essex commissioners celebrate italian heritage month

(Newark, NJ) – On Thursday, October 5, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its annual Italian Heritage Month celebration. This event is held yearly to celebrate the accomplishments of men and women of Italian heritage everywhere, and honor outstanding Essex County citizens for their unique contributions to our county and society as a whole.

This year, the Board recognized Richard Vallario, Esq., Livingston attorney and community leader; Giuseppe Joseph Ottaiano, owner of Calabria Restaurant and Pizzeria; the Very Rev. Father Thomas D. Nicastro, pastor at St. Mary’s Church of Nutley; and the Nutley Belleville Columbus Day Parade and Italian Heritage Committee represented by Chair Edie Peters Liguori.

“Today, we celebrate Italian heritage, culture, and the contributions of some of our finest Essex County residents of Italian descent,” said Commissioner Leonard Luciano. “As an Italian-American, I am proud to take part in tonight’s ceremony. We salute all of our honorees for their tremendous efforts – we have all benefitted as a community because of your contributions. Thank you for all you do and congratulations.”

“I am honored to be here alongside my Commissioner colleagues to celebrate Italian Heritage, and recognize the achievements of a few members of the Italian-American community here in Essex County,” added Commissioner Brendan Gill. “Tonight, we are thrilled to honor Italian-Americans who have worked hard, are successful and – most importantly – have given back to their communities.”

Musical entertainment was provided by Dylan Wyka, and opening and closing prayers were offered by Father Nicastro.

Watch a recording of the event here. See more pictures of the event here.



Richard W. Vallario, Esq., presented by Commissioner Pat Sebold, was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey.  He is a lifelong resident of Essex County. He graduated from Essex Catholic High School, Seton Hall University, and University of Virginia Law School. Mr. Vallario has been married to Cynthia Waller Vallario for 49 years. During his legal career, he worked as an Associate at Schwartz, Fielo & D’Alessio in Belleville, New Jersey. He was a Partner at Cherry, Petrie & Vallario in Totowa, New Jersey. He was also Of Counsel at DiBiasi & Rinaldi in Nutley, New Jersey. Mr. Vallario has held several public positions. He has been a member and Chair of the Livingston Zoning Board, the Municipal Judge of Livingston, the Attorney of the Livingston Planning Board, the Attorney of the Livingston Zoning Board, and the Securities Arbitrator (Public and Industry claims) FINRA. He is also a member and past President of Livingston UNICO.

Giuesppe Joseph Ottaiano, presented by Commissioner Gill, is the owner of Calabria Bar and Pizzeria in Livingston. As a teen at Newark’s Barringer High School he worked at Frank’s Pizzeria, where he developed a love and passion for the pizza and restaurant business. Joseph and his beautiful wife Judy have been married 42 years, with 3 children and 6 grandchildren, and a 7th on the way. Joseph and his brother Dino started Calabria Restaurant and Pizzeria 35 years ago, moving to the current location in 1991. His homemade food comes from recipes inspired by his mother’s cooking. The establishment is known for its food, comfortable environment, and courteous service. It has been used as a location for various television shows like CBS’s Tony Tantillo Dining Deal, Housewives of NJ, TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress and ABC’s What Would You Do?, to name a few. Joseph Ottaiano and the restaurant are known for being very charitable and have supported many local charities included but not limited to the Livingston Fire Department, Kiwanis, St. Barnabas Medical Center, Newark Academy and the entire Livingston School system.

The Very Rev. Thomas D. Nicastro, V.F., M.Div., presented by Commissioner Luciano, was born on February 8, 1961, in Newark, New Jersey. He was a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier Church, and attended Essex Catholic High School in Newark, graduating in 1979 with honors in religion. The Rev. Nicastro attended Seton Hall University and the College of Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, receiving a B.A. in modern languages. He completed his theological studies for the Roman Catholic priesthood on May 22, 1989, receiving Master of Divinity degree in Pastoral ministry from Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange. Thomas was ordained a transitional deacon in 1989, and ordained to the sacred priesthood in 1990, for service in the Bridgeport Diocese. In 2003, the Rev. Nicastro was released to serve in the Archdiocese of Newark, and in 2008 he was incardinated there. He has since served in various parishes in the Archdiocese. In 2020, he became the administrator of St. Mary’s, Nutley and in 2021 was installed as the 14th Pastor of St. Mary’s. He has also served as Chaplain for a wide range of organizations: the Belleville Police Department, the St. Mary's Council Knights of Columbus (2011), the Nutley P.B.A., Nutley Police Department (2012), the West Essex Chapter of UNICO National, the Federation of Italian American Societies of New Jersey, the St. Gerard Men's Society and Ladies Guild of Newark, the Columbian Foundation, and the Rosary prayer group of North Caldwell. In August 2023, Father Nicastro was appointed to a five-year term as Dean of Deanery 16, (Vicar Forane), receiving the title Very Reverend. On December 9, he will be knighted in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, Prince of Venice and Piedmont.

The Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade and Italian Heritage Committee, presented by Commissioner Luciano, was born out of a community spirit that encompassed the local Italian Americans living in Nutley and Belleville. Back in the early 1980's the parade committee was founded by Belleville resident Vincent "Jimmy" Donadia and Nutley resident John V. Kelly. Now in its 36th year, the parade continues to grow with each year improving on the last while at the same time holding on to the vision inspired by the original founders. Also acknowledged were the 2023 Parade Honorees: Cavalieres Maria and Vincenzo DiPaolo – Grand Marshals; Elisabetta Calello – Lifetime Achievement Award; Dennis A. Genuario – Italian Heritage Award; Renee Friscia Cahill (State Farm Insurance) – Italian Business Leader of the Year; Daniel A. Carnicella – Nutley Italian Man of the Year; Linda Monterosa – Nutley Italian Woman of the Year; Peter E Caggiano – Belleville Italian Man of the Year; Frances H. Bacardi – Belleville Italian Woman of the Year; Charla Macaluso – Renaissance Man; Cavaliere Eric J. Lavin – Renaissance Man; and Matthew Tyahla – Community Excellence Award.

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Adam Tucker, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
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