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Vito Daidone



Vito Daidone was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1910. His parents had immigrated to the U.S. from Sicily in 1905.




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My great-great-grandparents were Italian immigrants who arrived in the United States through Ellis Island in 1905 from Sicily. Their son, my great-grandfather, was Vito Daidone. He was born in 1910 in Newark, New Jersey. Vito was the second oldest of five children. His father, Giovanni, died early in Vito’s life, and it forced Vito to grow up quickly. After his father passed away, Vito began working on a dairy farm to help financially support his mother and siblings. He was often able to bring home extra milk and cheese, and of all things, eggplant. As a result of this, he and his siblings drank a lot of milk. And they also ate a lot of eggplant. So much so that once my great-grandfather was the head of his own household, he refused to consume either. His distaste for dairy extended into even the tiniest aspects of life. Every morning, Vito had cornflakes for breakfast. Not dry, but obviously not with milk. Instead, he would put freshly squeezed orange juice in the bowl.

My family’s roots are in New Jersey still, and as our family grew, traditions became more important to uphold. Vito, and his wife Rose, were the keepers of this. Each Sunday we would gather at their house around 1 p.m. in the afternoon for Sunday supper. My great-grandmother would cook large amounts of pasta, meat, and fish. No one ever left hungry. What did we never eat? Eggplant. Vito’s house, Vito’s rules. As a result of the great eggplant boycott, Rose had to find other ways to keep us full. A favorite of the grandchildren, and therefore a staple for Rose, was chicken parmesan. There is no recipe, and when you call my grandmother for directions you have to listen carefully, because each time she withholds a different ingredient. Just like her mother, my grandmother’s hands are soft from all of the olive oil that they touch and they’re the only hands that know the true secrets to a great chicken parm.