Read about our founder and executive director, Tom Cesarini, in this article from Italy 2 California! Our gratitude to them for the great piece and collaboration!
Today’s Little Italy has become a culinary and cultural locus for San Diego residents and visitors. With the Little Italy Association at the helm of the rampant redevelopment of the neighborhood— beginning in the early 90s after decades of decline—what was once known as the Italian Colony has thus been reimagined, reinvented, and reinvigorated. Today, Little Italy is being hailed as a bold model for urban redevelopment. Moreover, with the arrival in recent years of a new wave of immigrants, a modern tale of toil has taken the place of the previous historical narrative of this colorful community.
The characteristics of these new immigrants (while in some ways not so different than the immigrants of past generations looking to make good in a new land), do contain one notable difference: These entrepreneurs have often arrived with a plan in place and requisite funding in hand. Consequently, they represent a vital component in the overall systemic restructuring of this neighborhood.
Little Italy has become an ever-evolving enclave, one that is at once suited for and defined by the vibrant and diverse demographic that composes its landscape—a neighborhood that has almost come to represent a microcosm of our cherished land of opportunity writ large. The new merchants setting up shop in the neighborhood have deliberately flocked to San Diego’s Little Italy, likely for the sense of community and for the ambience Little Italy fosters and of which they are also creators. So, too, are the new residents of Little Italy looking for a sense of community in a downtown setting when it comes to their selection of dwelling, and they are not only consumers but co-creators as well.
The neighborhood has taken on a different role, not one based on history or tradition but one based on a continually changing definition of purpose and place. The evolution of the neighborhood’s cultural artifacts, then, is a natural extension of these dynamics. But how does its changing identity and purpose affect the cultural heritage of the neighborhood? Regarding cultural artifacts and assets in the form of narrative, what stories are being told, who is recounting them, and what is being left out? Ultimately, how the neighborhood develops in the next several years and how it retains an Italian American identity or perhaps how it reshapes that identity will provide a context for rich scholarship.
San Diego’s Little Italy remains a salient element in Italian Americana. At Convivio, we are doing our own redefining of space and place at Amici House in the Little Italy Dog Park—contributing our voice to the overall narrative of the enclave. The charming restored cottage serves as the community’s cultural hub creating a third place for residents and visitors to the Italian neighborhood.
Ultimately, we at Convivio envision a large-scale Italian American museum and cultural center in San Diego and are working toward that goal. You can learn more on our site at conviviosociety.org/vision. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you! What makes Little Italy stand out for you? What would you like to see regarding programs at Amici House? Please drop us a line at conviviosociety.org/contact.
When it comes to iconic film scores, what comes to mind? Raiders of the Lost Ark, certainly. Star Wars, obviously. Chariots of Fire, naturally. The Godfather, irrefutably. In the pantheon of film composers (Italian or otherwise) Nino Rota certainly takes his rightful place, especially with his work on that last little film listed and with The Godfather Part II, which earned Rota an Oscar.
Creating memorable scores and working with a multitude of directors, Rota created one of his more enduring scores, however, for Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet. The film garnered worldwide attention and praise, while Rota’s love theme—hauntingly capturing the pathos of the star-crossed lovers—arguably represents the greatest love theme in film. Henry Mancini also put his touch on the theme, a lush arrangement that topped the charts in 1969 and forever emblazoned this melody in our minds and hearts, a testament, once again, to the timeless soundtracks that enhance Italian cinema.
What’s your favorite Italian film theme or score? What makes it stand apart for you?
When you don’t see Neapolitan tenor and Little Italy favorite Rosario Monetti belting out a favorite aria in awe-inspiring programs and venues locally and globally, you can find him overseeing his newest venture — Meshuggah Shack in Mission Hills — serving up a great cup of coffee, and often with a tune at no additional charge. You can also see Rosario perform in Little Italy at Amici House in the coming months where he assembles unforgettable shows. We sat down with Rosario to ask him about his latest endeavor.
What attracted you to this new venture?
It was by chance. A friend told me about the coffee kiosk on sale, and the funny thing is that we always talked about this little place and how much we loved it. Everything started from the previous owner who, about 10 years ago, turned a bank ATM into a coffee kiosk — yes, it was an ATM before. The quirkiness is basically the creativity of the old owner but even more the contribution over the years of the loyal customers — each of them has put in a bit of his own vision of the place.
As an Italian entrepreneur in San Diego, what have you noticed about differences in business (and lifestyle) practices between Italy and the U.S.?
The main difference from a business point of view is the easier approach to bureaucracy here, from the very beginning to the final step for the business to be active and alive. In Italy, the bureaucracy is a nightmare, which pushes away many entrepreneurs from my native country. The lifestyle also is very different —everything in Italy is delayed — breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at 1:30 p.m., and dinner at 8:30 p.m. And, of course, the nightlife as well — and I mean daily nightlife — you go out at 11 p.m. over there, and here at 11 p.m., you are already in your dreams, sleeping.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs coming here?
To learn the American and Californian culture and lifestyle first, which gives you a better perspective and perception of who your future clients will be. What works in our own country, no matter how effective it is and how good we are over there, can be a failure over here. Long story short — whoever comes here for the first time and wants to be an entrepreneur has to put his native cultural ego on the side and be willing to accept the cultural differences of this place and be willing and happy to work with it; compromise and melt in with it; without, of course, losing his own authenticity and flavor.
Tell us about your passion and singing career.
My passion for music started when I was a kid even if I was not really aware that I was able to sing. Eventually some friends of mine were playing in a bar, and because they previously heard me singing in the car with them asked me to sing something and join them at this club. The song was “With or Without You” by U2, and it was a success. The people went crazy and requested me even the day after, and so I became officially part of the band. That was the moment I understood that I had the potential and the talent to be a professional singer. The real game changer came later on when I started studying music and voice, and my first teacher told me that my voice was naturally made to sing classical and opera, and here I am as an opera singer now.
What new musical projects are you working on?
I am working on organizing a beautiful concert with a 25-piece orchestra with the collaboration of an acclaimed orchestra director and music arranger who has arranged and directed the music for Andrea Bocelli and many other famous Italian singers. I am also going to Sicily for a week as a guest singer for an archeological and wine tour, and there are other projects that I will tell about and promote very soon.
What do you want people to know about Rosario Monetti?
Come see me at the Meshuggah! When I am there, most likely I will be singing while making coffees! Remember that a smile is always something available for everyone. For me, it’s all about my love for life, music, and a cup of great coffee.
Visit meshuggahshack.com for more information.
The University of San Diego’s Hoehn Family Galleries will host Christ: Life, Death, and Resurrection, an exhibition of original Italian Renaissance art that includes Michelangelo’s The Three Crosses. This is the first time many of these works will be seen in Southern California. Of particular note, Michelangelo’s works have never before been exhibited in San Diego.
Lecture by Kevin Petti, Ph.D.
Connecting Art, Anatomy, and Religion in the Italian Renaissance
Theatre, Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice
Wine Reception with Private Exhibit Viewing
Hoehn Family Galleries Foyer, Founders Hall
Professor, San Diego Miramar College
Adjunct Faculty, San Diego State University
Founder, Anatomia Italiana
Opening the human body to discover its secrets was an endeavor sanctioned by, not prohibited by, the Catholic Church in Renaissance Italy. Determining the cause of suspicious deaths, collecting Holy Relics, and medical school public dissections were all conducted under the auspices of the Church. The profound connection between art, anatomy, and religion in Italy is beautifully demonstrated by the genius of Michelangelo.
This talk examines the nexus between art and anatomy in Italy, how religious works were influenced by the scientific endeavors of the Renaissance Masters, and how this story is distinct to the Italian peninsula.
Kevin Petti, Ph.D. is an alum of the University of San Diego, earning his doctorate in 2006. He is also a dual U.S./Italian citizen, textbook coauthor, and president-emeritus of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society.
Read our current article in San Diego Downtown News. We have an exciting program in store with several events slated through the next several months, all leading up to Italian American Heritage Night at Petco Park! Stay tuned for more information!
Join us as we honor Stephen Ferruolo, Dean of the USD School of Law, and we present him with the 2017 Convivio Communitas Award for Leadership. The awards luncheon will be held on May 23 at the University of San Diego, Institute for Peace and Justice.
May 23, 2017
11:30 am – 1:30 pm
Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, Room CD
For tickets, please follow the link. We look forward to seeing you!
About Our Recipient – Stephen Ferruolo
Before joining USD , Ferruolo served as the founding partner and chair of the San Diego office of Goodwin Procter LLP, an international firm with 850 attorneys in nine offices in the United States, Asia and Europe. In addition to his continued service as chair of the office, Ferruolo was a member of the firm-wide executive committee since 2009.
Ferruolo’s practice focused on transactional work, with a special emphasis on corporate finance and governance and mergers and acquisitions. Much of his practice involved representing technology and life science companies in San Diego, nationally and internationally. In 2011, Ferruolo was elected vice chairman of BIOCOM/San Diego, the largest regional life sciences association in the world, which represents more than 550 member companies. From 2003 to 2011, he served as vice president and general counsel of BIOCOM.
Prior to joining Goodwin Procter in 2007, Ferruolo was a partner and co-chair of the Corporate/VLG Practice Group at Heller Ehrman LLP in its Palo Alto and San Diego offices. At Heller Ehrman, he also served terms on the firm’s Policy Committee and Compensation Committee and served as the Co-Chair of the Life Sciences Practice Group.
Ferruolo is a 1971 graduate of the College of Social Studies at Wesleyan University. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University where he earned a Masters in Philosophy in 1973. Ferruolo received his MA in 1975 and PhD in 1979 in History at Princeton University, then served on the faculties at Bennington College and Stanford University. His book, The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and Their Critics (Stanford University Press, 1985) has been widely cited and remains the authoritative work in the field.
Ferruolo graduated with honors from Stanford Law School in 1990. Upon graduation from Stanford Law School, Ferruolo clerked for the Honorable Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
It is our privilege to announce that Stephen Ferruolo, the dean of the USD Law School, is the recipient of the 2016 Convivio Communitas Award for Leadership! We will present the award at the Communitas Award Leadership Luncheon at USD in January, 2017. More details will follow soon!
Most visitors to the Convivio Center would first see the paladino, the knight in armor standing in view through the front window (and donated by Umberto Falcone, resident of Little Italy), just as Hillary and Justin did last year and noted it in their blog, An Uncontained Life.
(Read their blog post, Celebrating Little Italy’s “Fishy” Past.)
It’s a nice piece about walking through the Little Italy neighborhood, but it also accentuates the charm of the Convivio Center and its focus on community and bringing people together in a third place, a core component of the Convivio vision and mission.
We opened the Convivio Center in May of 2013, and for a couple years served the community as a venue for the Italian and broader cultural communities of San Diego, a space in which to engage in arts, culture, and heritage programs and find that third place as a means for connection. Many visitors would immediately comment on the center’s vibe, its welcoming look and feel, which made them feel right at home.
Perhaps some of the more enduring impact comes from the many children, young adults, and college-aged students who performed at the Convivio Center, such as the Carlsbad Showcase Company (under the direction of Ric Henry), Point Loma Opera Theatre, and SDSU School of Music and Dance Opera Theatre. As a result, the Convivio Center not only provided a multicultural venue but a space that gave opportunity to these rising stars to showcase their artistry. And for this, we are privileged.
This overview video below from Louis Cutino encapsulates some of the musical events we featured at the center. You can find many of our events captured on video, and for that we are grateful to Louis for his work and generosity–manifesting the very spirit of community though his time and talent.
But this commentary is not meant to be merely a nostalgic saunter down memory lane–it is meant to honor an important resource in bringing people together, and it also serves as a nod to our active pursuit of a new space and once again bringing to San Diego an Italian cultural institute through which culture, connection, and camaraderie will be the order of the day.
In the interim, we are busy with our cultural programming in partnership with other venues in the county and our important work in preserving the quickly diminishing Italian American history of San Diego. And this fall we launch our scholarship program, and we are already planning our Communitas Award festivities for next year.
Ultimately, we wish to express our immense gratitude to all our Convivio donors, center co-founders, volunteers, and of course, all the talented artists and guests for their support through the years in helping to realize this dream of a cultural and educational space, a dream for many Italian Americans in San Diego.
For everything the Convivio Center represented, it was merely a start, a stepping stone on a path to greater things. We look forward to continuing to pursue our vision with you.
The lights dim, the near-capacity crowd begins to settle, and on the screen above the stage where the musicians are poised for greatness, the Paramount logo materializes, and then…the solo trumpet begins its wail and the credits appear. You know the tune…The Godfather Waltz…dark, foreboding, and unforgettable. Thus, the San Diego Symphony’s The Godfather Live event begins–quietly, without fanfare–and an evening of pure magic follows. A cinematic capolavoro. A musical masterpiece. And another testament to Italian and Italian American influences on cinema and music, as well as the artistic merits of our own San Diego Symphony.
The event was brought to you by the San Diego Symphony, CineConcerts, and the San Diego Symphony conductor Justin Freers. You can read more about the event, the score restoration, and the conductor here through the Film Music Society.
Convivio is privileged to have been a part of this special evening, and we look forward to more San Diego Symphony events celebrating the masterful Italian film scores accompanying some of the silver screen’s greatest achievements by Italian filmmakers.
For more information on the San Diego Symphony, please visit the San Diego Symphony online.