Wayne Montecalvo

Blue Dress, 2020, digital images on Washi with paint and wax, 33 x 24 inches

Montecalvo: New Jersey Memories


The Italian side of my family came to the United States before World War I and landed in New Jersey, where I grew up. I’m told my grandfather threw his schoolbooks over a cliff as soon as he learned that his family would be going to the New World.


My grandfather’s name was Frank. There is a town in Italy called Montecalvo, but my grandfather was from a place called Panni. He and my dad visited Montecalvo some time in the1960’s. By then my grandfather was already an old man, and very Americanized. Somewhere I have a 35mm slide of my dad standing in front of the “Montecalvo” village name that was posted on a simple sign as you entered the town.


Story tells it that my grandfather once decided, while still a child, that he could drive. So when he was way too young to be behind the wheel, he climbed into an idling bus and drove it for several miles before being stopped. I was never told if the bus was empty, but I hope it was. There is a claim that he was a bus driver for a short while (legally) once he became a man of employment age. These stories are going way back in my head.


My grandfather opened an Italian pizzeria/ restaurant/ bar called The Mayfair in Woodbridge long before I was born. It used to have a bandstand, a stage, and dances. My mom worked there as a waitress for a short time, and I do have a faint memory of her coming home from work. She didn’t like it. But we used to go there often. I also remember that The Mayfair, a “gin mill” as it was referred to, was across the highway from the Rahway State Prison, on Rahway Avenue. I always thought it was odd and interesting that you could go a few hundred feet down the road and see the prison.


My uncle owned a house next to the restaurant, and the walkway to the house was lined with concrete gnomes that always scared the crap out of me when I would have to walk past them. My grandfather kept really, really mean German Shepard dogs. They scared me the most! They would bark like crazy, and I was always afraid that they would break through the Cyclone fence, but my dad sort of looked like my grandfather and sounded like him so he would just yell, ”shuddap!” and we could safely pass by the dogs. I hated those dogs. But my grandfathers’ passion for dogs led him to own a world champ terrier named Little Whiz.


Collapse, 2020; digital images on Washi, paint, wax, silkscreen, India ink, 24 x 28 inches

Fruit Salad, 2020, silkscreen and digital images on Washi with wax, ink, and paint, 34 x 24 inches

Wayne Montecalvo