Italian Language and Literature
Interview: William Parker
Interviewer: Kathleen LaPenta
Date of Interview: April 10, 2017
Summary by Juliana Esoldi and Sarah Cavanagh
Peter Villucci was born in 1959. Peter lived on 198th Street and Grand Concourse in the Bedford Park area of the Bronx until he was 25 years old. He describes the area as being very nice and composed of mostly middle and lower-middle class families of predominantly Jewish, Italian, Irish, and Spanish background.
Villucci has one younger brother. His mother worked as a registered nurse and his father an accountant. His father was the first of his family to get higher education with an Associate's Degree. Peter’s maternal grandparents, Francesco and Victoria Arnoni, came to the U.S. from Calabria, Italy, through Ellis Island. Villucci recalls that his maternal grandfather, Francesco, had a fourth grade education and was subsequently drafted into the Italian army during World War I. He remembers the stories he told his grandson about the Italian surrender, and the six month long walk home to Calabria from what was then Yugoslavia. This led him to adopt anti-war and anti-violence views.
The family of Victoria Arnoni was very well-educated and were correspondents to King Vittorio of Italy. After marrying, they came to Brooklyn to live with relatives in the 1920s. Francesco, being a skilled laborer, worked as a stonemason and helped build St. Philip Neri Church on the Grand Concourse. He later worked in a powder puff factory in Mount Vernon. Francesco and Victoria Arnoni lived in an apartment on the Grand Concourse. Peter’s paternal grandparents came from San Mauro Forte in Basilicata between the 1890s and early 1900s. They lived on the other side of the Bronx in a three story home on Willet avenue by White Plains road.
Peter has many fond memories of his grandparents. As a child, he would walk with his grandfather Francesco all over the Bronx, like along Fordham road, Grand Concourse, up to Van Cortlandt Park, etc. He remembers his grandmother Victoria making homemade pasta, pizza, calzones, bread in coffee cans, etc. He remembers that his family would come to Arthur avenue for the Italian markets and specialities every Sunday. Peter is proud of his heritage and is not afraid of embracing it despite his family’s initial efforts to dissociate their children from it for fear of discrimination. Peter is working to become an Italian citizen.
LaPenta, Kathleen; Esoldi, Juliana; and Cavanagh, Sarah, "Peter Villucci" (2017). Oral Histories. 2.