Land of Opportunity

A quintet of Dayton’s policy makers convened in chambers on the morning of October 5, 2011, politely chitchatting as each approached his or her bench. It was an unblemished morning, indeed, as forecast by Erica Collura, WHIO’s meteorologist: the sky was piercingly blue, with mare’s tails so delicate they seemed to have been flittingly applied by a paintbrush. Pulling their chairs as polite conversation dwindled and focus fell to the day’s undertaking, each espied a packet of legislation lying before them on their desks that read “Welcome Dayton”. This was the city’s open embrace to its immigrant population, its hope to create an international marketplace by implementing the ideas of this industrious people, in addition to endowing them with other prospects. As the small Midwestern city council members pulled at the sachets’ adhesive tabs to review the slightly controversial contents within, they endeavored to announce support for an idea whose time had come.

The United States of America is a nation borne by immigrants. Our aspiring forefathers voyaged over rough seas envisioning ways to renew their lives in this land of opportunity. Upon settling, they were motivated to actualize these ideas in due time, tending the fertile land as they grew families. While their farms flourished, construction began on prairie storefronts, where surplus products could be vended for profit. In turn, this eventually led to the creation of international trade routes, calling for mass ship production. Meanwhile, as our country matured, these former immigrants continued our development by nailing rails into the earth for the sake of train travel. They erected larger municipalities, and persistently, doggedly re-invented America. In short, a valuable caveat: we are, because they were.

“When I was young, I had a dream,” confided Victor Recchia, who currently handles the reins at 49-year Calo Ristorante, found in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. “I would sit in my class in high school and think about how good my dad’s life was. He was an immigrant who came to this country at the age of 15 without speaking any English, hoping to seek a better life. To see what he and his five brothers have done! Every single one of them has done very well for himself. I was proud of [my dad].”

Victor’s father began humbly as a carryout and delivery operator, his diminutive menu focused on simple items, such as pizzas and pastas. Depending on family loyalty to promote business, he requested that his family pitch in to cultivate industry while he stirred spaghetti noodles, sautéed garlic bulbs, and tossed floury pizza dough in the kitchen of a Harlem Avenue storefront.

“My brother and I were involved from Day One. We would get picked up from pre-school and go door-to-door passing out flyers from 12:00 until 3:00.”

In the end, the family’s devoted exertions succeeded. The transporting of items from the elder Recchia’s menu proved so lucrative in his own neighborhood that he began to dream anew. Upon finding a new location aside Clark Street’s Calo Theater in 1962, he shut his first restaurant’s oven door for a final time, to realize a vision that blessedly exists still.

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