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Spotlighting Italian food, music, art, and language, Club ItaloAmericano of Greater Green Bay allows anyone with an interest in Italian culture to play a part in celebrating it. Submitted photo

Celebrating Italian heritage

By Melanie Rossi

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – Spotlighting Italian food, music, art and language, Club ItaloAmericano of Greater Green Bay allows anyone with an interest in Italian culture to play a part in celebrating it.

Founded in 1994, the club — now with approximately 120 members — will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year.

According to the club’s current board president, Mary Prisco, the social club is “aimed at people who are interested in Italy or Italian culture. That might be because they have Italian heritage, or they’ve been to Italy or lived in Italy, or they just love Italian food, Italian music, art — any of the ways that Italy has impacted our culture.”

“My husband and I were part of the initial founders, along with a man named Riccardo Paterni. We were presidents for 11 years, and we established a board and a slate of officers at that time,” said Marlene Feira.

With the goal of sharing their passion for Italy, the club’s members have organized countless events, many of which are celebrated annually.

Since 2008, the club has hosted an annual Musicale, “an event where we bring in talented local musicians who perform usually operatic selections,” Prisco said. “We have different people who are very, very talented singing for us, and then we have a social hour. It’s a way to celebrate Italian music.”

In October, around the same time as the Musicale, the club hosts a spaghetti dinner to celebrate Italian Heritage Month.

Prisco said, “It’s a social event where we come together to enjoy Italian food. . . The members look forward to it and make a point of attending.”

Additional events include the Cena di Natale, a multi-course Christmas dinner; Carnevale celebrations; passeggiate, or slow walks and bocce games at Colburn Park.

“In layman’s terms, it’s the Italian form of lawn bowling,” Feira said. “We requested from the Green Bay Park and Rec to build bocce courts at Colburn Park, and so every Sunday during the summer months there is a group of approximately 16 people that meet on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 to play bocce.”

As a way of celebrating Italian culture, the club places a large emphasis on learning the Italian language.

Thanks to the club’s efforts, the first Italian language class was offered at Preble High School in 2008, and remained a course offering for many years.

While budget cuts have since removed the course, the club still offers adult Italian language study groups, which are open for the community.

In addition to their annual events and language-learning opportunities, the club releases a monthly newsletter, which highlights the club’s recent and upcoming events, shares Italian recipes and teaches its readers more about Italian landmarks and history.

A member since 2018, Prisco values being able to share her Italian identity with other members in the club.

“From a personal perspective, I’m Italian American, and I come from the East Coast, where there is a larger percentage of Italian Americans living,” she said. “When I moved out here to Green Bay, it seemed like Italian Americans were few and far between, so for me, it’s a way to kind of connect either with people who share my roots or people who share cultural things that are a part of my life. . . We are kind of spread out in the area, and it’s a way to kind of identify each other.”

Despite having many members with Italian heritage, anyone — even without Italian heritage — is welcome to join.

Prisco said, “We are open to anyone who has the least bit of interest in things Italian, if it’s music, art, food, history — we are a very warm, welcoming club. . . I’ve felt that since I first became involved that we love to meet you and love to have you join our events.”

For the members who are Italian, being a part of the club allows them to celebrate their Italian roots — all while staying in the Green Bay area.

“I’m 100% Italian, and being Italian is one of my passions,” Feira said. “I feel that it’s important for the community to know about us, enjoy our culture, our language, our art, food — all things Italian.”

To learn more, visit www.clubitaloamericano.org

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