It happened by the grace of God that Joseph Santangelo won his wife in a card game.
On a September night so hot that the good Catholics of New York wonder if their city has slipped into hell, the butcher Joseph Santangelo invites his friends to play pinochle. At the end of a long, sweaty, boozy evening, his friend Lino Falconetti, addled by wine and heat, bets the hand of his daughter, Catherine-and Santangelo wins.
Santangelo's modern new wife clashes immediately with his superstitious, half-mad mother-and Catherine is horrified when the daughter they raise turns out to have more in common with the old world than the new. As the years slide past, the city changes around them, but Little Italy's household saints hold their world together.