It struck me that it may might seem odd to a some folks in and out of Chicago that I didn’t reference Italians in the last post, since Italians are practically synonymous with the city (especially and of course with Mob activity). The reason is that Italians came on the scene a bit later than the others. They also came for different reasons.
Ever wonder why farms in the Midwest carry mostly Irish and Northern European names? Why everyone picnics at the O’Malley, Schmitt and Johnson farms but never heads out for a ho-down at the old Battaglia place? It’s because for most turn-of-the-century Italians, America was a temporary haven. A place to ride out political and economic turmoil until times were better and they could go back home. This is why comparatively few moved into the great interior of America to put down roots. Most found work doing various trade jobs in cities (they have historically been some of America’s great builders), where they saved money to take back to Italy. Of course more than a few of them (and especially their descendants) stayed. And thank goodness, since their panettone is fabulous.