First Woman Named Italian-American of the Year at St. Liberata Festival

Grace Rizzi-Gallipoli, 87, received the honor at Patchogue festival on Saturday, September 7th.

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On September 7, Supervisor Ed Romaine (right) and Councilman Neil Foley (left) honored Grace Rizzi-Gallipoli (center) for being named “Italian American of the Year” at the annual Italian Feast of Saint Liberata in Patchogue. Photo: Town of Brookhaven.

History was made during the 52nd annual celebration of the Patchogue Italian Feast of Saint Liberata on Saturday, September 7th when 87-year-old Grace Rizzi-Gallipoli was named as their first female Italian-American of the year.


According to an announcement released by the organization, Rizzi-Gallipoli was born on February 13, 1932 in Montescaglioso, a small town in the Basilicata region of Italy, the oldest of her seven siblings. She left school in 6th grade to help her mother around the home and work as a seamstress. The family grew olives, figs, and grapes on a farm located on the outskirts of their town.


The family had connections to Patchgue early on. Rizzi-Gallipoli’s uncle Luigi lived there. She met her husband Nicola (Nick) Gallipoli in Italy and they eventually moved to Waverly Avenue in Patchogue. The couple achieved the American Dream when Gallipoli opened his own business, Grace Iron Works. Sadly, Rizzi-Gallipoli lost her husband in 1992 but she remained the foundation for her large family every day since then.


The celebration consisted of honors, the traditional parade of the statue of Saint Liberata, and an annual bocce ball tournament. Other family-friendly festivities included children's karaoke, a magician, dunk tank, bounce houses, a zeppole eating contest and live entertainment. And of course, a large feast all along Main Street in Patchogue. The Patchogue Italian Feast of St. Liberata was first celebrated in 1923.