To the Editor:
Lies, damn lies and defamation. That’s how Mark Twain might have characterized “Come Back to San Gennaro: The Mob Is Deeply Missed” [April 30], a thoroughly slanted depiction of both the Italian-American community and Mulberry Street.
For one thing, Little Italy is not “Sopranos East.” We can thank HBO, David Chase and the mainstream media for reinvigorating this scurrilous stereotype. In fact, according to the F.B.I., an infinitesimally insignificant percentage of the nation’s nearly 25 million Italo-Americans have ties to organized crime. Not only are they law-abiding and prosperous, but the scions of Italy comprise an overwhelmingly (three-fourths) professional, well-educated and entrepreneurial class.
Secondly, the sobriquet Little Italy has quite a noble pedigree. In antiquity, Italica (Latin for “Little Italy”), a town in southeastern Spain, was founded by the conquering Romans to commemorate its similarity to the Magic Boot. Today, Italica is world-renowned for its olive oil.
The Feast of San Gennaro, or Saint Januarius, dates back to those ancient Italians—a fact that escapes many of the festival’s critics, and not a few of its defenders.
Equally disturbing are Father Fabian Grifone’s ill-informed views on Italianitá: “I cannot understand for the life of me how people who are non-Italian want to move into an Italian neighborhood, knowing that Italians live there—and they’re noisy people. By nature! Ya go to Italy? They’re singing in every square. Try to tell them to be quiet. Try to tell them that your kids have school the next morning. They’ll laugh at you!”
Grifone è un buffone.
Indeed, it is clear that this man of the cloth has no familiarity with John Milton’s dictum: “Italy is the seat of civilization and the happy domicile of every species of erudition.”