|Alicia Vitarelli - New Journalist|
The Italian American Girl site is dedicated to showcasing and sharing news and notable profiles on influential Italian Americans around the world and in the community. This week we have an exclusive interview with New Jersey's most talked about and admired Italian American news anchor from News 12 New Jersey. She's also the host of an informative-magazine style and culinary show called, "Buck Wild" and "A Roma Aroma."
To learn more about Alicia Vitarelli we sat down to get the scoop on this Italian American Girl.
Q: As an Italian American Girl what is your cultural Italian upbringing, who in your family comes from Italy?
A: I was born and raised in New York City in an Italian household. While my mother is not Italian, my father's family has very strong roots a has kept the culture alive and well in our home. His mother, Marie (Vitale) Vitarelli, will be 97 years old in July. She still makes sauce on Sundays and says it's the olive oil that is her secret "fountain of youth." Her family came from Calabria, where they owned a bakery. My grandfather, Umberto Vitarelli, came from Craco, in the Basilica region. As the next generation of Italian Americans, we were schooled by Roman Catholic nuns and priests, celebrated all of the Italian and Catholic holidays, and traveled to Italy often (I have been there about 10 times).
Q: You’re the host of a very successful show called, “Buck Wild” and you also anchor for News 12 NJ, do you feel you have any pressure as an Italian American to represent the Garden State in a positive light?
A: I don't feel the pressure, rather the responsibility. I think both young Italian Americans AND young people from New Jersey have to work extra hard to combat some very negative stereotypes that persist and are fueled by reality TV shows. I take my role in this regard very seriously, knowing how important it is to spread a positive message and fuel a good image of both my culture and state.
Q: What part of your Italian upbringing do you identify with most? Why?
A: That's simple. Family. I am sure you get this answer often and that is because the family unit and time spent together are two of the most powerful building blocks of Italian culture. Sunday dinners are not merely meals, but bonding experiences, and keeping that tradition alive has bridged the cultural divide between older and younger Italian Americans. I also identify with the work ethic of our immigrant ancestors who traveled here to find "The American Dream," working hard, complaining little. I attribute my work ethic to that and also believe that very little can hold us back if we have a dream. They overcame many obstacles and led by example and I intend to keep that spirit alive!
Q: Have you ever been to Italy and do you have any family there you know of that you would possibly connect with in the future?
A: I have been to Italy many times, from coast to coast, soaking in the arts, culture and history, and admiring the way the locals live, eat and experience their incredible country. I am in the process of connecting with relatives on Facebook (seriously!) and also learning the language.
Q: How has participating in Italian American events this past year affected your passion for your culture?
A: I have been honored three times as the Italian American Woman of the Year by various groups in New Jersey, and I could not be more proud to not only represent my culture and showcase it to the state, but to connect with New Jerseyans who are doing the same. I am amazed at how strong the community is here. As a native New Yorker, I was raised amongst very proud Italian Americans, and I am humbled to have been so warmly and generously embraced by the New Jersey community. I see their accomplishments everywhere, and being able to share that with my viewers is an incredible honor as well. There are so many wonderful groups here doing fantastic work, and I am thrilled to be working with them.
Q: Being that we’re both Italian Americans living in New Jersey we’re subjected to many stereotypes and including the more recent debates stemming from the MTV show “Jersey Shore;” Do these stereotypes create or offend you or do you think they’re based more on a tri-state cultural theme?
A: Good question. I have always said that stereotypes don't create themselves. Watching shows like "Jersey Shore," I can say that there are young people among us in the tri-state area who do live, speak and act that way. It is unforvision of our culture based on a small pocket of people seeking 15 minutes of fame, regardless of the ramifications on our reputation as a whole. What is more unfortunate is that there is more negative publicity than positive examples of young Italian Americans who are doing wonderful things to make our culture proud. I feel we have to work extra hard to push the good examples to the forefront!
Q: How good of an Italian cook are you and what types of Italian dishes do you prefer to make? Or suggest?
A: I am a work-in-progress cook! I have been married for three years and have truly made it my mission to master Italian cuisine! I grew up with an Italian grandmother who wouldn't let you within feet of her stove, so while I grew up eating the dishes every day and watching them be prepared, it wasn't until later in life that I tackled it on my own. Some of my favorite dishes to make include homemade ravioli and various pastas (orchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage is a good one, and I LOVE pesto!) I am constantly learning and evolving in the kitchen and I have a great hands-on coach in NJ 101.5 radio host Dennis Malloy (who IS 100% Italian). Together we host a weekend cooking show on News 12 New Jersey called "A Roma Aroma."
Q: Do you feel your upbringing has supported your success as a television personality? Will we be seeing you on national news for the future?
A: I absolutely feel my upbringing contributed to my success, especially when it came to paving my own path. I was the first person in my family to get a college degree (and a Masters Degree) and leave the "nest." I have studied and worked both abroad and here in various states, and that feeling of being a pioneer is something I felt was in my blood. I have an incredibly strong work ethic, and rarely rest. I absolutely hope to take my career to the national level, and also have a family someday. I have a wonderful husband Matthew (who also comes from a strong, amazing Italian American family). He supports me and my endeavors and I could not be more proud of him as well.
Q: Which Italian Americans do you look up to in mainstream media?
A: In my business I honor and respect all of the broadcasters who kept their Italian surnames, as I did. I was told many times that it would hold me back, that it is not understood or embraced in some parts of our own country. To me, it is a badge of honor and I wear it proudly. I admire others who do the same. Positive examples are so important to our culture and I am happy to be a part of that.
Q: As a media personality do you think positive television programming focusing on the achievements of Italian Americans is lacking and how can we as Italian Americans work to improve our image in mainstream media?
A: I do believe it is lacking and hope to see more Italian Americans showcased and celebrated for doing great things. I tell young people to consider this: the most powerful and irreparable thing in life is a reputation. Once it's marred, it is very hard to repair that damage. Consider the impact your actions have not only on YOUR life, but on your culture.
** I should add Alicia Vitarelli has since moved onto to a Philadelphia station 6 ABC. **Tweet