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About: About

Welcome to The Italifornian


The Online Almanac

of the History of the Italians of California

An effort of the Italifornian community of Northern California, and rooted in Santa Clara County, the Online Almanac of the History of the Italians of California (OAHIC) is a reconstruction of the journey of the Italian ethnic community into the creation of the California Dream, as shared by family, friends and kindred Italifornians.

The stories, the writings, the images, the recordings, the works of art, the music, and the analysis that you will encounter browsing the pages of this almanac aren’t produced solely and preeminently by experts, researchers or social scientists — for sure not the majority. Although the works of such professionals will be represented and will be encountered on this site, many accounts will be told in the first-person form by the members themselves.

We hope that having been provided with a blank canvas, our members will choose to fill it with their rich history and the history of their loved ones.


Describing how after arriving in America and how in time they crossed the cultural divide that turned them from immigrants into a vital ingredient of California’s cultural and ethnic melting-pot, we expect that these stories will provide additional confirmation of the Golden State’s fame as a state that has been moving steadily and consistently toward social progress, tolerance, openness, empathy, and compassion.


California is a state with a “can do” mentality — where people look at the future with hope, and with the certitude that it will be better than the past, and the knowledge that only by working together will we will achieve a more equitable society.

Although the design has been conceived to help the user to easily locate the archive to which his/her materials should be uploaded, expect that some content may be referenced in more than one index. Some users may not agree with the placement; we hope that while following the site instructions for submitting their material, they will care to let us know under which category (or definition), in their opinion, their story should be classified.

As you navigate OAHIC you will see that this site resembles a magazine, with beats, highlights, reports, studies, opinions, and so forth. The site has a Publisher — Paolo Pontoniere--an Executive Editor — Ken Borelli — and several Associate Editors. You can meet them in the Staff section We request that you be patient with them as they are all volunteers.


They aren’t tasked to control or censure your content but instead to help categorized and index the materials, and at the same time make sure that standards of decency, civility, respect, and compassion are met. What are these standards? It is simple: don’t call anybody any name or epithet, or anything else that you yourself would not wish to be called.

As said at the beginning of this introduction, the scope of this site is to create a choral story and to let those characters that you sometimes see in photos or images of times past come out of the tapestry and the anonymity to which the pictures and the expert narration has relegated them to tell their story. Their choral voice will narrate to the world who are the Italians of California, what they dream and what they’ve done, and hopefully help to bridge the ethnic divide created by a narrative in which they have no voice and no agency.

-- Paolo Pontoniere, Publisher

Meet The Team
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The Italifornian Team

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Paolo Pontoniere

Publisher & Founder

Journalist, Neapolitan, I moved to San Francisco in the mid-eighties, when the West Coast and the Pacific Basin for Italian media were still a no-man's land. A "hic sunt leones" developing across the left border of the US map. I arrived first as a traveling envoy of Frigidaire, a cutting-edge culture, politics, and arts magazine. I returned to promote the Fondazione Reperti del Terzo Millennio, The Third Millennium Evidence Foundation, a project sponsored by Arci Nova. The project intended to create a center in California devoted to foretelling the future and putting it on exposition--particularly in the arts and the literature. Over the years, I've been a foreign correspondent and contributor for several Italian media, including  Panorama, L'Espresso, Focus, Repubblica, and a contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Pacific News Service, and New America Media. Although I covered the same beats as other correspondents, I was the first Italian to narrate Silicon Valley from the inside, anticipating many of the social and technological developments that would come. However, even though I focused on describing the US to an Italian audience, I never lost sight of our community. Over the years, I have explored the many ways It has contributed to the California mystique with writings, news reports, exhibitions, and exchange projects.

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Ken Borelli

Executive Editor & Co-Founder

Ken is a long time member of the Italian American Heritage Foundation, San Jose. He has served as its President, Vice President, and currently chairs its Cultural Committee, among other activities. In addition, Ken is a contributor to the IAHF newsletter and a member of several other Italian American organizations and networks. Ken has helped organize forums and lectures of regional and national significance. He hosts the Villaggio Culturale at the annual IAHF Family Festa, is an Opera San Jose booster, and is part of a statewide effort to save one of the nation's oldest Italian American structures -- the Romaggi Adobe, in Angels Camp, CA. Ken is also the author of Flavors from A Calabrese Kitchen (1989). Ken is a retired Deputy Director of the Department of Family and Children Services in Santa Clara County, as well as an emeritus member of the SCC Child Abuse Prevention Council. His immigration experience includes refugee resettlement, unaccompanied minors, and child welfare work with families with immigration problems. He has also provided training for NASW, National CASA, and several nonprofit foundations. Ken was a founding member of the Center for Immigration and Child Welfare, BRYCS, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation on child welfare issues.  

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Francine Brevetti

I am a San Francisco native who started her journalism career in New York  in the late 1970s with America’s oldest daily, The Journal of Commerce. I covered finance and foreign trade for this Knight-Ridder publication.

From 1985 to 1997 I worked as a freelance business journalist in Hong Kong, contributing to US, UK, Australian, and Asian English-language dailies, and magazines. I covered mostly on matters of finance, foreign trade, and travel at a time when Hong Kong was anticipating its return to PRC sovereignty. During that time I wrote Welcome to China, a guidebook commissioned by the China National Tourism Administration. 

In 1997, I returned to San Francisco where I still live. I secured a commission to write the history of America’s oldest Italian restaurant, Fior d’Italia. The Fabulous Fior — over 100 Years in an Italian Kitchen sold well and is now out of print. A second edition, The Fabulous Fior — over 125 Years in an Italian Kitchen, with three new chapters is available on Kindle or Nook.

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Marie Bertola
Educational Advisor

Marie Bertola is a Senior Lecturer of Italian at Santa Clara University (CA). She is the academic adviser of the Cultural Italian-American Organization (CIAO) and has organized numerous events to uncover and examine the complexity and richness of the Italian-speaking world by bringing to the classroom and to the Santa Clara community numerous guest speakers and relating their experiences to students' learning. Her interests focus on Second Language Acquisition and Teaching Methodology, Multilingualism, Translingualism and Interculturality, Social Justice and Critical Language Pedagogy, and Second Language in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Education and Business. She is involved in several professional and cultural organizations. She has been serving on the Board of Directors of the Italian-American Heritage Foundation (San Jose, CA) since 2013. She is currently the Commission Chair of the  County of Santa Clara/Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy Sister-County Commission (CA). When not teaching or mentoring students, she advocates for language education and Italian language programs in K-12.

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Agustin Pace

Raised in Seattle, WA but born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, my journey in learning about my Italian roots came very recently. As a current undergraduate student at Santa Clara University, I initially chose to learn the Italian language as a new skill. But, since that decision, I have become an Italian Studies Major, working beyond the language and into culture and history. I am now an officer for the Cultural Italian-American Organization (CIAO) at the university, have interned for the Museo Italo-Americano in San Francisco, and work as a research assistant for one of my Italian professors. I am excited to share more of my stories through this page, and I encourage others to do so as well! 

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John Romano
Creative Director

I’m gratified to be a part of the OAHIC team. I’ve been a creative director in Silicon Valley since 1976, establishing and managing in-house design teams for several major technology companies. I was born in New Jersey to a family that originated in Molise, a small, mountainous region on the Adriatic Coast of Italy. I’m a proud Italifornian and I encourage all interested Californians to join me as members of The Online Almanac of The History of The Italians of California. Ciao!

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