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Franky in New York

The Beautiful Life

What does growing up Italian American represent? Is reconnecting to the roots meaningful to the younger generations, or is it just honoring some family traditions without getting the true sense out of it? This month The Beautiful Life explores what Italy - and being Italian - represents for our kids, from their most tender age to their college and working years.

Of course the main issue is reconnecting with the language. Italians belong to the ethnic group which has lost their native idiom more than any other one. Despite Italian being the fourth language in the world to be studied, in the last years half of the Italian Americans have quit speaking it. This is a giant gap to fill, but it's not the only one. Another crucial point is visiting Italy, to experience in person the emotional impact provoked by seeing the place the ancestors moved from. A truly life-changing moment.

Italian American organizations put in place many initiatives to help the new generations have the most immersive possible Italian experience.
Let's find this out together.
The Italian word for "to grow up" is beautiful in sound and meaning. It's crescere (kràe-shae-rae), a verb unchanged since the spoken language was Latin. Crescere is a nice word for its meaning too: it has a shared root with creare, that is "to create". To Italians, crescere and creare may refer to different situations, but in the end they are the natural consequence of each other.
"The trip lasts 14 days. The impact lasts a lifetime". This is the motto NIAF, the National Italian American Foundation, has chosen to promote their Voyage of Discovery, the summer program thanks to which each year a group of Italian American students aged 18-23 goes to Italy for a couple of weeks. The trip includes flights, accommodations, meals, admissions to museums and archeological sites, transportation, and tours. The program, founded in 2000 by Ambassador Peter F. Secchia, focuses on a particular region - or a set of regions - each year. The 2020 and 2021 programs were postponed due to the pandemic, but this year the group visited Abruzzo and Tuscany. For more details and how to enroll for 2023, go to
Founded in Philadelphia to celebrate Italian roots along with the American dream, Filitalia International aims at both reinforcing the knowledge of Italian language and promoting international exchange programs. The organization offers a vast array of Italian classes, and the International Exchange Program open to students and young professionals, aged 21-30, who wish to experience a 2-4 weeks internship in Italy.
More details at
St. Louis Italians, in St. Louis, Missouri is a proactive Italian cultural center that offers various opportunities, starting with Italian classes for children and grown ups. Since 1987 St. Louis' Italian sister city is Bologna: this September they are organizing a trip there to celebrate this 35 years long friendship and cultural exchange. More details at, to ask for information about the trip to Bologna write an email to
Another vibrant Italian community is the one in Louisiana. The American Italian Cultural Center in New Orleans organizes Italian classes for all level students and, in order to more deeply reconnect with the ancestors, they are planning a trip to Italy for the next summer.
Find out more at . Inquiries about the 2023 Italian trip must be addressed to
Casa Italia Chicago also works hard to reconnect the Chicago Italians with their roots. Their schedule typically offers Italian classes of different kinds: proper cycles of lessons for adults and kids, children's summer camps, and even brief conversational Italian classes for the ones who are planning a trip to Italy and just want to learn the basics. More at 
Focused on Italian American women, NOIAW, the National Organization of Italian American Women, each year offers a series of scholarships to Italian American female students that further the exploration of Italian language, heritage, and culture. Also, until the pandemic hit, NOIAW organized, in alternating years, a Cultural Exchange Program hosting young Italian women in New York City and sending young Italian American women to Rome for a ten days professional and educational experience. 
Find out more about NOIAW initiatives at

Read Italian, Be Italian
Growing up Italian American also develops through Italian books. At I AM Books (, the bookstore in Boston which also serves as a proactive Italian cultural hub, they know it very well. That's why they constantly nurture the young readers, with a great selection of Italian titles - both in quality and in quantity. From best selling authors as Gianni Rodari to comic books, learning Italian, and what being Italian means, has never been so easy and fun.
Eating Italian American: the sauce!
However you want to call it, gravy or sauce, there's one thing everyone can reckon with: tomato is absolutely the best fit for pasta. Italian tomato sauce is a staple in every Italian kitchen, and in case you still don't know the recipe we've got you covered, borrowing from  their famed "slow cooked Italian American tomato sauce".


  • 4 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferably imported D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes 

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  • 1 medium carrot, cut into large chunks

  • 1 medium onion, split in half

  • 1 large stem fresh basil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, such as Red Boat (optional)

  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves (or a mix of the two)


  • Adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 300°F (165°C). Place tomatoes in a large bowl. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes by squeezing them in your fingers until pieces no larger than 1/2-inch remain. Transfer 3 cups of crushed tomatoes to a sealed container and reserve in the refrigerator.
  • Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until butter is melted. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add pepper flakes and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, carrot, onion, and basil, and stir to combine. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over high heat.
  • Cover Dutch oven with the lid slightly ajar and transfer to the oven. Cook, stirring once every 1 to 2 hours, until reduced by about half and darkened to a deep red, 5 to 6 hours (reduce oven temperature if the sauce is bubbling too rapidly or the browned bits begin to turn too dark).
  • Remove from the oven. Using tongs, discard onion halves, carrots, and basil stems. Add reserved tomatoes to sauce and stir to combine. Add fish sauce, if using. Season generously with salt and pepper and stir in minced herbs along with additional olive oil as desired. Serve immediately, or allow to cool at room temperature, transfer to airtight containers, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Sauce can also be frozen in sealed containers for up to 6 months. To reheat, warm very gently in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water, stirring until it all melts and heats through.

Buon appetito!

This time the news is us! Tomorrow, Thursday July 28, Franky in New York's co-founder Elena Frigenti will present The "Third Way": Why Being an Italian American Is So Special for the Speaker Series hosted by Il Cenacolo, the Italian Cultural club in San Francisco. Elena will talk about how Italian Americans beautifully mix their two mother cultures in an amazing way. The event, scheduled at 1 PM PT, is available on Zoom: details at
Each Story Needs to Be Told

Your story needs to be told, and so does your loved ones’. Now you have the opportunity of making it count. Be part of our new project, the Italian American Who’s Who: the first collection ever of all the Italian American stories. A massive loving tribute to the community and a way to preserve your family’s memory for future generations. This is the first comprehensive recognition to a community that has left such an undeniable mark in this country, no matter the original background. And it’s not just about legacy: Who’s Who will also help in reconnecting family members and friends who have lost touch over the years and in expanding one’s own network.


One for the Road

The Italian genius attitude will never cease to amaze. In Milan, along the Navigli, there's a place which was meant to be a storage - and it ended up becoming the world's tiniest bar. Backdoor43, at Ripa di Porta Ticinese 43, is just 43 square feet and it can host only three people at a time. But it is definitely worth the experience: its collection of whiskeys counts more than 300 labels, and there's always an expert mixologist ready to answer your prayers.

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