by Nicholas Dello Russo
This picture of Hotel Rome in North Square is from around 1900 and calls to mind some interesting local history.
In the lower left hand corner you can see the Stabile Bank which was a prominent Italian American bank with branches in the North End and Mulberry St. New York. The former New York City branch now houses the Museum of Italian American History. The Stabile Bank was taken over by the Shawmut Bank during the Depression and when I was a child was located on the corner of Parmenter and Salem Sts.
Just beyond that is a small market with the name G. Ferullo on the outside. The Ferullo family has been prominent in the North End since the earliest days of Italian immigration and some family members still live here and are active in the community.
Of course, the most prominent feature in the photo is the Hotel Rome which was the most famous Italian hotel in Boston. According to my family’s oral tradition, the hotel was owned at one time by my grandfather’s uncle, Alessandro Onesti. Sandro was a real local character. My grandmother, Colomba, described him as an impresario who squired around show girls, wore spats and carried an ebony cane with a solid gold crown. Apparently Enrico Caruso enjoyed eating at the hotel when he came to Boston with the Metropolitan Opera because it was one of the few places where he could get his beloved Neapolitan food especially bucatini alla Caruso and bistecca alla pizzaiola.
Nonna Colomba worked as a chamber maid in the hotel and, when she got pregnant by Sandro’s nephew Vito, got married at Sacred Heart Church. When Sandro got sick Nonna nursed him and the expectation was he would leave the hotel to my grandparents when he died. Well, that’s just what happened except they found out the hotel was heavily in debt and had to be sold. Sandro apparently had a love of fast women and slow horses. So, instead of becoming a rich hotelier my grandfather became a barber and raised eight children at 56 Prince St, in the back of the building.
There are thousands of stories like this from the North End.
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