I was born in Rome in the 1979, moved few years later in a little village between Rome and Viterbo, on the lake. I did my high school studies in Ronciglione and the University in Viterbo in Biology. At the age of 14, thanks to my uncle that had a restaurant in Ronciglione facing the lake, I decided to dedicate my life to make people enjoy food. When I was 21 years old I accepted the invite of a friend of mine and I joined him in London. I told my mom I was going to stay there just for the summer, instead 4 months later I went back home just to pack my things and say goodbye. For the first 4 years I worked for Mr. Caldesi in his restaurant, he was teaching cooking lessons as well, then I moved to Dublin where I worked for the Guinness family, achieving the title of “manager of the year”. Once back in London I received the bad news that my mom was sick. In the year I spent back home, Marco, my Business partner now, opened VDP and asked me to join him. It was not an easy decision, but at the end I decided to give the Big Apple a chance…and here I am!
I own a little restaurant in the East Village, where we present regional food from Lazio, Roma like Carbonara, Amatriciana and Veal Straccetti, all prepared following my grandmother’s recipes. I do work a lot and I don’t have much free time, but when I do have some time I love riding my Harley Davidson that I call “Roscia” my “girlfriend”. When my Tattoo artist is free I always find time for some ink too. I dedicate the rest of my free time to sports. What recently helped me out, transforming the energy I absorb working in this amazing city 24/7, is boxing. Mike is my friend and trainer: punching the bag helps me a lot. It is a mind game, it’s a beautiful feeling, it’s great. My eternal love, my soccer team: LAZIO. We are not doing very well this year, but this is LOVE. You stick with someone even if he/she is in the worst place and time. You can confirm is love when you wake up at 6am in the morning after closing the restaurant at 4am on a Saturday night to see your team losing, ruining and affecting your whole Sunday.. When I was 14 I came to visit my uncle here in NYC and they left me in front of the TV watching “their” football, a “crazy game” with an oval ball and these huge guys, dressed funny, chasing it. At the time I didn’t speak English so watching the game was a great way for me, loving sports, to let the time pass. Watching that first game I acknowledged the green and yellow team. Their players were crazy, jumping into the crowd after each score, I started to follow the game and the team also because their name abbreviation was GB as mine being my name Giovanni Bartocci. On top of that there was no Italian soccer team using their colors, so the deal was done. I started to love them and stated to follow them just because felt cool. I went to watch a game in their stadium, I was shirtless for most of the game despite the temperature was 10 degrees. After 17 beers I was drunk, I couldn’t feel anything. I was swearing in Italian and people kept asking me where I was from and they kept offering me beers just because I was a Packers fan from Rome. One year later the Packers were in the finals and thank to a guardian angel I managed to become a legend for the Packers fans. I entered the stadium and I run in the field, touched the Lombardi trophy, celebrated and took pictures with the players. The NFL did a short documentary on my story: the American dream of an Italian Boy!
I left Italy in 2002 for London after I lived there for almost six years I came back to Italy and I tried to work in Italy for one year, but I was not successful. I left Italy because in Italy your are not allowed even to dream anymore.
After 7 years to find good memories it’s very hard. Everything goes so fast and in the same day you will deal with both good and bad things that will affect your memories. Good memories? Having my mom here in NY, being proud of me. When as a kid I came here with my grandmother that passed away few weeks ago. You meet so many good and bad people, your heart gets a little bit harder everyday and changes you. Other memories? The first time my friends came to visit me, the first thanksgiving, the first turkey…so many memories, there is not enough time and space to list them all.
We actually had two shootings and two locations. The first one was the one Alexo picked, he wanted me to be a guy in a suit with the Packers blazer underneath and soccer shoes. We choose Central Park, but was JANUARY and so cold that the park was closed. As good Italian we broke into the park and we had the fastest and riskiest shooting of our lives!!! After the shooting we went for a ride and our two “girlfriends” Roscia and Arcadia (NR, our motorcycles) met. Alexo had the chance to know me better and we picked together the second location and a completely different outfit. We went location scouting and we stopped in Chinatown and Alexo photographed me with my “girlfriend” showing all my tattoos, piercings, and rings.
I loved the idea and I was more than honored to be part of it. I still ask myself if I did enough to represent my beautiful country.
It is always a great honor to be the ambassador of the Italian style and culture. We come from a culture that is known for making the world a better place, achieving the best in many different aspects: artistic, scientific…a world without Italians is a saddest world!