In this month’s Personality Profile, Ciao Pittsburgh chatted with Pittsburgh native Corrado Riccelli. Born and raised in the small town of Sharpsburg, PA, Corrado grew up during a time when that town was primarily populated by Italian immigrants and first generation Italian-Americans. Growing up, Corrado was surrounded by many Italian-Americans—‘compare’ of the family as well as his aunts and uncles. In fact, he spoke Italian before he learned to speak English. Today, Corrado has been married for 14 years to his wife Sabrina. They currently live with their two daughters, Isabella and Sofia, in Shaler. Corrado was kind enough to respond to some of our questions about his Pittsburgh roots, his career as a medical sales representative as well as his Italian heritage.
CP: First, tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and what you do for a living.
Corrado: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh in a small town called Sharpsburg to Italian immigrant parents who were from Calabria, Italy. My mother Rita (Posa) is from Amantea and my father, Salvatore, was from Catanzaro. I was raised by my mother and my stepfather Carlo Lista who was from Naples, Italy. I currently work as a medical sales representative.
CP: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Corrado: I find my current career extremely rewarding. One aspect of my position is to work with products that aid in improving the development of neonatal babies. To earn a living and assist in saving the most precious of lives is a blessing.
CP: Can you tell us about your Italian heritage?
Corrado: I feel that my heritage is very much my identity. I was brought up in a house with not just my parents but also my grandparents, Antonio and Filomena Posa. It was like having four parents and my heritage was embedded in me on day one. We lived, breathed, ate, spoke and lived Italian. My fondest memory was my grandmother and my mother making homemade pasta and bread while listening to Sal Patitucci on the Italian radio station. Another fond memory was my Nanna in the garden nurturing her tomatoes.
CP: What are some of your favorite Italian traditions and why?
Corrado: I have several: having Sunday dinner with pasta, tomato salad, and wine; making homemade vino with my best friends; making Soppressata, sausage, and homemade Limoncello; jarring tomatoes and peppers with my wife and parents. Making it yourself and taking pride in everything you make has always been my favorite tradition. I feel like my Nanna is looking down from heaven happy that I am continuing what she taught me and what I will pass along to my children. Also, of course, Christmas Eve dinner of the 7 fishes is another favorite tradition. It’s not Natale without Baccala!
CP: What does being Italian mean to you?
Corrado: I don’t mean to say this to be arrogant—but I feel like being Italian is the only nationality people would like to be. If asked what nationality I am, the conversation inevitably leads into—“What was it like growing up? Do you have a lot of cousins? Did your mom make this or that? Was your family in the Mafia? How do you say this or that in Italian?” I don’t think this happens often with other nationalities. It’s comical at times but I’m so proud to be Italian. I wave the flag where and when I can.
CP: What accomplishments in life are you most proud of?
Corrado: Being a good father, husband and son. It wasn’t easy growing up and not having much, but I always felt rich with all the love that was provided to me. So now being able to be a good provider to my family and making sure my mother is happy is what makes me most proud.
CP: Who in your life has inspired you the most?
Corrado: My Nanna and my mother. My grandmother raised 10 kids and then was also a 2nd mother to all of my cousins because she was so caring and giving. My mom also showed me to always keep going and to strive and persevere. Even though there were tough times, she kept on going because she always said that thing will get better. Today, my parents’ house is always filled with family and friends and they’re always entertaining and helping others.
CP: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Corrado: Playing soccer, softball, and tennis with my kids. Watching every minute of the Steelers season with my cousin, Mark Sciullo. Watching Italy in the Euro Cup this summer. Going to the Strip every Saturday morning and making my rounds talking to all the vendors, shopping and having espresso at La Prima. Making homemade wine as well or simply just hanging out with friends is another hobby I enjoy.
CP: What else would you like our readers to know about you that I did not ask?
Corrado: I am extremely proud of being an Italian-American and the key word is American. I became the man I am today due to where I came from and what was instilled in me throughout my life. I was able to accomplish many things because my family had the guts to work hard and raised their kids in the greatest country in the world. They made the sacrifice so I could have a better life. Their legacy will be the success of my children and future generations who carry vowels at the end of their last names.