Friends, family, and community leaders gathered on the hottest day of the year in Williamsburg last week to dedicate a street corner in honor of the late Cono D’Alto, longtime owner of the Mamma Maria Salumeria.
Councilmember Diana Reyna and her staff joined D’Alto’s family at the event, which was characterized as a protest after the city rejected an application to rename the street corner of Conselyea and Graham Streets “Cono D’Alto Corner,” despite numerous efforts.
Reyna could not attend the event, but delivered a statement paying tribute to D’Alto.“This city is defined by our local communities. As New Yorkers, we cannot forget the citizens that have made a difference in our lives and our neighborhoods,” read Reyna’s statement. “Williamsburg will not forget Cono D’Alto as a loving neighbor, entrepreneur, veteran, and family man. Renaming the corner of Conselyea and Graham after Cono D’Alto is but one way the Williamsburg community has decided to honor his memory.”
Since D’Alto’s passing in 2009, family members and neighbors have worked diligently to get the city to rename the corner that formerly hosted Mamma Maria Salumeria, a neighborhood institution famous for its homemade pasta and mozzarella. With the help of Reyna’s office, D’Alto’s family received close to one thousand signatures from residents and letters of support from community leaders in favor of renaming the street corner. They submitted the necessary paperwork to the City Council, but their efforts were for naught, as the Council ultimately decided against the renaming.
“Every time we did something and submitted it to the City Council, they came back with a different criteria, something different that had to be done,” said Mike Chirichella, D’Alto’s nephew. “They were being completely unreasonable about it to the point where they just didn’t want to rename it. I don’t know if it’s a political thing, I have no idea.”
Both Chirichella and Reyna’s office decided that they would name the street corner after D’Alto with or without Council approval. The ceremony lasted approximately forty-five minutes in the sweltering heat, as roughly 140 community members came to honor a staple of the neighborhood. Speakers included Chirichella, Cono’s cousin, Tom D’Alto, and District Leader Lincoln Restler.
Tom D’Alto remembered his cousin as a man who always kept the door of his deli open to the neighborhood, and was known for his effervescent, generous spirit.“He had an open house for firemen, policemen to get a sandwich, after 9/11 he fed many units,” said D’Alto. “It was a gathering place where people would come in, have a bite to eat, have a conversation; it was a warm and generous place and those are the attributes that Cono had.”
And while an unbelievable heat wave swept through Brooklyn that day, Chirichella said the hot weather was barely a factor as the neighborhood came out in droves to pay their respects to D’Alto.
“In 100-degree weather we stood there that day in solidarity to protest the City Council and them not naming the street,” said Chirichella. “Cono D’Alto was a leader in this community and he was recognized as such by police chiefs, policemen, the clergy, and district leaders who felt inclined to be there that day.”
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