Dr Vittorio Risicato was born in Modica, Sicily, Italy on 23 October 1883. He was the son of Salvatore Risicato, a prominent educator, and Maria Cristine DeCaro. He had at least one sibling, his brother Emanuel.
Vittorio was a pupil at high school in Bari then studied medicine at Sicily’s Catania University, graduating in 1905; he then spent two years as an assistant in the Royal Surgical Clinic in Siena, Tuscany followed by almost three years as physician and surgeon in Rome. In December 1909 he emigrated to the USA, first to Manhattan before settling in Morristown, New Jersey where he opened a practice at 42 Pine Street in July the following year. He never married.
When Risicato first went to sea is not clear; in December 1911 it was recorded in the Morris County Chronicle that he had sailed for Italy. By April 1912 he was the assistant surgeon aboard Carpathia when that ship rescued the survivors of the Titanic disaster. He personally supervised the work of rescue aboard the Carpathia and through his efforts many were saved from grave illness and injury. For his heroic work he received commendation from Britain and the United States and personal letters of thanks from the authorities of the White Star Line. Horrified by the loss of life on the Titanic, Risicato vowed never to sail professionally ever again.
Not long after the Titanic disaster Dr Risicato resettled in Albany, New York where, in May 1913 he had his own brush with death when he was the victim of an automobile accident and was not expected to survive his injuries:
Dr Vittorio Risicato, former assistant surgeon of the steamship Carpathia, who did valiant work in aiding the survivors of the ill-fated Titanic a year ago. and[?] who met with an automobile accident Friday afternoon, is still hovering between life and death at the Albany hospital, according to reports from that institution at press time this morning. Tobia Marrazzo of New York, sophomore in Albany Medical college, injured with Dr Risicato when the latter’s machine turned turtle three times, resultant of a break of the steering wheel, will recover. He was resting comfortably this morning. — The Argus, 11 May 1913
Despite the grim predictions, Risicato eventually made a recovery. With the outbreak of war in Europe Risicato, a reservist in the Italian Army, sailed in August 1916 to join his countrymen, with the expectation he would be assigned to the front with a field hospital.
Risicato returned to the USA in 1919 with the rank of Captain and became a full US citizen seven years later. He later rescinded his refusal to ever work at sea again and served as a ship’s surgeon aboard a number of vessels on the transatlantic runs for a number of years before serving mainly aboard runs between several South American ports.
Vittorio Risicato died in Manhattan, New York on 16 December 1940 and was found dead the following day after a possible suicide following an overdose with morphine; he was cremated three days later at the Ferncliff Crematory.