Monthly gathering offers taste of Italy


January 26, 2000|By Donna Koros Stramella | Donna Koros Stramella,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN YOU MEET Lisa Pitocco, her rich heritage is quickly apparent. Maybe it's her pretty olive complexion, her dark, sparkling eyes, or the unmistakable accent that floats over perfect English. But most likely, it is the sense of hospitality that has been ingrained in her from an early age.

Pitocco, 45, a native of Italy who married an American serving in the Air Force there in 1973, still has Italy in her heart. She maintains a home there, visits on family vacations and teaches the language at Anne Arundel Community College.

Knowing that others might be missing Italy as well, she started "Circolo Italiano Trinita" -- a name that gives a nod to her church, Holy Trinity, where the Gambrills resident said she experienced the warmth and hospitality she recalls from her years in Italy.

"I was meeting Italian people, but we didn't get together," said Pitocco, who moved to the United States with her husband, Nickolas Pitocco, and their children, in 1988. "I started the group at my house."

As the group grew, the venue changed. At 6: 30 p.m. Saturday, the social club will celebrate its third anniversary at its meeting place, the Holy Trinity parish center on Dorsey Road.

Gatherings are simple affairs. Each person brings a homemade Italian dish, with a glass of vino on the side. The meal ends with an Italian dessert and coffee. Pitocco brings homemade bread to each gathering. An accomplished cook, she also gives Italian cooking classes in her home.

"I don't need a cookbook," she said. "The recipes are from my mother, grandmother, cousins and aunts."

The group meets on the last Saturday of each month. Italian is the only language spoken. Music from the homeland, usually folk or opera, plays in the background.

Some gatherings have included Italian card games and Italian movies. There have been field trips to Italian restaurants. The group draws about 20 to 25 people.

Members come from a wide range of backgrounds -- physicians, homemakers, retail workers, nurses and an attorney. But they all have one thing in common -- a desire to preserve their heritage.

This summer, Pitocco and her family will visit Italy for a month. Nick Pitocco is director of information systems for One Point Communications and teaches computer science classes at the University of Maryland, College Park. Two of their children, 21-year-old Lisa and 18-year old Scott, were born in Italy. And even 4-year-old Antonio has connections to the country.

"Antonio has already been there three times," Pitocco said. "There's where he really picked up on the language." After his first visit, he brought home an endearing new term to call his father -- Papa.

The visits to Italy not only give the family a chance to practice their Italian, but it provides an opportunity for Italian family members to practice their English.

"The English language is mandatory in Italian schools," Pitocco said. "One of my cousins is a surgeon, and he likes to talk with Nick in English."

Information: Pitocco, 410-721-6199.

Soup's on!

Warm up your winter with the annual soup sale at Messiah United Methodist Church from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 5.

This year's selections are chicken noodle, vegetable beef barley, wedding, navy bean, potato cheese and chili. Prices are $2.50 for a pint and $4.75 for a quart.

A light lunch also will be available at the church at 7401 Furnace Branch Road, along with craft and bake tables. The sale benefits the mission work of the United Methodist Women.

All soups must be ordered in advance by calling 410-760-0619.

Ivy AKAdemy

The Glen Burnie chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Ivy AKAdemy at Freetown Elementary with a program beginning at 2 p.m. Friday.

The local chapter has dedicated most of its educational outreach to the school, offering classroom volunteers and donations of books. Ivy AKAdemy is a weekly tutoring service offered to pupils at Freetown.

Founded in 1908 as a black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha has become a multicultural and international organization. Its international theme is "Blazing New Trails."

The local chapter has concentrated its efforts in five major areas: education, health, strengthening families, economic opportunity and the arts. Other service projects have included working with the elderly, sponsoring community programs and providing scholarships.

Information: Alma Harris, 301-261-3989.

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