I was at a residents’ dinner recently and I was sitting beside a charming elderly lady. She had an Italian surname and I asked her about it. Her mother had emigrated from Italy when she, the mother, was a little girl (about 100 years ago) and her father had emigrated from Italy to Ireland when he was 17 and married her mother. Then she herself had married an Italian boy and brought him home with her. What’s more, she has four children and three of them have married Italians. The fourth married a Quebecois, for variety I suppose. All of her grandchildren have Italian names and are busy, like proper ambitious migrants, climbing the social ladder working as lawyers, doctors and accountants.
All of her generation were in what she referred to as “the business”. On closer investigation, this turned out to be chip shops. There is a very odd phenomenon whereby the majority of chip shops in Dublin are run by Italians from Frosinone. They have an association: the Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association. Not you will appreciate, adjectives that you expect to see running together. One of our other neighbours commented that she had been to Italy and it was impossible to get chips. Given her Dublin background, she had expected the Italians to be chip specialists. All Dubliners recognise the names: Cafolla, Morelli, Fusciardi Borza, Macari (though my neighbour doesn’t think much of the last two families – Johnny come latelys apparently).
She spoke about working in the shop with her husband while bringing up her family in the flat upstairs. She speaks Italian as do her children and grandchildren. I was a little curious about whether they spoke dialect and Italian or just the former but lacked the nerve to ask.
She was the most charming person and I wished she lived on our road. However, she has assured me that several of the residents on her road are very elderly and a house should come on the market just as we are able to afford to move. She will be watching like a hawk on our behalf.