish in a Little Italy neighborhood after all. While the traditions during Holy Week are not too different from any other Catholic parish, or many Christian churches in general, I hope you enjoy this and it inspires you to be active in your faith, whatever faith that may be, and to perhaps once we are out of the worst of this pandemic, you visit us! Just before this, of course, was Lent, the time of year we Christians attempt to mimic Jesus who went into the wilderness for 40 days and nights where He fasted, prayed, and was able to resist the temptations of the devil (not that He could give in anyways, having no sin.) It is a time when we also prepare ourselves for the great gift of God's forgiveness and reconciliation in his death on the cross and resurrection by fasting, abstaining from certain foods and behaviors, sacrificing something that gives us pleasure (some give up the internet lol), praying, and giving alms to the poor, or perhaps giving more alms (donations) to the poor than usual. Like many parishes, Our Lady of the Rosary offered Fish Fry dinners not just as a way to build a sense of community and make sure its parishioners were only eating fish on Friday lol, but as a church fundraiser as well. There would be one major dinner to kick it off, then every Friday during Lent one of the parish's societies (and there's millions! lol), would sponsor one. Below are photos of the last Lenten Fish Fry dinner in 2019 as sponsored by the church society called the Sons of the Fishmongers. Below that is a clip of the Friday Stations of the Cross. Then you will see Holy Week, starting with Holy Thursday. What about you? If you're Catholic, feel free to share what your parish does or what you do personally for Holy Week. If you are not Catholic, please feel free to share what you do this time of year, regardless. I want to share my Italian American heritage, including my Italian Catholic faith, with the world, and I want the world to share their heritage and faith with me. Grazie! Auguri! -Christopher Forte, The Italian Californian Last Lenten Fish Fry Dinner 2019: Stations of the Cross: Holy Week, also known as the Triduum, starts with Holy Thursday where Jesus instituted the priesthood and the Eucharist. He also washed the feet of His disciples as an example for them to follow, to show that to lead one must be ready to serve. Here are parts of the Holy Thursday Mass, including the Feet Washing and Eucharistic procession: Next is Good Friday. This is the night, of course, where Jesus is put on the cross and suffers just before death, also knowns as Good Friday of the Lord's Passion. We traditionally read aloud together the whole Gospel portion like a play, with the parishioners acting as the crowds, the Lecter as Pontius Pilate, and the priest as Jesus. Then there is the Veneration of the Cross where we contemplate what Jesus did for us by gazing at it and some even go up and kiss it, venerating it. I don't have any photos or videos of this. Finally, there is the Saturday evening Easter Vigil that is technically the beginning of Easter Sunday, being that the next day begins at sundown and we also celebrate the Lord's death and resurrection this night. During the Mass new converts and fallen away Catholics who found their way back home are welcomed back into the church, some are baptized. This is a short clip of the procession and opening: These two clips are of my favorite part of the Easter Vigil: the Litany of the Saints: 2019: 2017: Closing Recession & Hymn "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" 2019: When we are able to travel and do more, I pray you visit us at Our Lady of the Rosary in San Diego's Little Italy. Location: 1629 Columbia St. San Diego, CA 92101 Email: parish@olrsd.org Phone: 619-234-4820 Web: OLRSD.org YouTube Vimeo Facebook
Holy Week at Our Lady of the Rosary, An Italian National Parish in San Diego content media
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Christopher Forte
Mar 29, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
My parish, Our Lady of the Rosary (OLR), is an Italian National Parish in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood and as such holds many traditional Italian Catholic saint feast day Masses and events. Sadly, they were all postponed or celebrated via video with only a few select in person attendees due to the covid lockdowns. In March, of course, there is St. Joseph's Day, La Festa di San Giuseppe, which was celebrated by my parish on March 17th. This year OLR did not hold a traditional Mass and luncheon fundraiser for it, but instead posted an article about it on their website and in their bulletin that you can view here. Today, however, I want to share what a "normal" St. Joseph's Day Mass looks like so you can enjoy it and, if you're ever in Southern California, once we able to travel and do more, you might consider attending one. I am not a professional videographer, but you may still enjoy the cell phone video below of parts of the 2019 St. Joseph's Day Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary, San Diego. This is a short clip of the opening procession. You can view the full video here. There are more photos here. And you can read about St. Joseph's Day here. Our Lady of the Rosary is located at 1629 Columbia St. San Diego, CA 92101 Email: parish@olrsd.org Phone: 619-234-4820 Web: OLRSD.org Grazie! Auguri! -Christopher Forte, The Italian Californian More video here.
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Christopher Forte
Mar 27, 2021
In Welcome to the Forum
Ciao! My name is Christopher Forte. My paternal grandfather's parents immigated from Palermo in the early 1920s and settled in Brooklyn, New York. My paternal grandmother's parents came from Naples and before that they were Albanians who fled there to escape the Turks. Her parents immigrated to the US much earlier, in fact we have a photo of my great-great-grandmother standing somewhere in New York State in 1890. It was in Brooklyn that these two families, my grandparents, met. There they had at least one and maybe two of their four kids, including my father. My grandparents and great aunts and uncles knew personally or knew of many famous Italians from Brooklyn before they found fame and I will discuss that in a later post. Including, by the way, a few wiseguys. And during WWII one of my relatives, who was not yet a US citizen, was told by the FBI to go back to Italy or get arrested. Wanting their independence from my great-grandparents and to escape the brutal Winters of New York, they moved out to California in the early 1960s and this is where my father grew up. They first lived in Whittier, a suburb in LA County, then in the 1970s they moved to the Orange County community of Yorba Linda. My mother was not Italian, but her background is just as interesting. Her family was on this continent before the Revolutionary War and we have documented evidence of a distant cousin that fought in the Civil War. Unfortunately he fought for the Confederacy. They eventually lived in Florida. My mother was abused horribly as a child, being found chained in a closet by the authorities, and so was eventually adopted by a conservative Christian family in Whittier, CA and that is where and how my parents eventually met. My father was a Reagan Republican who was very assimilated and so the Italian heritage didn't really inform any part of his life. He wasn't ashamed of it, it just never really occured to him because he grew up as a middle-class White American from a conservative Republican family and was raised in a time when everyone was expected to be 100% American. (No hyphens!) Sure, there were still some Italian traditions in our lives, especially when we visited my grandparents, like the music at most family gatherings being that of the likes of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, a plate of pasta with the Turkey on Thanksgiving, lasagna and meatballs on Christmas, and my grandparents speaking Italian with friends and family when they didn't want me to understand, but I never thought I was any different from any other White kid of whatever ancestry, be it German, French, or whatever....we were just Americans...and according to all the schools I ever went to I was just a White American. No one ever called me Italian American. In fact in my late teens I did realize and become proud of my ancestral background and when a US Census taker back in the year 2000 was at our home asking my ethnicity, I answered "Italian American." She said, "Oh, you're White." I corrected her, "No, I'm ITALIAN AMERICAN." I was attending very culturally diverse schools and upon seeing all my Hispanic friends know of and show off their heritage, I asked myself what I was, where my family came from? And so on. And so it was in high school, in the late 1990s, facing a multicultural society, that I discovered my family's Italian heritage and decided to make it a bigger part of my life. Today, at the age of 42, I am the Facilities Coordinator for the Amici House, which is San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood event and heritage center which is run as part of the Heritage program of the Convivio Society, I also sit on the Convivio Society's Little Italy Heritage Commission, am a member of the House of Italy, the Former 2nd Vice President of the Italian Catholic Federation ICF Branch #230-Our Lady of the Rosary, and am a volunteer for the Little Italy Association and am very active with my church, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, an Italian National Parish. I am in the process of re-joining the Sons of Italy (now the Sons and Daughters of Italy) (OSDIA) and am a former Silver Council Member of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and a former member of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (NIASHF). I am in the process of joining San Diego's Italian American Civic Association (IACA) but the pandemic has set them back a bit. I am also working on my own blog and hopefully a printed magazine about the Italian American community here in California that you can view at theitaliancalifornian2.blogspot.com (it is a work in progress...the pandemic and my new job I had to take because of it impeded my work on it). My quest, my mission, the goal of my blog and of my presence here, is to preserve, celebrate, promote, and share the Italian American heritage of California with the world. I do not see my work in competition with any other Italian and Italian American publication, indeed I want to promote those publications and media, like this almanac, and help them thrive. The more exposure the Italian American community gets, the better. We have the same goals, and I want to be an additional voice and advocate achieving those goals. "A rising tide lifts all boats," so the saying goes, and I just want to be a part of that tide. So I hope you welcome me here, that I make many friends with our similar interests and learn about whatever part of the Italian heritage and story in California still missing from my research and life. Grazie! Auguri! -Christopher Forte
Introducing Myself: My Family's Story content media
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Christopher Forte

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