In this little corner of Long Island, Luisa Potenza has become a household name. Her "Italia Mia" mid-day radio program on WALK-AM has become a must-hear for the Italian-American community in central Suffolk County.
Sure, she plays Italian music, but she also interviews guests such as Al Martino, Lidia Bastianinch, Jerry Vale, the late Dom DeLuis and Michael Amante, while sharing news items from Italy. She also shares recipes from local Italian restaurants and makes suggestions for preparing Italian meals. After all, the topic of food is never far off with people of Italian extraction.
There are some very special things that Luisa Potenza is noted for and those are the marvelous luncheons she hosts at the Villa Lombardi in Holbrook. These are festive occasions with lots of good food, live music, dancing, comedians and raffles that make the time zip by rather quickly. Her latest luncheon will be held on Dec. 3.
Speaking by phone, Potenza recently explained how she became involved in radio.
"I took a buy-out from Newsday in 1990," she said. " I had been an editorial assistant. I had been doing quite a bit of free-lance writing, as a matter of fact. When I took the buy-out I decided to keep myself busy."
She baked ricotta cakes in Manhattan and from there went into teaching Italian cooking at a local high school. Then she became involved in a family book about Basilicata and the cooking of that area.
"I was interviewed by Lena Savona in regards to it," she said. "Unfortunately, she died on Christmas Eve about 12 years ago. I had always wanted to be in show business. I had hoped to become an actress and a singer, and when Lena died, I thought I might attempt radio."
She went to Jack Ellsworth who owned WLIM at the time.
"I asked if he would just give me a try and he agreed," said Potenza, who spoke at the Sachem Public Library recently. " He invited me to come in that Sunday and he hired me. When he sold the station he said he was going over to WALK and explained that if I wanted to join him there, I'd have to do it on my own. I did, and twelve years later I'm still there."
Considering herself a creative person, Potenza began these luncheons because she felt it would help publicize her radio program.
She began having luncheons because she has a passion for meeting her listeners.
On Dec. 3, the entertainment will be provided by Paul Anthony's Catskill Comedy Tour which will surely provide great laughs for those in attendance. There will also be Italian music, dancing and a dance contest which just might rival anything seen on "Dancing With the Stars."
Of course the luncheon will also feature great food served buffet style. All of this for a mere $28, including tax and tip is a bargain by any standards.
Reservations for the luncheon can be made by calling WALK at 631-575-5200, press "0" for the receptionist between the hours of 10 AM to 4. Reservations can also be made by calling Luisa's voicemail at (631) 475-5200, ext. 452.