Boston’s North End via Oceania Cruise Lines

Chef Franco Lania - Oceania Cruises

Chef Franco Lania – Oceania Cruises

This post is a surprise but very pleasant one. I received a response from an acquaintance and now friend that I met on Oceania Cruse Line.

I spent 5 months last summer as the Italian Chef of Oceania’s Toscana restaurant on the ship Insignia. I met guests literally from all over the world!

To this day I still keep in touch with many of them from… in and out of the States.

Below is a story and input from one passenger that has kept in touch and has placed some ideas and information about two previous blog posts of mine. I am glad and very appreciative for the feed back!

Blog posts of May 19, 2010: Not…What it was, Little Italy – NYC. , and the post of May 25th 2010: What happened Little Italy – NYC.

I received a very welcomed e-mail from a woman named PM. Funny name but that is her nick name and what we go by!
PM and her family were on the mid August Cruse last year on Oceania’s ship the Insignia. I met PM along with her mother and two sisters in the dining room of Toscana.

I was told by her family that it was PM’s birthday and she was not interested in making a big deal since she was now over forty. The group of women were very nice, friendly, well dressed and taking PM to Toscana to have a quiet “wehoo – happy birthday?”
I could tell PM was a bit bummed over the whole “birthday thing.” I proceeded to tell her that I just a few weeks ago celebrated my birthday on board and it was unfortunately a day just like any other day.

I told her…” you are very fortunate to be with your mom and two sisters on vacation, all well and very able to enjoy this fantastic ship and this dining experience in Toscana. I tried to convince her that she most certainly should celebrate in some way since she has been blessed to be all together with her family on a fantastic holiday cruise!”

So, secretly I told the waitress of the section, Ivana to inform me when PM’s table was done eating. I want to do a birthday  celebration for the table. The people are very nice and the birthday girl is on a downer over her birthday!

Ivana informed the front of the house as to implement the birthday procedures on PM’s table and I set up the birthday procedures in the pastry kitchen of my restaurant.

When we all descended on PM’s table… the faces on everyone lit up, especially PM’s elderly mother!

Immediately you could tell that PM was over joyed by the surprise and was changed in demeanor from being bummed out over her birthday to becoming elated along with the rest of her family!

Ivana and I not only did something memorable for them while on a cruise, but we made friends.

PM and I have stayed in touch and she frequently reads my blog posts.

Now to the point of Little Italy!…
PM informed me after reading my two previous posts on Little Italy that Boston has a beautiful Little Italy, very much like my vision of what NYC’s Little Italy should be from reading my posts.

This I personally did not know about Boston and its Italian North End.

“She felt the Boston’s Little Italy would be a good example for NYC to follow.

She has been to both and agrees that the Little Italy in NY is in dire need of city or state help to revitalize and preserve it. It might actually already be too late!”

I feel like this… if Boston can clean up and gentrify its “Little Italy” than so can we in New York City!

New York was the main center of Italian immigration and the Little Italy area meant much more to the city than just Mafia- gangster movies and street hawkers looking to grab tourists off the street to offer them a mediocre meal at best!
Not to mention trying to avoid the ever pressing presence of “China Town” that has infiltrated what is left of Little Italy in NYC.

Here is exactly the quote from PM’s e-mail to me:

“I read your most recent post about the downfall of Little Italy-lots of good thoughts. Have you been to the North End in Boston?
I wonder why they are able to keep their Italian section in better shape-the city has improved accessibility with the Big Dig project-it seems to be a lively, busy area that locals and tourists use both day and night-it does help that there are some important historic sites there and a decent amount of Italians still living in the area.
The Italian area there is much more authentic and inviting than the one in NYC!
Keep writing… Chef!
Hope all is well with you,

I hope someone in NYC – Government or State level eventually hears the cry for help from our Little Italy and takes action!

If not then I’m just an Italian-American chef hollering into the wind!

“Two thumbs up Boston!…Maybe we in NYC… will follow the role model of your now thriving and once very Italian North End!”