Monday, May 18, 2009

City Life

Conquering The World One Pizza At A Time
By Heather Bates

It was love at first bite. When Carmen Cascetta was 19, she had no idea that the local pizza boy would become her future husband. Antonio Cascetta was just minding his own business and making pizzas. Cascetta's younger brother Johnny wandered into the pizzeria to cause trouble. Little did he know that his mischievous behavior would lead to a lifetime of love and support.

Antonio and Carmen Cascetta came to the US as children and run
a successful family business.

Carmen Cascetta moved to the US from Cidra, Puerto Rico when she was only five years old. Her memories of her homeland have dimmed, but she has fond memories of her childhood there. Carmen remembers the small things about her native country, such as her grandfather bringing delicious loaves of bread home after church on Sunday mornings. When she moved to New York City and began building her life there, Cascetta had no idea how grateful she would be one day. Now, she is a successful wife and mother of two.

Unlike his wife, Antonio Cascetta did not move to the US until he was 12. Back in his hometown of Teggiano, Italy, Antonio “Tony” Cascetta remembers playing soccer with shoes that had metal wires attached. “Nobody would let me play,” Cascetta jokes. “They were worried that I would break the ball.” Tony also has many things to be thankful for in the United States. He owns a pizzeria in Brooklyn, not far from the home that his family shares.

When either Cascetta is asked what they like most about living in the US, the answer always returns to their two children, Adam, 24, and Krystal, 25. This year, Krystal graduates from Albany Medical College and will begin working as a resident at the Long Island Jewish Hospital. Krystal believes that is able to work toward a medical career because of the choices that were made for her parents to come to the US when they were children. Adam is also graduating from college this year, leaving New York City College of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in entertainment technology.

Tony’s Pizza Spot has hit a few rough patches recently.

Carmen Cascetta says she is very proud and excited to watch her children earn the diplomas that they worked so hard for. “That’s exactly why I say the United States is better for your children. They get to have a better education,” she says. “Of course, I’m very happy that my children were able to continue their education as far as they needed to, and I’m grateful that my daughter was able to attend medical school here in the US.”

Despite the family pride that comes from seeing their children succeed, running a family business in such tough economic times is not easy. Only a year after he moved to New York, Tony Cascetta began working for the original pizzeria owners. When his boss retired and returned to Italy, Tony and another employee took over the pizzeria as co-owners. But because of health issues, Tony’s partner gave him sole custody of the pizzeria.

While Tony’s Pizza Spot is still open, business is suffering. “Things are rough. The economy sucks,” Tony says. “When people spend their money now, they want more for less.”

Carmen says she is also affected by the economic problems. She recently lost her job as a customer service representative at Avis car rentals. Now, she is stuck trying to help her husband run the pizzeria while also looking for another job to help support her family.

“I’m directly affected by the economy. For example, losing my job and not knowing when I’m going to have another one, and losing all my medical benefits, which is the most important thing at my age,” Carmen says. But she says, “The US is the best place to raise children due to the better schools, health care, arts, et cetera. In Puerto Rico, it’s a harder way of life and jobs are scarce.”

Recent economic hardships have not stopped them from keeping their business alive and watching as Adam and Krystal move on to build their careers. “It’s what I worked for,” Tony says. “To give opportunities to my children that I didn’t have when I was their age. I feel very proud of both of them achieving their goals, and I’m sure that they will be very successful in whatever they do.”

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