Not a Goomba*

I was just bitching on the MHB boards that nearly all the only portrayals of Italian-Americans is mafia related, and people pointed out a few others – like did you know Elaine on Seinfeld was supposed to be Catholic? Nice try, but she wasn’t. Other than Ray Romano, Fonzi and Al from Happy Days, there seems to be a real dearth of the rest of us that isn’t Sopranos-esque.

* Goomba, or goombah, is a term used to describe a stereotypical Italian-American, & in a few dictionaries, implies a connection to the mob. & Yes, it’s also the name of one of the bad guys in Super Mario.

I didn’t have any goodfellas in my own Italian family, and we’re even Sicilian / Calabrian. I tend to describe my dad as “the other kind of Italian” because he is – more Joe DiMaggio than Godfather. Mostly if it’s not mafia it’s about food, or more likely, it’s about both. But honestly, is there a culture where the food isn’t important? My Big Fat Greek Wedding got closer to my experience of being Italian-American than any of those goomba movies.

& These days, in New York, there’s about three blocks left of Little Italy; Chinatown has been encroaching for years, and Italians left the city – for everywhere. (Though the midwest could use a few more, because finding inexpensive, good Italian food in Wisconsin leaves you at Pizza Hut. ugh.) But at least now there’ll be a museum of the whole Italian-American experience, located where Little Italy used to be.

(Thanks to Nettie, Caprice, VM, & Donna, all of whom put in their two cents.)

3 Replies to “Not a Goomba*”

  1. I’m married to a New Yorker (she grew up in Yonkers and lived in the East Village back in the days of cafe’ wha? and Bob Dylan…) who is half Italian and half Norweigian(I’m half Norweigian too..the rest is Irish and Swedish). No real stereotypes at play there; the Italians were quiet, industrious and hardworking and the Norwegians were party animals;go figure.
    I gotta admit I loved the Godfather movies,and so does she(DeNiro as the young don at the festa?pant pant…). We also both adore Moonstruck; the family from that movie remind her of her best friend’s family from Scarsdale.
    I also have to say that there is no equal in the world for the Italian food I’ve had in New York;some in San Francisco came close….Her extended family ran a deli in Ardsley next to the world’s greatest pizza place,as far as I’m concerned.
    I dunno…I know all too well what a maddeningly imperfect medium film is;great films are mostly accidents where art crashed into commerce, especially today…..

  2. I know what you mean, Helen. I’m Sicilian on both sides of my family. I do get tired of seeing Italian Americans portrayed as either gangsters or cops in film/tv. I know there are exceptions (as mentioned above), but that characterization does seem to predominate. And that’s not to say the Godfather films or The Sopranos (starring mostly Italian-American actors) aren’t fine pieces of work. And I just loved Al Pacino playing the lead role in “Serpico.”

    And I’m also tired of depictions of Italian-Americans that imply that we are all horrible rascists. They are plenty of us who are (I’ve heard my own relatives say things that upset me so much I had to leave the room), but there are just as many who aren’t. We’re not ignorant “Guidos.”

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