Di Palo’s family passes down values and traditions through Italian food
Once upon a time there was a “Little Italy” in Manhattan. It is still there but it has been changed dramatically that it is almost unrecognized. Invaded by the area of Chinatown, only few original restaurants, bars and delis are left. The Italians-Americans in New York have changed over time. The original immigrants who were born in Italy and immigrated to New York, or their children, can hardly be found anymore. The Italian-Americans are now all of the third, forth or fifth generation of the ones who immigrated from Italy. They hardly speak Italian (or just very little), some of them have never been to Italy and not really familiar or attached to their original Italian culture. The new immigrants are mostly young people who came to New York to live and experience the city’s life and success. They are not really into meeting other Italians or associating with them. They are no longer interested in the “Community Life”, but mostly during the Holidays such as Christmas, or the most famous patron saints. However, there are some exceptions: Di Palo is an Italian-American family of five generations. They run and manage the oldest deli in Little Italy. Opened in 1925 by Mrs. Concetta as a local dairy store, it is now a modern shop that has clients from all the five boroughs and from all the US. Lou Di Palo, a grandson of Grandma Concetta, has some very clear ideas on how to keep the Italian values; selling food and talking about it. He makes sure that he and his brothers will have a direct relationship with their costumers. Standing behind the counter while preparing the mozzarella, serving “Prosciutto di Parma” or cutting a piece of parmesan cheese, they talk about their travels to Italy and how they choose their products directly from the places where they are produced, places such as Upper Adige’s farms, from Emilia-Romagna’s fields, from Sicily’s groves, or from Veneto and Tuscany’s vineyards. The Di Palo Brothers also like to tell stories (or legends) about food. They keep saying that the Pandoro cake has become a Christmas cake, because when it is being cut to be stuffed with cream, it can be re-shaped as a Christmas tree. They also say that tortellini was first made by the owner of a guest-house, who was peeping through the keyhole of one his ladies guest’s room, and was mesmerized by the beauty of her navel, that he wanted to reproduce it as an appetizing food. The Di Palo Brothers made the counter of their deli as the table of an Italian home. The counter is no longer a barrier but a place where they communicate through food and where they pass on traditions. Italy can be a country with a lot of problems, but there are aspects of life in Italy that are enviable. Lou Di Palo has no doubt about that. A family is sitting around a table during lunch. City Squares filled with people and children on Sundays afternoon. Friends chatting together in cafes while having a good espresso. Knowing how to enjoy simple things and good food. That’s what Italians should be proud of about themselves. That’s what the Di Palo Brothers want to pass on to their children, their grandchildren and to their customers.