Today we are introducing, in case you hadn’t heard about them yet, two young Italian men who have recreated a small Roman corner in East Village Manhattan. Their restaurant “Via Della Pace” feels like home to myself and WEST 26TH MAG, a real meeting point. Giovanni and Marco are going to tell us about their American dream…
Giovanni and Marco, how did you meet?
GIOVANNI. We first met here in New York back in 2008. Marco walked into one of the two restaurants I worked in, which was called “Via delle Zoccolette”, and started working as bar-back, though in Italy he had been a known bartender on the Adriatic Riviera, mixing and spinning drinks like Tom Cruise in Cocktail. His talent and dedication immediately caught my eye and it was long till I offered him to work with me at Via Della Pace, which at the time belonged to my uncle. From that time on started our friendship, which eventually turned into the big adventure of taking over VDP as partners.
MARCO. VDP was born of “uncle” Pietro Bartocci’s idea, along with a group of Italians who picked the name “Via Della Pace” from the very famous street behind Piazza Navona where uncle would go when he ditched school and spend his morning drinking cappuccino and eating freshly baked croissants. A few years after opening Pietro offered Giovanni a job as manager in his restaurant. After years of sweat and blood, in 2012 we were able to buy the restaurant from “uncle” Pietro. And we are still here…
What made you come to America to start fresh?
GIOVANNI. As for me, the US came as the next step after London where I worked for six years for one of the world’s most famous beer companies.
MARCO. Uncle Pietro Bartocci often asked Giovanni to move to New York, he was already established having been here for over thirty years. I came because I wanted to try something new work-wise, but on top of becoming partners with Giovanni, I found the love of my life here, my Susan whom I recently married a few months ago!
Congratulations! Wonderful encounters!
VDP THE PLACE TO BE. What do you think is the formula of your entrepreneurial success, other than the tastes of our land?
GIOVANNI. Not all that glitters is gold… there are twelve thousand restaurants around the city, talk about competition! Yet we’re pretty popular in the Italian community and what turns in our favor at the end of the day is our simplicity and authentic taste. We are Italian to the core! Italian music, classic Italian films on TV, from Roma Città Aperta, La Dolce Vita, Ladri di Biciclette to Il Marchese Del Grillo, Un Americano a Roma and Febbre Da Cavallo. Not to talk about Serie A soccer! In Via Della Pace you can always find soccer fans with a pint of beer or a cup of espresso in their hand, and it usually ends up with celebrations at the end of the game with a shot of Amaro Del Capo.
MARCO. Yes, it was a terrible explosion, three buildings collapsed, two people lost their lives and many more lost their home. Eight businesses and historical places of the village were wiped out. We shut down for five days which of course affected us, especially after a very long and cold winter. We tried to help the community giving out meals to those left without a home and coffee to the many officers and firefighters involved in the rescue efforts. We too received help from Bernadet Nation of Small Business Services and the Ninth Precinct who made it possible for us to open the restaurant though we were in the heart of the scene.
Is everything back to normal now?
GIOVANNI. It’s incredible how quickly they cleaned up the area, led the investigations and returned the victims to their families. It still feels weird to look where for years buildings were standing, and now there is nothing left. Going back to normality is going to be a slow process but East Village is strong!
What do you do in your free time here in NYC?
MARCO. We don’t have that much free time, running a restaurant and all. Giovanni rides his motorbike, goes boxing and playing soccer. I, being the good husband that I am, enjoy cooking like a chef for my wife and me.
Do you feel like your American dream has come true?
New York is very famous for the marathon… we are still on our first km, we still have a long way to go!
Can you tell me some pros and cons of Italy and of the US?
GIOVANNI. Italy has a strong sense of family and friendship values, a sense of home. On the other hand, it’s hard to pursue your dreams.
MARCO. The US has a strong system, which ironically also happens to be its biggest weakness sometimes.
Italians often find in America the success they couldn’t achieve in Italy. Why do you think that is?
GIOVANNI. Because no man is a prophet in his own land. That’s especially true in our land where merit is merely a word in one of the most beautiful and romantic languages. Italians are very talented and if it wasn’t for hierarchy and oppressive politics we could master all sectors! Chefs, designers, architects, doctors, musicians and much more… it’s sad the place where our value is recognized is out of our Country.
What’s the best dish of Via Della Pace?
Carbonara and Amatriciana hands down! But also our Tiramisù… it can measure up to Pompi, the tiramisù king of Rome. Ultimately we think our strongest ingredient is authenticity!
Are you going to open any other restaurants in the future?
Follow us on www.viadellapacenyc.com or Facebook for some upcoming surprises! We’ll keep on pushing!
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