South Jersey is rich in opportunities to celebrate connections to Italian culture, wine, food and language. Carol Comegno/Videographer
October is National Italian Heritage Month, and in New Jersey the single largest ethnic group is Italian (followed by African and Irish). Almost 20 percent of the state population— more than1.5 million residents — identifies as having Italian heritage, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
But Italians have so melded into the American population over the generations that many cannot speak or read the language save a few dialect words and have not continued traditions like making wine and pasta.
While everyone cannot afford a trip to the “old country” to reconnect with tradition, there are many ways for South Jerseyans to preserve the culture and customs of ancestral immigrants from Italy. Here is a list of suggested ways for Italians and anyone else who appreciates these traditions to preserve and promote them:
Join an Italian organization. Italian ancestry is not required.
- Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America recently changed its formal name to reflect its more inclusive policy of accepting women as full members. For local chapters, contact OSIA Grand Lodge of New Jersey, 510 Marlboro Ave., Cherry Hill, 08002 or call (856) 663-5800.
- Circolo Italiano meets the second Monday of the month at the Haddon Heights Municipal Building on Station Avenue. Call Marie Denz at (856) 627-2869.
- Societa’ Bell’ Italia Cultural Club meets the third Tuesday of the month at Carlucci’s Waterfront Restaurant, 876 Centerton Road, Mount Laurel, 08054. Call Ginger Katz at (856) 866-1189 or email email@example.com. “It’s so hard to get younger members to join and we need them and we give scholarships to students at several high schools,” said the club’s former president Grace Tomasetti of Burlington Township.
- Amici Della Lingua Italiana (Friends of the Italian Language) cultural club meets the last Tuesday of the month for dinner, usually at the Casimari restaurant, 710 Sunset Road, Burlington Township. Contact secretary Debra Vromback at (609) 261-4951 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Italian Cultural Foundation of South Jersey is at 468 Wheat Road in Vineland. Visit https://icfsnj.org/ or call president Robert Odorizzi at (609) 805-3757 or (856) 213-6354. Its general membership meeting is Nov. 2 at the headquarters.
- Filitalia International has chapters in South Jersey and Pennsylvania. Visit www.filitaliainternational.com/chapters or call (215) 334- 8882.
Take an Italian language course.
Most of the county colleges offer credit or non-credit Italian courses and some public school districts offer night adult education courses for adults.
- Rowan College at Burlington County holds 10-week community courses in the fall, winter and spring semesters at its main campus, 900 College Circle at Route 38, Mount Laurel. Visit rcbc.edu/ppd. Winter courses will updated by Dec. 1. For questions, call (856) 222-9311, ext. 2537. Credit courses (Italian II will be offered this spring) can be found at www.rcbc.edu
- Camden County College will offer six-week conversational Italian I and II in the spring. For information contact Kaina Hanna at email@example.com or (856) 374-4902.
- Rowan College at Gloucester County will offer a course in elementary Italian in the spring. Call student services at (856) 415-2197, option 1.
- Amici Della Lingua Italiana offers beginner, intermediate and advanced Italian taught by Italian-born instructors. Classes are held most Tuesdays during fall and winter/spring semesters and include cooking sessions at the Wilbur Watts Intermediate School, 550 High Street, Burlington City. Contact instructor Anna DeCristofaro at (609) 714-9113.
Learn Italian cooking and baking
- In My Grandmother’s Kitchen, 111 Oak Terrace, in Merchantville teaches pasta-making and cookie baking with afternoon classes Dec.10 and 17. Visit www.inmygrandmotherskitchen.com or call (856) 477-3850 or (856) 577-9306.
- Sur La Table in The Promenade shopping center on Rt. 73 in Marlton will host a family cooking event at 2 p.m. Nov. 2 followed by a 6:30 p.m. Italian feast. There are several ravioli-making sessions in November. Call (856) 797-6572 or visit www.surlatable.com
- In the Kitchen Cooking School, 10 Mechanic St., Haddonfield has a 6:30 p.m. BYOB date night and dinner-making event Nov. 11 featuring gnocchi with fresh ricotta, steak, salad and pignoli tart. On Nov. 19 there will be a pasta-making class for rolled and stamped varieties. Call (856) 489-1682 or visit http://inthekitchencookingschool.com/cooking-classes/ for reservations
Make wine from grapes or from their juice.
- Try making your own wine at the Wine Room, 1 Esterbrook Lane, Cherry Hill 08003. Call (856) 424-9463 or visit www.thewineroom.com
- Or, at Kennedy Cellars School of Wine (formerly Gino Pinto Wine School), 839 13th St., Hammonton. The gold medal winner of this month’s annual Sons of Italy homemade wine judging event at Villa Barone in Collingswood was a 2016 Barbera made at Kennedy Cellars by non-Italians Eddie Correll of Bellmawr and son Tyler and guided by their Italian partner, Johnny DiBlasio of Washington Township.
Learn Italian folk dances. The most well known, the Tarantella, is only one.
- Vivaci dance group for teens to adults meets at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, 9th and Pierce Streets, South Philadelphia. Contact Paul Torna at (215) 380-2768.
- Piccolini dance group for children ages 4 and older recently formed. Rehearsals are at the Sons of Italy Lodge 2580, 525 W. Broad St., Paulsboro. Call instructor Catarina Dattola Dawson at (856) 467-0096.
Play bocce. Buy a bocce ball set for the whole family or join a bocce league.
Bocce is a lawn or court game for all ages and for two or more players. The aim is to score points by rolling or throwing balls as close as possible to a smaller white target ball and knocking an opponent’s balls away from it.
- Pete DiCianni Memorial Bocce League of 16 teams from across South Jersey plays at Kirkwood Park in Voorhees. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Angelo DeClemente Bocce League of New Jersey is sponsored by OSIA Grand Lodge of New Jersey, 510 Marlboro Ave., Cherry Hill. Call (856) 663-5800.
- Delsea Regional High School has a public court on Fries Mill Road in Franklinville but no night lighting. Contact Spike Cook at email@example.com
- Merchantville Country Club Bocce League has golf, social and family members who play. Call Leonard Wood at (856) 979-1608.
- Other public bocce courts are in Cinnaminson Memorial Park, Pennypacker Park in Cherry Hill, the Boardwalk at 22nd Street in North Wildwood, Leaming Avenue and the Boardwalk in Wildwood and the 42nd Street Recreation Complex in Brigantine.
Visit an Italian museum or attend an Italian festival or event.
History of Italian Immigration Museum, 1834 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia. Open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Call (215) 334-8882 for hours or visit www.filitaliainternational.com/aboutmuseum
AFeast of the Seven Fishes will be Dec. 2 at the Italian Cultural Foundation of South Jersey, 468 Wheat Road in Vineland. Call (856) 213-6354 for reservations.
A chartered bus trip to New York City is set for Dec. 2 to see the Michelangelo exhibit and Neapolitan Christmas display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lunch in the Italian business district on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and visit Rockefeller Center’s famed Christmas tree. For more details, contact Debra Vromback of Amici Della Lingua Italiana at (609) 261-4951 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts festival of Italian classical music Jan. 27 at 8 p.m., including the Carnival of Venice and L’Italiana in Algeri Overture by Rossini. Event is at Third and Pearl streets.
Carol Comegno; (609) 533-0306; email@example.com