Membership Soars at the Vermont Italian Cultural Association (VICA) Celebrating Italy in Vermont

Jul 28, 2021 273

BY: Lisa DeNatale

During the first half of 2021 membership in the Vermont Italian Cultural Association (VICA) has increased 62% including the addition of fourteen businesses. Virtual events held during the past year have had waiting lists. Most recently a presentation on obtaining Italian citizenship attracted over 130 participants.

Senator Patrick Leahy, whose maternal grandparents were Italian, Gardening guru Charlie Nardozzi and author Vincent Panella along with a growing number of Vermonters and businesses are members of the Vermont Italian Cultural Association.

VICA was formed in the early 1980s as a non-profit dedicated to preserving and promoting Italian culture in Vermont. It became a place for Vermonters to share their Italian heritage and traditions, and to celebrate the richness of Italian culture. Over time, the volunteer-run organization has grown, each year sponsoring a wide-range of programs and activities including wine-tastings, social events, Italian language groups, travel, book readings, bocce, lectures and more.

Lisa DeNatale, VICA’s new President, says “We are delighted that more and more Vermonters are interested in celebrating all that Italy has to offer right here in Vermont. Anyone who appreciates Italian culture is welcome to join."

DeNatale and her family joined VICA in 2014 as a way to connect with her Italian heritage and to meet other Italian-Americans and Italians living in Vermont. After serving on VICA’s membership and marketing committees, she was elected President in June. “There are so many artisans, small producers and Vermonters who are preserving their Italian traditions and culture. You don’t have to look far to discover Italy in Vermont.”

In December, 2020 with COVID restrictions limiting social gatherings, VICA partnered with business member Trattoria Delia/Sotto Provisions for a virtual wine-tasting. Over 100 people participated on Zoom including Senator Leahy and his wife Marcelle, who called in from their home in suburban DC. In a letter following the event Senator Leahy wrote “Marcelle and I wanted you to know how much we enjoyed participating in the Virtual Wine Tasting hosted by the Vermont Italian Cultural Association and Trattoria Delia. During such a difficult year, it was a pleasure for us to join so many good friends for such an upbeat virtual event.”

The virtual wine-tasting events proved so popular that they have continued almost monthly, attracting wine-lovers, Italy-lovers and patrons of Trattoria Delia and Sotto Provisions.

According to Leslie McCrorey-Wells, co-owner of Pizzeria Verità, Trattoria Delia and Sotto Enoteca in Burlington, Vt., “We couldn't have asked for a better pairing between our Italian restaurants and the VICA membership. The virtual wine and food events helped us relaunch our businesses and build a strong partnership all while enjoying some fine wines and good company!”

In January VICA began partnering with Phoenix Books, highlighting Italian authors in the region at virtual events, including Vincent Panella and Carla Gambescia. "Phoenix Books highly values community partnerships and it was especially true during COVID," commented Tod Gross, Phoenix Books Burlington's Manager. "This past year we co-presented three very successful events with VICA that were educational and entertaining. VICA has been a great partner and we look forward to holding more virtual and in-person events in the future."

The March event with Phoenix Books featured nationally known author, speaker, television and radio personality, Charlie Nardozzi who discussed his new book The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening. Nardozzi, who grew up surrounded by Italian relatives all sharing his grandparents Rocco and Lucia Gagliardi’s farm in Connecticut, also shared information about his favorite Italian herbs and vegetables that are easily grown in Vermont. Nardozzi has led several trips to Italy visiting farms, vineyards and private gardens. 

One of the most popular areas of interest among Italian-Americans is how to obtain Italian citizenship by “right of blood” also known as Jure Sanguinis. In June, a Zoom presentation attracted VICA and non-VICA members curious to learn the process for researching and obtaining their Italian citizenship. Due to demand, a second Italian Citizenship presentation will be held on Monday, August 2nd from 7-8:15pm on Zoom. Registration is on the VICA website.

On August 12th the Vermont Italian Cultural Association and VICA business partner SLATE will cohost an Italian wine and gallery night featuring the works of artisans Chris Mazzarella, Maddalena Michetti and Kathryn Melillo. Samples of Italian wines will be available for tasting. This event is open to the public. Registration is on the VICA website.

Joining VICA

Become a VICA member and support our mission to preserve and promote Italian culture in Vermont. Basic annual membership levels include: Business $100, Family $45, Individual $35 and Student $15 (full time college student under 26.) As a VICA member you will receive news about exclusive VICA-sponsored events as well as information about Italian cultural opportunities in the
community.

History of Italians in Vermont

The first Italian stonecutters in Vermont came in the 1880s and worked at the Vermont Marble Company in Rutland. These were skilled marble carvers from Carrara. Italians came to Barre mostly in the period from 1890 to 1910, where by 1910, about 14 percent of Barre's population was Italian. In the 1920’s Burlington’s Urban Core (the area bordered by Battery, Pearl, St. Paul and College streets) was home to Italian immigrants and their families whose markets and restaurants such as Izzo’s Market, Bernardini’s cafe and Bove’s, catered to the growing Italian population in Burlington.

Support VICA partners: AR Market/VT Salumi, Campo di Vino, Dell’Amore Sauces, La Panciata, Mimmo’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, Pizzeria Verità, Restaurant Poco, SLATE, Sotto Provisions/Trattoria Delia, Sweet Simone’s, Tina’s Home Designs, Trenchers Italian Farmhouse, TorroneCandy.com and Village Wine and Coffee.

About the Vermont Italian Cultural Association:

The Vermont Italian Cultural Association (VICA) is dedicated to preserving and sharing Italian culture and heritage. It’s open to anyone interested in Italian culture, arts, language, history, and other aspects of Italian civilization. We sponsor a broad range of activities throughout the year including travel talks and presentations, language groups, art and sculpture exhibits, Italian movies, coffees, luncheons, and bocce socials. To learn more please visit VICA’s website.

SOURCE: Vermont Italian Cultural Association

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