Famous Italians

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0000Guiseppe Bellanca (aviator/inventor):

Was born in Sciacca, Italy in 1886. He later attended the Techincal Institute in Milan in 1908 and became fascinated with flying. He designed and built his own plane, similar to the Wright Flyer and along with Enea Bossi and Paolo Invernizzi, produced the first flight of a totally designed and built Italian aircraft. At the encouragement of his brother, Giuseppe, he emigrated to America in1911. He taught himself to fly and opened the Bellanca Flying School in 1916. In 1926 he began manufacturing aircraft and almost sold Lindbergh a plane to use for his famed flight. He moved his manufacturing operation to the former Downey Ship-building plant in Mariners Harbor in 1927. Later that year he moved again, this time to Delaware to build his aircraft for the Du Pont family. While living on Staten Island, Ballanca lived on Hart Avenue in West Brighton.Brighton.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0001Joseph Berardi :

a Huguenot resident, won his first professional tournament at the age of 16 and went on to win a total of 13 PBA titles including three majors, 1979 U.S. Open, 1982 Masters and the 1983 Firestone Tournament of Champions. In 1988 he became the youngest player inducted into the PBA’s Hall of Fame. Berardi went on to become a commentator for ESPN and USA Networks and produce instructional videos for ESPN’s Home Video Library.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0002Mario Buatta (interior designer) :

Was born in West Brighton in 1935, he graduated from Curtis High School and became a world famous interior designer. Buatta, who graduated from Wagner College in 1957, has earned the sobriquet, “Prince of Chintz” for his English Cottage style of decorating and highly recommended by local companies like New York Homeowners Insurance. Buatta, who notably designed the museum shop at Winterthur, the old du Pont estate in Wilmington, Delaware, redecorated Blair House, the White House guest quarters, in 1988. Among his clients were Mariah Carey, Henry Ford III, Malcon Forbes, Barbara Walters, Nelson Doubleday and Billy Joel.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0003Father Vincent Capodanno:

Was born in Elm Park, graduated from Curtis High School and was ordained in 1958. He served as a missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong and when the Viet Nam War began, he volunteered to serve as a chaplain to soldiers in combat zones. When his tour of duty was about to end, he requested and was granted an extension. During: “Operation Swift,” an enemy mortar wounded Father Capodanno, but he continued attending to men in the mist of the fighting. As he went to attend to a wounded corpsman and a Marine, Father Capodanno was killed by enemy fire. For his gallantry under fire, he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Congressional Medal of Honor (posthumously). A destroyer escort was named in his honor as well as chapels in the War College, R.I. and Camp Pendleton. On Staten Island, Seaside Boulevard was renamed in his memory and a statue stands in front of the chapel at Fort Wadsworth.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0004Joey Faye (comedian) :

Of Great Kills, was born Joseph Palladino on the Lower East Side in 1909, his career spanned 65 years performing in every medium from burlesque, to Broadway, to movies and television. Faye played “second banana” to such great performers as Phil Silvers and Gypsy Rose Lee and is credited for changing the burlesque clown, complete with oversized shoes and red nose, into today’s stand up comic. He appeared on stage in such productions as “Room Service” with Clifton Webb (1937), “High Button Shoes” (1947) and “Top Banana” (1951) with Phil Silvers, “Man of La Mancha” as Sancho Panza (1968), and “Three Men and a Horse” (1993), his final Broadway appearance. His movie credits include “Ten North Frederick” with Gary Cooper (1958), “North to Alaska” with John Wayne (1960), “That Touch of Mink” with Cary Grant (1962), and “The Front” with Woody Allen (1976). Faye may be best remembered as that “bunch of grapes” in the Fruit of the Loom commercials. Joey Faye died on April 26th, 1997 at the age of 87.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0006Giuseppe Garibaldi :

lived in Rosebank after being exiled from his home in Italy for his revolutionary activities. He lived with his friend Antonio Meucci and led a quiet life helping him out and working in a candle factory. Garibaldi turned down an offer for a commission in the Union Army from President Lincoln. He eventually left Staten Island and after a short stay in South America, he returned to Italy and led his “Red Shirts” in a war which resulted in the unification of Italy. While living on Staten Island, Garibaldi took the first three degrees in Freemasonry in Tompkins Lodge, No. 401, then located in Tompkinsville.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0007Frank LaRocka (musician/producer) :

Of West Brighton began his career playing drums with David Johansen and went on to play with Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams and John Waite. In the 1990s, LaRocka’s career turned to promoting and is credited with signing Spin Doctors and produced their hit Pocketful of Kryptonite with Atlantic Records. He also produced for Epic Records as well as Mercury Records. LaRocka died in 2005.


Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0008Robert Loggia (actor) :

Of New Dorp appeared in such files as “Big,” “Officer and a Gentleman,” “Jagged Edge,” “Necessary Roughness,” “Independence Day,” and “I Love Trouble.” Loggia, a graduate of New Dorp High School (1947), was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in “Jagged Edge.” Loggia also played third base for the New Dorp Knights and Wagner College before going to Hollywood to pursue a career in films.


Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0009Frank Lombardi (writer/producer/actor):

A former New Springville resident, graduated from Moore Catholic High School and Wagner College with Randy Graff and Betsy Jpslyn. Lombardi’s career began as an actor on Off-Broadway and daytime soap operas “As the World Turns”, “The Guiding Light” and “All My Children.” During the 1980s, Lombardi moved to Los Angeles where he eventually began writing for sitcoms like “The Good Life” (Drew Carey), “Monty” (Henry Winkler) and “Mad About You.” Lombardi spent six years as head writer and producer of the TV series “The Nanny.” He also wrote the movie script for “The Beautician and the Beast” with fellow Islander Todd Graff and “Treasure Island.” Lombardi’s Family emigrated from Italy in 1905 and has operated Frank Lombardi & Sons Harley Davidson in Stapleton for more than 90 years.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0010Johnny Maestro (singer) :

Spent his summers vacationing in Midland Beach. Maestro (A.K.A. Johnny Mastrangelo) was lead singer for the Crests and the Brooklyn Bridge. While with the Crests, he had such hits as “Step By Step,” “Walk On,” and “16 Candles.” With the Brooklyn Bridge he recorded such hits as “I Heard You’re Getting Married.”


Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0012Alyssa Milano (actress):

Was born in Brooklyn (1972) and grew up in Great Kills. She won her first part at the age of eight as Annie in the National Tour of the play of the same name. Her first TV role came at age eleven when she played opposite Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss? Milano’s other fim and TV credits include Commando (opposite Arnold Schwarenegger), Spin City and Charmed.


Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0016Raymond Serra (actor):

Originally born Raymond Lacagnina in Manhattan’s Little Italy, Serra (his mother’s maiden name) moved to Brooklyn with his family before settling in Staten Island on Highview Street. He attended McKee High School and Wagner College. At the age of 8 he was a child prodigy performing as a violinist at Carnegie Hall. His interests turned to acting and he has appeared in more than 50 plays, countless TV productions and commercials and over 30 films including “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Purple Rose of Cairo,” Prizzi’s Honor,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” and “Marathon Man.”

Famous_Italians_clip_image002Vinnie Zummo (guitarist and composer):

Grew up on Holden Boulevard and attended St. Peter’s High School. He began his musical career by playing the accordion but switched to the guitar after the Beatles came on the scene. His first public performance was for patients at Sea View Hospital and he went on to play with legends as Joe Jackson, Art Garfunkel, Paul Stanley, Paul Carrack and Shawn Colvin just to name a few. In addition, Zummo has composed music and played his guitar in commercials for such giants as Maybelline, Diet Coke, AT&T, and Mounds/Almond Joy.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0017Joy Trapani (producer):

A former Westerleigh resident received an Emmy Award for her work as a producer on the “Rosie O’Donnell Show” in 1998. Joy went on to win three more Emmy Awards (1999 – 2001). After graduating from Notre Dame Academy, this native Staten Islander majored in music at Montclair State College.

Famous_Italians_clip_image002_0015Vito Picone (singer):

A South Beach native is the lead singer of the popular group Vito and the Elegants. Picone attended P.S. 39 where he met Carmen Romano and New Dorp High School where he met Frank Tardogno, both joining Picone as members of the Elegants. In 1958, the group recorded of “Little Star” which became an instant hit. Written by Piccone and Artie Venosa, 80,000 copies of the song were sold in New York City during its first week alone. The song quickly reached the top of Billbard and Cashbox charts and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Fifty years after “Little Star” was released, Vito and the Elegants continue to perform before sellout crowds.