On the First Italian American
Today in NYC it’s Pietro Cesare Alberti Day!
On this day in 1635, the gentleman in question arrived in what was then New Netherland and became the first Italian American. You will find the name spelled a zillion different ways, with the Christian names often Anglicized to “Peter Ceasar” and the last name variously rendered as “Albertus”, “Alberto”, and “Alberti. He made his home in Brooklyn (I took the picture of the plaque above near Cadman Plaza). Alberti (1608-1655) was from the Protestant son of a famous Venetian banking family. An Italian Protestant??? That was as unusual then as it is now, and far more dangerous, which was probably why he boogied over to the relatively liberal Dutch American colony. Unfortunately he and his wife were killed y Indians in 1655. Fuhgettaboutit! (Sorry). At any rate, Alberti’s grand-daughter Elizabeth married Dr. John Stewart, progenitor of thousands of contemporary Stewarts, including me.
Anyway, you can’t imagine how ecstatic I was to discover him among my (10th) great grandfathers. To be from contemporary Rhode Island, even one drop of Italian blood bestows a magical amount of self-validation. (See my post on my immigration mania from yesterday). But that’s true of everybody isn’t it? Italy produced the most beautiful woman (Sophia Loren), the most brilliant all-around human (Leonard Da Vinci), the greatest artist (Michaelangelo). All roads lead to Rome! Shakespeare was enthralled with the Italian culture of his times, they influences his plays immensely. (We would particularly like to point out in this context, The Merchant of Venice, written three years before Alberti was born).
And furthermore, to have roots in Venice, above all! Anyone who’s read my writing in any depth knows why this is so important to me. Carnevale! Commedia dell’arte! Masques (and masks)! Banks and Mountebanks!
Va bene! Va bene! Va bene! Viva Italia!
Am I losin’ it? Okay, I’m losin’ it.