Cultural Italian American Organization 144 Genesee Street, Suite 102-240 Auburn, New York 13021
Cultural Italian American Organization144 Genesee Street, Suite 102-240Auburn, New York 13021



CIAO is proud to award two $500 scholarships to students from Auburn High School and/or Tyburn Academy. Information is available in the spring from the school guidance office. 


2021 Scholarship Winners


The Cultural Italian American Organization of Cayuga County awarded six scholarships to graduating seniors at the group's picnic June 21. Winners were Elizabeth Moriarity, Amelia Bartolotta and Luca Pirozzolo from Auburn High School and Emma LoMoscolo from Union Springs High School, with two special awards presented to Krysha Pierce and Zachary Saurini. Zachary’s award was for outstanding effort, as he overcame numerous surgeries to have a successful high school experience. Krysha, a student at Tyburn Academy, was awarded the James Mironti Memorial Scholarship.


CIAO has given a total of 17 scholarships since 2015, and its members are proud of their work giving back to the community. Pictured from left are Luca, CIAO scholarship committee member Tony Gucciardi, Zachary, committee member Arlene Ryan, Krysha, Amelia, Emma, committee members Mary Ann Mucedola and Toni Colella, and Elizabeth.



Essay by Amelia Bartolotta

Sundays are for pasta, chicken cutlets, espresso, but most importantly, stories from the “old country.” Oftentimes the dinner table is a place to eat, but in my family it is a place where stories are told and memories are relived. A stranger looking in may think that World War III is happening or the United Nations Peace Talks are in session, because of all the yelling, multiple voices speaking at once, arms flailing, table pounding, hardy laughter and utensils clanking on the china. This is Sunday supper at my Sicilian grandparent’s home.


The stories I have heard over the years at the dinner table, that my Nonno built with his own hands, took me some time to resonate and even appreciate. It wasn’t until I studied abroad and had an opportunity to experience the stories come to life that I recognized that this history defined the person I am today. One story that really stands out is that of my Nonno’s lemon orchard. From all the stories that have been told, the stories surrounding the orchard prove it was and still is his everlasting pride and joy of his homeland. Stories consisted of him getting up early with his brothers and father to tend to the orchard. Climbing the mountain, planting, trimming, racking, digging, picking and watering the beautiful trees that span acres and acres, were just a few of the daily tasks that were necessary to keep that orchard thriving. When my grandmother and he immigrated to the United States in the late 60’s, he brought a lemon tree sapling with him. That sapling grew in a little pot in my grandparent’s Brooklyn duplex on Avenue U. Today that lemon tree has been spliced four ways. Each of his four children have a beautiful piece of their family’s homeland.


As I stepped off the plane in Palermo, Sicily, last summer the humid breeze hit me but not as hard as the beautiful view of the mountain range that stood before me. I gazed around for several minutes trying to pinpoint the exact location of my Nonno’s legacy, the lemon orchard. During the long car ride consisting of twists and turns up the mountainside my Nonno’s stories commenced. He was like a kid in a candy shop pointing out the water on our left and the homes coming up. Telling us things like, “quella era la famiglia del mio migliore amico che viveva” (look this is where my friend lived). Being able to connect the past stories that my Nonna and Nonno have told me since I was little, and seeing them in real life was an unbelievable experience. Walking the grounds of the lemon orchard, that is still a part of our family, was surreal. The hard work, dedication and love was evident in that orchard as I picked that beautiful yellow fruit from the tree. At that moment I realized this is who I am, because of what I came from. Hard work, love of family, struggle and determination to persevere are inherent and define me. 



Essay by Emma LoMascolo

I would like to believe that the kind of people one spends the majority of their time with directly correlates to the person they begin to morph into. From the cuisine, to the mannerisms, to even the style of speech, little pieces of each other stick with us and we become near reflections of those around us. With this in mind, it is easy to see how coming from a closely knit Italian family could lend some traits to the person I have grown to be today.


Looking closer at my upbringing, I come from a very traditionally Italian household. My grandparents were born in a small town in the island of Sicily, known as Siculiana. My grandfather, Angelo, was the first to arrive here in America, shortly going back to his hometown and marrying my grandmother, Maria. At the tender age of sixteen, she and my grandpa moved to Auburn to pursue a life in America. While most of their family still remains in Sicily, modern technology has made the geographic barrier much less difficult to stay in touch. My father is the oldest of four, and was born and raised in Auburn. However, he and his three brothers entered their early years of public education at the Auburn School District knowing little to no English, and spoke strictly Italian at home. While they were all forced to assimilate and accommodate, the transition was not seamless. My father struggled to learn English in a strictly Sicilian speaking household, and often struggled in school in his early years. Furthermore, he and my uncles still frequently speak Italian to each other to this day. As for my grandma, she still speaks broken English, and will probably never go a full day without watching the Italian news from her hometown. It gives her a sense of connection to her family in Siculiana, and something to talk about to her sisters on their daily phone conversations. In terms of how this background has made me who I am, there is a lot to it. I quite literally grew up in my father’s pizzeria, Nino’s Pizzeria II, and found an appreciation for the heritage early on. From the hardworking values instilled in my father from his own father, to the niche in the world of all things pizza, there has been a lot to be passed down. Part of this heritage instills in us a deep bond between family members. This is no exception in and out of my family’s pizzeria, as well. When we say family-owned business, we fully back that. All of my uncles, all of my siblings, and even my grandmother and grandfather have backed my dad in his business endeavors by doing their part and working at Nino’s. As a child, I recall walking from my grandmother’s house to the pizza shop to visit my father hard at work. Of course, I couldn’t go back home hungry, so my father would send me on my way with a small bag of fresh mozzarella. It may seem simple and minute, but it’s the Italian traditions that have impacted my upbringing and outlook on life. For as long as I can remember, and even to this day, my family and I gather for Sunday dinners which include a feast of traditional Italian dishes. In fact, it wouldn’t feel like Sunday if it weren’t for this tradition. My family would consider it a crime to forget the meatballs, pasta with homemade sauce, or the vast selection of cookies that are saved for when the espresso is brewed. As I matured into middle school and high school, it became clear where the Italian values stood strong. First and foremost, would be in my family. My friends weren’t talking about gathering with their extended families on Sundays. They didn’t say they saw their grandparents every week. This tradition sounded interesting to them, and most wanted to come try my grandmas cooking and see what “Sunday dinner” was all about. Sometimes we would each have a friend coming along to Sunday dinner, and Grandma always welcomed them in. Over the years I’ve spent a great deal of time learning how to make the Italian cookies and pastries my Grandma makes for all of the special occasions. It wouldn’t be a family wedding, gradation, baptism, or first communion without the platters of homemade Italian cookies. She will insist you take plenty home, just like the leftovers after Sunday dinner.


My grandparents worked hard to make a life for themselves in America. They both worked equally as hard to make sure their customs and traditions from the old country were passed down to us. For certain they instilled the values of hard work in my Dad, my brothers and myself, only wanting to see us do better than they did. I’m the youngest of three children, and the last to attend college in my family. My oldest brother Mitchell was Valedictorian of his high school class. He graduated from Clarkson University in 2019, and had the opportunity to travel to Italy with the University his senior year. Mitchell works for Saint Gobain and currently lives in Columbus, Ohio. My older brother Dominic graduated from Clarkson University in 2020 and is a Mechanical Engineer for Feldmeier Equipment in Syracuse.


As you can see my family has instilled the values of family being most important, above everything else. I spend a considerable amount of time with the people closest to me; my parents, my brothers, my cousins, and my grandmother. I’d consider the weight that quality times holds to be much greater than that of a different heritage, which directly reflects my Italian family and background overall. I would sincerely credit my ancestry for the principles that define my family and me. I have always been taught to work as hard as I can to be successful, and never give up on my dreams. My hard work and perseverance has earned me the title of Salutatorian of the Union Springs High School Class of 2021 and I will be attending Elon University this Fall in Elon, North Carolina. They have an outstanding study abroad program which I will hope will lend me the opportunity to study in Italy and experience what it is like there. I look forward to continuing to grow as an Italian-American, and I intend to hold a tight grip onto my cultural traditions. 




Essay by Elizabeth Moriarty

Ever since I was a little girl, my grandparents would talk to me in Italian and tell me about how they came to the United States. My grandma first came over with my great grandparents in 1955. She always tells me about how their ship left Palermo and stopped to pick up people in places like Spain and Canada before they arrived in New York City. Her aunt and uncle were already living in Auburn and they sponsored my grandma and her parents. She went to school to study English, the Constitution, learned how to drive, and then she took a test five years later so she could become a citizen. Ten years later, she returned to Italy and brought my grandpa back with her and they got married here. Ever since I heard this story I was interested in learning more about my family that lives in Italy and how to communicate with them.


When I was younger, my mom and my grandparents would always be on Skype or Facetime with my family that lives in Italy and I could not understand much of what they were saying. I could understand basic words like “ciao” or “arrivederci” when would start or end the call but that was about it. I wanted to be able ot understand them more so my grandma would teach me some words here and there.


In the summer of 2014, we took a family trip to Sicily and stayed with my cousins for a few weeks. At the time I was 12 years old and I barely understood anything besides the few words that I had previously learned. When I was there, I was able to immerse myself into their culture and live like them for the few weeks that we were there. We would spend more time with family all day long and then eat dinner late at night because we would be having fun throughout the entire day. We lived a very laid back life while we were there and didn’t go by much of a schedule but we were still very efficient at the same time, which is very common with the culture in Sicily. This trip inspired me to take Italian as my foreign language through middle and high school. It was the best decision that I ever made because now I am able to understand what my family is saying when I talk to them and I can communicate with them.


I had the opportunity to take a class trip to Italy in the summer of 2019 and we traveled through Venice, Florenece, Sorrento, Capri, Naples, and Rome. This trip allowed me to immerse myself in Italian culture once again, but this time I was able to see howe different th4e cultures were in each region. Talking to the local people inspired me to continue learning the Italian language because there is still so much that I don’t know about. It also made me want to complete the New York State Seal of Biliteracy for Italian, which I am pursuing this year.


Italian music has also made a significant impact on my life. My Italian teacher and my family have introduced me to music that I listen to all the time. By listening to music it has also helped me learn the language. When we were there in 2014, my cousins would play a song called “Melodia” over and over again, which allowedme to connect with them in ways where I wouldn’t necessarly have to speak the language. My Italian teacher has shown us many different artists but the one that stuck out to us the most was Il Volo. Last year my friend and I were looking at their Instagram account and we saw that they were going on a tour in the United States, and they were coming to New York City. We got our Italian teacher to orchestrate a trip where we could go and see them. We went on this rip in February 2020 and it was the last time I was able to experience a large amount of Italian culture in person for a while due to the pandemic.


Italian culture has already impacted my life in so many ways, and I hope that it can continue to impact me for the rest of my life. 



Essay by Krysha Pierce

My Italian heritage comes from my mother, Cindy (Mazzeo) Pierce, who is of Italian and Polish descent. I didn’t know my grandfather Rocco, because he passed away when my mother was only twenty years old, but I have heard a lot about him from my mother and grandmother over the years. They would speak of how my great grandmother, Mary Louisa’s, father had died very young. They told me how a family friend from Auburn had gone to Italy to marry Mary Louisa’s mother and bring them all, including her Aunt, to the United States.


My mother has always talked about Sunday mornings she spent at her grandmother’s house on 12 Spring Street. Immediately after church, absolutely everyone would congregate in the kitchen of that home. Most of the faces she knew but some she didn’t, still, she was taught to greet and kiss each of them. This is something she has passed on to my twin sister, Ivana, and myself. Their kitchen table would be overflowing with trays of Italian cookies, coffee, and special Italian liquors. Everyone would be joyfully talking, laughing, and reminiscing. The smell of the sauce, simmering on the stove would fill the air, commencing the beloved “Sunday Dinner.”


In our home, we have always observed and celebrated the traditional Italian Holy Days. My most favorite of these is the Feast of St. Joseph. I have so many wonderful memories of going to the celebrations, at Nacca Hall, and St. Francis Church throughout my childhood and into my adolescence. When my sister and I became old enough, we were beyond excited to begin working all the dinners for Bob Bruno. It always made me feel so proud to be Italian, and proud to be part of the living tradition.


Our home is a little crazy days before the holidays, with everyone busy trying to keep so many valuable traditions and memories alive. I remember traveling to Syracuse with my Babcia, often throughout the year but especially during Holy week. We would go to Italian Import stores that only carried the best items, we would make a day out of this. She was of Polish descent, but she made sure that every Italian and Polish Holiday tradition from her and her husband’s childhood was remembered and recognized. When my friends would ask me what we had for Easter Dinner, and I would tell them that we had four different main dishes of meat, they didn’t understand. As a young child, I never quite understood the excitement over Basket Cheese, but now I do.


My mother continues to do everything the same way, her parents did. My sister and I are older now, but we still look forward to the Holy Week trips to the Syracuse shops. I now have a loving group of friends, who look forward to coming to my house, because my mother is always in the kitchen cooking for them. When we bring new friends into our social circle, I’ve always heard someone forewarn them, “Don’t eat before you come, Mrs. Pierce will make sure you eat there.”


Up until the pandemic, I also worked every Italian Festival @ St. Francis Church. Post-pandemic, I’ve prepared for, and worked two successful fundraisers at Nacca Hall for my school, Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate, and for St. Francis Church. Both events were put on by Bob Bruno and Mike Villano.


In conclusion, I am very proud and passionate about my Italian Heritage. I look forward to someday passing everything I’ve learned and love onto my children. I can’t wait until the day that I am able to take on my mother’s role in the kitchen cooking for friends and family alike. 



Essay by Luca Pirozzolo

I can remember being a young boy and listening to my grandmother speak English interspersed with Italian. I was and still am, intrigued by it. Often times I would ask my dad what my grandmother was saying and sometimes he would translate for me and sometimes he would say “don’t worry about it”. (Which I later came to understand meant that she was telling him she did not approve of something.) When I transferred to Auburn Junior High School in 7th grade one of the factors that I was most excited about was the fact that I could take Italian as a second language. Not only was I excited to learn the language, but also I felt that it would help me to understand my cultural heritage better as well. In the summer of my eleventh grade year I was able to take the trip of a lifetime and travel to Italy with our Italian Club. While I was there we traveled to Rome, Pompeii, Venice and Tuscany. It was a truly amazing experience and I cannot wait to study abroad at some point during my college career. I would love to become involved in International Business at some point and continue traveling to Italy.


I have always been proud of my heritage. While many of my friends are not sure what their actual heritage and ethnicity is, I have always stood proud to be Italian. To me, being Italian, means having a connection with others who share not only my heritage, but also the same morals and values. We understand that certain things like big family dinners every Sunday are just a given. I am so glad that my family has carried on these family traditions because it gives a strong sense of support. I know that my cousins and aunts and uncles will always be there to support not only myself but my extended family and I know that I will do the same for them. I love catching up with all of my family on Sundays. Growing up Italian, for me, means having a life full of family, faith, love and loyalty. The thing that I love about being Italian means that someone will always understand me. When I am with my Italian friends, I don’t have to explain why I don’t eat a hamburger or pepperoni pizza on Fridays – they just meat on Fridays! They know that I need to be home early on Sundays because we go to church as a family and they don’t question it as they understand and most likely have the same expectations in their own home. Eventually, I hope to get married and have a family of my own. I hope to carry on the same traditions that have helped my parents, brother, sister and extended family maintain an atmosphere of love, respect, acceptance and faith. I hope that we continue to have sauce and backyard football games on Sundays after church with many cousins who will also share in our love of all things Italian!



Essay by Zachary Saurini

I’ve grown up with the influence of Italians in my life. I’m a third-generation Italian American (I also have some polish in me). That means my great grandparents immigrated. My grandfather’s parents are 100 percent Italian and came over on the boat. I wasn’t privileged enough to meet either of my great grandparents, but I have heard many stories of them from my grandpa and my dad. I also have Italian on my step dad’s side of the family and I love being able to hear the stories and able to share and enjoy the many recipes his mom cooks for us. I have been learning how to make some of the Italian dishes that they all grew up on and really enjoy those times in the kitchen. Italians really put a lot into their food & entertainment for their family and friends. Sunday dinners are the best day of the week and the smells that go through the house from all the Italian foods cooking is just pure heaven.


I have learned you don’t have to be 100 percent 100 to be considered Italian. I have learned to like some of the finer things in Italian like clothing, leather products and brands (Prada, Gucci, Versace). Sometimes on the weekends my step dad and I will ride to the Italian market and buy lots of the Italian meats like: soppressata, salame, prosciutto, pepperoni, pancetta, and mortadella?


After enjoying some great Italian foods I enjoy learning about and looking at some wonderful looking Italian made vehicles such as: Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini?! These vehicles are amazingly designed and have some wonderful features to them. These quality made vehicles are costly, but being such a hard worker many Italians are able to appreciate the value of these vehicles and understand them to their fullest.


I have also learned some Italian culture from a couple of local friends when they were helping remodel our house. They are a great team and talked to me about the Italian background and taught me a lot of things I would’ve never known seeing they had been there and 1 had lived there. I could talk to Joe for hours about it and still keep learning. Someday I hope to make it to Italy to check it out and learn more about my own family’s culture and the areas they were from. 






Congratulations to past winners:

2020: Elisa Faiola, Caroline Netti, and Zachary DeCaro

2019: Ashley Reilly and Zachery Moore

2018: Victoria DeJoy and Emma Clark

2017: Lydia Marteney and Christopher Moriarty. 

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