Italian Immigrants

Italian Push and Pull Factors: St. Maria Goretti Roman Catholic Church

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In the heart of a busy intersection, the St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church stands proudly, a tower of ornate brick and stone statuary.  It is the amalgamation of three former parishes: the St. Lawrence O’Toole, Immaculate Conception, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Churches (“Saint Maria Goretti.”).  St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was founded by German immigrants in 1867, accommodating a surge in Bloomfield’s population during the late 18th century (“Saint Joseph (German), Manchester.”).  The Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church was established in 1906, serving an Italian immigrant congregation.  The first major group of immigrants arrived in the 1900s, with another wave settling in the area before and during the Second World War (Grano, Anthony.).

Italian immigrants came to America in search of better lives.  Because of population growth in Italy, many native Italians were forced to live in smaller and more crowded homes and communities, barely eking out a living.  These men and women were prohibited from obtaining better lives in Italy due to a dearth of financial resources, so they searched for brighter futures elsewhere.  Unfortunately, most Italian immigrants still found poverty upon arrival, being forced by language barriers into unskilled labor and low wages.  However, their lives were still often better than those they left behind, so the flow of emigration continued (Hay, Jeff.)

The majority of Italian immigrants emigrated from Southern Italy, as the 1860 reunification of Southern and Northern Italy led to a government that “favored the North”. Another important factor in this mass exodus was familial ties, as many hoped to settle with siblings and parents who had already crossed the Atlantic (“Immigration Library”).  Due to strong family ties and religious values like those exhibited by the congregation of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Italian immigrants  gradually integrated with mainstream American society.

1- “Saint Joseph (German), Manchester.” Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh |. Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2014. Web. 03 May 2014.

2- “Saint Maria Goretti.” Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh |. Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2014. Web. 03 May 2014.

3- “Immaculate Conception, Bloomfield.” Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh |. Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2014. Web. 03 May 2014.

4- Grano, Anthony. “Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy |” Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy | La Gazzetta Italiana, n.d. Web. 03 May 2014.

5- Hay, Jeff. “Immigrants from Italy.” Immigration. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2001. 81-83. Print.

6- “Immigration Library.” Immigration Library. The Advocates for Human Rights, 2011. Web. 02 May 2014.


Italian Food: Del’s Bar and Ristorante DelPizzo

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The homogenous colors of concrete and brick blend together in the Bloomfield neighborhood, only accentuated by occasional advertisements and signs.  As I walk further along the cracking sidewalks, I notice a multitude of murals embellishing the walls surrounding me; the area becomes progressively more vibrant.  Upon entering Del’s Ristorante DelPizzo, the atmosphere changes dramatically.  The dim lighting is juxtaposed with the colorful wallpaper and floor, and the aroma of marinara sauce pervades the air.

Del’s was founded in 1949 by Mary and Benny DelPizzo, the grandparents of the current owners; siblings John and Marianne (“About Us.”).  They were gracious enough to allow me into their kitchen, a world of escaping steam and constant activity.  Here, a diverse group of local workers fry, sear, and boil the food ordered by the customers in the dining area.  My family orders a plate of “1949” lasagna, fried zucchini, and a large pizza, which proves to be satisfyingly cheesy and tasty.  Italian-American food is a true composite, a new, unique cuisine.  Italian immigrants like Mary and Benny DelPizzo, who arrived in 1908, adapted traditional recipes to a new market, creating famous foods like round pizza and spaghetti with meatballs (Mancuso, Janice Therese.).  Because of the new popularity of Italian foods in America, the production of foods like olive oil and tomato products increased dramatically in cities like Sicily and Naples (Gabbaccia, Donna R.).

The lasagna is rich, smothered in ground beef and mozzarella cheese.  When I ordered it from the menu, it was advertised as a “1949” recipe.  Within the 20 years prior to the founding of Del’s, Italian food gained increasing popularity, despite the decrease in imports from Italy due to Mussolini’s “battle for grain” and high depression-era tariffs.  Because of the low supply of traditional food, many American companies began attempting to replicate ingredients like aged cheese, tomato sauce, and pasta (Gabaccia, Donna R.).  This became a thriving industry, fueling the Italian-American food industry for years to come.


1- “About Us.” Del’s Restaurant Pittsburgh. Del’s Restaurant, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.

2-Mancuso, Janice Therese. “A Brief History of Italian Food in America.” A Brief History of Italian Food in America. La Gazzetta Italiana, n.d. Web. 01 May 2014.

3. Gabaccia, Donna R. “History in Focus.” Pizza, Pasta and Red Sauce: Italian or American?, an Article from. History in Focus, Autumn 2006. Web. 02 May 2014.

4. Mariani, John. “Italian America | SAVEUR.” Saveur, 11 Nov. 2011. Web. 02 May 2014.