Robert Lanni – Researcher / Curator / Editor
I am a researcher, artifact curator and editor at Italian-Americans.com. I hold a BSBA.CIS degree from Thomas Edison State University. My I.T. skills and data science experience have become priceless assets for historical research as data mining techniques allow me to locate and review original source documents, historical indexes, multimedia archives and more from around the world. The result is this research and editorial publication. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding this website.
About my Family
All four of my Grandparents emigrated from southern Italy in the first decade of the 20th century. None of them knew each other. Only my maternal grandmother, 12 year old Maria, arrived with family. The other three each made their journey to America alone. The oldest of the four was my paternal grandfather, Fortunato Lanni. He arrived at Ellis Island on his 20th birthday. This was September 7, 1903 and the steamship he traveled over on was called the SS Ravenna. According to immigration records, he arrived with $12 to his name.
They each hailed from various villages in southern Italy. Fortunato’s occupation was listed as laborer/goat-herder. His hometown had no electricity or indoor plumbing. My other three grandparents came from the same level of modesty. Their humbleness, work ethic and dedication to family would shape my mother and father into what I grew up to see them as: Completely selfless, modest, hardworking, frugal with most things, yet extremely generous where it truly mattered. That generosity focused on raising my 4 siblings and me in a modest home in a town in New Jersey that had a good public school system. Their ultimate goal was for all of their children to receive the best education possible, and to go on to lead healthy and fruitful lives.
My parents accomplished this thanks to a hard-earned education. My father served in World War 2, and earned his college degree through the GI Bill. My mother waited tables at the family restaurant while she attended Jersey City State Teacher College. They were the first college graduates in our family history, and that was ticket that helped our family flourish. My siblings and I were then able to earn an excellent education.
My paternal grandparents passed away ages ago – my Dad’s mother, Teresa, died in 1928, when my father was only 9 years old. Fortunato passed in 1954 – he was lucky enough to see that his four sons survived the world war and made it back home to Jersey City. I doubt that either Fortunato or Teresa could have ever conceived of a world where their grandchildren would go on to thrive so well.
My maternal grandparents were an incredible success story. They had grade-school level educations, but their natural intelligence, street smarts and acute business savvy made them highly successful restauranteurs. They worked countless hours and their flagship restaurant, the Casa Maria, was a huge success from the pre-war years through to their retirement in the 1960s. My mother and her sisters worked side-by-side serving customers, clearing tables, and preparing plates while my Grandmother cooked food & my grandfather greeted guests. My Mom and my Aunts studied for their classes while customers dined.
Their history made an indelible impression on me. At the end of my days, I want to look back at my life knowing that I was the best father and provider I could possibly have been. If I did my job right, my children will carry on leading good and healthy lives, and will contribute to society in a positive way. That is the legacy I carry forward from my ancestors and hope to pass to my descendants.