Leaving or staying has become leaving and returning. The night of roots which took place last night in the foyer of the Teatro Massimo told the story of the lacerating dualism in the hearts of Sicilians who, by choice or necessity, have built their lives abroad. Iocomprosiciliano and the Municipality of Palermo, upon input from the deputy mayor Carolina Varchi, launched the idea of a “welcome home” for our fellow countrymen who with their commitment and self-sacrifice have shown the best Sicily to the world.
The mayor of Palermo Roberto Lagalla, the regional councilor for cultural heritage Francesco Scarpinato and the councilor for infrastructure Alessandro Arico, the superintendent of the Teatro Massimo Marco Betta spoke at the presentation. Also present were the Councilor for Urban Regeneration of Palermo Maurizio Carta and the Councilor for Tourism of Palermo Alessandro Anello. The “Book of Roots”, as this register of identity takes its name, is unique from the cover created by Francesco La Rosa, an artist from Catania known for his ability to give life to the skin by literally sculpting it. Also present is the network of municipalities, desired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Minister Tajani, which will promote “roots tourism” from 2024. The evening was attended by many of the mayors who participated in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ tender for the promotion of “Tourism of Roots”, a project that aims to enhance small villages under 5,000 inhabitants and rural areas. The delegation was led by councilor Stefano Sauro and councilor Valentina Farinella, representing the mayor Giuseppe Ferrarello, leader of the project. Many mayors were present, demonstrating how strongly this bond with foreign communities is felt in the territories.
The first to sign the book of roots was Celestino Drago, chef originally from Galati Mamertino, symbol of Sicilian and Italian cuisine in California, who today manages several restaurants in Los Angeles including the very exclusive Drago Centro.
An important moment was the connection with Los Angeles with Julian Gold mayor of Beverly Hills with the former mayor of Los Angeles and candidate for the governorship of California Antonio Villaragosa, Professor Vito Campese, one of the brain drain representative of the association of scientists Italians in the United States which has around 4000 members, and Joe Buscaino, a politician of Sicilian origin, whose speech greatly touched the Palermo audience. The connection with Los Angeles was managed by Giacomino Drago, Celestino’s brother who represents the most entrepreneurial soul of the family. While Tanino Drago, also connected from Los Angeles, takes care of gastronomic developments and is the reference chef of Via Alloro, another very successful family restaurant.
The evening opened with video contributions collected around the world by Io Compro Siciliano, with declarations of love for Sicily by Frank Mancuso, the Paramounts CEO who produced the Godfather, Tembi Locke, author of the very successful Netflix series from scratch, Michael Colomba, entrepreneur from the construction sector, who emigrated to Boston and is currently involved in the creation of the first Sicilian fast food chain Brelundi, and Jack Rapke, a Hollywood producer with an enormous love for Sicily.
Following is a video dedicated to Sicilian emigrants around the world, designed by IoComproSiciliano with the voice of Chiara Muscato, a young Sicilian actress, and videography by Vedipalermo. The maximum peak of emotion with the singing performance of Ester Pantano, an actress fresh from the success of ‘I Leoni di Sicilia’.
The guests then tasted agri-food products with a strong identity of Sicilian tradition and culture: classic cheeses and new elaborations, olive oil, from the Nocellara del Belice monocultivar of the Sicily Food Belice Valley Cooperative, to the company’s Nocellara dell’Etna Septa. The savory preparations of the chefs Filippo Ventimiglia, Gianvito Gaglio and Francesco Piparo and the pastry chef Giovanni Catalano recounted the flavors of the regional culinary tradition. They too signed the book of roots to underline the important role of gastronomy in promoting Sicily abroad.