There aren’t many cinemas in the world where invitations for upcoming films are sent via email, where you can ride your bicycle directly into the screening room, pick up your free popcorn and pepsi en route, watch a first class film without any ads, and then join the audience afterwards for a complimentary Peroni. Sounds like paradiso? ….welcome to Cinema Italiano! Ironically it was Geoffrey Rush that led me to this special venue when I sought out an opportunity to see his film The Best Offer. Forget Fandango, if you want a really good story, you have to hit the streets.
Seven years ago Giuseppe di Francisci decided it was time for change. After teaching at Universita degli Studi di Roma ‘La Sapienza’, ( unpaid because of the perceived status of future earnings ), then a further two years working as a journalist ( unpaid for the same reason ), and with frustration at the corruption in everyday life in Italy, Giuseppe came to New York. He marveled at the friendliness of people. Pausing to look at a map, people would stop to help him – in Rome he said, if people stopped it would be to rob you. In fact he said, you can be a full time thief in Italy because the system does not punish you. Visiting Italy and loving the culture is one thing, but living and working there is another.
On Giuseppe’s first night in NYC he turned up at a restaurant where his friend worked, suitcase in tow, and by the end of the night he had ten new friends. Everyone in NYC comes from somewhere else, and he felt a camaraderie immediately. Not speaking any english and wanting to learn, he found a job as a busser in a restaurant. Simultaneously he placed an ad on Craigslist offering lessons in Italian. Giuseppe had no experience teaching a language but he loved cinema, so he would give out DVDs of Italian movies to students and use this as a basis for conversation. But there were more and more students and the DVDs were costly. By then Giuseppe was bi-lingual and working as a server in a restaurant that serendipitously had a function room. That room became the first Cinema Italiano. Students would watch a film, have a conversation in Italian and then order a pizza from the restaurant. Everyone won. As the handful of students became hundreds of cinema lovers, the location changed, and changed again. There were even blow up arm chairs for a limited season. Now the Cinema is a registered not-for-profit, Peroni is a sponsor and the hall behind Saint Patrick’s in Noho is the current venue. With the coming of summer a rooftop might be the next…
When I spoke to Giuseppe at Emporio, the Italian restaurant where he is the General Manager, ( and where the food looks fantastic – stay tuned! ) I was curious about how, in the midst of life in NYC and the responsibility of managing busy restaurants, he still wanted to run the cinema. Before the showing of ‘Piazza Fontana’ on Sunday night, he talked about bringing Italy to New York and enjoying the best of both worlds. But in answer to my question, he said with simpatico simplicity… ‘It makes me happy’…
Love this story!!
Thanks Chrissy – yes, it is a great story indeed. So Italian and so New York at the same time…
will be in NY in may and will certainly check this out
love things like this rather than the big predictables
A wonderful story. Definitely an unsung hero who has changed his community for the better and brought generosity and friendship to many. Hope those who benefit help where they are able.
Would just love to this happen here!
(But please spell Giuseppe correctly, to do Guiseppe means to pronounce it as ‘gooseppe’)
Whoops! Thank you Marguerite!