Say “Buongiorno” to Donatus

Donatus Buongiorno 00

“Principal Episodes in the Life of Christ” at Most Precious Blood Church. Photo originally published at Il Regno.

A new exhibit featuring the work of Solofra (AV) native Donatus Buongiorno is set to debut this April in New York City.

“The Art of Immigration” will be held from April 11 to May 11 at the Rectory Gallery of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street. The exhibit will feature Buongiorno’s works, including pieces from private collections and secular images. Buongiorno’s work can also be seen in the form of 38 murals depicting stories of spiritual salvation and immigrant life at the Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood at 109 Mulberry Street– this is also the church where the National Shrine to St. Gennaro is housed. Most Precious Blood is also the Sister Church of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.

Donatus Buongiorno was born in 1865 in Solofra (AV), Italy, and studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Naples. He emigrated to the United States in 1892. Upon arrival, he worked on privately commissioned portraits while working by day as a designer in a wallpaper factory. By the early 1900s, Italian-American Catholic Churches throughout the United States began commissioning him to paint murals and other church decorations. His works also appear in Boston, Mass., Brattleboro, Vt., and in other New York locations. He returned to Solofra in 1908 to work on the restoration of La Collegiata di San Michele Arcangelo.

In addition to murals and portraits, throughout his life he made easel paintings that he sold out of his studios in New York and Naples. He also served as a dealer for other Italian artists whose works he imported into the US and sold in New York, San Francisco and elsewhere.

“We gaze upon these pictures from a distance, measured by the passage of time, and find ourselves mystically connected to the people of this disappeared world,” said Msgr. Donald Sakano, Pastor of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in a press release. “These fine paintings remind us of who we are and inspire us to see the world around ourselves as a beautiful place to live and work.”

For more information on the exhibit, go to
or call Bill Russo, Producer at (347) 933-3337. For a full listing of events surrounding the “Art of Immigration” exhibit, click here. For more information on Donatus Buongiorno, visit

Hazelnuts from Irpinia May Be In Your Easter Candy

The Ferrero facility in Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi. This photo originally appeared on

Known for iconic brands like Nutella, Tic Tac, and Ferrero Rocher, among others, Ferrero has a manufacturing facility in Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi (AV). Because Irpinia is known for its hazelnuts, Ferrero recently announced a new marketing initiative designed to celebrate the region by showcasing one of its best-tasting exports.

“Progetto Nocciola Italia” is the name of Ferrero’s mission to include only Italian hazelnuts in its products– the initiative has now landed in Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi, after having been successful in both Piedmont and Umbria. The initiative has proven popular across Italy, where a marked determination to highlight Italian-made products has been at the national forefront for quite some time. The phrase “Made in Italy” is meant to evoke high-quality items, either food or merchandise, that showcase Italian craftsmanship and expertise. Italian hazelnuts are deemed to be more flavorful than their non-Italian counterparts. In the regions where it operates, Ferrero is also purchasing land near its facilities for the purpose of cultivation and to help bring jobs to keep young people at home, versus needing to seek work elsewhere.

In Irpinia, the cultivation of hazelnuts is a major industry– to the point where it has been recognized by the government as a “Traditional Italian Agricultural Product.” In fact, hazelnuts are recognized in Irpinia as its second most popular “cultural treasure,” right after wine production!

To read more about Ferrero’s initiative, click here for a great article from La Nuova Irpinia.

A Scarf of Solidarity

53283405_10218384678113030_147508285254139904_oI have to admit, when it comes to knitting or crocheting, it is something I enjoy doing, but I am notorious for starting projects and taking months to finish them, thanks to a busy schedule.

I refused to let this be the case when I got a Facebook message from my friend Giuseppe Silvestri of Unpli Irpinia (Unione Nazionale Pro Loco d’Italia). He mentioned that for International Women’s Day on March 8, Irpinian women from around the world were asked to knit or crochet a pink scarf as a way to call attention to the fight against breast cancer. These scarves would then be linked together as a kind of virtual “hug” for those fighting the battle and they would then try to submit the entire project to the Guinness Book of World Records.

What my friend did not know at the time of his message was that 2018 marked the 60th anniversary of my grandmother, Anna Mascaro Longo’s, passing from that horrible disease. My mother was 10 years old and, because medical technology in 1958 was so different than that of today, she remembers that Nonna suffered terribly. I often talk about how proud I am of my Nonno Joe, Anna’s husband, but never really got the chance to show how proud I am of my Nonna for her bravery. It has been told to me by several people that when she knew she would die, her only concern was her children, my mother and her brother, Jay. As her granddaughter, how could I not be proud of Nonna’s strength of character and want to somehow honor her? I had wanted to run the Race for the Cure and participate in other breast cancer-related initiatives, but nothing ever felt “right.” Until now.

I pulled myself together and quickly crocheted a scarf for my Nonna. It’s not as long as I wanted it to be (I am a slow crocheter!), nor was it perfectly done (I am still learning!), but I wanted to make sure she was somehow a part of this beautiful initiative. Every woman who has fought or who is fighting this disease deserves to be a part of it and by the sheer length of the scarf, I truly believe each one was.

The overall length of the “Scarf of Solidarity” was roughly nine-and-a-half miles, which beat the previous World Record of 9 miles for a handmade scarf, which was set in India. The scarf was unveiled on March 8 in Lioni’s Piazza Vittoria as part of local activities for International Women’s Day. Besides the official World Record declaration, women that day wore pink in honor of women fighting breast cancer. A commemorative pink bench to raise awareness of violence against women was also unveiled at Avellino’s train station, where women were able to board a train to Lioni to see the scarf.

In case you were wondering what it looks like, here’s my scarf in honor of my Nonna Anna. It may not have arrived in Italy on time, but I am thankful that Nonna was still a part of this day!


Discovering Prosciuttificio Vittorio Ciarcia

The town of Venticano in the Province of Avellino is the home of Vittorio Ciarcia, which since 1930 has created a wide variety of cured meats “Irpinia Style,” including prosciutto and culatello, among others.

According to their website, Vittorio’s great-grandfather, Nicola, who lived around the end of the nineteenth century, used to visit marketplaces throughout Irpinia and purchase pork that was raised by local farmers. Nicola would then salt and cure the pork he bought to produce prosciutto and other cured meats typical of the area.

Ciarcia now produces these typical regional meats for its customers, still using the same methods created by Nicola more than 100 years ago.

One of Ciarcia’s offerings includes “Culatello irpino.” Culatello is actually a specialty of the city of Zibello, located in the Province of Parma in the Emilia-Romagna Region, and it is made with the muscular part of the hind leg of pigs that were born, raised and slaughtered exclusively in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia. Ciarcia takes this tradition and puts its own Irpinian spin on it.

Praised by food critics, the “Goccia Irpina” comes from pigs raised traditionally in Irpinia. Produced in limited quantity, Goccia Irpina only uses Italian sea salt to cure it and the curing process takes 14 months. This melt-in-your-mouth meat is of a bright red color with streaks of white fat and the taste lingers on the palate.

While food from Northern and Central Italy often gets the most notice, perhaps it is time to try something different. While Ciarcia’s offerings may be difficult to find in the United States outside of Italian specialty stores, they are certainly worth a taste and deserving of their place among Italy’s finest foods.

The Best Panettone Comes From Irpinia

I have a confession to make… I cannot get enough of Panettone (the name loosely translates to “large bread”). We Americans have seen the brightly colored boxes with the string pop up all over during the holiday season. This year, I even discovered an incredible one imported to the US from the Milan region that had candied pumpkin, pumpkin cream and all sorts of delightful fall flavors. I tried it, loved it, and went back to Sam’s Club to buy three more. I love Panettone.

But even more than I love Panettone, I love Irpinia, so imagine my surprise when I saw an article from La Nostra Voce that claimed that the best traditional Panettone in all of Italy was deemed that created by Raffaele Romano of Pasticceria Fratelli Romano in Solofra, Avellino Province.

Oh, yes. This is a culinary dream come true. Just so you know, Milan is considered the “home” of traditional Panettone, so this was quite the coup for Signore Romano!

The competition was part of the Sweety of Milano Festival, part of which included Panettone Day. Signore Romano was one of 25 finalists in the competition and left victorious. Signore Romano’s Panettone was judged based off of how it looks, its color, quality of baking, how much it rose while baking, the quality of ingredients used, and… of course… taste.

Signore Romano was quoted by La Nostra Voce as saying, “I am very proud of this result. To take on an icon of Italian pastry such as the panettone is a great challenge for those of us in the baking profession. To see my creation reign supreme over more than 200 recipes in such a prestigious competition gives me enthusiasm to keep growing my skills and to take on new challenges.” (Translation by me)

Now for the month of October, Signore Romano and the other finalists were able to exhibit their creations in My Temporary Shop, a modern concept store in Corso Garibaldi in downtown Milano, similar to an American “pop up” store, where people had the opportunity to buy and taste the best Italian pastry creations.

For those of us who can’t fly over to Italy for Panettone, check out the Panettone Project by Weekend Bakery… and buon appetito!

Celebrating Greco di Tufo

One of the most popular wine festivals in all of Italy takes place on September 14, 15 and 16– the Tufo Greco Festival in the town of Tufo in Avellino Province. This festival celebrates Greco di Tufo wine in all of its glory– a white wine made from the “greco” grape that has been certified DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata), which is the highest level of quality assurance for Italian wines as they have been analyzed and tasted by government–licensed personnel before being bottled. If the government gives that designation, then you know the wine you are drinking is the best you can get!

This festival, seen above in an article from the Corriere dell’Irpinia, celebrates Greco di Tufo wine as well as the culture, sights and sounds of Irpinia.  The event itself includes concerts by Molotov d’Irpinia, a local musical group with a gigantic following, as well as other local and regional musical acts.

The festival also features “wine trekking”– which is a tour of the various vineyards in the region, complete with tastings and food samplings. There are also demonstrations of the Tarantella of Montemarano and street musicians singing traditional songs.

Thousands of people descend upon Tufo for this festival, which has 854 residents as of 2017. Want more information? Visit and be sure to raise a toast in celebration of one of Irpinia’s greatest treasures!



The Art of Tombolo

One of the most striking traditional art forms I saw while in Irpinia was that of “tombolo,” a form of lace making that requires special needles, a skilled eye and a lot of patience.

In the town of Santa Paolina, nicknamed “the town of tombolo,” the old tradition is alive and well– in fact, there’s even a type of school where the town’s elderly women teach the skill to anyone who would like to learn, ensuring that the centuries-old art form lives on.

Tombolo was born in Campania during the Middle Ages as a way to embellish a priest’s vestments for celebrating Mass, but it quickly spread to nobility wishing to show off their status. In Irpinia and in the area surrounding Salerno, tombolo work developed into an extremely detailed and delicate art form– variations of which were even brought to the United States by immigrants from the region, including by my great-grandmother! The name comes from the instrument used to create the delicate pieces of lace– here’s one as it is being created with the tombolo instruments from the website, Irpinia Focus:


Are you interested in learning more? I strongly suggest you reach out to Giuseppe Silvestri at Unpli Irpinia— his association is dedicated to preserving the artisan traditions of Irpinia (as well as other history and culture) and he will be happy to introduce you to a tombolo class next time you’re in Italy!

Until next time… a presto!