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Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Bernadette Tarantino Named "Italian American of the Year" 2022

Saturday, November 5th, 2022, San Diego, CA-

Bernadette Tarantino was named "Italian American of the Year" for 2022. The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA) Fratellanza Garibaldina Lodge #1627 honored her and presented her with a plaque at the organization's 90th Anniversary Dinner Dance in San Diego on Saturday, November 5th.

For more than 40 years, Bernadette Tarantino has worked in sales for her family business, Tarantino Wholesale Foods-curating and distributing a fine selection of products-especially the delicious sausages the family name has become known for locally and abroad. But we do not honor Bernadette merely for her work ethic and for keeping familial business traditions-although that would be enough. Bernadette has also tirelessly given back to her beloved San Diego community for decades, most notably through her involvement with Saint Patrick's Day celebrations; the La Mesa, Ocean Beach, and Encinitas versions of Oktoberfest; Balboa Park's December Nights; ArtWalk; the Ocean Beach Street Fair; the Little Italy Festa; and the Sicilian Festa. Through these initiatives, Bernadette has been intimately involved as a participant, producer, and supporter-spending countless hours in their creation and organization.

Bernadette was born in Little Italy and lived on Union Street. Her father, Pete, a fisherman, hailed form Palermo; her mother, Nona, a war bride from London. In 1960, Pete would stop fishing and begin his foray into the meat business. Bernadette graduated from Our Lady of the Rosary High School in 1969 and would soon follow in her father's footsteps to help the family business to prosper.

Today, you can find Tarantino sausages at Petco Park and at Snapdragon Stadium along with other Tarantino products at Costco, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's. Business is certainly booming, and thanks to Bernadette and her siblings, the Tarantino name has ensured a long-standing family tradition and will continue to thrive through new family generations at the helm.

In San Diego's Italian community, Bernadette first started volunteering for the Columbus Day Parade with Victor Tallarida, founder of the United Italian American Association. Since then, she has also served as a member and supporter of many San Diego-based Italian clubs: Sons of Italy (now Sons and Daughters of Italy), Italian American Civic Association, UNICO, House of Italy, Italian Catholic Federation, and Convivio, to name many.

In perpetuating the tradition of the Little Italy Sicilian Festa, which began in 1994 under the direction of longtime Little Italy entrepreneur/baker Mario Cefalu, Bernadette took the reins in 1996. Through her festival work, she was instrumental in highlighting San Diego's rich and vibrant Sicilian heritage, folklore, and food. For the next 20 years, Bernadette would lead her dedicated team of volunteers to develop a Sicilian festival that would garner national recognition and acclaim. The festival brought together many clubs and organizations that participated in presenting Sicilian cultural elements. A historical display of San Diego's fishing community was part of the annual event, and it helped to bring awareness to the vital role our Sicilian community played in this world-renowned industry. And next year, Bernadette's dream is to bring back the grand tradition of the Sicilian Festa in San Diego.

To Bernadette, family is everything. She credits her success to the life lessons and support of her loving parents; her brothers, Pete and Mark; her sister, Tina; her loving husband, Mike; and her son, Jesse. And lest we forget her precious pups: Angus, Bugsy, and Luigi!

-from the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Fratellanza Garibaldina Lodge #1627

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