HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– News 8’s celebration of Italian in Connecticut continues today! Today our journey takes us to Hartford from women paving the way in leadership roles to pastries just like Nonna made.
Hartford looks a lot different now than it did when many Italian immigrants came here. A hundred years ago, the Front Street neighborhood was mostly Italian.
“Exactly. You could almost call it a Little Italy type of neighborhood,” said Michael Messina, Connecticut Historical Society.
The Connecticut Historical Society has plenty of pictures of that neighborhood and the 1934 flood that damaged many of the homes and businesses. But Paul Margolfo says the Italians rebuilt after the flood.
“Front street was unique. Nowhere else in the city could you go and have all these little cafes outside,” said Margolfo.
That didn’t last. In the 1950s and ’60s developers got the neighborhood declared a slum and forced everyone out. That’s when the city’s south end, along Franklin Avenue became the Italian neighborhood. That’s where you’ll find Mozzicato’s Bakery. It’s been part of Hartford since…
“1970 – that’s when Mozzicato’s incorporated the Pasquale Bakery, and the Pasquale Bakery originated in 1908,” said Gino Mozzicato, Mozzicato’s Bakery.More Italian in Connecticut:
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A hundred and seven years later, Mozzicato’s is still baking traditional Italian pastries, literally the way grandma used to make.
“They say, they remember, ‘My Nonna,’ means grandmother, ‘She used to do this for me, oh she used to do that,” said Mozzicato.
Down the street at the Italian American Stars Club, the guys still get together and talk about those old days.
“I started at the motor vehicle department, worked as a midnight teletype machine operator in 1947 for $17 a week,” said Biagio “Billy” Ciotto, Fmr. State Senator
Billy Ciotto worked his way up to Deputy Commissioner of the DMV and got elected to the State Senate. He’s one of several Italian Americans who made a difference in Hartford, including Ann Uccello, the first woman to be mayor of capitol city any where in the US. And Ella Rose Tambussi. You may know her better by her married name.
In 1974, she became the first woman to be elected Governor of a US state in her own right.
“I feel that she not only, in a way, legitimized having women hold public office, but she gave them a focus and a direction to work for,” said Susane Grasso, Ella’s daughter.
Work is the lasting legacy of Italians in Hartford. Their skill in the building trades is why Hartford looks the way it does today, and it was the chance to work that brought them here in the first place.
“Why do immigrants come here from other countries, what do they want, Kent? They want a piece of this pie that’s called America,” said Ciotto.
And now they’re here making pies, cakes, cannolis at Mozzicatto’s.
Those wonderful pastries still being made here at Mozzicatto’s just like they have been for decades. That’s one thing that’s stayed the same, but the history of Italians in Hartford involves a lot of change.