Stories, Streets, and Saints

Photographs and Oral Histories from Boston's North End

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Table of contents


In Memory of My Friend, Anthony Riccio: 1952–2022
Tommy Damigella

Nicholas Dello Russo

1. Life in Southern Italy at the Turn of the Century

2. Leaving Italy for the Promise of America

3. The Journey to Boston

4. A New Life in the North End

5. Becoming an American Citizen

6. The Italian Mother

7. The Italian Father

8. The Oral Tradition: Family Stories, Dialects, Folktales, and Prayers

9. Italy and the North End in World War I

10. Garlic Necklaces, Camphor Bags, and Shots of Anisette: The Spanish Flu Pandemic in the North End

11. The Molasses Explosion

12. Italian American Street Life

13. Going to School

14. Justice Denied: Sacco and Vanzetti

15. The Depression in the North End

16. Seamstresses and Factory Workers: Italian American Women at Work

17. Making It in the North End: Italian American Men at Work

18. Making Wine, Drinking Wine

19. Life in the Tenements

20. Sicilian Fishermen in the North End

21. Miracles, Societies, and Processions

22. Christmas in the North End

23. Irish and Italians

24. Refugees in the North End: West Enders Tell Their Stories

25. Local Politics

26. Gangsters and Racketeers

27. Life in a Cold-Water Flat

28. The Changing North End

29. The Old Waterfront and the New Boston

30. Poor Tenant, Poor Landlord

31. Meglio Pane e Cipolla, e Sola

Epilogue: Anthony’s Gift to Us
James S. Pasto


A time capsule of a classic Italian American neighborhood, told in the voices of its inhabitants.


Stories, Streets, and Saints documents the history of an important Italian American neighborhood, Boston's North End, from the age of immigration at the turn of the twentieth century to the era of neighborhood upheaval in the "New Boston" of the 1980s. Drawing on years of fieldwork, on-site photography, and scholarly research, Anthony V. Riccio records, translates, and transcribes compelling oral histories of elderly Italian American storytellers who weave social history in their unique village idiom, providing an intimate look at daily life in an Italian American neighborhood. Testimonies of post-Unification southern Italy reconstruct the dire social and economic conditions that caused millions to pursue the promise of America. Rare firsthand stories of the Spanish Flu offer timely narratives in the wake of COVID-19, and eyewitness descriptions reconstruct the horrific Molasses Explosion of 1919. Riccio's own photographs from 1979 to 1983, along with images from old family albums, illustrate these oral histories, creating a lasting record of the experiences of Italian Americans, who, like many other ethnic groups, contributed mightily to the building of America.

Anthony V. Riccio (1952–2022) was Manager of Stacks and Collections Maintenance at the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. He was the author of several books on Italian American culture and history, including The Italian American Experience in New Haven: Images and Oral Histories; Farms, Factories, and Families: Italian American Women of Connecticut; and From Italy to the North End: Photographs, 1972–1982, and the coauthor, with Silvio Suppa, of Cooking with Chef Silvio: Stories and Authentic Recipes from Campania, all published by SUNY Press.


"Anthony V. Riccio has a gift for preserving the quotidianità of the Italian immigrants' emotional attachment to their ethnic enclaves." — Italica

"Decades ago, Anthony Riccio worked with and lived among the Italian Americans of Boston's North End. He photographed its residents and their streets and listened to their stories. Now Riccio has lovingly shared those photos and interviews in this outstanding book. In bringing to life this classic American urban ethnic neighborhood, Stories, Streets, and Saints makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Italian American history." — Vincent J. Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island

"Anthony Riccio has the gift of empathy. You meet him and you know he is listening, really listening. This is why the speakers of this beautiful book generously gave him stories and insight. They offered him glimpses of their Italian past—from sulphur mines to town celebrations, from simple recipes to ancient prayers—and of their North End's small world. Both are now gone. They hand him small bites of wisdom honed by their old age. Riccio gathers them and keeps them safe for the future." — Ilaria Serra, author of The Value of Worthless Lives: Writing Italian American Immigrant Autobiographies

"Stories, Streets, and Saints is the culmination of years of documenting the ancient Italian oral tradition with community elders who weave an Italian American social history in the unique idioms of their villages. The book contributes an important tessera to the multiethnic American mosaic, offering an intimate account of everyday life in historic Italian American enclaves." — Marianna Gatto, Executive Director and Cofounder, Italian American Museum of Los Angeles