ON A LATE summer’s day in New York City, I walked down SoHo’s Jersey Street alley, a shadowy strip between bustling streets that feels like a portal to another world. Though I knew my destination, a cavernous former restaurant, I was enchanted by what I found behind the venue’s dusty glass doors: the soaring sound of opera, heaping bowls of oranges and Italian wedding cookies, flickering candles, and a display of sartorial yet street-smart clothes. In the midst of pinstripe sets with exaggerated collars, sumptuous knit polos, and satin bombers, I spotted the man of the hour: Chef Mario Carbone.
With slicked-back hair and a gold signet pinky ring, he began speaking about the pieces around us — a special 19-piece collection named Our Lady of Rocco, created in partnership with fashion label La Ligne. “The collection is inspired by the clothes my father and uncles used to wear in the 1980s,” he told me. Wearing the Baker’s Pant, he fondly shared, “They’d wear white because they were working with flour all day.”
As “O Mio Babbino Caro” filled the hall, Carbone went on to discuss the beauty and power in cultural diasporas, while also noting the inherent losses and transformations that occur naturally with time — of cuisine, of tradition, of style. The collection is essentially a love letter to Italian-American culture, a means of preserving its spirit and invention.
The story behind Our Lady of Rocco deeply resonates with me because it is also my own. With an Italian-American father, I grew up in households where it was never prosciutto, it was prosciut’, and never mozzarella but muzzarel’. My grandfather (Val Mancini — the name!) grew up in a tenement down the street from where I live in the East Village, where he ate meatballs and played with kids from the block. Thus, the world of Italian Americanism is, to me, a place of intimate folklore and nostalgia.
I now have a set of my own from the collection: the effortlessly cool maroon and navy Track Jacket and Track Pant. The pieces have delicate, silky spun piping and an embroidered cameo logo. I can wear the collar popped like a don over a black turtleneck or a white ribbed tank. I can alternate between Adidas shell toes or heeled ankle boots. I’ve even daydreamed about getting MANCINI custom embroidered on the back.
And then, sometimes, my boyfriend takes the set. Though he’s 6'2'' and broad-shouldered and I’m 5'5'' and petite, we both manage to wear it in our own ways. A relaxed fit on me becomes equally flattering and tailored on him; the fabric pulls crisp over his long, athletic arms and legs. Seeing the pieces pop up on members of New York’s hippest via Instagram is further evidence of the unexpected cool factor. Though the pieces are technically menswear, a jacket is a jacket. A pant is a pant. And style is style.
When I see my boyfriend wearing the set, I know it’s about as Italian-American as his casserole-reared, Midwestern self will ever get. And that’s okay. Perhaps we’ll take our future children to Carbone for some rigatoni vodka, then Koreatown for kimchi stew, Greenpoint for pierogies, Flushing for soup dumplings, and Astoria for spanakopita. We’ll show them that even though cultures change as they mix together, they can also be celebrated — and remembered.
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Sophie Mancini Writer
Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.
Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator
Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.