If you know where to look or who to ask, you can still find traces of the Roseto Effect among the quiet streets of this borough tucked in the hills of northern Northampton County.

“My plumber still makes prosciutto and still has the most beautiful stash of it in his garage. Prosciutto was served at every meal when you wanted to say thank you to those around the table,” says Matt Stallard, whose family grew up in Roseto.

“My twin aunts still live on Pennsylvania Avenue, the last of their generation, and they still make homemade pasta every weekend and sew their own clothing,” he says. “It was a unique town for half of the last century.”

A one-square-mile community of 1,585 people, Roseto was incorporated in 1912 and settled by Italian immigrants who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to find work in the slate quarries and textile mills.

The borough, named for Roseto Valfortore, a small village in the Province of Foggia in southeastern Italy, has been long regarded for the aforementioned Roseto Effect. In the 1950s and 1960s, two physicians discovered that Roseto’s residents—despite a diet rich in pasta, cheese, and cured meats—had half the national rate of heart disease and lived past the national average life expectancy.

“I would say the homemade wine contributed to the Roseto Effect. They drank more than their fair share of it and were always running out before the next batch was ready,” Matt remembers. “All of us kids drank it from one-ounce glasses diluted with soda. It was the best stuff in the world.”

Matt, owner and winemaker at Rowan Asher Winery in Stroudsburg, makes and sells “Roseto Effect,” a vinicultural tribute to his great-grandfather’s homemade red table wine. It’s mostly Montepulciano and Sangiovese blended with merlot. “It’s in the tradition of a classic Chianti,” he says.

But there was more to the Roseto Effect than just the red wine.

“People had beautiful gardens and grew peppers and garlic and fig trees under the back porch,” Matt says. “It was a world of freshly grown produce and homemade spaghetti and manicotti that was generously shared with neighbors and out-of-towners.”

“There was consistency to living and a routine that was healthy because you knew your neighbors and that you were surrounded by people who had your back,” he adds. “This all contributed to everyone’s physical and emotional health. It’s the way life should be.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, two physicians discovered that Roseto’s residents–despite a diet rich in pasta, cheese, and cured meats–had half the national rate of heart disease and lived past the national average life expectancy.

Today, Roseto remains a quaint town with a lot of friendly people, many of them descendants of the families who settled the borough.

“It’s a great place to raise a family and close to many other attractions in the Lehigh Valley,” says Mayor Joseph Angelini, a fourth-generation Roseto resident. “Here in town, we have Ruggiero’s Market, which was founded in 1919 and where you can buy imported Italian products, and Roseto Bakery, which makes tomato pie and stuffed breads in a brick oven.”

Roseto also has floral shops, auto repair shops, and its own police department and volunteer fire department, Joseph says.

“One of the biggest things is that we got Americanized and our parents put us through college and we had to move out,” he says. “Back in the 1940s and 1950s, we had 17 blouse mills, seven gas stations, five general stores, three butcher shops, six taprooms, and a restaurant. People worked hard and looked forward to family time at night.”

Now people who grew up in Roseto are longing for those simpler times and moving back, says Joseph, whose father served seven terms as mayor.

“My grandfather and great-grandfather came over to work in the quarries like everyone else,” he adds. “The old-timers worked honest jobs and tended their gardens and walked to the Marconi Club after dinner to sip wine and to play Italian card games. The reason why they were so healthy is that they drank quality homemade wine without additives.”

In a wired, digital age that’s a constant source of distractions, Roseto still offers refuge in its close-knit community and traditions, according to the mayor.

“One of my most vivid memories growing up and that still remains strong is our dedication to our faith at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church,” Joseph adds. “We still have our Roseto Big Time festival the last weekend of July where the festival queen crowns Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the patroness of our parish. The 125th annual festival will take place next year.”

Matt’s kids never miss a chance to experience their own Roseto Effect.

“They still love to stay over at my aunts’ house and get there every chance they can,” he says. “They eat like royalty every week and have their pick of the cabinets full of homemade Italian cookies and 40 flavors of ice cream. It’s a nice blast from the past.”

Matt says he likes to think Roseto will always retain its strong cultural identity, heritage, and its reputation for stress-free living.

Roseto will roll out the welcome mat in November for the mayor, vice mayor, and priest coming from a town near Roseto, Italy, to see if they have any relatives in the borough.

They may find them among their American cousins who tend their gardens, raise livestock, and make their own wine and tomato sauce and in a segment of the population where longevity is still the norm.

“We have one gentleman who’s 104, one who’s 98, and some others in their upper 90s and quite a few in their 80s from the old guard, the staunch foundation,” the mayor says. “The Roseto Effect is still carried out in the traditions of many families.”

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