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Angelo Nardone, Villa Capri

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About the Artist/Site

When he was 9 years old, Angelo Nardone left Italy with his family and moved to the United States, where they settled in Nutley, New Jersey. In the 1950s, he served in the United States Army, and while in Europe, briefly returned to his native country. His three-day visit to Rome, he would later say, “planted a seed” in his imagination to reinterpret the excavated ruins of the ancient city.

At first he decided he would be a patron of the arts in Nutley. In the single-story building on Franklin Avenue that his father had previously used to sell re-conditioned cars, Nardone established the Villa Capri café, serving coffee, and sometimes pizza, to customers who gathered to listen to recordings of Italian opera and to watch one-act plays performed by student actors. Municipal building inspectors charged the café had violated several commercial building codes, however, and eventually closed it down.

By then, Nardone was already collecting stone cupids and gargoyles from buildings slated for demolition in nearby Newark, New Jersey. From the late 1950s through the 1960s, he installed his finds on the grounds of Villa Capri. His fascination with classical sculpture led him to ask local Italian artisans who made church statuary for instruction on casting statues from molds. Over the next 20 years, he cast tens of thousands of statues in plaster and concrete, stacking them on the roof and into walls of statuary that snaked around his building. Neighbors frequently complained and municipal inspectors continued to slap the property with code violations.

Nardone lived on the property for many years, but around 2000, health concerns prompted him to move to a nearby veterans’ facility. In July 2002, vandals started a fire that tore through his unguarded building. After the fire was subdued, bulldozers cleared the site completely, leaving no trace of Villa Capri. 

~Holly Metz

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Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Nutley, New Jersey, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 40.822317 / -74.159872

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