SANT’AGATA DE’ GOTI, Italy, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- More than 100 years after his grandfather left Italy for America, Sant'Agata de' Goti residents celebrate the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York.
Pictures of de Blasio and his family are tacked on walls; campaign posters rest in shop windows; American flags hang from balconies, The New York Times reported Thursday. City officials will anoint de Blasio an honorary citizen and even a hazelnut-and-white-chocolate-filled sponge cake has been named in his honor.
Born Warren Wilhelm Jr. to an Italian-American mother and a German-American father, the Big Apple's mayor-elect affirmed his Italian heritage as an adolescent. His father struggled with alcohol, left the family and eventually killed himself. De Blasio began using his mother's maiden name, de Blasio.
De Blasio told the Times his Italian roots grounded him at a difficult time.
"There was a strength, a warmth, a coherence in my mother's family that was sort of the obvious antidote to me to what I was experiencing in the foreground of my life," he said.
He said "suddenly this world opened up to me" after he visited Sant'Agata de' Goti in the mid-1970s as a teen.
"There's this whole other part of life that I had not understood," de Blasio said, "and it just rushed into my brain, and it was very compelling, it was very reinforcing, it was very reassuring."
Northeast of Naples Sant'Agata de' Goti, population about 11,000, has fallen on hard economic times.
"It's redemption for the entire village," Domenico Lingelli, 33, owner of Bar Normanno, said of de Blasio's successful mayoral bid.
"So many people have left here now scorn us," Lingelli said. "He proved that great minds originally come from this small village, too."
Some residents told the Times they'll be in New York to witness de Blasio's inauguration on Jan. 1.
"He made the American dream come true," Mayor Carmine Valentino said. "But he didn't forget his roots. It's a message of hope for us all."