“Oshpett, oshpett,” the beer vendor barked on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Yankee Stadium. He was clearing the way for fans to get to their seats when I heard the remnants of a southern Italian dialect, several generations removed. For the folks he was selling beer to, he’d often end his transaction with a parting “Chin-tann.”
Layered under decades of time and waves of subsequent immigrations, the Italian voice is stretched but not silenced. One needs only to scratch the surface only slightly to see the Italian presence in New York.
“Dig down into New York and you’ll reach Rome,” I once heard on a cold winter night several decades ago. I’m not sure how that applies in today’s world, but looking around the city today, it seems Italians are exploring the new New York, and loving every minute of it.
Once a section at the ballpark would be filled with suited up gentlemen, hats and all, with their mandatory cigar, looking after the legacy of Lazzeri, Rizutto and DiMaggio. These days the field has altered and they sit in their seats along fellow fans from Japan, from all over the world, and follow the careers of Giambi, Jeter and Matsui. E la nave va.
Hungry? Get yourself a Nathan’s, a kosher dog or a hot Italian sausage. You can even find a cannolo in the stadium if you dig deep enough.
Traveling in the subways and walking along the streets upside one can hear the ring of Italian being spoken. From the southern dialects now woven into a new patois’ to the fresh staccato sounds of tourists from Friuli or the Veneto. The city is crawling with all kinds of Italians looking for a slice of New York to love.