USO Worker had courage to gamble
with marriage and new business
by Elinor J. Brecher 17 September 1995
In 1946, Dominick Zecchino and his brothers got a telegram in Queens (NY) from relatives in Italy. Someone should come quickly; their mother was dying.
Herald Staff Writer
Dominick arrived in the southern town of Conversano too late. But Zecchino, an Army veteran of the Pacific Theater who’d been discharged the previous year, decided to stay a few weeks in the land of his birth.
One day, headed for the PX at nearby Bari, he passed a USO office and glimpsed Emilia Lorusso.
She’d been working there since the American invasion in 1944. Her father was a prisoner of war in North Africa, where the family had lived for several years.
She was 18 when they met, and “before you know, we were in love. His visa was only three months… but there was a law that the GIs could call for their girlfriends where they were, and we could come in as war brides.”
Now, you wouldn’t think it to look at her, but Emily [Emilia] Zecchino is a gambler: In September 1947, she took the gamble of her life and boarded the USS Saturn for the United States.
“I was scared,” she admits, “I was in a panic, and thought I made a big mistake… The first day on the boat, I cried a lot. I wanted to go home.”
Two weeks later, the Saturn steamed into New York Harbor. Only one sight thrilled Emilia more than the Statue of Liberty: Dominick Zecchino on the dock.
They married and opened a grocery store in Flushing, N.Y. First came two sons and then a daughter. But Dominick, plagued by wartime health problems, died in 1972, after 24 years of marriage.
“We were supposed to move here to Florida. He never made it, but I liked it… So by myself, I started a restaurant in Hollywood: Trevi’s. I sold that and bought one in Fort Lauderdale: Amalfi.
“In 1982, with a $1,000 investment, I rented a commercial kitchen for catering and slowly but surely the business grew.”
The business in now Holiday Foods of Hollywood, employing 125.
Holiday produces canapés and hors d’oeuvres for many of South Florida’s better hotels and country clubs. Zecchino, her daughter and younger son run it together. They’ve recently added a retail line and a catalog business.
“I got a $275,000 [Small Business Administration] loan six years ago,” she explains. “I was already 60. Then I got another $300,000 loan. It can only happen in America.”
Dominick could never have imagined such a thing, she’s sure. “He was a lot more cautious. I take risks.”
Recently, Zecchino taped a segment for a Robin Leach cable show called The Best of Modern Cuisine. She’s also advertising on the Internet.
“This is the United States,” she says. “You have these opportunities.”
[You can visit her website at http://www.onlyinamericamemoir.com]