Luigi Rossi, owner of E. Rossi & Co. in Little Italy, died Saturday of kidney failure. He was 95 years old.
Rossi was born in New York on December 18, 1910. He was one of the last links to New York City’s once vibrant Italian-American music scene, especially the Neapolitan art song tradition.
His father Ernesto, an immigrant from Naples, opened a store at 187 Grand Street circa 1910 selling piano rolls, sheet music, and records. Around 1930, the store moved to 191 Grand Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street. Luigi took over his father’s store when Ernesto died in May 1940.
E. Rossi & Co. was also a publisher of sheet music and other material and holds the copyright of important songs in the Neapolitan repertoire such as “Senza Mamma e Nnammurato” (recorded by Jimmy Rosselli), “A cartulina ‘e Napule” (made famous by Gilda Mignonette), and “Comm’e Bella a Stagione” (recorded by Connie Francis), among others.
Rossi maintained contacts with the music world in Naples up until very recently. After World War II, E. Rossi & Co. increasingly became a purveyor of imported goods such as religious items, Nativity crèche figures, and kitchen supplies. It also began to sell novelty items with Italian-American themes such as T-shirt, button, and key chains.
In January 2006, after 75 years at 191 Grand Street, the corner store closed due to increased rent and moved to nearby 193 Grand Street. The closing of the old store was documented in Veronica Diaferia’s “Closing Time: Storia di un negozio.”
Rossi will be buried September 12th at Greenwood Cemetery.
Obituary by Joseph Sciorra, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College
Photo credit: John E.Rossi.