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It looks like the old United Italian American Societies land in Port Washington is finally being put to good use. The property is at 115 Main Street, directly across the street from the movie theater. It was recently converted from a restaurant to a commercial office for The Chase Bank. For many years the property and buildings housed restaurants from Mamma Leone to the most recent Baxter Grill. There is even talk that about seven years ago, a notorious Sicilian gangster was arrested by the FBI in this property and was later deported back to Italy.

The truth is that the United Italian American Societies was composed of several Italian organizations, including the Italian American Social Club, John Michael Marino Lodge #1389, Order Sons of Italy in America, Italian Mutual Aid Society and the Inchnusa (Sardinian) Society. Together they owned the property and constructed a building in 1949 (Port Washington News, April 8, 1949). The building was originally used for meetings and social functions. The Sons of Italy Lodge chartered on Nov. 25, 1925, is the only group that survived all these years. They run the annual Grande Festa Italiana at Hempstead Harbor Beach.

The Villa Nova House, as they called it, served the groups' social needs through the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, due to excessive property taxes, the groups could not continue to maintain the building. The Villa Nova House management looked for rental income and they were forced to move out and rent the property to restaurateurs. Mamma Leone, for those who don't remember, was a major tourist attraction on 42nd Street in Manhattan for many years; the same family ran the Port Washington restaurant.

It was John Dettori, 1902-1953, who spearheaded the construction of the Villa Nova House in 1949. He was the father of Jean Dettori Scaramucci and father-in-law of Orlando (Scauri), both deceased. John Dettori was a member of the Sardinian Community and a major factor at uniting the various groups and we all know how difficult that can be for Italians. John was also a member of some of the other groups including the John Michael Marino Lodge.

Unfortunately, after the infamous sale of the property to the Sicilian investor, Villa Nova was demolished and the present building, now housing The Chase Bank, was constructed in 1991. Somehow, someone, probably Orlando Scaramucci, saw fit to install a permanent marker to record the efforts of John Dettori who united the Italians of Port Washington at the Villa Nova House. A stone monument situated in back of the building, at the tip of the northwest corner of the property reads:

John Dettori

May 1902-March 1953

Dedicated to the unselfish achievements as officer of the

John Michael Marino Lodge #1389

Order Sons of Italy in America

115 Main Street, Port Washington, NY

It appears that there is some room here for the John Michael Marino Lodge to pick up Scauri's initiative and arrange for placing the plaque in a more prominent location.

Leo Cimini


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