Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia In Correspondence, 1917-1937

Translated by Ramón García-Castro, Edited by Ben Lariccia, Jr. - Copyright 1999 by Ben Lariccia, Jr.
The letters contained in this publication were in the possession of my grandmother Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia. After her death, they became the property of her daughter, my Aunt Concetta Lariccia. Another aunt, Mae (Filomena) Lariccia Vargo, contributed the letter from Soledade, Brazil.


To Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia and to all who have the bravery to take their lives in their hands to create a new existence.

Quite a few family members vouch for the stories in the correspondence which include the death of a future sister-in-law, the anticipated perils of crossing the Atlantic during the U-boat attacks on passenger ships, a young daughter's fight to survive extensive burns, Lucia's Mamma Antonia's transatlantic attempts to bolster the young burn victim, and sadly, the bitter news of this Mamma Antonia's death as it appears in Francisco Musacchio's letter to Gennaro Lariccia.

Lucia Bisceglia's correspondence shows the rich experiences of a woman who knew the risks of leaving her native land and those of beginning life in a totally new one---as part of a new family. More importantly, the letters show the love and strong relationships that she maintained and carefully nurtured across "the wide ocean full of dangers," in most cases with relatives that she would never see again.

All these messages, whether penned by her or others, became part of a precious cache of letters, the record of a life, that I have gathered for all of us to read and enjoy.

Ben Lariccia Jr., July 18, 1999


Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia I wish to thank the following people who helped me complete this project: Concetta Lariccia, Mae Lariccia Vargo, Carl DiLallo and Andrew Cafaro. Many thanks also to James Lariccia Sr. and Carl DiLallo for family stories and genealogy. And not least to Ramon Garcia-Castro, co-editor and translator, and to Silvana Gambardella and Roberto Castillo-Sandoval, translators.

In regard to primary genealogical records, I wish to acknowledge the helpful people at the LDS Family History Center in the Logan Section of Philadelphia for the use of their microfilms and equipment. And yes, I would like to recognize Napoleon Bonaparte who mandated that civilian vital records be kept in Italy beginning in 1809.

Caterina's Letter to Lucia.

Dear Sister,

Please tell Gennaro De Michele, Rosa Perratta's son, how much his mother laments not having received any letters from him, while he not only writes to his mother-in-law, but...It's a pity to see the pain this poor old woman is in and how she remembers the sacrifices she has made for her children! Now her life has become very difficult, and full of privations, now that she is old and needs help. A troubled son that lives in America doesn't think about his aged mother, and he's very mindful of his wife's mother who's not in need or poor or old. See if you and he can talk or perhaps your husband can talk to him.

We received the post cards and forgive me if I've been late in answering you. Let me know if I can help you with anything. Regards to all of you. Everyone in the family says hello.

Hugs from your sister, Caterina
P.S. At the moment we are awaiting the war, which will be terrible. God have mercy on us. If it's not today, it will come tomorrow.

Francesco's Letter to Lucia

Dear Sister-in-law, 
I'm getting your St. Anthony magazines and I'm sending you the bread recipes that you wanted. I hope they turn out well. I'll send you the other ones that you like in another letter. Let me know how the recipes turn out. If you make a mistake, you can always correct it. Whatever you need let me know and I'll try to direct you. These are family recipes but you can make candy, liquors and other things for the store. I can't help you with the soft drinks because you need a machine. My brother Angelo has one and makes gassoso. It's not difficult, but without a machine it's useless (for us) to talk about.
Say hello to all your children, to your brothers-in-law's family, and giving you a handshake your brother-in-law says good-bye. Signed: Francesco Musacchio

The Recipes from Caterina and Francesco's Letter

The following recipes use metric measurements. By the early 20th century they were adopted by most of the world with the exception of the English-speaking countries. Here are English equivalents:
1 kilo =2.2 pounds
1 gram =0.04 ounces
1 liter =2.11 liquid pints

Forno There are no instructions for setting oven temperature. Gas ovens were rare in rural Italy in 1939. Most all baking was done in wood fired brick ovens. These were built away from the main kitchen of the house either in a shed attached to the house, or outdoors. Women would gauge the temperature or "speed" of the oven by the color of the bricks inside, the length of the firing, and other time honored means. Since oven interiors were large and wood was often a scarce resource many villages had public ovens in which lots of items were baked at the same time or in close succession.

Spiced Cakes

Take a kilo of honey, some shelled almonds, and mix them with as much semolina until the dough becomes hard. Add orange rind. Put this mixture in a container. The next day make a small loaf and cut it into spiced cakes and put them in the oven to bake.

Almond Pastry

One kilo of flour, 400 grams of almonds, 400 grams of sugar, 30 grams of *ammonium carbonate, eight eggs, around a 100 grams of oil, and grated lemon peel. Directions: Mix the ammonium carbonate in the oil and the eggs and make a paste of all of it. Form big pieces and brush them with egg white. When they have a gold color, they're cooked. Cut them into bars and cook them again. After that you can eat them.

*Ammonium carbonate is still used in baking in the Scandinavian countries. It makes cookies crisper. It's also known as ammonia powder or Hartshorne.


A kilo of cake flour, twelve eggs, twelve tablespoons of melted lard, 300 grams of sugar, grated lemon peel, 25 grams of ammonium carbonate. Make a dough without mixing too much. Make the shapes that you want and bake them in the oven.

Soft Drinks

You'll need a machine to make the soft drinks. The salesman will give you the instructions.

Rosolio (home-made liquor)

A liter of water, a liter of alcohol (23 grade), a kilo of sugar. Dissolve the sugar in water (better in hot water). When the sugar is dissolved, mix it with the alcohol. Filter this liquor and add the essence that you prefer (for example lemon, mint, orange, vanilla, cinnamon, strawberry, and any of the other fruits.) This liquor must be filtered to make it clear. Filter this liquor with a paper made especially for this purpose that can be found at the pharmacist's. It can also be filtered with a cloth. If it is too strong, add more water. In order to get the lemon or orange essence, peel the rind and squeeze it. You can buy alcohol but it's very strong and expensive.

Rosolio (Vanilla)

Grind 60 grams of vanilla and put the powder in a glass jar with two liters of alcohol. This mixture must stay together for 3 weeks well corked or else you loose the fragrance of the vanilla. Mix three kilos of sugar in two liters of water. Blend the two mixtures and filter. Finally, bottle it and give it the name Vanilla Rosolio. If you want it milder, you can add more water.

Rosolio (Cinnamon)

Grind 50 grams of cinnamon and put the powder in a glass jar with two liters of 32-grade alcohol. This mixture must stay for 15 or 20 days in the jar well closed. It has to be agitated once a day. Mix 2 liters of hot water with 3 kilos of sugar. Put the two mixtures together and filter. Finally, bottle this Rosolio called Cinnamon Rosolio.


A kilo of cake flour, 300 grams of sugar, a half liter of milk, 10 grams of baking soda (what they use for cooking beans), 20 grams of cream of tartar, four eggs, and a few lemons to give it fragrance. The eggs must be cracked separately, they must be beaten for 10 minutes more or less, and then they have to be added to the other ingredients. The whole thing must be carefully mixed. Put it immediately into oven. You can bake it (in the same oven) with bread.

Pizza Dolce or Pasta Reale or Pane di Spania

Take a dozen fresh eggs and mix them with 12 (soup) spoons of sugar. Beat them very, very well for close to an hour. Separately, beat 12 egg whites for about an hour until they look like snow. Then mix the yolks with the whites, always beating. Then add 12 spoonfuls of fine cake flour little by little while you continue beating. Pour the mixture into an oiled or greased a pan. Sprinkle flour thoroughly all around just like you sprinkle cheese on macaroni, so that the cake doesn't stick to the pan. It's a good idea to put at the bottom of the pan a small piece of paper, for instance, a sheet of newspaper so that the cake doesn't stick. The moment you pour the batter in the pan put it in the brick oven, indoor oven, or the stove. The fire must be very slow or else the cake will burn. When it becomes golden in the oven, then you have to cover it with a piece of paper. The (brick) oven or the indoor oven shouldn't be opened very often. If it's not cooked well, then pull it out by the edges of the paper, take it from the pan, and put it on the oven floor to finish baking. The heat should always be even.

Shoe Polish

Ingredients: ceresina 100grams, esterina 100grams, paraffin 100grams, 150 grams of black aniline soluble in grease. Directions:Mix these ingredients and melt them in a container over the fire. The moment they melt take the pot from the fire and add 300 grams of turpentine. Keep agitating the mixture with a large stick. When it begins to thicken pour the cromatina (shoe polish) in tins. If it's too thin, you can add equal parts of ceresina, esterina, and paraffin, and black aniline. Make sure the aniline is soluble in grease, not the other kind. If it's too thick, add turpentine, making it thinner by heating the mixture over the embers, not over a flame, because in this case the turpentine will ignite just like gasoline. If you don't find ceresina, esterina, and paraffin where they make church candles, pharmacists sell the above ingredients. Aniline can be found in a drugstore or where they sell dye.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Grate half a kilo of chocolate and melt it in two liters of milk. Separately, beat 12 egg yolks together with 200 grams of powered sugar. Little by little add the milk and chocolate mixture to the eggs. Put this in a pan over a slow fire, all the while stirring. The moment it starts thickening take it off the fire before it boils and put this cream through a sieve (in the cloth they use to sift flour) and when it's cold pour it in the ice cream maker.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

A liter of milk, 20 grams of sugar, 6 egg yolks, lemon rind, and small pieces of cinnamon. Beat the sugar and eggs very, very well and mix it with the sugar. Then little by little pour the milk. Put this into a pan as in the recipe above. Cook it over a very low fire stirring constantly. When the cream is done put it through the sieve. Once it's cold pour it into the ice cream maker. To economize on eggs use a substance called ovalina, but you'll get a less refined result. About the ice cream maker, the metal container must be put in a bucket of ice. Salt the ice. Then constantly turn the ice cream maker. The liquid congeals little by little.

Laundry Bleaching Agent

Dissolve seven and a half kilos of sodium carbonate (also called Solvy Soda) in 200 liters of water. When the sodium carbonate is well dissolved, add by stirring 50 kilos of hypochloride of sodium 28Be at 15% of active chloride. Agitate the liquid well and let it stand until it clarifies. Then put it in a *demijohn. You'll then have 250 liters of lye water. This lye water is for the cold months. Dissolve seven and a half kilos of sodium carbonate in 200 liters of water. When the sodium carbonate is dissolved add by stirring 50 kilos of sodium hypochloride 22Be at 10 per cent of active chloride. Agitate and let stand until it clarifies. This is the recipe for the hot months.

If you want lye water with a fragrance, add 50 grams of ? essence in every 100 liters. You need to add the sodium hypochloride. Let it stand in a cement or a white wood vat; never use an iron one. The sodium carbonate is cheap; you can find it in a drugstore as well as the hypochloride.

You can contact the author if you would like to purchase the hard copy edition of "Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia In Correspondence: 1917-1937". or search for the book online.

*Demijohns are large, wicker-encased bottles used for storage and transport of liquids, often wine or spirits. The Italian word is damigiana.