I attribute any success in business I’ve had to the wonderful Italian-American upbringing I have had and a very strong work ethic. My father’s father, Carmine Bartiromo, came to America first in 1919 from Salerno. He was only a teenager. He then went back to Italy to get his family and came back and forth a few more times until his final voyage to the USA from Salerno on a boat called the Rex in 1934. This ship made several trips back and forth.
In Italy, Carmine was a brick layer. So he came here in 1934 on the Rex ship and settled in Brooklyn. I am not sure why he chose Brooklyn, but I’m so happy that he did. I loved growing up there. He bought land and built a restaurant with his cousin Louie. They called it The Rex Manor after the ship that took him here. I have a picture of the ship and the manifest with him and many of his family members’ names on the ship hanging on my wall. My father worked there seven days and eventually ran the place. It was a restaurant, bar, and a catering hall. It still exists in Brooklyn on 60th Street and 11th Avenue, but the new owners knocked down the pizza oven, which I think was nuts because we had the best pizza and calzones in Brooklyn with a brick oven. The Rex was my first job-I was the coat check girl at the Rex. My entire family worked there. My brother was a waiter, my mom helped my dad and my sister worked at the coat check room along with me.
My mother’s family-both of her parents came from AGRIGENTO, Sicily. My mother’s father, Pelligrino Morreale married Rosalia Mangashina and had four children, including my mom. Pelligrino was a veterinarian in Italy. Unfortunately, he died young, leaving my grandmother to care for four children. They all worked very hard to help their mother. In fact the ethic to work hard was always the only way to live in my household. It came from my grandparents and I am so proud of them. We all know the courage and strength it must have taken to leave a place that was home, a place where all of their family and friends were, for the hope and promise of opportunity. That is what America represented, but you had to work hard to get it. We all worked hard building The Rex Manor and were all very close. We would have Sunday dinners together either at the Rex or at my house and we all knew all of each other’s business. That was how it was-if one of us had a problem, the entire family had a problem because we all talked about it. We are still very close. I salute my grandparents for setting a tone for generations to follow. I love my roots and will always feel Italian. That is why I am so active in the Italian-American community, because I know I have this life because of what they gave up and the vision they had to create a better environment for their children than they had. Thanks so much to my parents’ parents and my parents, Josephine and Vincent, for raising me with such important values.