NUTLEY, NJ - The Nutley Board of Commissioners presented two proclamations during the Tuesday, Dec. 17 public meeting. Commissioners Steven L. Rogers and Mauro G. Tucci were absent excused.
A proclamation was given to Nutley Unico for their 60 years of service. Mayor and Public Works Commissioner Joseph P. Scarpelli and Commissioners Thomas J. Evans and Alphonse Petracco, also members, each took turns reading the proclamation.
In 1953, a group of Italian Americans formed the Columbus Civic Club of Nutley which became Nutley Unico. The organization was officially chartered on Oct. 10, 1959 as part of the national organization.
Requirements for the Nutley organization include, members should be of Italian ancestry; committed to preserving the Italian heritage and ethnicity; and committed to provide a better quality of life for those in need locally and nationally.
Nutley Unico, one of the largest chapters in the nation was recognized as a model chapter in 2002. Their motto is “Service Above Self.” Nutley Unico celebrated their anniversary with a dinner on Oct. 10.
The Nutley organization has donated $30,000 a year in scholarships to Nutley students and has contributed more than $15,000 to national and local causes including MS research, autism awareness, prostate cancer research, Nutley’s Special Young Adults, Nutley Public Library, Nutley Thriving Survivors, the Jimmy V Fund and Cooley’s Anemia. The chapter has made a commitment to education in support of Italian studies chairs at universities including Seton Hall, Montclair State, and Stony Brook. The chapter also donated to the National Earthquake Relief Fund in Italy, Twin Towers 9-11 Fund and Unico National scholarships.
Lorraine Bini Kucinski, president of Nutley Unico thanked the commissioners for the recognition and the members for keeping to their motto “Service Above Self.”
A proclamation was also given to the Agostino family of Agostino’s Food Market “Rocky’s” at 632 Passaic Ave., for their service to their customers and the Nutley community. Rocco Agostino, 78, recently retired. He was in the hospital due to an infection and unable to attend the meeting.
The market, owned by Rocco and Barbara Agostino, was opened in 1967 by Al and Rose Bissell under its original name Bissel’s Food Market. Most of the food and merchandise was distributed by Filligree Foods in Totowa. Rocco Agostino was also a butcher and offered fresh cut meat for his customers.
Agostino’s sold cold cuts, milk, soda, vegetables, bread, canned goods, paper products, newspapers, magazines and greeting cards as well as coffee. The store expanded into the back of the building in the 1980s taking over the space of Tom the Barber. The New Jersey Lottery was added to the store in the 1990s. In the 2000s, the Agostinos kept the market open seven days a week. Agostino’s market delivered to the residents by truck or through neighborhood children on bicycles.
Scarpelli read a text from Tom Greco of Nutley, who grew up near the store. “If you ask anyone who grew up in the Yantacaw section of town, if they ever heard of Agostini’s deli, most would probably say no, but if you ask if they heard of Rocky’s, well, then everyone would smile widely and say ‘of course.’ There are certain words that you hear that automatically bring you back to your childhood. For our neighborhood, Rocky’s is one of those words. […] Rocky always had the best candy.” The text went on to say that if a group of kids went in there to buy candy and one kid was short he would make sure that kid had the same as the rest. Greco also said, “Rocky was our Mr. Gower from ‘It's a Wonderful Life.’”
Commissioner Evans also lives in the area of Agostino’s market. “I’ve been going to Rocky’s for many, many years,” he said. Evans would stop there on his way to New York and his kids also bought candy at the store. Evans said he would always talk to him about lottery tickets. He also said he enjoyed the coffee.
Commissioner Petracco said he started visiting Agostino’s at age 17. He said he first met Agostino after having a car accident on the icy Passaic Avenue during a storm and discovered Agostino knew his father.
Residents in the neighborhood of Agostino’s approached the podium to share their stories about “Rocky’s” market. Red Wilson said Agostino started as a manager of the Acme supermarkets. Wilson said if Agostino was closing up and saw someone coming in, he would let them in. Wilson was one of the residents that petitioned the commissioners for the proclamation.
Scarpelli said he would make sure that Agostino receives the proclamation.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2.
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