Each summer The Italian Garden Project™ heads to New York City and the surrounding area to seek out and document Italian American vegetable gardens. We have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful New York gardeners who welcome us into their homes and gardens, generously sharing their knowledge and love of growing and preparing food. We’re sure to leave with armloads of fresh produce after having enjoyed a glass of homemade wine or espresso, and traditional treats of one kind or another. It always feels like we just spent the day with family. Each visit leaves us simply amazed at the beauty of the way of life we witness in these homes. There’s the feeling that they’ve somehow got it right, the perfect mix of family, friends, good food, physical activity and connection with nature. Every visit is truly a joy.
We’ve been blessed not only with the gardeners we meet, but also with the local Project volunteers who make these visits possible by connecting us with these gardening families. Throughout the country we meet people who hear about The Italian Garden Project™ when attending a lecture, class or event and immediately recognize the importance of our work and want to support us and be a part of the Project in any way they can.
This summer, dedicated volunteer Mary Ann Pietanza-Cloonan of Staten Island, arranged a whirlwind tour of gardens from the tip of Long Island, to Staten Island and into the heart of Brooklyn. Mary Ann made phone calls to family and friends and even visited the Italian club in her old neighborhood of Red Hook to find Italian Americans who still maintain backyard vegetable gardens. As you will see below, she hit the jackpot! Check out these amazing men and women and their incredible gardens!
Tony Troia of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn was born near Palermo, Sicily and emigrated to the US in 1959. Tony has surrounded his home with a lovely collage of flower and vegetable plantings which he has extended to include a rooftop garden on his garage.
To see more of Tony Troia’s garden check out his garden gallery here.
Maria Ottombrino who lives in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn gardens every square inch of a small but meticulously maintained yard. She greeted us under a grape arbor lush with picture perfect fruit.
To see more of Maria’s garden check out here garden gallery here.
With vertical gardening techniques and overhead arbors, Tony Ranieri maximizes the productivity of his Rossville, Staten Island garden. Although large in stature, Tony is almost dwarfed by the tall green vegetation of his tomatoes and pole beans.
To see more of Tony Ranieri’s garden check out his garden gallery here.
You’d never guess that behind a fenced commercial property in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn lies an oasis of fruits and vegetables. Joe Pietanza gardens this unlikely plot behind the building that houses his electrical business.
To see more of Joe Pietanza’s garden check out his garden gallery here.
Nick Ranieri lives in Mattituck, a northern suburb of Long Island. He has an immense garden filled with a breathtaking variety of fruits and vegetables, many of which are grown from seed from his hometown of Mola di Bari in the Puglia region of Italy. Throughout his large property, evidence of Nick’s creativity and ingenuity can be seen in the many hand-built structures that protect his Mediterranean fruits and vegetables from the harsh Northern winter.
To see more of Nick Ranieri’s garden check out his garden gallery here.