Immigrant Stories: Argentinian brings flavors of Italy to the U.S.
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Adrian Falero and his wife, Natalia, own and operate Trattoria Dionisia, which opened in downtown Glenwood Springs in October.
Adrian Falero: I was born in Argentina. My father is from Italy and my mother is from France. I was 15 when I came to Miami in 1995. I came here because my family had nothing in Argentina, there was no future. My brothers and I came looking for new opportunities. In Argentina we were watching our country go down year after year.
Gallacher: Why was your country in decline?
Falero: There was a lot of corruption. We couldn’t trust the president and the politicians.
Gallacher: What did your father do there?
Falero: My father? I never really knew my father. He left my mother and my brothers when she was pregnant with me. I only met my father one time and that was just before I came to this country. He said, “Hey son, forgive me,” but I didn’t say anything. He wasn’t good to my mom so I didn’t have anything I wanted to say to him.
Gallacher: How did you mother get by raising you boys on her own? Was it hard for her?
Falero: It was hard, but she is a very strong woman. She has worked hard all her life for her four sons. She cleaned houses, took care of babies and worked in restaurants. She did everything she could to make sure we had a good life. I am the youngest, so my brothers helped my mother take care of me.
Gallacher: So your brothers were your fathers in a way.
Falero: Yes, my oldest brother is 10 years older than me. He started working selling ice cream from a cart when he was 13. He and my mom earned the money for the family.
Gallacher: How old were you when you had to go to work?
Falero: I started work in a restaurant in Miami right after I came to the United States. I was 15.
Gallacher: Was it hard for you to leave Argentina?
Falero: It was hard to leave my friends but I was excited to go to this country that I had seen so much about on TV. My oldest brother had been working construction in the United States for two years and he was telling us that it was a very good country.
It was much harder than I imagined it would be. I had to start school and learn a new language and I had to get a job to help the family. Everything was new and different.
Gallacher: What was different?
Falero: When I was living in Argentina I thought everything was going to be easy because people would say, “In the United States you make easy money and you will be rich in a little bit.” So I was dreaming about my new car and my new house. But it’s not like that. You have to work very hard.
Most people are very nice, but there are other people who try to take from you.
Gallacher: Where did you go to school?
Falero: I went to high school during the day and worked in the restaurant at night. There were many nights that I didn’t get home until 4 in the morning. I would sleep for two hours and get up and go to school. That first year was so hard that I finally decided I couldn’t do both. I really loved school but I had to have a job to help my family. So I quit school.
I worked as a dishwasher at first, but I learned about food quickly, so soon I was helping prepare the food. It was an Italian restaurant, so it was there that I began to learn how to make Italian food. There are a lot of Italians in Argentina.
Gallacher: So you learned how to cook by helping the chef?
Falero: Exactly. The owner of that restaurant knew that I couldn’t speak much English and that I really needed the money, so he was very good to me. He helped me a lot.
I wasn’t so lucky in my next job. I had to ask for my check and the owner kept saying, “next week, next week.” When he finally paid me it was only for half of my hours. He told me I didn’t work that much and that I had expenses that he took out of my pay.
So I quit and went home. When I told my brothers they helped me call a lawyer. The lawyer called the restaurant and the next day the owner called and said, “Please come to the restaurant and I will give you what I owe you.”
Gallacher: How many years were you in Miami?
Falero: I was there for 12 years. Miami was very expensive, so I worked nights in restaurants and days in construction. I didn’t have a day off for years. I finished at the restaurants at 6 in the morning and slept a little before going to my construction job. I usually got off at 4 in the afternoon so I would go home and take a shower and sleep until just before 7.
Gallacher: When did you find time to fall in love?
Falero: At work. I started at a new restaurant and my wife was working as the chef. When I first saw her she wouldn’t speak with me. She ignored me for the first week. I told her then that she and I were going to get married.
Gallacher: You told her that the first week?
Falero: Yes, the first week. I was 19. She looked at me and said, “Get out of here.” It took me six months but I was persistent and we gradually became friends. I brought her flowers and chocolate, and when she needed something I tried to get it for her. We were friends but I always told her that I wanted to be more than her friend. She would say, “No, no we are just friends.”
Finally I realized that we would only be friends and I knew I had to move on. I told her, “I really love you, but if you don’t love me it is too hard to be around you. I am done.” So we said our goodbyes.
Late one night, two weeks later, I was home watching TV and she called me. When I realized it was her calling I turned off the TV and turned the music up loud. When I answered she wanted to know where I was. I told her I was at a party with friends.
“Where is it? I want to come,” she said.
“No, no,” I said. “Why don’t I come by your place?”
I waited a while and then I went to her house. It was then that she told me that she missed seeing me. It was then that we started our life together. It was years before I told her that I wasn’t at a party.
Gallacher: What is it that you love about your wife?
Falero: I think we share a lot. We are the same in many ways. She doesn’t expect to have everything given to her. She works hard all the time like me. She is a very positive woman who is always there in difficult times to tell me, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, we will figure it out.” And when she is down, I try to do the same thing to make her feel better.
Gallacher: How did you get from Miami to Glenwood Springs?
Falero: I had a good friend that I worked with for 10 years. He came to Aspen for work and I would talk to him on the phone. He told me that Colorado was a good place for me and my family.
It was the same summer that Hurricane Katrina hit. That day we stayed in our home because we didn’t think anything was going to happen. It was my baby daughter and my wife and me. When the hurricane passed over it felt like the roof and the doors were coming off our house. The water started rising. I remember looking out the window to the street where my car was parked. Ten minutes later, when I looked, my car wasn’t there.
The hurricane makes an unforgettable sound. You feel like it is speaking to you. It was terrifying. My wife and I took our daughter and hid in the closet in the middle of the house. When we came out there was water everywhere. We lost everything.
I had my own construction company then and I did alright for two years, but eventually the economy went bad in Florida and I lost it. I felt like I had to keep starting over. It seemed like I could never get ahead.
That’s when we decided to join my friend in Aspen. So we loaded up our kids and the car and headed for Colorado to start over again. Oh and one other thing, my wife was pregnant with our son.
Gallacher: Now that is faith.
Falero: Yes it is, but I was realizing that I was going to be working a lot. I got a job delivering bread at night and working construction during the day. I saved enough money to buy a delivery truck and go into business with my friend, but I made a mistake. I trusted him and put the title to the truck in his name. He took everything, and once again we started over.
My wife and I worked two jobs and saved until we had enough money to open Trattoria Dionisia, our own restaurant in Glenwood Springs.
Gallacher: You and your wife have worked non-stop for years. Why?
Falero: Ahhh, it is for our children. We work hard because we don’t want our kids to have the same life as us, always working, working. I feel sometimes like a machine never stopping. I don’t want my children to have this life. I want them to go to the university and get a good education.
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