By Nancy DeSanti, 1st Vice President-Programs
Due to Covid restrictions, this year’s winetasting had a different format, with two wine experts selecting the wines for us to taste — three wines from Abruzzo and a sparkling wine from Veneto. Fifty of our members and guests gathered at Casa Italiana on December 5, 2021 to enjoy a delicious lunch and winetasting with wine experts Stephen Yanuck and Beth Dahlburg, who came up from Charlottesville, Va., for the event.
AMHS members may recall that Stephen and Beth led us in a joyful and informative virtual event last November. They not only led us in a discussion of wines from Molise, but also arranged a livestream from Italy with Antonio Valerio of Campi Valerio in Monteroduni, Molise.
This year, their enthusiasm and knowledge again made for a delightful afternoon. They even fit in a mention of biodynamics as well as the use of sea salt from the Adriatic. Who knew?
Stephen has conducted educational wine-themed lectures since 2018. Both Stephen and Beth have received certificates in wine education and are continuing their studies of the vines. Since March 2020, they have held monthly streaming tasting lectures. Their passion for wine and desire to bring good vibes to the world helped them become a 2020 Wine Spectator video competition finalist. You will find some very interesting information on their Veni Vini Amici website, www.VeniViniAmici.com. As Stephen noted, their name Veni Vini Amici means to gather, learn of wine, and become friends.
Before and during lunch, Stephen and Beth discussed three wines from Abruzzo from the Tenuta Terraviva Vineyard in Tortoreto, a coastal town in the province of Teramo, and one sparkling wine from Veneto:
- EKWO 100% Pecorino (white wine)
- GIUSI Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo DOC, 100% Montepulciano (rosé wine)
- Luì Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, 100% Montepulciano (red wine)
- Colferai Col Blanc Frizzante White Veneto
A big thank you to AMHS Board Member Chris Renneker, who put us in touch with Stephen and Beth; to Maria D’Andrea-Yothers who did so much to help organize this event, including bringing plates of Italian cold cuts, cheeses, and Italian cookies; to Lynn Sorbara for the gluten-free crackers and cookies; and to all those who helped set up and serve the delicious lunch catered by Three Brothers Restaurant, especially Michelle Bishop, Elisa DiClemente, John Dunkle, Joe and Joanne Novello, and Benjamin O’Hara. And of course, a special thank you to Stephen and Beth, for making the event so much fun.
Dear members and friends:
Happy New Year! I hope that everyone was able to enjoy the holiday season and that the New Year brings us all good health.
This is the time of the year when I like to take a step back and review our principal activities of the previous year. Despite the ongoing difficulties posed by the pandemic, the Society worked hard to continue offering programs for the edification and entertainment of its members. On January 30th, we enjoyed a virtual discussion of the film “From the Vine.” Led by film producer and director Jim Toscano, the discussion featured the participation of Emmy award winner Joe Pantoliano, who was also the film’s protagonist. On February 21st, we held our first general meeting of the year — a virtual presentation in which Abruzzese author Michele Antonelli discussed his latest book — “My Land Was Wise: Over 2000 Proverbs from the Abruzzese-Sabine Apennines.” Mr. Antonelli spoke to us from Abruzzo and passed on a wealth of local color and wisdom culled from the popular sayings of the region. This type of presentation, made possible by today’s technology, demonstrated the great value of virtual events and the extent to which they can expand the horizons of our in-person programs.
In May, the Society awarded scholarships to two outstanding students: Naomi Lebowitz and Cora Williams. Ms. Lebowitz is currently a freshman at Columbia University’s Barnard College, where she is studying neuropsychology and art history, while Ms. Williams, also a freshman, is preparing for a career in social work at Belmont University. On June 12th, our program committee organized a virtual discussion of the documentary film “Funke”, which profiled professional chef and pasta expert Evan Funke. AMHS member Kirsten Keppel led the discussion, conducting a fascinating interview with the film’s producer and director Gab Taraboulsy. On August 15th, the Society and the Casa Italiana Sociocultural Center (CISC) jointly sponsored our annual Ferragosto picnic, which took place at the Ben Brenman Park in Alexandria, Virginia. The turnout was exceptional and it made our first live event in over 17 months a great success. On October 3, we held our first in-person general meeting of the year at CISC. Our guest speaker was Steven Livengood, the Director of Public Programs at the United States Capitol Historical Society and the Chief Visitor Guide to the U.S. Capitol. He showed how Constantino Brumidi created the murals on the Capitol walls and painted the “eye” of its rotunda, providing interesting information unknown even to Washington locals. Finally, on December 5th, our annual wine tasting event took place at the CISC. Wine experts Stephen and Beth of Veni Vici Amici talked about three select wines from Abruzzo and one from Veneto, while Three Brothers took care of the catering. The wines were great, the information provided by Stephen and Beth was interesting, and the overall atmosphere was congenial and comfortable.
Looking ahead, our Program Committee is organizing additional programs that should be of interest to a broad section of our members. I expect that they will be in the live, in-person format, with whatever cautions appear prudent to ensure the health of those in attendance.
I would like to express my appreciation to all of the Society’s officers, who have agreed to serve another term in the leadership of the organization. Their commitment, energy and skills are what keeps the AMHS moving forward. I also want to welcome our new Board members Rico Allegrino, Julia Paola and Benjamin O’Hara. Rico served once before on the Board and contributed in important ways, so we are fortunate to have him back. Julia and Benjamin will bring a new and valuable perspective that only youth can provide. I am grateful for their willingness to share their abilities. I also want to thank our departing Board members Andrea Balzano, Alfred Del Grosso and Helina Zewdu Nega, whose terms concluded at the end of December 2021 and who each lent their talents to the Society.
Finally, I would like to remind you that it is not too late to contribute to our annual scholarship fundraising campaign. Last year’s drive, as of June last year, raised over $8000 — our best effort ever and just enough to fully fund our two scholarships. Let’s try to surpass that total this year so that we can continue to carry out our mission of promoting the Italian language and culture to future generations. In addition, if you know of any students with an interest in Italian studies, direct them to the scholarship tab on our website. There they can learn about the eligibility criteria for our scholarships and how to apply for them.
• Submitted by Rico Allegrino, Maria D’Andrea-Yothers, and Lynn Sorbara on behalf of the committee •
The Nominating Committee is incredibly thankful for the positive “rate of return” of ballots for the election of five officers and two board members. The committee is pleased to report that the current officers were elected to another 2-year term: Ray LaVerghetta, President; Nancy DeSanti, 1st VP-Programs; Lynn Sorbara, 2nd VP-Membership; Carmine James Spellane, Secretary; and Peter Bell, Treasurer. Elected to the board, via ballot vote, are Americo (Rico) Allegrino and Julia Paola. A third board member, Benjamin O’Hara, was elected by the membership at the December 5, 2021 AMHS general membership meeting. The officers will serve from January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2023. The board members will serve from January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2024. Be sure to check out the AMHS Meet the Officers website, for bios and headshots of these elected officers as well as the other 8 members of the board.
Please be sure to thank these individuals for their volunteer service in support of the Society’s mission, to develop and promote the cultural, social and educational heritage of the Italian regions of Abruzzo and Molise and of Italy. The Society also seeks to increase the awareness of the contributions in the fields of the arts and sciences made for the benefit of the people of the United States and the world by Italians and Italian Americans, especially those having roots in Abruzzo and Molise.
The new site features a cleaner, more accessible design. Members and guests will find it easier to navigate and access functions including:
- Join the AMHS or renew or upgrade membership
- Find information on the scholarship program, including criteria, application forms and deadlines, and review the list of past scholarship winners
- Learn about upcoming events and register for future events
- Learn about the regions of Abruzzo and Molise
- Stay abreast of Society news through the Notiziario online.
This is just the beginning. The Society’s leadership is also planning to expand the site’s functions and utilize our web presence as a vital source of communications with members and the public.
The redesigned website is part of the AMHS’ online presence including a new email system for faster more visually appealing messages and the Facebook page for more items of interest and access to events.
Visit www.abruzzomoliseheritagesociety.org and start browsing.
By Joseph “Sonny” Scafetta, Jr.
Dino Paul Crocetti was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on June 7, 1917. His father was Gaetano (Guy) Alfonso Crocetti (December 15, 1894 – August 29, 1967), a barber who had emigrated from the city of Montesilvano (population 53,738 in the 2015 Census) on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in the province of Pescara in the region of Abruzzo, Italy. His mother was Angelina Barra (December 18, 1897 – December 25, 1966). She was born in Jefferson County, Ohio. Her parents, Domenico and Maria, had emigrated from the region of Lombardia in northern Italy.
The family spoke only Italian at home so, when Dino started attending Grant Elementary School at age 5, he was bullied for speaking broken English. As soon as he turned 16 while in the tenth grade, he dropped out of Steubenville High School to work a number of odd day jobs. In the evenings, he sang with local bands and called himself “Dino Martini,” after the Metropolitan Opera tenor, Nino Martini. He soon got his first big break singing for the Ernie McKay Orchestra in the crooning style of Perry Como. At age 23 in late 1940, he got his second big break in Cleveland, singing for band leader, Sammy Watkins, who suggested that Dino change his name legally to just Dean Martin. In October 1941, he married Elizabeth (Betty) Anne McDonald (July 14, 1922 – July 11, 1989) in Cleveland. They had four children: Craig, Claudia (March 16, 1944 – Feb. 16, 2001), Gail, and Deana. Martin sang for Watkins’ band until 1943 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After 14 months, he received a medical discharge because of a noncombat injury. Martin then returned to sing for Watkins’ band which was in New York City at that time.
There, at the Glass Hat Club, Martin met a comedian named Jerry Lewis with whom he formed a music-comic team. They debuted together on July 24, 1946, at the 500 Club owned by Skinny D’Amato in Atlantic City. The team made their TV debut on the first broadcast of The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS on June 20, 1948. A radio series began in 1949. During that same year, Martin divorced his first wife and gained custody of their children. Later that year, he married a former Orange Bowl Queen named Dorothy Jean Biegger (March 27, 1927 – Aug. 24, 2016). Lewis was the best man at the wedding. Martin and his second wife had three children: Dean Paul (Nov. 17, 1951 – March 21, 1987); Ricci (Sept. 20, 1953 – Aug. 3, 2016), and Gina. Before the year was over, Martin and Lewis signed a contract to make a series of comedies for Paramount Pictures which allowed them to control their club, record, radio, and TV appearances. They earned millions of dollars from these outside ventures. On January 12, 1953, Martin released his first solo album, Dean Martin Sings, which contained the hit song That’s Amore. Martin was encouraged by the album’s success. He also had the desire to avoid being stereotyped as just a comedian. So, he formally broke up with Lewis on July 24, 1956, which was exactly ten years after their first act.
Martin then launched his solo singing and dramatic film career. His song Volare reached #15 on the hit list in 1957. He then starred in the war drama, The Young Lions, with Marlon Brando in 1958. Also in 1958, he starred for the first time with Frank Sinatra in the drama, Some Came Running, directed by Vicente Minnelli. Martin and Sinatra became friends and socialized with Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis, Jr. The group became known as the Rat Pack. As a result of this friendship, Martin refused to perform in clubs which would not allow African-American and Jewish-American performers. In 1959, Martin starred with John Wayne and Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo. Martin and Sinatra teamed up again in 1960 for the crime caper, Ocean’s 11. He was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1960 for Best Actor in Who Was That Lady? In 1963, Martin and Sinatra starred in the western, 4 for Texas, and in 1964, they starred in the musical, Robin and the 7 Hoods. Also in 1964, his song, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime, was #1 on the hit list. His footprints were then immortalized at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles later in 1964. Overall, he appeared in 64 films. Although Martin could not read music, he recorded 34 albums and about 600 songs. Nine of his albums were certified as Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
In 1965, Martin launched his weekly NBC TV comedy-variety series, The Dean Martin Show.
He won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Comedy or Musical in 1966 and was nominated again for the next three years. He occasionally had trouble with censors for his off-the-cuff use of obscene Italian phrases which brought complaints from Italian-speaking viewers. The show was almost always ranked among the top ten weekly programs. In 1972, Martin filed for a divorce from his second wife. The 55-year-old Martin then married a 26-year-old hair salon receptionist named Catherine Hawn on April 25, 1973. They had no children and divorced after three years. In 1974, Martin’s TV show was converted into the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast in which he and his panel of pals made fun of a variety of popular entertainment, athletic, and political figures. The show continued through 1984. Overall, he appeared on 25 TV programs before he retired in 1985 at age 68. He had earned the nickname “The King of Cool”.
Martin was devastated on March 21, 1987, when his 35-year-old son, Dean Paul, was killed after his F-4 Phantom II jet fighter crashed while he was flying with the California Air National Guard. Martin’s grief left him depressed and demoralized. To help him recover, Martin came out of retirement. However, his heart was not in his work. His last show in Las Vegas was held at Bally’s Hotel where he had his final reunion with Lewis on his 72nd birthday on June 7, 1989. On December 8, 1989, he joined Sinatra in a tribute to Davis on the latter’s 60th and last birthday. On December 15, 1990, he participated in a 75th birthday special for Sinatra. Although Martin often played the comic role of a drunk, he was not a heavy drinker. However, he was a heavy smoker. As a result, he was diagnosed with lung cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in September, 1993. He was informed that surgery would be necessary to prolong his life, but he declined to have it. He returned to his home in Beverly Hills and died there of acute respiratory failure resulting from emphysema on Christmas 1995, exactly 29 years to the day and almost to the minute after his mother had died. He was 78. On the evening after his funeral, all lights along the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor. His body was interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. His crypt has the epitaph Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. In 1997, Ohio Route 7 through Steubenville was renamed Dean Martin Boulevard.