Silver Lake was the nucleus of Belleville's Italian-American community. It has been
said, in reference to the decades-long problem of flooding in the section, that Silver
Lake is akin to Venice or that the Silver Lake of old continually tries to make a
reappearance. Flooding, however, has not deterred the residents from building a strong
community with a pronounced Italian flavor.
The Saint Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church has held an annual Feast of Saint
Bartholomew in August. Services at the Silver Lake Baptist Church were originally in
Italian. There were two macaroni factories-Davella's and Fiscella's-on Heckel Street.
A nationally known fireworks firm now based in South Jersey was started in Silver Lake
by Rocco Zarillo. Streets named Rocco, Cuozzo, Florence, and Naples reflect the
area's ethnic orientation.
Silver Lake has produced a number of celebrities. In the world of boxing, brothers
Joseph and Vincent Dundee (originally Lazzaro) were welterweight and middleweight
champions, respectively, in the 1930s. Musical entertainers have included
country-music singer Joe Montana Zecca, troubadour Nick Lucas, and Four Seasons
member Tom DeVita.
The Silver Lake Baptist Church began as the First Italian Baptist Church of Silver Lake
in 1914. Starting out as a mission church, it became self-supporting in 1929. One man,
the Rev. Benedetto Pascale, served as the church's pastor for its first seventy-one years.
Another Italian church began in 1920 at meetings in the home of the D'Angelo family on
Clinton Street. Becoming the Belleville Assembly of God, the congregants met at
various times in locations on Union Avenue and William Street before building their
present church on Holmes Street in 1950.
From 1933 until his death in 1980, the Rev. Joseph Grinnelli served as pastor of the
Christian Apostolic Church. This Italian congregation began in a house in Bloomfield
and then moved to Wallace Street in Belleville.
|Return to the Belleville Home Page||Return to the Belleville History Home Page|