Day 32. Pizza Reflections Past


This blog is going to be done in two segments. Today was the first day I made pizza in the outdoor pizza oven this year. Hard to believe, but it was a different year. First winter was up and down, and would not give us a break until spring. When spring finally came, I was off to Italy for a month. No the above is not my pizzeria, just happened to find that it exists in the Amalfi Coast.

IMG_1072 IMG_1071

Additionally I have been working at a pizzeria steadily. By now you now that is Mambo Italia in Sewickley.  Yes, you are tired of hearing excuses, so it was good today to get that dough made and that oven fired up. Now I have been setting some smaller fires over the last week to bring it to working condition slowly. Not a good idea to go from 0 to 900 degrees in one day.


Distanzio Pizza Making Tools
Distanzio Pizza Making Tools

GetAttachment.aspxFinally, I have a scale that was used to weigh penny bags of candy among other things at my great grandfather’s store. It was located on Thompson Street in East Liberty. The family (yes all 12 of them) lived upstairs. I use the scale to weigh out the dough balls. This was during the depression, and he gave credit to so many neighbors who did not have the ability to pay him back.  The little man with a big heart eventually went our of business.


Day 31. Historical Images of Southern Italy

I thought today I would post some historical pictures of our journey.



The ruins of Paestum are in the Province of Salerno and along the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Greeks established a presence in southern Italy in the 4th century. There are three ancient Greek temples are among the best preserved Greek temples in the world and are very impressive to see in person.

Sassi di Matera


This was impressive in that the town sat below the the newer city. On the other side was a mountain speckled with ancient cave dwellings and between a gorge where hikers could be seen. The story of the Sassi is coming to life worldwide, where once it was hidden and forgotten.

Matera is the only place in the world where people can say they are living in the same houses as did their ancestors some 9,000 years ago.

Trulli of Alberobello


The trulli are traditional stone huts with a conical roof, found in the province of Apulia. The stones that were in and around the land were suitable materials for building a trullo, There are some theories on how they came to be the predominant form of house in this area. One is that Puglia was colonized by the Greeks in the 8th century BC and there are examples of this type of home across the Mediterranean. Another is that  it involved the tax laws of the 17th century in Italy. The people were not able to pay the tax, so they used dry masonry to be able to tear the house down when the tax collector came. Because a conical roof depends largely on the ‘topmost’ stone to prevent the roof from caving in, the house would topple by pulling out this stone.

Norman Castle of Melfi


What a dominant structure that sits atop a mountain and the city of Melfi! Located in Basilicata, it is one of the most important medieval castles of southern Italy. The castle was built in the late 11th century by the Normans in a strategic way between Campania and Apulia, giving the Normans a means to Its placement  to defend itself from attack.

Under the Anjou (Angevin) rulers, the castle saw renovations and expansions. In 1284 it became the  residence of Mary of Hungary, the wife of Charles II of Anjou. The castle witnessed earthquakes in 1851 and 1930 but saw little damage.

Historical Naples

Castel Nuovo – built in the 13th Century by Charles I of Anjou


Galleria Umberto – built between 1887-1891 (now it is a public shopping center


Piazza del Plebiscito – It is named for the action taken on October 2 in 1863 that brought Naples into the unified Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy.



Day 30. Passion on the Vine


Sergio Esposito wrote a book that wove a tale of a journey that began as a young boy living in Naples, Italy to a family move to Albany, New York. He had fond memories of food, family, and yes wine that left an indelible mark. Those traditions were carried, by him, coming from the time he would sit at the table and sip wine and listen to family stories. Having great food coupled with the ingredients of family and wine added to his career goals. He became a well known wine buyer, and this led to many memorable trips back to Italy. Hey I can relate to Sergio – I used to sit and listen to my grandfather tell stories while he drank his homemade wine!

Famiglia di Cardone
Tavola di Famiglia di Cardone

We know that the vine leads to the making of wine, but passion is the fuel that ignites a fire that leads to a career, a hobby. Simply put, it is something you want to do versus the many things you have to do. The past 2 years I have been passionate about 2 things. Both involve goal setting – setting your compass to a place and time, and then trying to reach it. I heard goals being described as climbing mountains. To do so requires  many steps from start to finish. And when you are done climbing one mountain, climb another.


Surely, you do not know where life will take you, but passion coupled with goals will take you more in the direction you want to go. Passion will not only take you where you wish to go, it will get you there and help sustain you longer. It is intensity tied to goal setting.

Family History

One is filling in the gaps of my family history. That involved 3 families – the Antonucci Family, the DiStazio family, and the Cardone family. This involved not only building a tree on Ancestry and Family Search, but hearing the oral history from family, and then being able to weave a story around it.

I had inherited so many pictures, and pieces of information, plus the research documents I had obtained – well it was mind boggling.

However, it is truly interesting and rewarding to build that story, and relate it to and through your family. The picture above is my grandfather – second row far left, with a group of men from their Italian society that would gather and play music.  More often than not the pictures I have were not labelled, but this one was numbered and their names listed on the back.

Art of Pizza Making


The second in learning the art of Pizza Making. That journey began several years ago when I returned from Italy, and had the best pizza on the planet. I hope to duplicate that here. So I began to research the art of wood fired pizza ovens. I interacted with people who were in the know, learned the process of assembling a forno and building a structure. I knew the location of the oven would be in the same place as the old  fireplace that had been built from left over bricks during our house construction.


It involved tearing down something old, building a solid foundation, and then putting something new in its place.


When you buy people into your passion and goals, it becomes even more rewarding. They become stakeholders, and you begin to build something that lasts over time.

So these two things took me back again and again to Italy, a place full of passion. When people ask me, where should I go and what should I see over there? I will say, follow Michelangelo. What that guy did is beyond possible. If you think you accomplished a lot in your life, he will humble you.


Begin at the marble mines of Carrera, where he had to be involved in the mining of the marble.From a distance it looks as if there is still snow on the mountaintops, but it is the white stone exposed.

Those who mined the marble had to get it down the mountain, onto barges, take it off and get it to a final destination. It was difficult driving up to the marble quarries as the roads were narrow and winding, so I can imagine the yeoman’s work those who labored to mine these precious stones did.


Go to Florence and see the statue of David. An unwanted piece of marble that sat in a church courtyard that he found, and saw potential in it. An understatement.

Saint Peters Basilica Rome
Saint Peters Basilica Rome

Next go to Rome, and see the Pieta just to your right inside St. Peters. This was completed when he was just 18 years old,  and is the only thing he ever signed.   Then go to the Sistine Chapel, and you will be amazed at this sculptor turned painter. You get a stiff neck trying to see the biblical scenes come to life in a majestic way.

I saw this outside a church when we went to visit the Sassi of Matera. Follow your passion, and great things will happen for you!


Day 29. Beginnings and Endings in Rionero

Book Containing Donato Cardone Birth
Book Containing Donato Antonio Cardone Birth Dec. 25, 1824 My great great grandfather.

So everytime I post a blog I have to go  back and figure out what day I am going to list it as – you know I have not a clue as to how many days it has been since I started. However, give me credit, there is a progression!

Coming up with a title for the blog is similar to giving a name to your book. Not easy – try to make it a little catchy. So today it is about beginnings and endings – the beginning was that I reached Rionero, where the Cardone family origins were, and that visit ended some mysteries on that Cardone family tree.

There would be three surprises in store for us during our visit to Rionero in Vulture!


I also mentioned churches, of which there are 2 in Rionero. It seems that some families, based on their neighborhood, would attend the Chiesa dei Morte (now known as SS Sacramento), or Chiesa Madre.

Chiancantino #3
Chiancantino #3

Francesco’s parents lived in what is now Old Rionero, on Chiancantino #3. The picture above shows possibly where the house was located. This was a street which was in proximity to Chiesa Madre.

Laura LaMorte found that the Cardones went to Chiesa Madre, and that is where she also located the baptismal certificate of my great grandfather, Francesco Cardone. He was born on March 13, 1861. We were also able to confirm his birth with documents at the Commune, where we did further research.


Francesco’s father was named Donato. So the eldest son in Italian families is named after the grandfather. This my grandfather was Donato, and I was named after him, Donato or Daniel. A convenient way to find out if you are on the right track genealogy wise.

Cousins Donato Nardozzi & Donato Cardone
Cousins Donato Nardozzi & Donato Cardone

Surprise #1 Ciao Cugina!

As we were in the document section, the man was pulling out cards from an index box labelled Cardone. I was with my family, and also Donato Nardozzi. He was looking over the family tree I brought, and recognized that two Cardone sisters had married Nardozza brothers. He said, “we are related!” Ciao cugino!

Luigi Cardone Birth Document

Surprise #2 Older Brother

We also were able to verify something that I was not certain of. When my great grandmother died, my grandfather was listed in the 1900 American Census as being in the household of Luigi Gardone. Francesco was not able to take care of his children as a single parent, and he was forced to send them to other families. However, we in our family were never aware that Luigi was possibly related. At the commune, we found that a Luigi Maria Cardone, was born in Rionero on October 5, 1857, and came to Pittsburgh. He was the older brother of my great grandfather. His parents were Donato Cardone and Concetta Rosiello.

Left for Pittsburgh
Left for Pittsburgh

Amazingly the above document, with his birth document, states that he left for America and Pittsburgh.

Surprise #3

So Maria Antonnet Carnevale has been a huge mystery to me. Our oral family history recollects that when Francesco Cardone came to the United States, he went to Carbondale. PA to work in the coal mines. He was a boarder with the Carnevale Family, and there he met and married Maria. They then came to Pittsburgh. She was Italian, and they believed from Pordenonne, in the Friuli- Venezia area. Not so I found.

So when Francesco came through Ellis Island, he was listed as being 34 years of age and single. Not so again, because the man at the commune found his marriage certificate! He was married to Marie Anntonet Carnevale, who was from Barile. Barile and Rionero were actually joined at one time, and it was 3 miles away!

Call to Barile
Call to Barile

As we left the commune, and approached our go to place Maria’s Ceramic Shoppe, a women came out of a store and said, “I am a Carnevale.” I am calling my mother to see if we are related. The name Carnevale, I found out is as common a name as Cardone in the town of Barile!

Sisters and Wife

The above documents show that Francesco also had two sisters, Maria Carmella (born April 29, 1864) and Louisa (born Sept. 11, 1856). You can see my family tree behind the documents. The document on the left is the marriage certificate of Francesco Cardone from Rionero and Marie Antonnet Carnevale from Barile.

These tree surprises made the trip worthwhile. What amazing finds! And all in the same day!

Day 28. Rionero, Rionero, Wherefore Art Thou?

This is going to be a two day post, so come back for more!

Se non possono fare grande cose, fare piccole cose nel miglior modo.

If you cannot do great things, do small things in great ways

Citta di Rionero & Monte Vulture

Rionero in Vulture sits at the foot of the 7 hills that form the Vulture Mountain Chain. No longer an active volcano, one of the treasures it formed was Lake Monticchio. Earthquakes have been the natural enemy of this land, erupting several times and has caused the town of Rionero heartache.

Rionero Rebuilt
Rionero Rebuilt

Now the people of the region of Basilicata, province of Potenza. the Lucanese,  are a proud and independent bunch. They are a direct reflection of the terrain of this land, mountainous and rugged. They rebuilt the town again and again,  earthquake after earthquake. They survived the challenges that the land presented, and occupations dating back to the Longoboards, the Normans, the Romans, and even the Nazi’s. Today the population of Rionero is about 14,000.

The water from the mountains provided the city with a generous supply. Evident today are the washing basins when clothes were washed communally by hand.

Washing basins
Washing basins

One of the examples of this fiercely proud spirit was the brigand Carmine Crocco. He fought alongside Garibaldi. Shortly after Italian unification, Crocco formed an army of 2,000 men and became a feared band in southern Italy.

Katia & Donato searching for Carmine Crocco
Brigand Members Katia & Donato searching for Carmine Crocco

When we went to the commune in Rionero. I was with 2 members of the current day society in Rionero (Assibrigantidi Crocco) . Katia and Donato were able to find the birth certificate of Carmine Crocco, born June 5, 1830.


It seemed like it took me forever to get there. First, I had to locate the town where the Cardone family and my great grandfather Francesco Cardone, originated from. This took seemingly forever. Then it took more time to make an actual family connection. This was done when a man, known in our family as Mastodoni (Antonio Cardone) came to Pittsburgh.

Tracing him back to Rionero, I found his birth certificate, and that of his twin sister, Emmanuela. Antonio’s father, Michele, was a stepbrother to Francesco Cardone. It seemed that Antonio Cardone, and his wife Filomena Pentacchio sent Antonio to my great grandfather to straighten him out. That was not a successful endeavor.

When I made this connect, things started to develop. Now this is a 10 year process I am talking about. I found the names of the people on Mohler Street in Homewood Brushton, came from one town. Yes, Rionero. I found the same names and begin to connect with them on Facebook.

Piazza Fortunato
Piazza Fortunato

This took me to the day I went to Rionero, having made numerous friends from there on Facebook, and armed with a family tree that was compiled by Laura LaMorte. At that moment in time, when I arrived in Piazza di Fortunato, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Finalmente, filamente, ho arrivato (finally, finally, I have arrived). What a journey, and yet it was really just beginning!

Katia & Maria
Katia & Maria

Katia Traficante, was our host, as Monica had been in Ginestra. How we get a person assigned to accompany us?I do not know. What a blessing! She arrived at the Ceramic Shoppe of Maria Sperduto, with a book of the history of Rionero. Things began to happen. We went to OK Pizza (pictured above), where Andrea Mecca, a Facebook friend, greeted us and fed us to the brim.


Maria owns a ceramic shoppe, Arte Basilicata (and she is talented). It was just behind the piazza, and became a gathering place for those who heard we were in Rionero. Among those were her brother, Francesco, who was very helpful prior to and during our visit. Each who came had a story of relatives that came to America, and talked about our possible family connections.

The first day was very rewarding. To have come so far, to have found out so much about the roots of the Cardone Family was just awesome and inspiring.

Perhaps it was a bit of that fiercely independent spirit and drive that was rooted in this place that made this happen. To have made the connection from Pittsburgh and the neighborhood of Homewood Brushton was pretty amazing. To share this journey with you is equally rewarding.

Homewood Brushton Sign Below Railroad Tracks

So in the next post, I am going to talk about Churches and Communes. Both played a huge role in preserving family histories by recording life events. In my case, life changing as you will see.


Day 27. Randomness

Land of Pasta Fresca
Land of Pasta Fresca

Okay so I made up a word – randomness. Today I thought I would share with you some cool pix. The word used in Italian is scattore – snapshots.

They cost how many euro?
They cost how many euro?

There is really no rhyme or reason to them, it is just that combined you see what life is like in Italy. What is it like? Well it is in some ways similar to everyday life here, but there are subtle cultural differences – a different mindset if you will.

Christmas everyday in San Gennaro
Christmas everyday in San Gennaro

Add it all up and it means that my sorellina (little sister) Monica does not move from Ginestra, which has only 400 residents, because her family is there.

Fast cars needed to keep up with other fast cars
Fast cars needed to keep up with other fast cars

Go to a restaurant in southern Italy and decide for yourself if this saying is true: “chi manga bene, vive bene.” Who eats well, lives well. I remember telling my friend Katia where I was staying, and she said, “you will eat well there, you will eat better here.” She was not lying.


Religion, the Catholic religion, is very evident and present. There are huge massive churches, basilicas within walking distance, and yes, sometimes next to each other or across the street. Seems as if there are saints on every corner.

Saints on every corner
Saints on every corner

 When you walk into a store, the staff does not approach you – almost ignoring you. However, they have already sized you up and know if you are a serious buyer. In the US, they hound you, chase you, and ask you 30 times if you are finding everything you need. There it is like, if you are going to buy, then you will buy. If not, you are wasting your time and ours.

A casual approach to sales
A casual approach to sales

Everything seems to have been done with a sense of style and taste. That goes for lampposts. I am amazed as the detail and effort put into something purely functional. Only in Italy do they turn a light fixture into a work of art.

Lampposts Works of Art
Lampposts Works of Art

Now good luck trying to find your way around. Here was a sign I came to when I was looking to go in a certain direction. Street names are marked upward on the corner of a building in marble, yes marble, and good luck trying to find them as you are driving.

Where are you going?
Where are you going?

Old here is 200 years old. Old there is 4th century old. That is really old.

My castle is bigger than your castle
My castle or my monument is bigger than yours.

I saw some castles in southern Italy that were massive. Then I would see another that was grander. Guessing that whoever decided to be king of southern italy, or King of Naples, wanted to establish a presence. Everyone was trying to outdo everyone, and they did a good job!


The sea, the coast are evident – after all Italy is a peninsula, and yet it has a rugged and mountainous terrain even along its coastlines. A good thing because it is hot in the Mezzogiorno (name given to southern Italy – land of the midday sun). In August there is the Ferragosto, where the country shuts down for a couple of weeks. Everyone floods the beaches.

In the Bay of Naples, there were fishing boats and yachts side by side. This shows the disparity of wealth that exists as some fish to sustain themselves, others as a hobby.

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So I hope you have enjoyed this snippets, or snapshots of Italy. It should make you want to go there!!!

Day 26. Can You Say Fioano di Val Fortore?


So we were in the land of the windmills, in Ginestra, and needed to get across the valley to Foiano (foi-ano).  The reason was that the father of my mother was born here in 1896. He emigrated to the United States, first going to Kane, Pennsylvania, then to Pittsburgh where he settled. He married Concetta Antonucci, born in the town where we were, Ginestra.

Foiano was close, but it was hilly and windy. Monica and her fiance’ Alessandro, decided to accompany us. It turned out to be a good thing. First, I do not think we would have found it, and second, she wrote everything down we found out about the DiStazio Family.

A phone call preceded our visit, and when we arrived in Foiano, we were met by Angelo, son of Antonio DiStazio and cousin to my mother, I had connected with Antonio’s other son, Pietro on Facebook. He had moved some years ago to Germany. He did serve as the intermediary in setting up this visit.

Anthony & Pietro DiStazio
Anthony & Pietro DiStazio

Antonio had inherited the land out of town that the DiStazio family owned. When we arrived, my mother and her cousin embraced. They knew of each other, but had never met. Pretty doggone emotional!

Antonio  & Lucille DiStazio
Antonio & Lucille DiStazio

We exchanged pictures, and asked questions about the family. We knew the names of all of the DiStazio men, but not their sisters. Antonio gave them all to us. His wife Carmella brought out some drinks for us.

Monica transcribing
Monica transcribing

One of the photos we saw was that of Antonio with his father, Pietro. Pietro was one of the 4 DiStazio men.

Antonio With Parents
Antonio With Parents

We also saw a photograph of the parents, Vincenzo DiStazio, and Maria Benedetta DiTroia.

Antonio DiStazio w/ wife Maria  Benedetta DiTroia
Antonio DiStazio w/ wife Maria Benedetta DiTroia

The five boys were: Pietro Leonardo, Paolo, Giovani, Carmine.

The four girls were: Mariaantonio, Libera, Maria Guiseppa, Maria Michela.

This farm was the place where my grandfather, Giovanni was born. They pointed out the the house was that he was born in. It was no longer there, and Antonio had built his home on the land.


We drove into town as Antonio wanted to show my mother the house the DiStazio’s lived in.


So we had closed a family loop by this visit.

We had reunited a family after generations of being apart. Three DiStazio boys had had left for America, and the rest stayed in Foiano.

IMG_0673DiStazio Family Reunites

In a sense we reconnected the Antonucci and DiStazio families. Pretty gratifying. Pretty good days work!