Italian Heritage

Little things in my everyday life—coming home to the smell of cooking pasta and gravy, saying “salute” when giving cheers at the dinner table—are small reminders of my cultural heritage, in large part tracing back to Italy. Living in the northern New Jersey suburbs, it is far from uncommon to be an Italian-American. However, I have always felt that my place within the Italian-American community was much different than that of my always tanned, Jersey accented, meatball-loving counterparts.
As far back as my earliest memories will take me, I remember being interested in heritage. While I didn't know the meaning of that word when I was sitting on my father's knee asking him questions like, "where does the recipe for Easter Pie come from?", or "why does Grandpa always tell me stories about the 'old country'?", looking back I can see that I always had a sparked interest in my inner Italiana. When I was about ten years old, my grandparents took a trip to Naples. My grandfather had been working on tracing back his family's genealogy, and he needed the birth and death records of his parents, which were back in Italy, about an hour north of Naples in the small town of Portici. While in Italy, I stayed in contact with my grandparents, calling them everyday. I would constantly want to know what the people of portici were like, cool Italian sayings they had, and was especially curious about just how good the local food was.