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Italians in America – Our Immigrant Stories: His legacy is one of hard work, family and caring community


By Tanya Tecce

After 25-year-old Anthony Carbonetta stayed with his grandfather Nicolo’s family in his hometown Via Crocetta, Italy last year; all the tales, mannerisms, superstitions and traditions came full circle. He understands now just how much his grandfather triumphed to give his children and grandchildren a better life. “I see now what he was dealing with. I also can see my own legacy through him.”

Nicolo, Domenica, Filippo and Antonio Carbonetta, Yeadon, 1958

Nicola Carbonetta was born the second of three sons in Via Crocetta, Abruzzo in 1949.

“Visiting the cemetery my grandfather’s entire family is buried in sent a ripple effect through me. Seeing all those names that I recognize, put it into perspective. Thinking of the people that left their home because they decided to make a better life. They risked that for future generations, and the great job they’ve done for all of us.”

Anthony felt so much more connected that he was inspired to write a recently published book in his grandfather’s honor, The Carbonetta Migration: The Life and Legacy of Nicolo Carbonetta. It tells the story of Nicolo’s immigration to the United States of America.

Sandra, Phil, Nick, Michelle, Nicolo and Milvia Carbonetta, 1998

Nicola’s father Filippo arrived about a year earlier, and at the time young Nicola didn’t understand where his dad went. In his longing, he often wondered if he’d ever return for him. At age 7, Nicola nearly drowned and still vividly remembers not only the experience, but the feeling and thoughts that went along: if my dad were here he would never let this happen. He would never let me sink.

Fortunately his friend Giovanni pulled him to safety.

When Nicola was about 9 years old, he encountered water on a much greater scale as he traveled with his family by boat to reunite with his father. Upon arrival at Ellis island in 1958 they changed the spelling of his name to Nicolo. The family settled in Yeadon, PA. Not long after, Nicolo went to work.

The Carbonetta Family, Easter 2024: Sandra, Russ, Anthony, Alessandra, Dominic, Nicolo, Michelle, Gloria, Nick, Angelina and Gianna

He always worked, even from this very young age. He worked paper routes after class at grade school. He worked hard to learn a new language in his new home. He worked as a plumber apprentice. He worked hard at practicing baseball. He delivered pizzas when he was old enough to drive. One thing he grew to count on is that his hard work would always pay off.

He also worked to conquer any remaining fear of water and joined the US Navy, serving his new country in the Vietnam War. Upon his return home, he became a master plumber.

As his father’s seeking of a better opportunity and place to raise his family ensured, Nicolo most certainly did not sink. Instead he shaped a legacy.

Nicolo met, and then married Anthony’s grandmom Milvia, also an Italian immigrant, in 1975. They had three children: Nicolo (Nick, Anthony’s father), Phillip and Sandra. “He really turned his luck around and by the time he had his 3 children he was able to buy his family vacation homes and nice vehicles, all from taking 2-3 jobs.”

Nicolo still stresses to his family the importance of hard work and community.

In fact there’s a sense that the Carbonettas are a synonym for community, something that goes beyond blood. Nicolo’s family has been known to lend a helping hand any chance they have. “We were taught to help out when we can. That can mean physical labor, just a talk, a home cooked meal, or a pat on the back.”

Their community returns the favor. When grandmom Milvia suffered kidney failure in 2003, her and Nicolo’s son Phil donated his kidney to his mother. The community rallied around them and made sure they were showered with care, love and support.

Milvia was known for her thrill over fireworks, and it felt like the family lost its spark when she passed away in 2020. Anthony shares “after ‘nonni’ died, we were all kind of in bad shape. She was the matriarch, the driver, the cook, the CEO of the family. She was the boss.”

Shortly after, Phil followed his mother.

“I thought this book would be a little something for my grandfather to hang onto” Anthony says. He confides the most emotional parts to write were about his Grandmother’s passing and his uncle Phil’s shortly after. “I wanted to see it through my grandfather’s eyes too, and write it for him.”

This is how powerfully Nicolo Carbonetta’s name and story is speaking through his family. “My grandfather and his girlfriend Gloria have been shipping the books all by hand and it’s selling so fast already.”

As so many Italian immigrants before him, Nicolo Carbonetta overcame much. The loneliness of his dad leaving for a time; the blood, sweat and tears of working so many jobs starting at such a young age; learning a new language and how to belong in a new country; the sacrifice of serving that new country in the Vietnam war; the loss of his wife, and then his son. But he made it out of the lake and across the ocean and he has no plans on sinking now.

He has a family Legacy to lead and a lot of good, honest, healthy, hard work left to do.

Nicolo Carbonetta, United States Navy, Vietnam, 1970

Budding author Anthony Carbonetta works as a production assistant and published his first book this May 2024 in honor of his grandfather, Nicolo Carbonetta. Nicolo is now retired but still very happy to help a friend in need with their plumbing problems. For those interested in the book, message Gloria at gphillips1952@icloud.com.


Tanya Tecce

Tanya is an Anxiety Anthropologist and Family Alchemist sharing deep nervous system restoratives and healing family constellation work with her clients. Master certified in Transformational Psychology NLP, she curates decades of study and experience in neuroscience, psychology, family constellations, epigenetics, yoga, and ayurveda to heal mindset and fortify your nervous system so it feels safe for you to get what you want. She’s led retreats to Italy annually since 2014 and has worked with Today Media since 2003, IAH since 2019. To learn more about her powerful “suffering obligations of love” work visit: tanyatecce.lpages.co/protect-my-peace/

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