LITTLE ITALY: SONS OF ITALY, OMAHA
LITTLE ITALY OMAHA!
Thank you to Steve LaGreca for the interview. We appreciate his time and effort.
What is the Sons of Italy?
We are a national organization of men and women who represent the estimated 26 million Americans of Italian heritage, dedicated to promoting our culture, our traditions, our language, the legacy of our ancestors, and our contributions to the U.S. and the world. We are sons and daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers. We are corporate executives and we are union members...young students and retirees ... teachers and attorneys ... doctors and firefighters ... bakers and Wall Street brokers ... and everything in between. We are philanthropists and we are model global citizens with purpose beyond ourselves. And we are proud and patriotic Americans of Italian heritage. We exemplify the very best of what it is to be Italian American.
How was it formed?
Nineteenth century America saw the rapid growth of mutual aid societies throughout the land. In the tradition of volunteering and cooperation, thousands of community organizations were formed. The mutual aid society was a source of great comfort for the immigrants because it provided a familiar setting in which a native language was spoken and old world customs practiced.
The Italian American societies were characterized by the provincial and village ties that were present in Italy. While many of the Italian immigrants had belonged to such organizations in their native land, there the focus was on providing sick and death benefits. However, in America these mutual aid societies had a greater focus on social interaction and were indispensable in assisting rural immigrants in adjusting to urban and industrial life. They were found in virtually every Italian community in America. Eventually, feelings of Italiania began to emerge as Italian American needs and interests transcended the traditional regional and paesi bonds. The development of this ethnic identity by Italians led to the formation of L'Ordine Figli d'Italia in America, Order Sons of Italy in America.
Who was involved at the beginning, nationally and locally?
Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro (1868-1932) developed the idea of uniting the Italians into one great organization which would enable them to become the authors of their own destinies. Dr. Sellaro was born in Polizza Generosa, Palermo, Sicily and came to the United States in 1897. Recognizing the need to unite the multitude of Italian mutual aid societies into a single federation, Dr. Sellaro and five other Italian immigrants founded The Supreme Lodge, Order Sons of Italy in America on June 22, 1905.
Locally: We don’t have much on the early years, but in 1935, V.P. Chiodo was Italian Vice Consul of Nebraska and Louis T. Carnazzo was Grand Venerable of the State Organization.
What did the Sons of Italy do then?
Italian immigrants who came to the United States during the great Italian migration (1880-1923) were assisted with becoming U.S. citizens, provided health/death benefits and educational opportunities and offered assistance with assimilation in America.
What does it do now?
Its missions include encouraging the study of Italian language and culture in American schools and universities; preserving Italian American traditions, culture, history and heritage; and promoting closer cultural relations between the United States and Italy.
There is an anti-defamation branch, The Commission for Social Justice. This branch is trying to put an end to stereotyping Italian Americans as gangsters.
The Sons of Italy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America. The SIF was founded in 1959 as a private, grant-making institution with the purpose of preserving Italian American culture, encouraging educational excellence among Italian Americans and improving lives in other areas. To date, the SIF has given more than $164 million to these efforts.
The SIF's three national beneficiaries - the Alzheimer's Association, Cooley's Anemia Foundation and the Doug Flutie Jr., Foundation for Autism.
We offer scholarships nationally and locally, to high school and college students.
The history of our building:
Constructed about 1905, the one story structure was originally a carriage house attached to a larger building. The other served as a Lutheran hospital and old people’s home, but was later torn down. It was completely remodeled in 1954 when heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano came to Omaha to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of our newly remodeled hall on 10th Street.
How long have you been with the Sons of Italy?
I have been a member since 1997 and Rich Mengler has been a member since 1992.
How many lunches do you serve on average?
It varies upon the weather, what we are serving and if there are other dinners in the area. (St Patrick’s Day)
What is the capacity of the building?
There are three dining rooms. Main floor seats 236, Ceschia room seats 82 and the basement has 72. A total of 390.
Tell us about the great lunches you serve on Thursday.
Thursday dinners are a favorite meeting place for neighbors, members, retired members, along with area business leaders and employees. During time of elections, it is a place to be seen.
A lot of volunteer work goes into making the Thursday dinners a success:
Sausage is made on Monday. 5 volunteers, 1 employee.
Meatballs are made on Tuesday. 5 volunteers, 1 employee.
Sauce is made on Wednesday. 5 volunteers, 1 employee.
The 5 member volunteer crews above are different each day.
Pasta is cooked on Thursday morning.
The main ingredient in all this is plenty of “TLC.”
There are about 34 volunteers that work on Thursday and 4 employees.
Our menu rotates between sausage and meatballs, spaghetti and mostaccioli:
Week 1 Mostaccioli & Sausage
Week 2 Spaghetti & Meatballs
Week 3 Mostaccioli & Meatballs
Week 4 Spaghetti & Sausage
Week 5 Mostaccioli & Meatballs
Week 6 Spaghetti & Meatballs
This is open to the public.
Note: The Thursday meals do not run in the summer.
Contact the Sons of Italy below for dates.
What are your hours and public contact information?
Thursday dinners 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Friday dinners 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Contact Sons of Italy Hall for more information and a membership application.
Don’t have an Italian name but your mother was Italian? You can become a member.
You can be a social member if you are not Italian.
Sons of Italy
1238 S 10 St.
Omaha, Ne 68108
Little Italy, Omaha
Sons of Italy, Omaha
Lunches and Dinners
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