A veteran of World War I, Zito came to New York in 1923. He joined an anti-fascist paper there in 1925, then moved to San Francisco in 1931 and took over Il Corriere del Popolo. During World War II, he testified before congressional and state committees concerning fascist influences that he perceived in Italian-American political and civic organizations.
Carmelo Zito earned a law degree from University of Messina on December 23, 1922. Although he did not practice law in the United States, he was employed as an interpreter for Italian-speaking defendants. During the Great Depression he sold Maytag washing machines door-to-door. He was a successful salesman.
Carmello Zito was born on August 13, 1899, in Oppido Mamertina, in the province of Reggio Calabria in Italy. He was the youngest child of Alfonso and Marina Zito. He had older brothers named Fortunato and Vincent and an older sister named Vincenza. After finishing the equivalent of high school, Carmelo Zito was drafted into World War I. Zito's two brothers were killed in World World I. Vincent Zito was reported to have died of mustard gas. Carmelo's life was spared because he got sick with influenza. This is likely part of the Great Influenza Pandemic. He was sent to a military hospital and placed in "death room" from which no one was supposed to survive, but he rallied and recovered. After finishing his undergraduate degree in Classics, he obtained a law degree at the University of Messina on December 23, 1922, and began practicing law under the republican Gaetano Sardiello.
Marked as an undesirable from the fascist authorities, a victim (of the fascist regime) along with his family, and intimidated by Mussolini’s Blackshirts (Squadristi, or Camicie Nere), who were aware of the socialist sympathies of his father, Zito emigrated to the United States.
He disembarked in New York City at Ellis Island in 1923, after voyaging first class on the ship Duilio. In New York he began collaborating with several anti-fascist periodicals, and met his future wife, of Sicilian origin who, like him, was an active socialist. Initially, Zito collaborated with the monthly journal Il Veltro, edited by Arturo Giovannitti, up to the end of its publication in 1925. He then passed to the Nuovo Mondo (New World), founded in the same year by the Sicilian August Bellanca, head of the powerful men's clothing manufacturing union the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), where he presided as managing editor for eight months.
The Italian Consulate in New York wrote to the prefect in Reggio Calabria that “Carmelo Zito is using subversive propaganda activities,” and, “[t]he subject individual is under surveillance at every opportunity.”
Zito immediately made contact with the major anti-fascists in New York. He met Antonini of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU); Carlo Tresca, the anarchist, who became a faithful friend; Vicenzo Varcica; Arturo Labriola; and Girolamo Valenti, who were all tied to Il Nuovo Mondo.
The offices of the daily were the object of frequent impromptu searches by police, the evident result of pressures coming from the Italian Embassy to the US State Department.
In 1928 Zito presented his letter of resignation from the daily, not wanting to share any more the editorial politics. He transferred himself to San Francisco with his family in 1931. This move caused a preliminary problem; its solution allows to better define Zito’s work in California, with its vast ambiance of Italian-American anti-fascism. Zito then assumed control of the Il Corriere del Popolo and changed the focus of the Italian language newspaper to anti-Fascism.
After the end of World War II, Carmelo Zito wished to return to Italy and help set up the new government. He had his plane ticket, and was ready to depart, but at the last minute word came that he was not allowed to return permanently and could only visit. He had given up his Italian citizenship and become an American citizen.
While in San Francisco he worked often translating and transcribing, with a manual typewriter, Italian documents for San Francisco's Mayor Joseph Alioto. Carmelo Zito helped Joe Negri, who founded Negri’s Original Occidental Italian Family Style Restaurant. They remained lifelong friends.
Carmelo Zito's marriage to his first wife ended in an amicable divorce, after which he married his second wife, Marie Nocito. This was the family that he moved to San Francisco. Having separated from his second wife after his three daughters Marilynn Thomas, Alma Menn, and Sheila Wood were married,having separated from his second wife, he met Elana Flodin in San Francisco in 1951. Elana, at the time was still married but going through a divorce. She became pregnant and had a son born in February 1952, Erik Flodin. In 2017, with DNA testing, it was proven that Erik was actually Carmelo’s son. It is clear that Carmelo was not aware that he had a son during his lifetime. In the early 60s, Carmelo met his third wife Carolyn Ann Reuther. They married in 1964, and a daughter Laurel Zito Davies was born on October 20, 1965. In 1970, Carmelo Zito and his new family moved from the Marina District in San Francisco to Parkmerced Apartments.
Carmelo Zito lived in Parkmerced until he fell and broke his hip in 1979. He moved to a nursing home in Sonoma, California. He died on June 9, 1980, from complications related to Alzheimer's. Zito was survived by his third wife, three of his daughters, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Marilynn Zito died on November 22, 2010. Among Carmelo Zito's personal effects was a membership card from the Italian Socialist Party with a picture of Icarus falling from the sky. The card has been placed in a safe depot box by his family.