Roseto Connection - A Journey Across the Continents


As previously mentioned, Maria Rosa was  born in Roseto Valfortore, Italy.  Her family name was Pinto.  Pinto means painted, colorful, spotted or dappled, and it also means "chick."  This name most likely originated through a line of Sephardic Jews who were forced to leave Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition.


In the year 1492, not only did Columbus cross the Atlantic under a Spanish flag, but Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand required all Jewish people under their authority to either convert to Christianity or depart.  As a result, entire Sephardic Jewish communities from Portugal and Spain scattered across Europe and other continents.  Historic graves from the years after the Spanish Inquisition indicate that some members of the Pinto family escaped to the island of Barbados.


The name "Pinto" has a strong Jewish foundation and presence in European texts, synagogues and grave sites, and is confirmed to be from Jews who escaped Portugal.  This name has been verified to be of Jewish origin by the Holy Office of the Catholic Church of Spain, and also through old Jewish records of names.  


This Pinto family must have been one of those who decided to save their lives by converting to Catholicism, although it is well known, this was not enough for Spain's king and queen.  All Jews were eventually required to relocate out of Spain and Portugal.  The Sephardic Jews of that time raised enough money and offered to purchase the island of Gibralter from the Spanish Government, but this offer was refused.


NOTE:  (Ironically, in early 2014, the Spanish Government apologized to Jewish families who were forced to renounce their religion, leave everything behind and start new lives elsewhere during the Spanish Inquisition.  According to new Spanish laws, if a traditional Jewish family name such as Pinto can be proven, Spain is offering a welcome home and perhaps dual citizenship).


Just speculating ......One of the ships of Christopher Columbus was called, "The Nina," named for the man who helped fund the vessel.  A second ship was called, "The Pinta," which is the Spanish feminine version of the name "Pinto." 

The Pinto family of that time and place were prominent.  Would it possible that someone in our ancestry honored or financed this great voyage across the Atlantic?  Consider how many Europeans of that time could have traveled by ship to the island of Barbados.  For most, such a trip would have been impossible.   In Barbados, the historic synagogue of the early 1500's still stands.  The graveyard therein contains the remains of the Pinto family who escaped the Spanish Inquisition.  Pinto descendants still live there today.




Jews leaving Spain and Portugal did not have many choices for new homes.  Some parts of Europe were under jurisdiction of the Papal States, and they were not welcome in those areas.  Many from the Portugal group relocated to the Northern, Central and Eastern part of Italy.  I suppose those who settled in the out-of-the-way area of Roseto, Italy did so because of the easier transition from the Spanish culture to Italian, but I also suppose they were always prepared for a "bumpy ride" due to the numerous earthquakes of this region.  Nevertheless, the people of Roseto seemed to be blessed with special protection against such catastrophes; while surrounding towns and villages took the brunt of God's wrath.


During the late 1800's until the mid-1920's, there was an exodus of Rosetians who came to the new world in America.  In a small area of Pennsylvania, just south of the Pocono Mountains, the people of Roseto Valfortore were able to transplant themselves into a close-knit, loving Italian culture, bringing with them the ideas, religion, skills and concepts of the old Roseto they left behind.  Of course, the new location would be called, what else? ~ "Roseto."


The amazing story about the blessings of the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania can be found throughout numerous publications, articles and postings on the Internet.  It seems the residents of Roseto, Pennsylvania created a bit of paradise for themselves; you might say, a "Shangri La," so to speak.  One of the miracles of the Rosetians was their longevity and freedom from sickness.


As a proliferation of heart disease and other physical conditions infiltrated The United States, medical professionals began to realize the amazing miracle of vigorous health of the people living in the small hamlet of Roseto.  When all was said and done; after they had examined their food, water, air, genes, lifestyles, geography, etc., the final conclusion drawn from longevity experts was:  The people of Roseto were exceptionally happy.  They were joyful in simply living day to day.  Perhaps some of their homemade wine contributed, also.

A little home wine-making in the backyard.

All I know about this photo is that it was taken during the 1930's in Roseto, Pennsylvania

Mario Potorti is on the right.  Who is the generous gentleman on the left?

Some of the members of the Pinto family married and settled in Roseto, PA.  Roseto was, indeed, a happy place.  A car full of relatives from Philadelphia pulling up to their doorstep - not a problem for our Roseto relatives.  They would just throw an extra pizza onto their outdoor oven.

Cugino/Cugina (Cousins)

Cousin Dolores Potorti DiTillio (daughter of Dominick & Viola) contributed information that we had cousins Louis & Connie Castelano from the Roseto area.  This couple had twins Robert & Raymond, and a daughter, Patricia.  Connie Castelano had a sister, Margie Dorsey, who lived in Southwest Philadelphia.

Other names of relatives:  Dan Falcone; the Faust and Carmela Capobianco Family.  We are related to the Capone Family, who also lived in South Philadelphia - approximately 6th & Wharton Streets.



Grandmother, Maria Rosa relaxing on the porch - Roseto, Pennsylvania


Buono Natale!

Recipe - Italian Christmas Cookies 

Every Christmas, we would begin making these cookies in the morning hours, and finally finish the job after dark.  This recipe makes about 400 heavy cookies, which would keep well into January.  Ingredients call for melted lard!  Sounds like a heart attack ready to happen, but many old Italian recipes call for this type of shortening.  I've converted the ingredients into modern measure.  The original recipe measured dry ingredients in pounds.  Imagine weighing ingredients on a scale!


8 Cups Flour, sifted

4 Cups Sugar

1 Cup Cocoa

2 Teaspoons each:  Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Cinnamon

2 Teaspoon each:  Nutmeg, Allspice, Cloves

2 Cups Melted white vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)

1 Quart Milk

1 Pound Raisins

For Icing - 4 Cups Sifted Confectioner's Sugar + Milk as needed

Sift together all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix until completely blended.  Gradually add milk and raisins.  Continue to blend thoroughly.  Slowly add melted vegetable shortening and mix into dough.

Drop a handful of dough onto a floured board and roll into a long snake-like form.  With a sharp knife, cut dough into 1-1/2" pieces.  Place cookies 1" apart on greased cookie sheets and bake 15 to 20 minutes in a 325 degree oven.  Check bottoms of cookies for even, golden-brown color.  Remove from oven & cool.

ICING:  (The icing is an important step in this recipe.  Without it, the cookies will become dry and hard.  The icing gives the cookies a tender, cake-like center and gives them the quality of storing well.)

In a large bowl, combine confectioner's sugar and enough milk to make a thick, soup-like consistency.  Dump several cooled cookies into the mixture and gently toss.  Set cookies onto a flat surface to dry.  After some of the liquid frosting has rolled off the cookies, move them to another flat surface.  Allow to dry overnight.

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