TRIBUTE TO JOHN VARRICCHIONE
(Senate - May 23, 2013)

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[Pages S3831-S3832]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                      TRIBUTE TO JOHN VARRICCHIONE

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I wish to recognize a man who is a leading 
contributor to the preservation of the Italian community in Burlington, 
VT.
  John Varricchione grew up in a former Italian neighborhood adjacent 
to downtown Burlington. I have my own fond memories of that 
neighborhood, travelling with my mother--a first generation Italian-
American--from Montpelier to Burlington to shop in the small, family-
owned, Italian markets there. Only remnants of the neighborhood remain, 
as most of it was lost to urban renewal in the 1960s.
  I had the pleasure of joining John and other members of the Vermont 
Italian Club for the dedication of a historic marker, which serves as a 
reminder of the wonderful neighborhood in which he grew up, and of the 
people who lived there. John was instrumental in making the marker 
possible. We all shared wonderful Italian food after the dedication 
ceremony. I was honored to be part of such a special event.
  John never moved far from the old neighborhood. He stayed in Vermont 
and became an outstanding teacher and coach at Rice Memorial High 
School--a Catholic school in South Burlington--where he became 
affectionately known among students as ``Mister V.'' Many Rice 
graduates consider him a favorite teacher.
  John's contributions to the Vermont Italian Club, and his efforts to 
preserve our State's Italian heritage, are many. In honor of his work, 
I ask unanimous consent that an article published in The Burlington 
Free Press on May 10, 2013, ``Fragrant memories of Burlington's deep 
Italian roots,'' be printed into the Congressional Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

[[Page S3832]]

             [From the Burlington Free Press, May 10, 2013]

          Fragrant Memories of Burlington's Deep Italian Roots

                          (By Melissa Pasanen)

       John Varricchione, 66, has strong memories of growing up in 
     the heart of Burlington's Little Italy, he said last Monday 
     while he and his wife helped their friend Mary Anne Gucciardi 
     make a batch of her famous meatballs in their Burlington 
     kitchen.
       At one point, Varricchione donned an apron imprinted with 
     the name of the Vermont Italian Club and three photos from 
     the early 1900s of three families who were among the pillars 
     of the community: the Eveltis, the Varricchiones and the 
     Merolas.
       His grandfather, Luigi Varricchione, originally came to 
     Burlington in 1912 at the suggestion of the Merolas who 
     preceded him and who hailed from the same town about an hour 
     east of Naples back in Italy.
       The family first lived on Cherry Street at the core of the 
     Italian neighborhood, and Luigi Varricchione made wine in his 
     basement like many of the area's Italian families. He was a 
     member of the Vermont Italian Club in the 1930s when it was 
     men-only, although the club hosted regular meals for 
     everyone, charging 50 cents for men and a quarter for women 
     and children. The club maintains the tradition with an annual 
     fundraising dinner in late winter or early spring. (See 
     vermontitalianclub.org for more information.)
       Varricchione remembers back to when he was 9 or 10 ``going 
     to mass with my father at the old Cathedral of the Immaculate 
     Conception'' and then walking a block to where his 
     grandmother lived on South Union Street with one of her sons 
     after her husband passed away.
       ``There were grapevines growing up the wall and a garden in 
     the back for herbs,'' Varricchione recalled. ``Grandma would 
     often be making pasta from scratch and it would be hanging 
     all over on wooden drying racks or laid out on the bed on a 
     clean sheet. She would serve me a bowl of pasta with sauce or 
     a bowl of her greens and beans. On occasion,'' he added, 
     ``she'd pull out the anisette and little Johnny got to 
     taste.''
       Both Varricchione and Gucciardi recalled the bustling 
     Italian stores with cheeses and salamis hanging from the 
     ceiling and shelves holding big jars of olives and boxes of 
     torrone, Varricchione's favorite nougat candy.
       ``We'd go to the store for penny candy,'' said 
     Varricchione. ``There was Merola's and also Izzo's Market. 
     Both stores were very generous in allowing people to buy on 
     credit.'' The whole neighborhood was lost to urban renewal by 
     the late 1960s, Varricchione explained sadly.
       Looming large in his recollections was the image of the 
     Italian mama ``with plenty of love and food to share,'' 
     Varricchione said. There were always many mouths to feed, he 
     said with a chuckle: ``There weren't too many small Italian 
     families.''
       Varricchione's parents, Francesco and Simone (known as Si), 
     raised their eight children at 85 Bank St. and then 78 Pine 
     St. (now a law office).
       ``We would have crowds to eat,'' said Varricchione, 
     recalling with relish how his mother browned pork chops and 
     then slow-braised them in red sauce. Even though his mother, 
     like Gucciardi's mother, was originally French-Canadian, she 
     learned all the Italian recipes and became a true Italian 
     mama and then nonna.
       In a family history written by Varricchione's wife, Joanne, 
     she describes the scene:
       ``Everyone managed to squeeze around the kitchen table 
     while Nona [sic] stood watch over the stove, stirring her 
     delicious sauce. The menu seldom varied: spaghetti and 
     meatballs, chicken or pork, salad, wine, garlic bread and ice 
     cream. The laughter and commotion only added to the wonderful 
     aromas and meals she prepared . . . Si seldom sat down and 
     ate with the family; she preferred to make sure everyone had 
     enough to eat. (`Does anyone need more sauce?' was the 
     question she always asked.) `No, Ma. Come and sit down.' `I 
     will in a minute.' It was a habit she never broke.''

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