Pisillo, New York’s most famous Samnite, tells the story of the American dream.

For the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” – Leonardo DiCaprio. Lovers of good food, on the contrary, are looking for another place. Not a broker, but an entrepreneur in love with cooking. Who was not born in Los Angeles because he was looking for America and found it. Then he went further: he conquered her. Without a jacket and tie, but with a blue polo shirt and tricolor on the chest. Starting from the bottom –At first, I did the humblest jobs, like cleaning toilets.” – and reaching the top of the Tripadvisor rankings. And not with pizza and not with pasta: the States won them on their territory, in the territory of sandwiches. Uphill race – “I fought because they were expecting an auto grill style sandwich or a classic sandwich” – But it was worth it. How many restaurateurs have Robert De Niro’s number in their phone book? “But I call him Uncle Bob“. Carmelo “Pisillo” Nazzaro his dream of stars and stripes evaporated drop by drop. And now, when the climb has become less steep, instead of taking a breath, he rises: “I will return to New York on September 11th, I am waiting for the signing of documents for the opening of a third business. In Times Square”. However, before returning to the plane, he enjoys his Sannio. “Every time I come back it’s a caress to my heart“. And you can use it if you want: tonight he will be making sandwiches in his Montesarcio for Days in the Country. “Friends attracted me to this wonderful event with many artists and craftsmen. I will have my own booth and I am very happy, I want to make a good impression and travel all over the province for specific products.”

And then back on the plane, remember the first time?

“In 2005, a reconnaissance campaign. I wanted to counter the American myth. I have been cultivating the dream of the USA since I was a teenager. And I intervened: a classic tourist ticket for ninety days. Upon returning to Italy, I met my wife, I already had a ticket to return to the States in my pocket. I go back a bit to 2008 when I moved permanently with my wife and our 11 month old daughter.”


“First I opened a pizzeria in Brooklyn. Pizza maker is a profession that I learned in Italy, where I also worked as a cook assistant, cook, waiter. After the pizzeria closed, I started importing/exporting Italian products. This is where the idea of ​​making this sandwich came from, which for Americans – the birthplace of hamburgers – was essentially revolutionary. Sometimes simple things are revolutionary because I didn’t invent anything. I visited our traditional delicacies again, using our grandmothers’ side dishes: sun-dried tomatoes, fried peppers, scapets zucchini. Opening in November 2013. On the sly, because the American clientele didn’t understand: the people who came were waiting for an autogrill style sandwich or a cold sandwich. And I showed him on the Internet that the Italian sandwich is something else. It wasn’t easy, but it was a crescendo, thanks in part to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s acquaintances and media attention.”

After all, you won your game away from home by challenging the Americans on their field: the field of sandwiches.

“Bet, challenge, game. It was born like this. Years spent in the import/export sector help me. I had many channels, many contacts with Italian producers. So I started and continued like this: I always used only products purchased in our country. The only exception: bread. I buy sandwiches here for obvious reasons. But in Italian bakeries I always use five: all from Irpinia. I then added the American quantity to the Italian quality. They are used to “big” portions. As I always say: I didn’t invent anything, but I used a lot of imagination.”

And how do they react to your sandwiches now?

“Amazing! Wonderful! After all, Americans are people who know how to please you.”

Earlier you mentioned Bill de Blasio, a winning combination made up entirely of Samnites: how did your connection come about?

“At the ceremony of his inauguration, in 2014 and therefore a few months after the opening of the sandwich shop, we were looked for by relatives of De Blasio, who were supposed to come from Sant’Agata de Goti. They needed logistical support, and my wife needed Satikulana. We provided ourselves, as we always do in such situations. And to thank us, they invited us to an inauguration party at the Gracie Mansion, which is the official residence of the mayor: sort of the White House of the Mayor of New York. Still in Manhattan. I went with business cards. I placed them everywhere: under vases, behind paintings, on furniture. And when I said goodbye to De Blasio, I took advantage of the confusion and slipped a few pieces into his jacket pockets. A few days later he showed up at the club with bodyguards. I wasn’t there because I also continued to work as a sales agent at the time. However, he found my wife, his fellow villager: they opened the box of memories, and this is how our friendship began. And so on: every birthday I bring him sandwiches for the party. Once I showed up with a Benevento scarf: yellow and red with the inscription “Samnite Pride”. There was also the press, and this photograph was a huge success. I was also contacted by President Vigorito’s company.”

And has the list of “VIPs” eating at Wall Street’s Pisillo grown over time?

“It has to do with many factors, not least the location: One morning during office hours, I found one of my favorite actors, Bruce Willis, filming a movie right in front of the club. “Come inside,” I shouted to him several times, come in and get yourself a sandwich. And he: “But it’s already eight in the morning!”. He didn’t take a sandwich, but we took a picture together. So much the better: I had nothing ready inside. Then yes, there are some famous clients: Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro.”

Heh, well

“It may seem incredible, but today we are friends with Roberto De Niro. I think I have his phone number. But I call him Uncle Bob. A wonderful person.”

Now tell us how to befriend Robert De Niro.

“He partners with three restaurants here in Manhattan, right in the Wall Street area. One day one of his business partners came to me for an interview: he still edits a magazine about the best Italian restaurants in the area. He ordered a sandwich, ate half and took the other half away. A few days later a guy comes and orders this sandwich. Several weeks pass and the boy returns. I will never forget this: there are a lot of people here, and he says to me: “Come out, a person wants to meet you.” I walk and find myself in front of a dark car. The window rolls down: Robert De Niro is there. He asks me for my phone number and my legs are shaking. “Go away,” I tell him. And he: “Do you have any idea what will happen if I get out of the car now?”. Then I went to eat at his restaurant, and that’s how we met.”

Who is Pisillo’s client?

“The journalist of Il Sole 24 Ore wrote: everyone comes here. In the queue you will find a Wall Street broker, followed by a construction worker or a clerk. Many workers, but also many tourists. And, of course, the Italians, many couples go on a honeymoon. The sandwich shop has no specific goal, I’m happy to be a reference for everyone. As we said, it’s nice to have famous clients, but I’m more people oriented. That is why I strive to maintain standard costs, and this result is possible thanks to many years of import/export experience.”

97 Nassau Street. New York Financial District: This is the address of your now historic Big Apple sandwich shop: who enters the menu and what does it find?

“Mostly 35 sandwiches, each dedicated to the regional capital of Italy. Plus a few exceptions like the Montesarcio sandwich or the Benevento sandwich. Each city is associated with the product that represents it: bacon for Trento, Parma ham for Parma, mortadella for Bologna. Every week a new sandwich. As for Benevento, which doesn’t have its typical cured meat but is the land where everything is done, I thought of extra virgin olive oil, ham and provolone cheese. A simple thing, but it means a lot.”

There is a lot of red and yellow in your business and also in your Instagram videos.

“I remember my origins: I am a Samnite Caudino and my city is Benevento. Always flagged means my belonging. But there is another aspect. Like all those who expose themselves on social media, I also have my haters. You cannot imagine how many insults I receive, how many times I have heard myself say: “Here is a peasant from Benevento who pretends to be a Neapolitan.” Who am I? I have nothing against Naples, but I have never been a Neapolitan and never pretended to be. Indeed, this association has always annoyed me. I repeat: not because it is against Naples, but because I am proud of being from Beneventano. Therefore, I do not respond to those who offend. My answer is the flag.”

Is there an “organized” Benevento community in New York or other activities with such specific reference to Sannio?

“In White Plains, also in the state of New York, is the important settlement of Durazzanese. They say that there are more of them than the inhabitants of Durazzano themselves. There are no Beneventani, otherwise I would recognize them. However, outside of New York, two hours away, there is a restaurant called Strega, which is run by a Benevento resident.

And the American dream, on the other hand: does it still exist?

“Yes, it exists, as it did a hundred years ago. Perhaps today it is a little more difficult, it takes more time. But the US remains a land of opportunity. To capture them, you need a great desire to intervene and readiness for self-sacrifice. I remember the first days, difficult. Menial work – washing toilets – and an unknown language that needs to be learned. But then came the satisfaction. See: America is a land that repays you in return. That is why the dream exists and will always exist.”

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