Italian–Americans talk culture

Published 8:43 pm Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cindy Cecchini believes the Italian culture holds many more gifts than heaping bowls of pasta, and she wants to share those gifts with others.

Cecchini and friends recently created the Italian–American Culture Society of Alabama.

“We don’t want the Italian culture to die,” said organizer Cindy Cecchini. “I think this is a wonderful way to reach out to people. Italians are really good at that. Italians are very loving people.”

The group held its first meeting May 3 at Joe’s Italian restaurant in Alabaster. They plan to meet again June 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Heart of Dixie Harley Davidson.

“I know that the community of Birmingham is growing more and more through people moving here from other countries,” Cecchini said. “Italy is very much represented here. I just wanted to see what kind of response I would get.”

Sandy Lauriello responded.

Lauriello is a full–blooded Italian who moved to the Birmingham area in 1974 from New York. She said there are Italian Clubs everywhere up North. She’s glad to be a part of the same here.

“I think getting all these Italians together is a great thing,” Lauriello said. “We’re learning about one another and it’s really neat.”

The organization hopes to share their culture in a variety of ways, Cecchini said. Right now they hope to try and learn Italian, host festivals and get youth interested in their heritage.

Lauriello said she’s always proud to share her heritage with other Italians, but it makes her prouder still when a non–Italian embraces the culture as well. She said Birmingham hosts Lebanese food festivals and Greek heritage festivals, but nothing to celebrate the Italian culture.

“When I go to the Greek festival I’m always so fascinated by their food, their traditions, their culture,” Lauriello said. “So, we want to share what we’ve been blessed with … the beauty of it all.”

Lauriello said she wants people to see Italians have more to offer than heaping bowls of pasta. Although, she would like to see the group put together an Italian cookbook. She also wants them to see the warmth of Italians.

She said the group would also get involved in the community by visiting hospitals and raising money for charities.

Cecchini said by being involved they could help younger generations keep true to their roots.

“We want to keep the love for Italy alive,” Cecchini said. “Without Italy Birmingham wouldn’t be what it is today. Many people came off the boat and started businesses here. This is a way to give back to that Italian heritage.”