Cibare Italian Kitchen Lasagna Festa

Coming back from a recent trip to Las Vegas, I was shocked to see the prices of the restaurants even at the casino.  This made my visit to Cibare at River City Casino even more of a surprise.  The current promotion for Lasagna Festa includes a classic Italian recipe prepared to perfection and include a side salad filled with pieces of mozzarella, salami, olives and peppers.  The main course is a good size portion of lasagna with fresh ricotta cheese and ground beef.  The sauce is a fresh think bright red tomato.  The meal is complete with a cannoli  and berries.  A fantastic deal for of $14.

Listen and Learn! 6 Music Artists for Your Italian Education

italian music

Listen and Learn! 6 Music Artists for Your Italian Education

Looking for a fun, relaxing way to improve your Italian skills?

If so, Italian music is the perfect way to put a song in your heart…

…and Italian vocab in your head.

When most people think of Italian music, they think of centuries-old operatic songs.

These sound amazing, but are often unintelligible for a listener whose intention is to learn the Italian language.

Or, perhaps they think of Dean Martin, whose music is played on infinite repeat at Italian restaurants all over America, and whose songs are mostly in English, with a few Italian words and phrases sprinkled in.

Both these types of music are great, of course. But if you’re looking for something to really immerse you in the Italian language in a way that lets you savor (and distinguish) every word il cantante (the singer) sings, then the artists and songs in this post might be just what you’re looking for.

Why Learn Italian with Music?

  • It’s catchy. You know how a song can get stuck in your head, playing on an infinite loop for hours, if not days? I think we all know that struggle. Just imagine, though, if this song was in Italian.

You wouldn’t just be learning the song when you heard it on the radio or on YouTube, you’d be learning it more and more every time you sang it to yourself or played it over and over in your head while you were trying to go to sleep at night! Catchy songs are endearing to all of us, and the catchier a song is, the more we want to keep listening to it (and in this case, learning from it), even if a lot of that “listening” comes from the darn thing being stuck in our heads all week.

  • It’s a fun way to learn. When you learn Italian by listening to Italian music, you don’t feel like you’re learning at all. Unlike learning from textbooks, which can sometimes make you feel like you’re working a second job just trying to master Italian, with Italian music, you just feel like you’re listening to the radio, which is almost guaranteed to put you in good spirits. There’s a song for every mood and for every person, and once you find yours you won’t even realize that you’ve learned a huge block of Italian vocabulary by heart!
  • It helps with pronunciation. While it’s a great idea to start learning Italian by reading books and other printed media, you can never expect to pronounce a word correctly if you’ve never heard it spoken out loud.

Italian music helps with this, because it gives you the opportunity to hear Italian words spoken out loud and used in the context in which you would speak them in your everyday life (whether or not your life is like a dramatic love ballad). The more you hear words pronounced correctly, the better you’ll become at pronouncing them yourself—especially if you sing along with il cantante !

  • It helps with listening comprehension. When you listen to a sad, melancholy song, you want to know what made the singer so upset, right? And when you hear a love song, you want to know just what’s so special about the girl the singer is singing about. Well, that’s exactly the kind of thinking that leads to better listening comprehension.

Songs have a tendency to make us want to learn more about them so that we’ll be able to fully understand the story they’re telling. This compulsion to understand makes us listen harder to the lyrics of a song, which, in turn, improves our comprehension skills—especially if you go so far as to look up all the words you’re unfamiliar with, so that you can know exactly why Andrea Bocelli loves that girl so much.

  • It immerses you in Italian culture. It’s impossible to listen to Italian music without being carried away to the beautiful vistas of Tuscany or the sprawling cityscapes of Florence and Rome. Each Italian song calls to mind some aspect of Italian culture, whether it be an old song or a more modern one, and you can learn a lot about Italy just by listening to the music it releases.

You can learn how Italians view love and other sentiments, or how they respond to certain tragedies or events. Many songs even mention historical happenings or reference pop culture trends that reveal a lot about Italy’s culture, and taking note of these will give you an in-depth look at the culture as whole.

  • It’s easy to find. Luckily for us, these days you don’t have to be in Italy to enjoy Italian music. You can find endless lists of songs and albums on sites like YouTube, iTunes and Google Play. Sometimes they even have lyrics available in case you need to read along!

Now that you know why and how to get started on your musical journey, let’s take a look at some of the best Italian artists and bands to listen to.

Italian Music for Learners: 6 Essential Artists & 12 Top Songs

Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti was a classical opera singer who did his best work from the 1960s to the 1980s. He was said to have an unusually clear, beautiful tenor voice, which took those normally difficult-to-understand opera songs I mentioned and made them accessible to everyone. His work is a bit tougher to follow than the others on this list, due to the different dialect he often uses, so these songs are more for advanced Italian learners (or you can just read the lyrics on the screen).

  • Nessun dorma” (“None Shall Sleep”): This song was written by Puccini, and sung to high accolades by Pavarotti. It’s been used for everything from political rallies to World Cup themes, making it a perfect example of how you can get in touch with Italian culture by listening to its music.
  • Funiculì, Funiculà”: This song may be a bit challenging for listeners, because it’s sung in the Neapolitan dialect, but if you listen closely, you’ll notice that you’ve probably heard it before. Penned by composers Giuseppe Peppino Turco and Luigi Denza, “Funiculì Funiculà” was written to commemorate the grand opening of the first funicular cable car on Mt. Vesuvius (a funicular cable car is one that basically goes up an inclined railroad track to ascend a mountain), but it quickly became one of the catchiest, most popular Italian songs of all time.

Caterina Caselli

Caterina Caselli was very famous in the 1960s and ’70s, and worked as both a singer and an actress. She rose to fame with the second song on the short list below, which was rejected by a more popular artist at the time. His loss was her gain, though, and she had a great career in music. Today, at the age of 70, she still works as a record producer.

  • Sono bugiarda” (Literally: “I’m a Liar”): “Sono bugiarda” might mean “I’m a liar” in Italian, but it is, in fact, an Italian version of the extremely popular song “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees. It’s catchy in either language, and it’s fun to try to spot the differences between the versions while you listen to Caterina’s.
  • “Nessuno mi può giudicare” (“No One Can Judge Me”): This song gives us another look into Italian culture, as it appears in a movie by the same name in 1966. Caterina not only sings, but acts in the movie as well, so if you like her style, you might want to check out the whole film!

Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli is said to be one of the best singers of all time, regardless of nationality. He, like Pavarotti, is a tenor, who made classical and operatic music popular amongst the “regular folks,” making him an international crossover sensation. Born with failing eyesight, he was blind by the age of twelve, but that didn’t stop him from capturing the hearts of the world, and bringing some of Italy’s most historically significant songs to a generation who otherwise might never have heard them.

  • Vivo per lei” (“I Live for Her”): Andrea Bocelli is known for songs that bring tears to the eyes of his audience. His voice is so clear and striking that it seems as if it goes straight to your soul. And when he sings about loving someone so much that he literally lives for her and only her, it’s enough to make you want to book a flight to Italy and go try to soak up some of that romance.
  • E più ti penso” (“And the More I Think of You”): This song is a duet with current bestselling pop artist Ariana Grande. Normally known for her outlandish, overtly sexual songs and videos, this time Ariana matches Bocelli’s quiet, pensive tone to create yet another Bocelli song that makes you want to cry your heart out (and her Italian language skills are impressive!). The song is about yearning for someone far away, and wishing you could be with them. In English, some of the lyrics read “And if I couldn’t see you again, I already know what I would do: I would die.” Have your tissues ready before you hit “play.”


Don’t laugh at the name: Italian pop band Pooh has sold over 100 million records since 1966, and call to mind the famous American hair bands of the 1980s. They were still producing records and doing shows as of 2016, an incredible fifty years after Bob Gillot, Valerio Negrini, Riccardo Fogli and Dodi Battaglia formed the band.

  • “Uomini soli” (“Lonely Men”): This song is a haunting ballad about the reasons why men could be lonely, and what it would mean to have someone to reach out to them, or to have some meaning in life to drive them. It’s an introspective piece, but the melody will stick with you even in your more cheerful, carefree moments.
  • “Dammi solo un minuto” (“Give Me Just One Minute”): This song is great if you’re going through a breakup. The lyrics are painfully relatable: the singer talks about everyone thinking it’s a normal day, but he’s in pain because he’s losing the woman he loves. Don’t listen to this and Andrea Bocelli back to back—you might run out of tissues!

Laura Pausini

Moving on to artists who are currently trending on Italian radios today, we come to Laura Pausini, a talented singer/songwriter from Emilia-Romagna. After winning several small singing contests, she broke out in 1993 and became an influential 1990s pop star whose fame soon went international. She’s recorded songs in at least six different languages, but her Italian work is really where her heart is.

  • “Invece no” (“Instead, No”): “Invece no” is an extremely catchy pop song about trying to make up your mind about whether you should stay with someone or leave them when things aren’t going well. In the end, she might decide to stay… or maybe not.
  • “Tornerò (Con calma si vedrà)” (“I Will Return (With Calm, You Will See)”): This song is a Latin-flavored hit that makes you want to get up and dance the tango. It’s an anthem for independence, and talks about going out on an adventure to conquer the world—always with the intention of coming back… someday.

Marco Mengoni

The last artist on our list is definitely for the ladies. Marco Mengoni, a handsome singer/songwriter from Ronciglione, Italy, rose to fame after winning the Italian version of “The X Factor” in 2009. His songs, which range from dance-y pop tunes to deep, introspective love songs, have made him one of the most beloved music artists in Italy right now.

  • “Pronto a correre” (“Ready to Run”): “Pronto a Correre” is the perfect song to inspire you to pick yourself up and get on with your life after a breakup, or after any other event in your life that has kept you down for way too long. Mengoni sings about pain pushing him to make a new start, which is a much nicer way to look at the end of a relationship.
  • “Guerriero” (“Warrior”): If you would love to fantasize about a gorgeous man swearing to protect you from any and all harm that could come your way, then you should check out the “Guerriero” music video. Mengoni says the words we all want to hear as he pledges an oath to watch over us, and protect us and defend us from sadness, nightmares and just about anything else.


Well, that brings us to the end of this Italian music playlist.

But remember, these are only a tiny fraction of all of the great Italian music available out there!

No matter what genre of music you like, you’re sure to find something that inspires you to learn—and inspires you to dance.

Jessica A. Scott is a novelist from Louisville, Kentucky. While her first love is writing, her second love is learning Italian, a goal that she has been pursuing since her sophomore year at the University of Louisville. You can find out more about Jessica and her work at


NEWS: As of May 27, 2017, a new association with Stratege, LLC. based in St. Louis, MO. now takes Joe Palermo’s program “Joe Palermo’s Paranormology” in the direction of television syndication.

Stratege, LLC owner, Monica Nettles Johnson, is joining with this effort as “broadcast media consultant.” “There’s about to be a resurgence in paranormal TV shows and I plan to be among the first and the best.” states executive Joe Palermo.

Palermo is currently preparing the syndication sizzle reel to gain television stations interest. “What I’ve produced in the past was intended for Internet release. Now I’m creating a new look and feel for television release.”

Companies desiring television audience exposure have a prime opportunity with this new direction. “We need production funds to produce 12 half hour episodes. I’m willing to bring sponsors on board for all 12 episodes for a deal unheard of in the television business.”

More details will be posted once the sizzle reel is completed and available for viewing.





Presented by STL Motorcars

Held annually on the first Sunday in June, the St. Louis European Auto Show is one of the finest auto shows in the Midwest. Over the last quarter century, the show has grown from a small group of St Louis area European cars to over 250 spectacular show cars in addition to wonderful examples from across the pond brought to you by our supporting sponsors and car dealers. Nowhere else in the area will you see a collection of cars of this caliber.

Our third year at Taubman Prestige Outlets in Chesterfield Missouri will be even better than before with improved amenities including more food and drinks, improved PA system and convenient shuttles.

Taubman can accommodate parking for the haulers, show cars, attendees and much, much more. They are going to create the Taubman Café for a food and beverage service and the bathrooms are plentiful, clean and nice. Access to the facility is very convenient for both arrival and departure. Not to mention the SHOPPING!


Location: Taubman Prestige Outlets, Chesterfield Missouri
Registration: Online automated registration process streamlines the entire process for participants. For those who still wish to print a form for registration, never fear, we will offer those as well.
Room to breathe: Out new location will provide lots of room to grow and as a sponsor or participant, you’ll have more room to breathe and showcase your car(s) or services.

We hope you are as excited as we are about the St. Louis European Auto Show and we look forward to seeing you there on June 4th, 2017.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Setup: 10 – 11 am

Show Hours: 11 am – 2 pm

Awards: 2 pm


Taubman Prestige Outlets, 17017 North Outer 40 Road, Chesterfield


Registration is only $40 but if you act quickly, you can take advantage of our early registration discount.

Until May 21st, registration is only $30.

All Day-of-show registrations, All offline registrations and All registrations (whether online or offline) received after May 21st are at the regular rate of $40.

Moses in the Ozarks

The parable of Italians in the South

Migration, race, a charismatic priest and lots of cannelloni

THE cellar is flooded and Chris Ranalli worries about snakes. From the safety of the back door, he points out the sturdy walls—two feet thick, as if to withstand Mediterranean earthquakes—and the elegantly vaulted ceilings. “They lived in the top two storeys and made wine in the basement,” explains Mr Ranalli, who now tends the 100-year-old vineyard adjacent to the house. The view from the road is anomalous: framed by Catawba trees, the façade combines northern Italian architecture and Ozark stone, seeming to belong as much to the Apennines as Arkansas.

This house tells a story that is both familiar and extraordinary, as the exploits of immigrants to America tend to be. It is a tale of struggle and success, of awful but commonplace suffering, villainy and heroes, including a dauntless priest who, like a latter-day Moses, led his flock to a new life in the mountains. It epitomises the variety behind the strip-mall, fast-food sameness of small-town America, but also the loss that can be a bittersweet corollary of progress. And, like the house itself—standing but decrepit—it is only half-remembered, the sort of amnesia that helps to explain attitudes to immigration today.

The house was built a century ago by Adriano Morsani, a stonemason from central Italy. He is captured in old photos as a moustachioed patriarch, beside a wife in a smart hat and children squinting into the sun. But the story is quintessentially American. It begins on the floodplain of the Mississippi, close to Arkansas’s border with Louisiana, in the turmoil after the civil war.

Today the fields enclosed by the Mississippi and the horseshoe of Lake Chicot are punctuated by grain bins, plus a few labourers’ dwellings guarded by bored dogs. The lakeshore is lined with idyllic homes with pretty jetties and private boats. A hundred years ago, when this was still the Sunnyside plantation, the villas had not been built; nor had the suspension bridge that, near one of the narrow openings between lake and river, now links Arkansas with Mississippi. The water that almost encircles the fantastically fertile, sandy-loam soil made it a natural prison camp.

In 1861 Sunnyside was among the largest, richest plantations in Arkansas. It was owned by Elisha Worthington, who scandalised white society by recognising two children he fathered by a slave. After the war, as cotton prices plunged, it belonged to John Calhoun, namesake and descendant of the southern ideologue, and then to Austin Corbin: a robber-baron financier and railroad speculator, who, as a founding member of the American Society for the Suppression of the Jews, barred them from the hotel he built on Coney Island. Corbin installed a steamboat and a small railway, but, like many southern landowners, struggled to find labour. He experimented with convicts, then hit on an alternative: Italians.

The levee wasn’t dry

Like many people-traffickers, then and now, Corbin had a man on the inside. His was Don Emanuele Ruspoli, the mayor of Rome, who recruited workers from Le Marche, Emilia-Romagna and the Veneto. The first batch—98 families—sailed from Genoa on the Chateau Yquem, a reputedly rancid steamship that arrived in New Orleans in November 1895. The families clutched contracts showing that each had bought a tract of land, on credit to be repaid in cotton crops. After a four-day journey up the river to Sunnyside, they quickly realised that they had been misled.

“The first year, 125 people died,” says Libby Borgognoni, a magnetic 81-year-old whose in-laws came over on the Chateau Yquem (her grandfather arrived later, after drawing the shortest straw of his family’s six sons). Hot, humid and swarming with mosquitoes, Sunnyside was fecund but deadly. Today you can drive on a gravel road on top of the levee between the fields and the Mississippi, the wide, eddying river and glacial tugboats on one side, cotton on the other, red-winged blackbirds darting between them. When the Italians arrived, the barrier was lower, and floods were common. The drinking water was filthy; yellow fever and malaria were rife. Climbing into his hunting truck, Tom Fava, another local Italian-American, helps to find the disused cemetery where the victims lie. It is hard by Whiskey Chute, a stream named after a cargo of whiskey scuttled by brigands during a fire-fight.

Many of the millions of Italians who moved to America in that period, mostly to industrial cities in the north, suffered. But rarely like this. Heat and disease were the worst of it, but Corbin’s terms were onerous too. The Italians spoke little English; many were illiterate. But they could see that the land had been wildly overpriced. And while many were farmers, Mrs Borgognoni admits “they knew zip about cotton”. Anti-Italian and anti-Catholic prejudice swirled: 11 Italians had been lynched in New Orleans in 1891. Mrs Borgognoni recalls that, well into the 1930s, locals would roll the car windows down and holler “Dago!” at Italian children.

In 1896, six months after the first Italians landed, Corbin died in a buggy accident near his exotic hunting lodge in New Hampshire (he was said to have startled the horses by opening a parasol). Still, a second boatload left Genoa for Ellis Island in December. Another Italian also made the trip from New York that year. Pietro Bandini grew up in Forli, joined the Jesuits and was sent as a missionary to Montana’s Native Americans. Later he moved to New York to minister to put-upon Italians. For those at Sunnyside, he was a redeemer.

Bandini protested against the conditions. Legend tells that, when he was rebuffed, he told his acolytes to wait while he scouted a better environment. During his absence he arranged to buy land in the prairies west of Springdale, near what was then Indian Territory and is now Oklahoma. In early 1898, 40 families junked their contracts and followed him northwards.

Precisely how they got from the Delta to the Ozarks, then a more arduous journey than it is today, is a matter of dispute. “They walked,” insists Charlotte Piazza, whose Italian-born father-in-law was in the original caravan. Some brought livestock, paying their way by doing odd jobs at Catholic churches along the route and hunting for food. Rebecca Howard, a historian at Lone Star College in Texas, thinks some travelled part of the way by train. Ms Howard’s great-great grandmother, Rosa Pianalto, buried a child at sea during the crossing on the Chateau Yquem and her husband shortly afterwards. She was remarried and pregnant for the Sunnyside exodus.

Towards the promised land

They would have set out, initially, across the big-skied plain of southern Arkansas. The road that crosses it today runs through Dermott, a hamlet with giant pecan and fireworks stores and an outsize “Gospel Singing Shed”, then skirts the site of an internment camp for Japanese-Americans and the state’s death-row prison. They would have crossed the brown Arkansas river at still-skyscraperless Little Rock, before turning west into its valley, where the land begins to undulate. Some Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians had followed that route on the “Trail of Tears”; it passes through forests and pastures and beside timber yards, lakes and creeks. They might have gulped as they approached Fort Smith, now a picturesque tourist town, then a frontier outpost renowned for a subterranean prison known as “hell on the border”.

The railway from Van Buren to Springdale, which some probably rode on, is now used for tourist excursions, plunging into the Ozarks through mountain villages that grew up around what was formerly a commercial line. The chug across the Boston Mountains, the most rugged section of the Ozarks, with sheer cliffs and elevated trestles, must have seemed a dizzying lunge into another unknown future. At the same time, says Mr Ranalli, the winemaker, the cooler, higher landscape and temperate plateaus “felt like coming home”.

A list of the pioneers is etched on a monument outside the town hall of Tontitown, the name they chose in honour of Henri de Tonti, a 17th-century Italian explorer. There were fewer mosquitoes but, to begin with, life remained hard. They lived in abandoned log cabins while they cleared the land, stuffing the cracks with linen to keep out drafts; Morsani, the stonemason, his brother and their five children shared a barn with several other families. They survived on pasta, polenta and wild rabbits. The men went to work on railways or in mines until the crops came in. Women took jobs as housekeepers in Eureka Springs. The locals were hostile: the Italians’ first church was set alight, reportedly with Bandini inside. He survived to warn the barrackers that his compatriots were handy with firearms. (The second church was lost to a tornado.)

Tontitown prospered, largely through his ingenuity. “It was almost like he was a saint,” says Mr Ranalli of Bandini’s reputation. He was the new town’s teacher, bandleader and first mayor, as well as its priest. He negotiated to bring in a railway spur. He imported vines: the soil is poorer than in the Delta, Mr Ranalli says, but the drainage better suited to grapes. He was honoured by the pope and Italy’s queen mother.

When Edmondo Mayor des Planches, the Italian ambassador, visited in 1905, Tontitown was thriving. Its residents were “happy, contented, prosperous”, des Planches wrote. “Italy, the place of their birth, was their mother, while America was their wife. They have reverence for the former, but love for the latter.” Photos in Tontitown’s historical museum capture his welcome, Stars-and-Stripes and Italian tricolours waving as he is escorted along dirt roads by locals dressed to the nines.

Bandini died in 1917, but Tontitown’s success outlived him. During prohibition, says Mrs Piazza, one of the museum’s founders, people hid wine barrels in basements and vineyards. The bars on the windows of the Morsanis’ cellar were added to comply with post-repeal rules, Mr Ranalli says. When he was a child, in the 1960s, there were still a few old-timers who spoke only Italian. They had realised the American dream, and their own: from poverty in Italy, via devastation in the Delta, to a life in which many families lived on streets that bore their names—Morsani and Ranalli Avenues, Piazza and Pianalto Roads.

That, for its citizens, is the moral of Tontitown’s story. Their pride is justified. But the travails of the Italians in Arkansas resonate in darker ways, too.

Ambassador des Planches also visited Sunnyside on his southern jaunt. The scene was much less salubrious. Three cotton factors from Mississippi leased the plantation from Corbin’s heirs, using illegal methods to import more Italians. These transplants found themselves trapped by debts: for the cost of travel (their own to America and their cotton’s to market); for ginning fees and doctor’s fees; for the necessities they were obliged to buy at exorbitant prices from the company store, all accruing interest at 10%. Some fled; some who were caught, says Mrs Borgognoni, “were taken back by the sheriff in chains”.

Over the river, across the lake

The ambassador complained, and in 1907 the Department of Justice dispatched Mary Grace Quackenbos, an intrepid investigator. Leroy Percy, one of the proprietors, tried to subdue her with both southern gallantry and bullying. Her papers were stolen from her hotel room. An assistant was given three months on a chain gang for trespassing. Nevertheless Quackenbos recommended charges of peonage, or illegal debt servitude. They were never pursued: it helped that Percy had joined Theodore Roosevelt for the famous hunt on which the president inspired the Teddy Bear by declining to kill one. (Percy wound up in the Senate, where he served on an immigration commission.)

Italian migration to the region dried up, and many of the Sunnyside families dispersed across the Delta, joining small Italian communities that had sprung up on either side of the river, along the Gulf coast, down in Louisiana’s sugar-cane territory and up to Tennessee. Clarksdale, Friars Point, Indianola: their destinations evoke a better-known Delta culture, the blues lore of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and B.B. King. Across the river from the plantation, in the part of Greenville known as Little Italy, there is still an Italian club, where members gather to play bocce in pits overlooked by miniature bleachers. On the Arkansas side, at what was once New Gascony, an overgrown Catholic cemetery lies at the end of a dusty track, surrounded by soyabean and cornfields (see picture). All that is left of the flood-ravaged settlement, says a farmer, are a few houses beyond the bayou. The fading Fratesi and Mancini headstones stand like hieroglyphs of a lost civilisation.

A lost civilisation

Some Sunnysiders, however, simply hopped across the water to Lake Village—today a seemingly typical Delta town, wedged between the nondescript highway and Lake Chicot and bisected by a railway track, beside which squats a cotton gin. Our Lady of the Lake church, and the museum Mrs Borgognoni oversees in its old rectory, reveal its nuances. All the Italian locals once made prosciutto, lonza and salsiccia, she remembers; “church was the biggest thing in the world.” As a child she picked possum grapes in the sloughs and levees to make wine in the cellar of her double-shotgun house. Squirrels were cooked in fornos, or brick ovens. There was a hog roast on the fourth of July and a celebratory spaghetti dinner in March. People played accordions and mandolins, which some think contributed to the blues.

If the cultures of Italians and blacks in the Delta overlap, so did their experiences. “We ate together, we played together, we worked in the field together, we sang together,” says Mrs Borgognoni. “It was a different world.” Paul Canonici, a former priest and author of “Delta Italians”, a charming collage of family histories, remembers, as a child, peering through the windows of a black church at ecstatic worshippers, and watching black baptisms in the bayou. (In the mid-1920s Klansmen besieged his family home in Boyle, Mississippi, shooting the dog.) Italians, after all, were a marginal solution to the problem of labour in the inhumane conditions of the Deep South. Not just during slavery, but in the brutal ruses deployed after emancipation, from convict-leasing to the debt-trap of sharecropping, most victims were black.

The Italians’ story, in fact, is a sort of shadow version of African-Americans’, the hardship milder and the ending sweeter. That they escaped the prejudice they first aroused was in part because their skin was acceptably white. As Ms Howard, the historian with Tontitown roots, notes, they could enlist external allies—the Catholic church, even the Italian government—that their black neighbours lacked. The Italians, in truth, are a blip in the grim saga of plantation agriculture, if an enlightening one.

If the story of the Morsani house shows that aspects of slavery lingered on, it is also a reminder that what is often thought of as a modern-day kind—based on debt and intimidation—is far from new. And it discloses the mechanism by which some such ordeals come, selectively and misleadingly, to be redescribed as triumphs.

Consider that church-burning in Tontitown. In early accounts it seems that bigoted white locals were responsible. Later, after the Italians were embraced, the culprits changed; now they were Native Americans, who had ridden over from Indian Territory. Through such collective editing, a small part of America’s jagged prehistory is sealed and separated from the trials of immigrants today. Always known to be patriotic and thrifty, the Italians, in this retelling, were different. It isn’t only them. Along with corn bins, cotton gins and Baptist churches, the Arkansas plains, like much of rural America, are littered with places that hint at a hazy cosmopolitan past: Moscow, Dumas, Hamburg.

Forgive and forget

“Have they forgotten how we got here?” asks Paul Colvin, Tontitown’s mayor, of today’s xenophobes. Some people have. Mr Colvin, the first mayor with no Italian connection, himself personifies a wider change, at once routine in immigrant communities and poignant. Even as they cooked the old recipes, the settlers hurried to assimilate, learning English and signing up for military duty. Their descendants married americanos and moved away. Each generation remembers less. Meanwhile, says Mr Colvin, “small towns are getting swallowed by the big towns”, as Walmart and other large employers turn places like Tontitown into dormitory suburbs. Land prices are rising; people are selling up, outsiders replacing them.

Tontitown still holds an annual grape festival, which once marked the grape harvest and by tradition includes a feast of the signature dish, spaghetti and fried chicken. But Mr Ranalli’s is the only commercial vineyard left. “There’s very few full-blooded Italians that still live in this town,” he says. Not many people care about their heritage any more, agrees his daughter Heather, who runs a winery that sells his fine wine. “It’s dying out, and that’s the truth,” says Mrs Piazza, glumly.

Cannelloni on the shore of Lake Chicot

Down in Lake Village, says Mr Fava, the good Samaritan with the hunting truck, “the guys who were slaves are now the farmers.” Much of what was once Sunnyside is now owned by Italian-Americans, as are many of the posh homes on the lake, with their fleet of ride-on lawnmowers, as families return to the land from which their forebears fled. As often happened in distant enclaves in pre-internet days, the Italianness ossified—the dialect baffling actual Italians when they interacted with Lake Villagers—then withered, like Tontitown’s. The brick ovens and wine cellars are gone. Much of the old cemetery was ploughed over, the gravestones and crosses allegedly tossed into Whiskey Chute among the half-submerged cypress trees and nesting egrets. The priest at Our Lady of the Lake is a genial Nigerian missionary, Theo Okpara. Does he speak the language? “Nada,” replies Father Okpara, who ministers to more Hispanics than Italians.

Like the shell of the Morsani house, though, some traces remain. Regina’s lakeside pasta shop continues to sell old-style muffalettas, cannelloni and parmigiana, as well as homemade pasta—“real thin, the way you like ’em”, says a non-Italian customer. And Mrs Borgognoni still recalls the songs she learned, aged six, picking cotton beside her grandmother. Her life had been hard, but, says her granddaughter, “when she was happy she would lift her skirt and dance the saltarello.”

One of the songs, Mrs Borgognoni says, is about a young Italian soldier whose wife dies when he is away on duty; he returns to kiss her for a final time. The tune is sad but beautiful. She closes her eyes and sings.

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Moses in the Ozarks”

Steinberg Winter Classic Feb. 24, 25 and 26 of 2017


The Steinberg Winter Classic

The Steinberg Winter Classic was created by Mr. Joe Fresta, Jr., a two-time testicular cancer survivor and avid hockey player to benefit the Cancer Care Foundation.

Remember those cold winter days? Skates tied over your shoulder with stick in hand, you arrived with anticipation of a good pick up game between friends. No matter how cold it got or how much it snowed, you could always rely on a bonfire to keep you warm and a shovel to remove the fallen snow. Reminiscent of those days, the historic Steinberg Ice Rink in St. Louis’ beautiful Forest Park will be the location of this outdoor, three-on-three hockey tournament. The 55-year old ice rink is the largest outdoor ice rink in the Midwest and will accommodate three games simultaneously over the three day tournament.

Relive the memories and support a great cause at the 5th Annual Steinberg Winter Classic February 24th, 25th & 26th 2017 presented by EverBank. All proceeds benefit the Cancer Care Foundation directly aiding local families with loved ones stricken with the disease.

The Steinberg Winter Classic and Winter Carnival is open and FREE to the public!

*The Steinberg Ice Rink management would like to strongly emphasize that ice hockey is NOT permitted at the Steinberg Ice Rink. The Steinberg Winter Classic is a one-time event and only takes place at the end of the skating season before closing for the year.

For more information see:

Take a peek inside ‘Mio Nonni’s Casa,’ Marcia and Tim Dorsey’s rehabbed stone house in Carondelet


Just east of Broadway in the Patch neighborhood of Carondelet stands a small, rough-cut stone house. The structure, over 160 years old, is set to receive a ‘Most Enhanced’ building award from the Landmarks Association of St. Louis this Thursday evening.

Set back from the corner of Water and Steins streets, a freshly-poured walkway leads up to a shaded front porch. The house looks a little out of place in this industrial neighborhood. It is nestled caddy-corner from a nondescript packing company, next to some active train tracks and set back from a boarded-up structure on its right.

The 22-foot wide and 18-foot deep house was the childhood home of Marcia Dorsey, mother of Twitter founder and St. Louis native Jack Dorsey. She lived on the property with her parents and Italian grandmother until the fourth grade.

The house was originally constructed in the 1850s of limestone and Mississippi sand mortar, a common, vernacular style of the time. The house includes a limestone fireplace nestled in the basement of the house.

While the structure stood sound for over 100 years, after Marcia’s family moved away, the single-room house changed hands several times. It was during that time the property fell into disrepair, besieged by fire and the elements.

By the time Marcia and her husband Tim Dorsey got their hands on the property once more, the roof and floor were gone, the mortar was falling out between the stones and the basement was filled with debris 6-feet tall.

Marcia and her husband Tim have spent the last two and a half years rehabilitating the house. They call it “Mio Nonni’s Casa,” a nod to Marcia’s ancestry.

“I grew up here and I feel like it was always part of me. When the shell just stood and stood and stood and it was always in my heart we’d be able to take the building back,” Marcia told St. Louis on the Air producer Kelly Moffitt.

There are less than 50 such stone houses left in the St. Louis region today, according to Andrew Weil, the executive director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

Listen to a full audio tour inside the house here:

Here’s a view of what 124 East Steins Street looked like when Marcia and Tim reclaimed the property in 2014. You can see the roof is missing, as is the floor and the mortar is crumbling between the stones. The home was actually on the Landmarks Association of St. Louis’ “Most Endangered” buildings list in 2009.

124 East Steins lies vacant.

Saints Mary and Joseph guard the walkway up to 124 East Steins Street. Such statues can be found throughout the property as well as angels, which Marcia says are an homage to her Italian grandmother.

Statues of Saints Mary and Joseph guard the walkway to 124 East Steins Street; A custom-made wooden door marks the entrance to the house.

“Mio Nonni’s Casa” is inscribed in the cement walkway leading to the house.

“Mio Nonni’s Casa” is inscribed in the walkway leading to the house.

New additions to 124 East Steins Street include indoor plumbing, air conditioning and a security system, all installed in the basement of the building.

New additions to 124 East Steins Street include indoor plumbing, air conditioning and a security system, all installed in the basement of the building.

A limestone fireplace sits in the basement of 124 East Steins Street. All but the brick base is original, although the limestone hood had to be pieced back together after years of disrepair.

A limestone fireplace sits in the basement of 124 East Steins Street. All but the brick base is original, although the limestone hood had to be pieced back together after years of disrepair.

A door and two windows are also a part of the rehabilitated basement.

A detailed view of the limestone (and a few bricks) on the exterior of the house.

A close-up view of the limestone (and a little bit of brick) outside of the house.

Marcia and Tim Dorsey pose in front of 124 East Steins Street.

Marcia and Tim Dorsey pose in front of 124 East Steins Street.

A view of the side of 124 East Steins Street. Directly behind the the property, you can see a row of retail shops along Broadway in Carondelet.

A view of 124 East Steins Street from the side via Water Street.

And, naturally, you can follow the entire restoration process of the house on Twitter at @MioNonnisCasa.

This house and several others, as yet unannounced, will be honored at Thursday’s 21st Annual Landmarks Association of St. Louis “Most Enhanced Awards” taking place at 5:45 p.m. at the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, 3224 Locust St., Suite 401. More details can be found here.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

Ciao St Louis Presenta Una Nuova Iniziativa: Imparare L’Italiano Giocando

By Michael J Cross

L’organizzazione no profit, Ciao St Louis, ha una nuova iniziativa che si chiama Imparare L’Italiano Giocando. Questa iniziativa è stata pensata per i bambini per farli crescere in un ambiente dove possono imparare la lingua. Ogni mese, ci sarà un meet-up dove i genitori di bambini dai dodici anni in giù, possono partecipare in varie attività ludiche. È un meet-up molto informale dove i bambini possono interagire tra di loro e dove possono parlare in italiano insieme. Ovviamente molti di questi genitori sono italiani ma i loro bambini sono nati qui negli Stati Uniti. Speriamo che ci sono anche genitori italo-americani che vorrebbero che i loro figli fossero esposti alla lingua italiana. Avremo il primo meet-up tra metà e fine giugno.

Per saperne di più, potete contattare Giovanna Leopardi al 314-566-3873 o Stefania Parravicini al 314-518-1016

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