A Taste of the Old Country in a Changing Neighborhood

by Rachel Sapin Name a corner on Carroll Gardens in South Brooklyn and Joe Igneri has probably hung out there.

The 50-year-old Carroll Gardens native has lived on these blocks his entire life. On a small stretch of Henry Street, he now manages the Pozzallo Society, one of the oldest organizations of its kind for Italians in Brooklyn. In its heyday during the mid-1950s and ’60s, the Pozzallo Society had around 500 members. Its numbers have dwindled to a little more than 200 today.

But the culture from the sandy shores of the Sicilian province of Pozzallo is preserved in the card games and the espressos in the society’s long, wood-paneled room. This is what Igneri strives to keep going in a changing neighborhood. Luckily, he has the help of newer residents, like 30-year-old Ryan Lucas who owns a cafe next door. While Lucas hasn’t won the men of Pozzallo over to his artisanal coffee, he still looks up to these remaining Italian stalwarts and wants them to stick around.