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Aragonese Castle in Ischia, Italy
Photo of Aragonese Castle in Ischia, Italy

With International Woman’s Day celebrated in March, what perfect timing for a celebration in San Pedro. On March 14, the inaugural Descendants of Italy Women’s Dinner, held at Michael’s Tuscany Room, will welcome more than a hundred women to take pride in their Italian American heritage.

Led by Carmela Zuanich, a descendant of Ischia, this new and exciting event was initially inspired by San Pedro’s unique history with Italian immigrants. Decades ago, the Port of Los Angeles was filled with commercial fishermen, with many immigrating from Italy’s island of Ischia, in search of jobs similar to those at home. Many of these men and their families have kept their stories and culture alive every year during the Descendants of Italy Ischia Men’s Dinner, led by Chris Pisano.

Zuanich thought of the many women in San Pedro who have their own stories to share and wanted to organize an opportunity to do so. “Every year, I would hear about [the dinner], and how the men could get together, but why couldn’t the women get together?” says Zuanich. After spreading the word through Facebook, Zuanich was pleasantly surprised at the eager response the idea received. “One thing led to another and I originally thought maybe I would get twenty to thirty women,” she explains. “But now we are going to surpass one hundred ladies in attendance!”

Zuanich hopes to inspire the younger generation to follow in their descendant’s footsteps, saying, “I am hoping to instigate some interest in the culture that they are from.” Many of the women that have immigrated from Italy will attend the dinner in the company of their daughters, daughters-in-laws, and nieces, displaying a pride in their heritage that is passed on from generation to generation. Important to note, admission doesn’t necessarily mean you must be Italian. “I have many dear friends that love my culture,” explains Zuanich. “Any ladies that appreciate our Italian heritage are welcome to attend.”

In addition to dinner, the evening will also feature live entertainment by musician John Brunac, who will perform Italian favorites. A raffle will also be held, with prizes including authentic Italian handbags and jewelry. And certainly worth noting will be the delicious handmade desserts of traditional and authentic pastries, graciously donated by many of the women participating.

Zuanich looks forward to recognizing the many strong Italian-American women of the San Pedro community with their own celebration, saying,
“I would like to have an outcome of a wonderful evening of women being with their colleagues, sharing memories, and our traditions. Just a night of women representing where we came from and our roots.” She describes what this event means to her personally, saying, “It’s a feeling of belonging. A feeling of being proud of where we came from, and how we thrived in San Pedro.”

The Descendants of Italy Women’s Dinner will be held on March 14 at Michael’s Tuscany Room (470 W. 7th St.) at 5p. Tickets are $23 and available for purchase at Raffaello Ristorante (400 S. Pacific Ave.).

Marisa Bojiuc