The more things change, the more they stay the same. Welcome to Wilmington’s own slice of the Old Country.
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After looking briefly for a suitable space in Old New Castle, Vitrone developed Pastabilities in a butcher shop on Lincoln. The first thing he noticed was that there was nothing in Little Italy to identify it as such. With two other leaders, Vitrone formed what has become the Little Italy Neighborhood Association. “One of our first acts was to sponsor a contest to build an arch that would mark our southern entrance.” That steel gateway today reflects tradition and change.
Christian Willauer moved to Little Italy as the result of a job relocation from Charlotte, North Carolina, a year ago. The Boston native wanted an urban landscape.
“I was attracted to the neighborhood’s diversity,” she says. “The commercial area is all in walking distance, as is Brandywine Park.”
She cites Fierro Cheese, Black Lab bakery and Papa’s Market—the grocery, not the bakery—as some of her favorite stores. “Mrs. Robino’s and Bangkok House are two of my favorite restaurants.” Getting to know the owners, she says, is a great advantage, and the low cost of living is very attractive. “Plus you get all the amenities of city life.”
To coincide with the beginning of St. Anthony’s Italian Festival in June 2009, LINA unveiled a mural on the railroad overpass at the north end. Painted by local artists Maria Pepe and Louis Wilson, it depicts traditional Italian scenes, the milk silo at Fierro’s cheese plant and its signature ricotta container. Landscaping was provided by the Delaware Horticultural Society. Combined with recent streetscaping on Union, the arch and mural lets Little Italy put its best foot forward. Its first foot forward—the very foundation of the neighborhood—is St. Anthony of Padua Parish.
The parish is a national parish, a body defined by ethnic identity, not by a geographic area. The original trickle of Italians into Wilmington, drawn by work on the railroads and, later, in the DuPont powder works, the Bancroft Mills and area quarries, grew to a substantial community clustering in an area known as The Hill. They were not always received in surrounding parishes, says St. Anthony Pastor John F. McGinley. “One day a group of them were late for Mass at an Irish church and were not allowed inside. That was the beginning of St. Anthony’s.”
Skilled artisans, the immigrants began building homes. With the founding of St. Anthony’s, these masons, steel workers, carpenters, plasterers, glaziers and painters began building a church. Considered “one of the most magnificent testaments to the glory of God in America,” St. Anthony’s opened its doors on Palm Sunday of1926.
Page 4: Ciao, Italia, continues...