My big …very big family. And free pizza!

As I told you before, I am a second-generation immigrant from Italy. This means my parents were born in Italy but came to the United States before I was born.

My parents met when they were teenagers and got married young. They have been together for decades. Together they opened a successful restaurant in Italy. With that dream realized and experience under their belts, they wanted to see if they could have the same success in America, the land of opportunity.

Their restaurant in Italy was well staffed, and my parents felt comfortable leaving it running without them, so they were still able to make money while trying to start the new restaurant in the US. While they were establishing the restaurant, my mother found out she was pregnant with me. I was their first child, but definitely not the last. My parents had always wanted a big family and were so excited when I was born that they named the new restaurant after me. Vincenzo’s was every bit as successful as the restaurant in Italy, and it was cool growing up with an authentic pizzeria named after me. It definitely impressed my friends and girls at school when we would all go there to hang out and drink bottomless sodas, hoping for my parents to throw us a free pizza, which of course they always did.

As I said, I was my parents’ first, but not last child. Italians are all about family, and it was always my parents’ dream to have lots of children, the same way they had grown up with tons of siblings. I have more aunts and uncles than I can count. My parents have six children in total. After me, they popped out two more boys, then three girls after that.

My memories of growing up in the apartment above the restaurant were of a very traditional Italian family. We were loud, boisterous, had boundary issues, and were always in each other’s space and business. There were no secrets or privacy in our house. With so many kids and such limited space (even though my parents were fairly well-off thanks to the success of their two restaurants, living space in New York and Manhattan is crazy expensive), the boys all had to share one room, and the girls all shared another. We were all closer than close.

Keep reading to learn how my family was affected by my addiction.