You never know where you’re going to find a great story. Certainly not at the dentist with your jaw hinged open and your mouth full of metal. But it turns out that longtime resident Dr. Neil Marciano has a family history that reaches back in Hoboken to a simpler time.
There are a bunch of Aniello’s (Neils) and Francesco’s (Franks), and many dentists and lawyers in his family, so we’re not going to wade into those weeds.
The family comes from Striano, a farming village east of Naples and Vesuvius. Neil’s grandfather, Aniello, arrived in the U.S. in 1898 at age 10. His future wife, Raphaella, arrived in 1910 at age 18. They met in Hoboken, married in 1913, and never left. Aniello became a longshoreman.
Raphaella was nicknamed Frenchie because she had lived in Marseille, where she sold fish, which she kept on the brim of her hat.
Raphaella wanted a vegetable store. Her husband obliged, and they opened one at 415 Adams St. Every day Aniello took the ferry with his cart and horse named Jimmy to the produce market on the West Side under the EL in the ’20s.
Aniello and Raphaella had five children. One of them, Frank, became Neil’s father.
The family managed to survive during the Depression by bartering. They traded vegetables to butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and others in return for their goods. To save money, Raphaella cleaned the outer leaves of vegetables for the family and sold the remainder to patrons of their produce store.
Raphaella sent “care packages” to her village in Italy.
The vegetable store was across from Fiore’s. It was a lively scene. Horse-drawn carts drew up with their wares. Vendors shouted in Italian, announcing what they were selling. The housewives sent down a basket with money, and the vendors sent up the goods. Icemen delivered ice for iceboxes, which kept food cold at home. The Yum-Yum man sold lemon ice for the kids.
But some things haven’t changed much. Every church had a feast and procession for its patron saint. A firecracker exhibition signaled the end of the procession.
In the 1930s, Neil’s father, Frank, attended New York University as an undergraduate and went on to Temple University in Philadelphia for his dental studies.
In 1938, he opened his first dental office in Hoboken at 97 Washington St. The family’s living quarters were in the rear. Neil graduated from dental school in 1966 and joined his father in 1967 at the 97 Washington location. He later moved the office to 93-95 Hudson and then to its present location at 33-41 Newark St.
In 1944, Frank cared for one of the most famous mouths in Hoboken—indeed, in the nation. In preparation for a concert at the Paramount, Frank took care of the teeth of another Frank, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.—Kate Rounds