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February 2024



Did you know that the first Italians arrived in Denver in the 1870’s? Many came directly from Italy, leaving behind their poverty-stricken country in search of the land of opportunity. Instead, they found more poverty and discrimination. Having brought with them their own culture, food, style and more, they survived and flourished. Today we know that, despite its grim beginnings, the Italian community had, and continues to have, a significant impact on Denver and its culture. In 1985, the Dante Alighieri Society of Denver was chartered and today still “exists to share and celebrate the richness of the Italian culture and language with the entire community”. To learn more about Italian history, culture, and its influence, please join us as we spread the word about all things Italian. Grazie!

Grazie, John Giardino.

FEBRUARY CULTURAL PROGRAM: The Celebrated Mosaics of Ravenna

feb cultureOn Friday, February 9th, 7:30 p.m., University of Denver art history professor Scott B. Montgomery will describe the magnificent mosaics in Ravenna, Italy. These early Christian and Byzantine mosaics from the 5th and 6th centuries are found in the Basilica of San Vitale, one of the most celebrated Byzantine monuments in the world, and in nearby UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Dante Alighieri spent his final years in exile in Ravenna.  Scholars believe the mosaics were a source of inspiration for Dante, and some of his verses in The Divine Comedy recall images in mosaics.

Refreshments and social hour will follow

LOCATION:  Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church Parish Hall.
ADDRESS:  3549 Navajo Street, Denver.


Chef Adam Giardino will be bringing some changes to his cooking classes in the future. Rather than preparing a full, three-course meal, he will be focusing on one specific aspect of Italian cuisine. Besides learning how to prepare a specific food, there will be an educational component, talking about the history, the ingredients, and their uses. The first newly formatted class will be in April so stay tuned to the Notiziario and the website for more information. Let us know what you think about this new format.


It's that time of year again.  Membership in the Dante Alighieri Society runs from January through December so 2024 renewal cards were mailed near the end of December. Please make any corrections on the card before mailing it back with your payment. Thank you, Rhonda.


Classes for the winter quarter are now in session and plans are underway for spring classes which will begin in late March.  The Spring 2024 session of Italian language classes offered by the Dante Alighieri Society of Denver will be in-person language classes at 3549 Navajo Street, Denver 80211 in the parish office of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Each class meets for 90 minutes, once a week, for 10 weeks, beginning March 25, 2024.  Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced classes will be offered.  The class schedule will be posted on the Society website by February 19, 2024.  Classes are taught by talented bi-lingual instructors who have significant experience teaching Italian.  Cost is $130 for members and $160 for non-members.  New members are welcome to join the Dante Alighieri Society when they register for classes.


The registration deadline for the spring session is March 18, 2024.


We will again be awarding scholarships to university students planning to study in Italy in the coming year.  If you or a student you know might be a candidate for a scholarship, we would welcome your aplication.



May 5, 2024, is the date of our annual Awards Luncheon when we will honor the winner of this year’s Donne di Merito Award and present our 2024 Scholarships.  This event will be held at the Mt. Vernon Canyon Club Colorado, and details will be available in coming editions of the Notiziario and on the Society’s website.  Please plan now to join us for this highlight of our year’s activities.  Information about our scholarships is available on the website. 

ONLINE CLASS  “Petrarch’s scattered poems”

scattered poemsDr. Seth Fabian, who has given wonderful presentations for our Society, is teaching a six-week online class for the Denver Archdiocese about Petrarch's poems.  Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) is considered the father of humanism and the creator of the Renaissance, and “The Scattered Poems” (Rime sparse) is considered Petrarch’s greatest work.  Cost for the entire course is $100.  The registration link is below.



THE DENVER ART MUSEUM PRESENTS “The Ghirlandaio Workshop:  Tradition and Practice in Renaissance Florence”

Tuesday, January 30, 6:00 - 7:00 pm.  100 W. 14th Avenue Pkwy, Denver, Colorado 80204.  Join us for a presentation by Dr. Heidi J. Hornik, Professor of Art History, Baylor University, on Domenico Ghirlandaio who directed the leading painting workshop in fifteenth century Florence. The Coronation of the Virgin with Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist painting (pictured) in the Denver Art Museum's collection (a gift of the Samuel H. Kress Collection) is an important example of this highly skilled workshop’s production.   This talk will discuss the painting as well as how the Ghirlandaio workshop trained young artists in traditional techniques and successfully executed commissions for powerful religious orders and prestigious families while establishing a positive trajectory for the bottega (workshop studio) practice for several centuries.

Congdon Boardroom—Hamilton Building, Lower Level.  Ticket required: $15 for members, free for Museum Friends and students, $20 for the public.


TIPS ON ITALY by Tonya Clement - Carbonara – It’s what’s for dinner!

Given that it is January and cold outside, I wanted to focus this article on one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes, Carbonara.  There are probably many discussions and debates around the ingredients.  The Carbonara that you often get in US restaurants could not be further from the original recipe.  If you want a really good and authentic meal of Carbonara, it all starts with using only the freshest and finest ingredients.  If you happen to be in Italy when you prepare this meal, all the better.  I would suggest following the ingredient recommendations of Stanley Tucci that I will spell out right here right now.

eggsPhoto Courtesy of
Kelly Neil

  • Guanciale (cured pork cheek from a local breeder) – 6oz
  • Eggs (farm fresh from naturally raised chickens) – 2 large eggs plus 2 additional yolks
  • Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano (aged) – 3.5 oz finely shredded.
  • High Quality Dried Pasta (spaghetti) – 14 oz

It is that simple and rustic.  Tucci believes a real carbonara does not have pancetta or bacon, onion or garlic, and absolutely no cream or butter.  You can find guanciale at most Italian delis, the thicker the cut the better.  Best to grate your own cheese.  It is the eggs that will make the creamy sauce.  A little pepper on top is a nice touch.

First you sauté the strips of guanciale in a saucepan. Once rendered, your spaghetti al dente (save a cup of the starchy water) is tossed in the pan to coat them in the guanciale and fat.  In a large bowl, whip up your whole eggs with extra egg yolks and cheese.  Transfer the hot pasta and guanciale into the large bowl that houses your whipped eggs and cheese; add1/2 cup of the pasta water and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until your liquid turns into a rich creamy sauce.  When all the liquid is gone and the sauce is clinging to your noodles you know your dish is ready to serve. 

Note there are no exact measurements for this dish to turn out perfectly.  This is a dish you might make a little different each time.  You may have a little more guanciale fat one time and little less another.  You may use five eggs instead of four.  You may need to add a little more or less pasta water.  Think like a Nonna and wing it.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU:  Virginia D’Orazio

virginia dorazioQ)  What region in Italy were your ancestors from?  If you do not have Italian ancestors, what is the ethnic background of your family?  Have you ever been there and what was your experience?

My father’s family (D’Orazio) was from Cansano, Italy in the Abruzzo. My mother’s father (DeSantis) was from the same town. My mother’s mother and her family surnamed Grosso was from Montalenghe which is a municipality of Torino in Piemonte.                                                                                               

Q)  When did your ancestors arrive in America, and where did they settle originally? Did they come right to Colorado? 

All my grandparents went directly to southern Colorado to work in the coal mines. My great-grandfather Pietro Grosso (my mother’s grandfather) and my grandfather Donato DeSantis (my mother’s father) came directly to Colorado and lived in a coal mining town called Berwind which was west of Trinidad and south of Ludlow. Eventually when the mines began to slow down in southern Colorado, my DeSantis grandfather moved his family to Frederick, CO. Many of the southern CO Italians did the same. My father, Giuseppe D’Orazio came to Colorado directly because his father Angelo “Nunzio” D’Orazio was already here working in the coal mines in Lafayette and the Boulder Valley. My father lived in Lafayette and then moved to Frederick.

Q)  If you had to describe yourself in one word, what word would that be, and why?

Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe educator because I have taught high school Spanish, among other things, both in New York and Colorado, for a long time, and I still love it!

Q)  Who was most influential to you growing up, and why?

So many members of my immediate family were very influential. I was the youngest and the only female among my mother’s younger brothers and my two brothers. The males helped with toughness and encouraged me educationally as well as over protected me. My DeSantis grandfather was a union activist in So. Colorado, and his exploits were amazing. My father was influential politically, taught me to love Italian opera and golf, as well as education. My mother, Mary, was a reader, worked outside the home before that was totally acceptable, and one heck of a cook, a seamstress; she inspired me too. My grandmother, Grace, who was my mother’s stepmother was the most amazing grandmother ever! Her humor helped us realize the lighter side of life. So, how do you pick from this group plus the amazing Italians from the town of Frederick?

Q)  Tell us a little about you, employment, family, interests and so on.

I am a high school Spanish teacher at Thornton High School. I have a son Jonathan Trinidad, married to Marina DeSantis, whose father’s family is also from Cansano. I have two grandchildren, Juliana, and Domenic. I have many interests, but the one I enjoy the most is photography. I had a small photo business for many years and taught photography, along with Spanish, at Erie High School here in Colorado. I love to golf and to travel. I love theater and listening to the Saturday afternoon broadcast from the Met in NYC. Best of all, I adore going to my grandchildren’s wrestling matches!!

Q)  How would you most like to be remembered?

This is difficult. Maybe just for being a decent person with a good moral compass besides working hard to teach students to think, but not what to think!

Q)  What attracted you about joining the Dante Alighieri Society?

I had a double major from CU in both Spanish and Italian. Because I use Spanish every day, but there are few left who can speak Italian, I have very few opportunities to use Italian. I see the Dane Alighieri Society as an avenue to keep in touch with Italian culture and, maybe, get an opportunity to speak!


Our March cultural program will feature Alisa DiGiacomo, Senior Curator Emeritus at History Colorado, whose presentation will be “Reconstructing Lives: A Simplified approach to Recording Family History”.  Plan now to join us on March 8 and watch for details in the next Notiziario


We wish all our members born in the month of February a very Happy Birthday.


Hospitality Chairperson Camilla Marcantonio would like to thank the members who have provided refreshments for the cultural meetings.  If you would like to contribute to our gatherings in this way, please CONTACT CAMILLA.

The Dante Alighieri Society of Denver strives to share and celebrate
the richness of the Italian culture and language with the entire community.