La Bella Italia will celebrate the culture and heritage of those in southwestern Queens descended from Italian parents, grandparents and so on.
Jacqueline Gagliano, one of La Bella Italia’s founders, held an opening reception on Jan. 13 at Christ the King High School, where she said support for the group was beyond expectations and included former members of similar organizations which are no longer in operation.
The next quarterly meeting will be on March 10 and will feature the grandson of the chief carver of Mount Rushmore, Luigi Del Bianco, while future seminars will celebrate the contributions Italy made to the world such as Christopher Columbus making landfall in the New World.
“There’s so many Italian-American organizations, many of them are in Manhattan,” Gagliano said. “There was one in Maspeth called Bella Italia Mia, and after many years, it closed because of the fiscal affliction of the founder … I just felt that it was just such a vital part of the community and it would really be a sad thing if it would just die away. So for the last year and a half, I have gathered some of the former board members of Bella Italia Mia and said let’s do something in a new and different way and let’s plant the seeds and see if we can bring this alive.”
Gagliano said the support for the proposal received widespread support with about 81 people at the opening reception.
The Howard Beach resident does not only want to reverse the negative image of Italians that persist in the media through the scope of organized crime and other negative stereotypes.
“We want to open a window to clear it up and to show what we’re really made of it terms of advancing the fields of medicine, in the arts, in business, economics and education,” Gagliano said.
Gagliano hopes NASA astronaut and mechanical engineer Michael Massimino will attend future gatherings for La Bella Italia as they celebrate Columbus and his role in the age of exploration.
Correction: an earlier version of this story identified Gagliano as a Middle Village resident. She lives in Howard Beach.