COLUMBUS DAY: ITALY’S CULTURAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE US
In the US, there are more than 18 million Americans clamming Italian ancestry, counting the nation’s fifth-largest ethnic group. Italian immigrants’ influence on the American culture is still vibrant. Consider art, music, literature, fashion, politics, science, cinema and, of course, food and wine! May we also mention that Italians invented the sophisticated Dolce Vita philosophy?
FROM LITTLE ITALY, TO EVERY AMERICAN TABLE
The fine art of “cucinare, mangiare e bere” (cooking, eating and drinking) is an essential part of the Italian culture. Cooking is like praying for every Italian. This is the reason why immigrants proudly “exported” their gastronomic tradition to the New World. Think about delicatessens such as pizza, salsa, canned tomatoes, carpaccio, mozzarella, spaghetti, espresso, or cappuccino: from Little Italy to the American table! These specialties forever changed the culinary landscape in the United States. Today the Italian American heritage is an integral part of Americana. Dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, Caesar salad, manicotti, chicken parmigiana, or pasta Alfredo are not present in the Italian tradition, yet they are a staple of every Italian American kitchen.
The Italian artistic genius has deeply impacted the US culture and shaped the New World mainstream narration. Some of the greatest music icons of all time are Italian American: from Frank Sinatra to Madonna and Lady Gaga. We also left our distinctive mark on the cinema history. According to the American Film Institute, in the top four of the greatest American movies, two films are led by Italian Americans directors and narrate Italian stories. The list is literally infinite: from Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Sophia Loren, and Bradley Cooper. Not to mention sports legends like Joe DiMaggio, Mike Piazza, Vince Lombardi, or Rocky Marciano, and politics with big names such as the mayors of New York City Fiorello La Guardia, Rudy Guliani, Bill De Blasio. We left our mark in the world of literature with great writers and authors like John Fante, Don De Lillo, Guy Talese, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Should we mention the Italian Fashion? The iconic “case di moda” (fashion houses) are legendary in the luxury world. From celebrated Valentino, to Prada, Gucci, Moschino, and Versace, Italy is the proud home of many giants of the industry now deeply rooted in contemporary American culture.
SOME “LOANS” TO THE AMERICAN VOCABULARY
Today the American English dictionary has the evidences of this magnificent osmosis. Commonly known as loan words, these words are largely usual in modern English language. We are referring not only to the food (for instance latte, barista, espresso, cappuccino, broccoli, zucchini, prosciutto, panini, calamari, etc.). Music can be a brilliant example with words such as soprano, cello, piano, largo, crescendo, forte etc.; and architecture with al fresco or studio.
- Donatella Mulvoni