Published on L’Idea N.15, VOL. II, 2003, NY
Edited by George Carpetto and Diane Evanac for the Loggia Press Editions, this book is a compendium of two hundred biographies, carefully selected to give a comprehensive panorama of the Italian American cultural, sport and entertainment elite. As in most cases, I am certain that a few personalities have been inadvertently omitted due to space limitations. Regardless, the effort has been made and with unambiguous, positive results. This volume is truly a valid reference guide to the Italian intelligentsia in United States for the past one hundred years. It included such well-known names as John Travolta, Gay Talese and Guglielmo Marconi, but it also lists personalities whose names are not so easily recognizable as Italian. Harry Warren, a.k.a. Salvatore Guaragna, for example, was a composer, songwriter and winner of three Academy Awards. Alfred Emanuel Smith, the first Roman Catholic to run for President of the United States, owed his deceptively Irish surname to a classic mix-up involving an impatient immigration officer. As it has happened many times throughout the early immigration history, the government official, either because of a complicated spelling or missing paper work, labeled “Smith” the young Alfredo Emanuelo, grandfather of this illustrious politician. So many more stories as this one fill this marvelous reference book, which deserves to be read by all people who feel connected, even loosely, to the Italian heritage. This book is also a source of curiosities that don’t cease to surprise the reader concerned with either history and/or trivial news. Names such as Bobby Darin, Anne Bancroft, Charles Atlas, Penny Marshall and Frankie Laine are not usually recognized as Italian. Nor are some others that, although retaining their original Italian root, don’t ring immediately as such. Wladziu Valentino Liberace, Walter Schirra, Joseph Bernardin, Yogi Berra, Oleg Cassini and Don Ameche are a few of the incognito Italian American who can be found in this delectable tome. Among the two hundred celebrities, I was personally proud to find Michael Pesce, a judge who, among other things, finds his roots in the enclave of Carroll Gardens, in Brooklyn, as many members of our staff do.
ITALIAN AMERICANS of the TWENTIETH CENTURY: From the same vine was funded by Florida chapter of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America and we praise both the authors and the association for such an effort.