Posts Tagged ‘Immigration and Assimilation’




Nicholas Cavaleri courageously left Locri, Italy in 1952. He was just eighteen years of age. Like most immigrants, it was difficult to leave the security and familiarity of land and culture.

When he first arrived, he received a letter from the President of the United States. He was flattered until he found out it was a draft notice. Nick honorably served in Korea and learned the English language while there. His humorous Army story is one that he recalled even after his stroke. He related that when his Sargeant asked him his birth date, he truthfully replied, “1-2-34.” Thinking that Nick was being a wise guy, the Sargeant repeatedly asked him with Nick volleying the same answer until his superior realized that the private was actually born on January 2, 1934!

Humor, drama and Nick-lore seemed to follow him. For example, he won his sweetheart, Theresa, by telling a competitor, “This sidewalk isn’t big enough for the two of us.” The other suitor quickly exited the scene. We never found out if that tactic was learned at Boot Camp, but 1956 was the year that the “war” over the beautiful Theresa ended; at the altar, that is. To the victor go the spoils.

That union led to six children, eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren and counting.

In 1976, Nick led his entire family into a business that would make history in Albany, New York. Although his new eatery’s tagline was “Welcome To Our Place,” Cavaleri’s Restaurant truly became “everybody’s place.” Known for generous portions and an atmosphere where everyone felt like family, the South End establishment became the most comfortable place in town. Whether you were a hotshot lobbyist, a famous politician or the family next door, friendly smiles and long tales by some of the smirking Cavaleri clan only made your delicious food tastier (if that was possible) and their reputation all the more entrancing. Whoever heard of an owner-chef reading his original poetry at tableside?

As an immigrant, he was so proud of America and the opportunity it afforded him that he literally saluted the greatness of his adopted country by erecting an impressive flagpole – appropriately placed outside the kitchen.

This is the stuff of legend. This is the work and pride of a man who knew the honor and success of true assimilation.

This was Nicholas Cavaleri.  

Born in Italy. Proud to be an American.


(A plaque in Nicholas Cavaleri’s honor now hangs in The American Italian Heritage Musuem in Albany, NY.)



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