The story of a man who lived a life of love, passion and adventure.
In the late 60ies he was a young man. From Rome, Italy, he moved to Lugano, Switzerland. There he studied “L’Arte de la Cucina”.
His name was Marcello. In few years he started to meet languages and lifestyles of the world.
Marcello’s adventures were various. The loves had been many and perhaps even more the broken hearts.
He was very attached to his native country and his culture and yet he rarely returned to Italy.
Often one could read a nostalgia in his eyes that seemed to become resignation, because, as he used to say, “there is never enough time”. Then as a freelancer you don’t want to take long vacations, especially in very competitive cities like Los Angeles.
During his career Marcello opened restaurants in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Canary Islands, California, Nevada. And he never stopped spreading good food, stories and love for his beloved “Bel Paese”!
Marcello was a charming man, a very funny Italian guy. He spoke four languages and had many interests. His knowledge about various subjects made him even more fascinating. Marcello could talk about politics, astronomy, fashion, exotic cars. He was passionate about Italian history. He loved music, good food and beautiful women.
His many journeys saw him living and working in Europe, Australia, Japan, Argentina.
From Argentina he moved to California.
He liked the weather and soon he made his way as a chef also in the losangelino community.
Ironic, sometimes cynical, he liked to fool around and to enjoy friendship. In 1996 he was working at Caffè dell’Opera on Vermont. One day the owner of the venue invited him to come out from the kitchen. He wanted to introduce him some friends.
Among those friends a woman with a beautiful smile captured Marcello’s attention.
Her name was Hilda, A beautiful girl from the Philippines. After the greetings he returned back to work, in the kitchen. Although as soon as he got a break he followed her.
– Signorina…! –
He wispered something in Italian that made her smile again and so the magic happened.
Marcello and Hilda started dating and soon after they got married. It was a simple and romantic ceremony at The Little White Chapel, in Vegas.
Many celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Sinead ‘O Connor, Michael Jordan, Brittney Spears, and also Bruce Willis & Demi Moore got married there. However Hilda and Marcello wedding didn’t fail.
They opened four restaurants. Two in North Hollywood, one in Las Vegas, and one at the Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.
The only place he loved to stay was the kitchen.
Marcello used to prepare rigatoni colorati with bell peppers or cooking eggplant parmigiana or decorating his special tiramisu. Before the trend broke out, he used to prepare a vegetarian lasagna that was very popular even in caterers. Oh yes, because his restaurants also offered an impeccable and elegant catering service which his wife Hilda took care of.
As business owners they have always been very hospitable with customers to which they devote a lot of attention.
Servers were always nice and the vibe was so pleasant!
On Fridays, as a tribute to the music, there was a kind of a party, where generations of immigrants were together. Grandparents shared their Italian memories to their grandchildren. Grandchildren appreciated listening to the music and to hear about their roots.
Marcello also had his countless and extraordinary anecdotes that used to share getting the interest of anyone.
The atmosphere that one breathed at Marcello’s was joyful. Contrary to what might have been expected, the customers weren’t just Italians. Indeed, the evenings at Marcello’s were attended as well by artists who came from different parts of the world and who sang as a hobby or profession.
Aside from the genuine food and delicious dishes, Fridays evenings passed between songs and opera arias. Between the still vivid memories of old emigrants and the tales of Marcello’s adventures.
Rome was protagonist of many of his stories. He liked to remember the times of youth when he was free from thoughts and responsibilities. He loved to remember Rome, Ostia … the 70s and the songs of Il Califfo (the Caliph) (nickname for Italian singer Franco Califano).
Sometimes when you live abroad for a long time, while being well integrated, you may not feel 100% belonging to that place. However, when you return to your country there is a high risk that your expectations will be disappointed. Then might be better to keep the beautiful part imprinted in the mind, which is then made even more exciting by the memory of youth that can be beautiful regardless of the place.
There is an anecdote that he often told. It was something that had happened to him and it was nothing short of incredible.
During his youth, he went in Spain, on vacation, with a friend. One day, he was on the beach sunbathing and his friend left to get some things at the apartment. At one point there was a din. The beach goers moved away and it was a sandstorm as a helicopter got closer and closer. Marcello was almost shocked and incredulous at what was happening. Aside from the difficulty of noise and sand, he was not allowed to speak. He was taken and brought, by helicopter, to the police station. He was wearing only a bath suit, and was in the presence of a police commissioner who, once he saw him, apologized for the mistake in person and had him accompany back at the hotel. The stories he told were far more engaging and interesting than cinema movies! When he talked about Italy any time his eyes shone. Although he tried to hide it, a little nostalgia was evident. Marcello was nice to talk with when he was in a good mood but better stay away from him if he was nervous or very busy in the kitchen. In those cases, if you teased him, you got a nice invitation to go to … Quel Paese! He never lost his irony and playful spirit. In fact even when he was in the hospital he enjoyed friends and even celebrated his birthday party. Marcello passed away in 2011. He lived an uncommon life. He has always worked, surely too much. He had fun and was much loved by his family, by his friends and by his wife Hilda whom we thanks for the immense availability in sharing the flow of memories of a man who lived with a spirit of freedom.
“Se sono triste canto piano, se sono in forma suono forte,
Così affronto la mia sorte.
Se non amo grido abbasso anche se non mi è concesso
Dico sempre quello che mi va.
…Libertà che ho nelle vene, libertà che mi appartiene,
Libertà che è libertà. “ (F. Califano – La Mia Libertà)
(If I’m sad I sing softly, if I’m in shape I sound loud, So I face my fate. If I don’t love I cry down even if it is not allowed to me I always say what I like. …Freedom that I have in my veins, freedom that belongs to me, Freedom which is freedom.)