Beer, Bocce & Beloved Memories at Nuova Aurora Club
Erie is a town with a long history of social clubs. Some clubs have lost membership over the years. Some have faded away. Others continue to thrive. One popular club, on the west side, has been around for 115 years.
It’s the Nuova Aurora Club in the section of town called ‘Little Italy.’ As with many social clubs in Erie, the Nuova Aurora represents the ethnic heritage of the neighborhood in which it is located. I want to learn about the history of this club.
I don't have to travel very far from my barstool to be educated about the club. Historic pictures are all over the walls of the bar. They tell the story of the La Nuova Aurora Society, founded in 1907. The pictures also tell the story of the neighborhood. The Nuova Aurora building has been in the same location on Walnut Street for all of the club’s 115 years.
"It still is considered Little Italy. Obviously it's changed over the decades,” says Lance Urraro, Club President. “3,000 Italian immigrants were established in this area and they started the club. I believe they were not able to get into other clubs, so they started their own."
Currently, about 65% of the club membership is of Italian descent. However, the club maintains its Italian heritage very well. Meatballs and sauce are usually cooking inside the kitchen. Members and guests know this is the place to come for good Italian cooking. It's been that way for years and years.
"They love coming here for dinner. They love having parties. There's a lot of parties here. A lot of fund raisers here,” says Carolyn Vendetti, Club Trustee.
Lance has memories that go back to his childhood.
"My family's been here a long time. I came here when I was a kid with my grandmother. I ate fried zucchini for the first time in my life. I was probably 6 or 7 years old," says Lance.
The dining room is also a place to learn about the history of the club by just looking at the walls. Recently, members were asked to submit old photographs of ancestors who used to live in the neighborhood and belonged to the club. The collection of photographs is called 'The Legacy Project.' It was organized as a fund raiser.
"Really just a great idea for the club. It's a way to remember," says Lance.
Bocce is a big part of the Italian tradition at the Nuova Aurora and it's been that way since the early days of the club. It is definitely an Italian game. 450 people participate in leagues. That's a quarter of the membership. There would be more if the club had additional courts.
"We still have some members who still play bocce in their 80s. As of last year, we still had a 90-year old player,” says Lance.
A plaque inside the dining room honors the founding members of the Nuova Aurora Club. They would be proud that their Italian heritage continues to be honored at 14th and Walnut.
"Anything we do is for the members,” says Carolyn. “The members own the club. That's why we're here."