Recently, I had a chance to go to an Italian restaurant in the area. Some friends indicated it as a place where you can have "genuine" food. Normally, I do not go to Italian restaurants abroad. Most of them adapt their cuisine to local tastes. Or they do not have an Italian cook. Or they do not use original Italian ingredients. Or may be all of it. In this case, the food was fine, the ambience was great.

The owner, a man close to his sixties, emigrated to the USA when he was 18 years old. Needless to say, he had nothing when he arrived. He started as a waiter, then opened his own place. He made money. Good money. As a matter of fact, the restaurant is quite popular.

Last night I went there again and we started to talk about Italy. He comes from Calabria, a small village in the mountains. His mother is still there. His mind is still there. He almost cried recalling the places of his childhood. In a place that was not able to give him anything but a chance to leave. His dream is to go back to Calabria and buy a hotel on the beach to offer wedding services. He thinks that he can bring, along with his hard-earned money, the organization and methodologies applied in the US. He thinks that the heart is more important than the head. What is amazing is that even his children, who were not born there, would like to return there.

But Italy is not what he left behind. He is not any more the man who left his country more than 40 years ago. He is idealizing a place that now exists only in his mind. Many times you see people who emigrated come back to their homeland after they succeed in life and get older. Often they fail. They lose what they have accumulated. They cannot adapt. Leaving your country because of necessity is hard.

But America gave him much more than his country could give him at the time. The American dream is here for him. It is realized. I tried to convince him to go back only for his holidays. Maybe long holidays. The reality is that he belongs to here more than to Calabria now. But I left the restaurant with strange feelings. Who am I to judge his life and his dreams?


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