The Van Westerhout Cittadini Molesi Social Club, at Court and 4th Place. President Allegrino Sale, owner of Good Food grocery, in the middle.
Photo by Joshua Kristal
On Sunday local politicians, a large contingent of police from the 76th Precinct and community members turned out in droves to celebrate the renaming of Court, from 3rd Place to 4th Place, “Citizens of Mola di Bari Way.”
The street will still be named Court, but it will also hold this special name in honor of the thousands of immigrants from Mola di Bari, a fishing and resort town on the Adriatic Sea, who came to Carroll Gardens in the 1920s to 1970s. Originally the men worked on the docks as longshoremen, but their children opened scores of Italian groceries, pizzerias, cheese and meat shops and bakeries, and their descendants have become doctors, judges, attorneys and, generally, American citizens. Click here to watch our short film on the bi-annual procession sponsored by the Molesi in Carroll Gardens, to give honor to the patron saint of Mola di Bari.
The current headquarters for the Molesi men sits on the corner of 4th Place and Court–the Van Westerhout Cittadini Molesi Social Club, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010.
I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know some of the Molesi in Brooklyn. South Brooklyn Post reported on a major battle going on between rival groups of Molesi over competing processions for the Molesi patron saint, Maria Our Lady of Sorrows, in which the Brooklyn Bishop has become involved.
During the reporting for the stories, I had the great pleasure of dining in the basement of the Van Westerhout club. I ate a grilled veal chop with my hands and drank red wine and a 10-year-old Remy Martin for lunch with a jovial crew of Italian men — arguing about something, either poker, or the relative values of past club presidents, depending who I talked to. The guys had invited me in–insisting I join them–when I went into the club with John Ingravallo, the president of the Congregga, a religious organization that overseas the annual procession in Carroll Gardens of Mary Our Lady of Sorrows.
Inviting me in was a symbolic move of friendship on the part of the men at the club. Women aren’t allowed there. But clearly, the Molesi would like newcomers to know more about their history and contribution to Carroll Gardens. So, read on:
Carroll Gardens Italian Molesi: Pride, History, Conflict (the men’s story)
For Love of Maria: Feminism and Modernism Disrupt Community