American Italian Cultural Center and Museum
The American Italian Cultural Center in the heart of downtown New Orleans is a repository of priceless information and memorabilia celebrating the contributions of the sons and daughters of Italy to the city’s cultural life. Musicians Nick LaRocca and Louis Prima, opera singer Marguerite Piazza, champion boxers Tony Canzoneri and Willie Pastrano, former mayors Robert Maestri and Vic Schiro, and noted doctor John Adriani all called New Orleans home and made an impact on the world in which they lived. The collection displays treasures from the lives of these and other Italian-Americans who have lived in New Orleans over the years.
Backstory and Context
Among the treasures that greet visitors to the American Italian Cultural Center are
- The gown worn by Marguerite Piazza as the first Queen of the Virgilians, the Italian Mardi Gras ball
- Displays of Nick LaRocca and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, who recorded the very first jazz album in 1917, and other famous local Italian-American musicians
- The Giovanni Schiavo Collection, a genealogy library consisting of tapes, newspapers, vertical files, a music library, naturalization records, photographs, family histories and other Italian-American memorabilia
- The Dr. John Adriani Collection, named after the noted anesthesiologist who developed many of the current procedures in anesthesiology and author of several important textbooks on the subject. This collection includes medical records, personal journals, textbooks and other artifacts.
- A St. Joseph Day altar display, telling the colorful local history of this tradition.
This collection also tells the story of the millions of everyday Italians who settled throughout Louisiana and the American Southeast. In the 1920s, iconic New Orleans neighborhoods such as the French Quarter and the Marigny were predominantly Italian. Italian-Americans owned and operated local many of the business establishments, a number of which survive today. The popular muffaletta sandwich featured at Central Grocery and the mouth-watering confections and desserts of such local, century-old institutions as Angelo Brocato’s and Gambino’s are vestiges of this area. Famous restaurants like Carmelo’s and Tony Moran’s still serve Italian specialties made from recipes handed down through generations. These contributions are also recognized and highlighted throughout the museum.
As an added bonus, the museum opens up to the Piazza d’Italia (Italian Plaza). The piazza is a pleasant location amid the bustle of downtown New Orleans to relax and enjoy the soothing sounds and sights of water cascading over reproductions of classic Roman arches and aqueducts.