Elda, Elisa, and Joseph Coccia

About Us


The Coccia Institute advances and celebrates Italian American culture, serving as an engine for
explorations into the rich history of Italians and Italianità —“Italian spirit”—in the United States
in the arts and humanities, business and politics, foodways, and popular culture.


Through programming that fosters cultural conversations about the story of Italians in America,
the Institute serves students, academics, and the culturally curious general public. We invite
individuals of all backgrounds to explore their own sense of Italianità as it forms part of a
broader national identity via thoughtfully curated programs that are designed to examine the
past, present, and future of Italian America.

Our guiding principle is that one cannot know America without understanding the Italian
American experience. Dedicated to the ongoing study of one of the oldest diasporic groups in
the United States, the Coccia Institute strives as well to be a springboard to the study of other
immigrant groups that have experienced assimilation into the broader American culture. While
examining the points of intersection among diasporic experiences, we aim to celebrate the
diversity of cultures that now make America home.

The Coccia Institute concentrates its activities in two main areas:

  1. Cultural exploration and preservation of Italian American history for current and
    future generations: The Italian American Foodways Project; the docuseries Red Sauce:
    An Italian American Culinary Journey; and the Coccia Lecture Series, which explores
    current discussions and debates in Italian, Italian American, and other immigrant
    communities; the Coccia Italian American Collection at Sprague Library; author readings
    and academic panels; and the presentation of debut films and theater and music
    performances that explore aspects of Italian American history.
  2. Support for education: The Coccia Institute serves as a cultural home for the Italian
    American community at Montclair State University and beyond. Key activities include
    the Teaching Italian Symposium, offered to teachers and professors of Italian language;
    academic scholarships, internships, and research grants offered to scholars and writers;
    and student events, such as our annual bocce tournament, Sanremo Watchparty, and a Sicilian
    drumming demonstration, designed to share Italian and Italian American culture to the
    entire MSU and Montclair community. The Institute supports Italian language education
    through scholarships awarded to MSU students of Italian, as well as the Coccia-Inserra
    Award for Excellence & Innovation in the Teaching of Italian, the country’s most
    prestigious award given to an exceptional educator advancing the Italian curriculum.