The Oldest Italian Restaurant in the U.S. Closed Its Doors
Fior D’Italia claimed to be the oldest Italian restaurant in the U.S., which is perhaps surprising, given that most Americans of Italian ancestry now live on the East Coast (see map). Midwest, Florida, and California have smaller Italian communities. However, “the Italians immigrated to California 50 years earlier than they did back east”, said Gianni Audieri to reporters. While most Italian immigrants came to the U.S. between 1880 and 1920 and settled in the large cities of the East Coast, a sizeable number of Italians came to California during the gold and silver rushes, where they were drawn to by work opportunities in mining, railroad construction, lumbering, and agriculture. It was in San Francisco that the first Columbus Day celebration was organized by Italian Americans in 1869. Among notable San Franciscans of Italian descent is Amadeo Giannini, who founded the Bank of Italy in 1904 in an effort to cater to Italian immigrants denied service by other banks; later it became the Bank of America.
With little ongoing immigration from Italy, fewer and fewer Americans speak Italian although as many as 17.8 million Americans claim Italian ancestry. According to the 1990 U.S. census, 1.3 million Americans claimed to speak Italian at home, but by the 2000 census this number was down to 1 million and by 2005 to 800,000. Together with Yiddish, Italian is the fastest shrinking Heritage Language in the U.S. The highest concentration of Italian speakers live in New York, where over 220,000 people or 28% of the state’s population claim to speak Italian at home. New Jersey is a distant second with 89,000 or 11% of its population speaking Italian, followed by California (66,000 or 8%), Pennsylvania (55,000 or 7%), and Florida (52,000 or 6.5%). Sizeable Italian-speaking communities also live in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Connecticut.
With Fior D’Italia closing, the oldest Italian restaurants are Ralphs in Philadelphia, opened by the Dispigno family in 1900, and Barbetta in New York City, founded in 1906 by Sebastiano Maioglio. While Barbetta is a few years younger than Ralphs, it has a triple title of the oldest restaurant in New York that is still owned by the family that founded it, the oldest Italian restaurant in New York, and the oldest restaurant in New York’s Theatre District.
« British ‘Hunter-Killer’ Submarine Sent...
Geographical Fantasies in Foreign Policy... »