From pizza to television, Italians in New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– From pizza to television, Italians have played a big role in New Haven. And that’s where we’re kicking off News 8’s “Italian in Connecticut” week!

This morning News 8’s Kent Pierce was live from New Haven’s Wooster Street with a peek at how Italians influenced the Elm City.

A lot of other places in Connecticut would look a lot different without the hard work of Italian immigrants. News 8 might not exist at all and what better place to begin Italian in Connecticut week than under the arch here on Wooster Street.

“The Italian American experience in New Haven is definitely, without a doubt, Wooster Street,” said Lou Abate, Abate Pizzeria.   pizza From pizza to television, Italians in New Haven

Under that iconic arch, is the heart of New Haven’s Little Italy, Wooster Street. It may be the best in the world…and everyone has their own favorite pizzeria.

“Each person uses a little bit different type of dough, a different cheese or a different sauce,” said William Pustari, Modern Pizza.

The secret may be the tomatoes. Where do they come from?

“I can’t tell you that. I can tell you that they’re an italian plum tomato, but I can’t tell you where they’re from,” said Gary Bimonte, Frank Pepe Pizzeria.

“Why are those tomatoes so good on pizza around here? Well, because they came from the volcanic ashes of Pompeii,” said Anthony Riccio, Author.

Author Anthony Riccio literally wrote the book on the Italian American experience in New Haven. He says immigrants from the area near Naples brought their cooking traditions with them when they came to New Haven for jobs.

More Italian in Connecticut:

“There was an industrial revolution going on in this country at the turn of the century. They needed cheap labor, and Italy supplied that,” said Riccio.

It was not easy work, however.

“At the time, building a lot of the infrastructure here in New Haven, life expectancy certainly wasn’t what it is today. So you had many of these Italian Americans passing away and leaving widows and orphans,” said Anthony Minopoli, Knights of Columbus Chief Investment Officer.

The Knights of Columbus started as an organization to help those widows and orphans. It’s still based in New Haven, but now has almost two million members around the world. Despite the name, it is not an Italian organization. Columbus was chosen as a name that would be widely respected.

old news 8 “Across the country, people recognized the importance of Columbus in founding the new land, and to Italians, being one of their own was certainly a sense of pride for many of the Italians who were here,” said Minopoli.

We have a sense of pride in the Italian roots of News 8. The man who got us on the air in 1948 had his first job fixing bicycles in Milan at age 14

“At 16, the brother who was here, the older brother, called him and he came to the United States,” said Dante DeDominicis, Aldo’s Nephew.

Aldo DeDominicis worked hard, sold pasta and radio air time but he had a bigger dream, according to his two nephews.

“He had a vision. He felt that TV was the upcoming thing,” said DeDominicis.

“Travellers had a three million dollar budget to start this radio with pictures. And these big shots at Travellers figured nobody is going to watch to sit down and watch radio on a TV screen,” said Enzo DeDominicis, Aldo’s Nephew.

Fortunately for us, people did want to watch, once Uncle Aldo put something on the air and TV salesmen had something to show on their sets. WNHC channel 6 started almost 87 years ago. It became WTNH…Action News…Newschannel 8…and now News 8…using technology even a bright, adventurous, Italian immigrant could not have dreamed about.

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