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Italians in America – Our Immigrant Stories: How Amato Berardi went from a Philly pizza shop to the Italian Parliament


Written by Tanya Tecce

It took Uncle Luigi Berardi 13 years and a lot of hard work to secure a bond and file a petition for his brother’s family to come to America, but on May 11, 1970, Amato Libero Berardi, his parents Carmine and Carmela, and brothers Ferdinando, Salvatore and Fausto, moved from their farmland home in Longano, Molise, Italy, and settled in Philadelphia.

From left: Amato, Fausto, Salvatore and Ferdinando Berardi in a photo at their pizzeria, 1978.

Amato enrolled in fifth grade at Mater Dolorosa in the Frankford section, where students and staff spoke Italian and English. Every day he’d get up at 5 a.m. to collect old newspapers to return to Pellegrino Co., where they’d pay by the pound. After school he’d cut grass. He saved the money to help his parents pay for his education.

In February 1975, while a freshman, he and brother Ferdinando opened their first pizza shop, Berardi Brothers. Every day after school, he’d work there until 11:30 p.m. 

Maddalena and Amato Berardi on their wedding day in 1983.

All his hard work paid off, and in the fall of 1975 his parents were able to quit their jobs to come work with their sons, growing the family shops to five and adding on a Berardi Brothers bakery.

An athlete in high school, Amato went on to organize and become president of the semi-professional United Soccer League of Pennsylvania, where ethnic teams from regions of Italy, Ukraine, Poland and elsewhere competed.

Amato Berardi, daughter Carmelina, granddaughter Tina and son Carmine celebrate the Italian National team’s first win since 1968 at Marconi Plaza, South Philadelphia, July 2021.

One night in March 1980, Amato closed his original Torresdale pizza shop for the evening and headed to meet with a league coach, when a drunk driver driving 90 mph struck his car head on. The impact threw him through the windshield and he landed five feet away from the car. His face was fractured, his teeth shattered, his spleen ruptured and his pelvis broken. His St. Anthony of Padua team jacket was shredded and covered in blood. 

His small figurine of the saint in his pocket was completely untouched.

After 18 days in a coma, two months in the hospital, and six more months in Moss Rehab learning to walk and talk again, Amato spent two more years recovering. He was just 21 years old.

Family, prayers and his disability insurance supported him while he rebuilt his life.

In 1983 he joined New York Life Insurance Co.,
where he excelled and earned top recognition year after year. “I sold my story.” He eventually left ownership of the pizza shops to his brothers and started his own insurance service agency, and for 41 years now he’s been helping others protect and expand their livelihood, families and businesses.

In 1992 he helped found NIA-PAC, a bi-partisan Italian-American political action committee that supports Italian Americans with political aspirations financially and with grass-root campaigns. Five years ago, NIA-PAC established an office in Rome.

Well known and well liked, Amato was invited in January 2007 by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to run for member of parliament. He accepted, and in February 2008 was elected to represent 1.3 million Italian citizens from Alaska down to Panama, including Cuba, in Italy’s Camera dei Deputati. 

“Every Monday I flew to Rome, and on Friday I’d catch a flight back to the states. I spent Tuesday through Thursday mostly in session,” he said. As vice chairman of the finance committee, he was instrumental in getting more funds allocated to improve lives of Italian citizens. Two he’s most proud of are the additional monthly pension for Italian seniors and the funds used to help preserve our Italian culture in the United States and Canada.

With an unstoppable work ethic and endurance that matches, Amato continues to find strength from improving people’s lives, bringing people together, cultivating trade and exchange between North America and Italy, and creating jobs and opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.

The warmth of the people he serves energizes him.

“My favorite things in Italy are the culture, the food, the climate and the community,” he said. “And one of my favorite things about America is how much less bureaucracy there is, compared to other countries.
You can build a life, you can build a future.”

This July he celebrates his 41st wedding anniversary to wife Maddalena, whom he met at one of his soccer games. Their children Carmelina and Carmine, and granddaughter Maria Cristina, are bilingual and dual citizens. “We keep all the traditions, making the sauce,
the wine, the sausage, all of it.”

After Amato’s mom passed of cancer and his dad of vascular complications, he founded the Berardi Foundation with esteemed Dr. Antonio Giordano and Sbarro Institute. There, they pay it forward and sponsor a dozen students from Italy annually to come broaden their studies in cancer research and vascular disease.

“My parents had a saying ‘when you have bread, but no teeth to eat it what good is that?’ Health is everything, no matter how successful you are or how much money you have. Thank God for the doctors and nurses.”

Amato’s medical conferences recognize distinguished Italian Americans in medicine – a cause always close to his heart – perhaps now more than ever since his kidney transplant complications put him in need of another transplant. “The next conference is on my birthday, this October 14.”

Oh St. Anthony,  hear our prayers.

To learn more about Amato Berardi and his search for a kidney donor, visit www.nkr.org/DMV989/Card


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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