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CULTURE + LIFESTYLE

This section is for all lovers of Italian culture and cuisine who are looking for ways to celebrate their love of all things Italian.

Italian american baseball stars honored in italy

By Barbara Klein

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Mayor Giovanni Cucchetti at the dedication.  Photo courtesy of Paolo Contini.

What do Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola, Frank Crespi and Jim Pisoni have in common?

 

The four baseball legends have been immortalized on a mural in Cuggiono, Italy! All four were born during the period 1918 to 1929 on “The Hill”, the Italian American neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, to parents who had emigrated from western Lombardy.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, thousands of residents of Cuggiono and nearby towns, such as Inveruno, Malvaglio and Buscate, immigrated to the United States with St. Louis being one of their primary destinations.

The idea to honor the four baseball stars was initiated by Oreste Magni, president of the Ecoistituto della Valle del Ticino, a non-profit promoting cultural, social and ecological initiatives in the Ticino River Valley. Magni, who also designed the mural, explained, "Looking at the past and at one's roots helps to better understand our present. At the end of the 19th century, thousands of inhabitants around Cuggiono migrated to the Americas, with many settling in St. Louis. Integration was difficult but through sports, especially baseball, some children of our emigrants became champions.”

The mural is composed of six photographic panels—one each of the honored baseball stars in a batting stance during their playing years, bordered by two present-day photographs of The Hill, one of the “The Italian Immigrants” statue by Rudolph Torrini, which stands outside St. Ambrose Church, and the second of a typical home on The Hill. The mural stretches sixty feet in length on a wall bordering a small park between Via San Rocco and Via Manzoni.

The ceremonies for the unveiling of the mural were presided over by Mayor Giovanni Cucchetti. Several of the descendants and relatives of the honored baseball players, including Yogi Berra’s son Larry and granddaughter Lindsay, along with Frank Crespi’s brother Richard, and Richard’s children, Tom, Sue, Jane and Julie, virtually attended the ceremonies on Sunday, June 16, fittingly Father’s Day in the USA.

Lindsay Berra, executive producer of the documentary about her grandfather, “It Ain’t Over” (2022), stated “My grandfather was very proud of his Italian heritage and the athletic accomplishments of the guys with whom he grew up on The Hill. It is very important to me to keep his legacy alive, as both a great baseball player and a great human being. I love that this mural will introduce him and his accomplishments to generations of Italians and I'm so grateful to Cuggiono for including him.”

The town sports four other murals and plans to add more murals highlighting local culture and their connection to the USA, including honoring the 1950 US World Cup Soccer Team that included several St. Louis residents.

Cuggiono is located 14 miles south of Milan’s Malpensa airport. On your next trip to Italy, stop by Cuggiono to see the murals dedicated to four legends of our great American pastime!

2023 italian heritage award recipient

Pat Merlo

The Italian Club of St. Louis is honored and pleased to announce that the 2023 Italian Heritage Award was presented to Pat Merlo.  Patricia Ann Merlo was born to Anne Ceriotti and Joseph James (Timmy) Merlo.  Soon afterwards, Pat welcomed her brother, Jim Merlo, and sister, Kay Merlo Grein.

 

Pat began her education at the Sacred Heart Villa, then St Ambrose Catholic Grade School and Nerinx Hall High School followed by Miss Hickey's Business School.

Her first job was at International Shoe Company where she worked for 9 years.  She then worked at Monsanto Corporation for 22 years where she began as a Secretary and rose to the position of Office Manager.  Pat took early retirement and while retired worked part-time.

Having grown up with music, Pat sang with the Sounds of Plenty which also included:  Jim Merlo, Tom Sant'Ambrogio, Skip Torretta and Dusan Gagich.  Pat also coordinated music groups upon request for special occasions.

Pat spent so much of her life volunteering for organizations on The Hill and in the Italian-American community.  She was involved in the following:

  • Hill 2000 committees

  • Directed the Hill Day performances

  • Directed musical comedies at St Ambrose:  King of Hearts, Little Mary Sunshine, Déjà vu Reviews, Duck the Garlic's Flying, Apple Fever, O Mona, Mona Mi at St Ambrose

  • USO shows at Union Station on Veteran's Day weekends and at Military Reunions

  • Assistant Director for the CYC shows - Wonderful Town and Annie Get Your Gun

  • Sick and Elderly Program of the Hill - Silent Auction Coordinator

  • Columbus Day Corporation/Italian Heritage Corporation

  • Bologna Sister Cities organization - one of the Founding members with Cav. Joann Arpiani and Msgr. Sal Polizzi

  • St Vincent de Paul Society at St Ambrose - Vice President

  • Mount Carmel Society member

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PER LA STRADA

Share your love of all things Italian by sending us your favorite places, stories, recipes, books or family traditions.

Cremona by Angela Pasetti Holland

One of my favorite places to visit when I’m in Italy is the beautiful, ancient city of Cremona. My mother grew up in this fair Lombardian town and lucky for me I’m able to visit my relatives there any chance I get.

Cremona is located in Lombardy a short train ride south from Milan. It is of course known for its lengthy musical history of producing the famous Stradivarius violins and other stringed instruments. It was the birthplace of Antonio Stradivari and to this day is home to the world’s best luthiers. A visit to the Museo del Violino is a must for any first-time visitor.  There and throughout the city one can stop to admire an artisan crafting one of these fine masterpieces.  It’s a pure delight to stroll through its narrow streets and hear the soft sounds of violins tuning and playing nearby.

Of course, like other Italian cities Cremona boasts a breathtaking piazza with its unique Romanesque Duomo, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta and its octagonal Baptistry.  The Torrazzo is the symbol of the city and by the way is the third tallest brickwork bell tower in the world. I’ve enjoyed many a gelato or apperitivo here at a café overlooking this beautiful setting.

Cremona is also known for its contributions to ‘la cucina Italiana’.  It’s known for its stuffed pastas like marubini or tortelli di zucca and various styles of risotti. I had some of the best marubini in brodo, outside my home at the very casual neighborhood Trattoria Cerri.  They tasted just like the ones my Nonna used to make.  On the sweet side Cremona is known for the famous nougat candy, Torrone which we see during the holidays but there you can find anytime. The sweet-spicy, syrupy fruit, Mostarda is also original to this city.  My parents used to serve it with their turkey instead of cranberries, but it’s usually served with bollito misto.

So, the next time you have the opportunity to travel to Italy take a side trip to this often overlooked treasure. You can stay at Hotel Impero, Piazza della pace, 21—literally steps from Cremona’s beautiful Duomo and its town center. Vi auguro una buona permanenza!

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LOCAL EVENTS

Italia America Bocce Club

Check out the newest events at the Italia America Bocce Club or join a league.  stlbocce.com

 

The Hill Neighborhood Center at 1935 Marconi Avenue

The Hill Saint Louis – Run by the Hill Neighborhood Association. hillstl.org

 

Concerts at Piazza Imo 

For concert schedule and ticket information click here.

 

The Hill St. Louis Food Tour

Eat at the top restaurants On The Hill. Food tours last about 3 hours and run on Fridays and Saturdays. See: The Hill St. Louis Food Tour | EAT St. Louis Food Tours. saintlouisfoodtours.com

Winter Opera of St. Louis

Winter Opera offers many Christmas celebrations and a 3 production opera season. Check out their website: Upcoming Events–Winter Opera Saint Louis. winteroperastl.org

 

Italian Film Festival USA

Runs Italian Films in St. Louis venues during the month of April. 

italianfilmfests.org

local Italian restaurants
per la strada
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Pasta e fagioli

—dalla cucina di Jeanne Florini

A nickname for Tuscans is “mangiafagioli” (bean eaters). Beans (legumes) have been cultivated for centuries in Tuscany, with the the oldest a black eyed bean from before Roman times. Pliny the Elder wrote about the nutritional contributions of the fava bean (he was a naturalist and died trying to rescue friends after the eruption at Pompeii). The white cannellini bean appeared in Florence shortly after the discovery of America in 1492. Because beans are easy to grow, the peasants of Tuscany quickly learned to grow them and incorporated them into their diet. I, for one, am glad they did! Here is my version of pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup) which provides excellent nutritional benefits (including folate from the beans which helps the brain work better and protects the heart), and is an ideal comfort food. Serve with crusty bread!

Total yield: 8 cups    Serving size: 8 oz

 

Equipment needed: stockpot (large), immersion blender, measuring spoons/cups, cutting boards and knives

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NOTE:  How To Make Vegetable Stock

Ingredients:    1 to 2 onions

                        2 to 3 carrots

                        3 to 4 celery stalks

                        4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme (if use dried - 1 T.)

                        1 bay leaf

                        1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

                        8 cups water

Optional Extras: leeks (especially the green parts), fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, mushroom stems (mushrooms will provide the umami flavor—that is typically found in a meat stock)                    

  1. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil over a medium heat.

  2. Add diced onion, celery and carrot.

  3. Cook, covered stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes). 

  4. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook gently for about an hour or until the stock tastes rich and full.

  5. Strain stock and compost vegetable solids.

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ITALIAN CLUB OF ST. LOUIS

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