Alessandro Sanna's favorite soccer team, S.S. Lazio, flies an eagle around the stadium before the game begins. When he saw Nova and Spirit circling Jordan-Hare Stadium, he knew it was a sign he chose the right place to start his family and a traditional Italian restaurant.
"We are meant to be here," Alessandro said.
Born and raised poor in Rome, Italy, Alessandro Sanna, 28, and his brother Stefano Sanna, 27, learned the secret to living: cooking what they know. The brothers spent most of their childhood at home while their parents worked long shifts as a truck driver and a hospital hand. Alessandro said he took care of himself for the most part.
"I was home alone a lot so cooking was more of a necessity," Alessandro said. "We learned how to cook at home from my grandmother."
Four years ago, Alessandro and Stefano took Grandmother's lessons and hopped on a plane destined for America with intentions to test their abilities and open a restaurant. It's been a long time coming for the pair, but their dream came true on the opening day of their quaint restaurant, Fratelli's Ristorante Italiano on South College Street, a place of their own. Fratelli's translates to Brother's from Italian. To them, it was the only name that made sense.
Before opening a restaurant in Auburn, Alessandro cooked his way through Florida, Lousiana and Mississippi until he was able to obtain the location and money to open his own business.
"I've always worked in the restaurant business," Alessandro said. "It's been almost 11 years. It's always been my goal to have my own place, be my own boss."
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Alessandro said like many in Rome, the "American Dream" is what he clung to. Everyone he knew dreamed of moving across the pond to the U.S. The difference was the dream came true for him.
"The United States gave me an opportunity to grow my family and make something of myself," Alessandro said.
What held these two young men from opportunity at home?
"The economy," they said in unison.
Alessandro said you work in construction or restaurants in Rome. The big city is fueled by a bustling tourist economy that relies on the food industry, he said.
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"You're born rich, you stay rich. You're born poor like us, you stay poor," Alessandro said. "We never studied that much, and we didn't get a great education. So I always worked."
Stefano said the U.S. provides an opportunity for people to work their way up the ladder, a luxury they say is not available in Rome.
Their doors have been open for two months and business is doing well, Alessandro said. With a simple black and white sign out front and a burgundy red base inside, Alessandro and Stefano have worked to create their perfect menu. Employees of their newly hired staff rewrite the names of daily dishes on the black chalkboard on the center wall.
Fratelli's Ristorante Italiano serves traditional Italian food but specializes in entrees from the two owners' hometown, Rome. So far, the brothers have noticed their seafood dishes flying out of the rectangular service window connecting them to the customers awaiting their steaming plates of pasta.
"What you find around here, especially in Alabama, is American Italian food," Alessandro said. "It's not authentic."
Chowing down on the pasta of their own making twice a day in their younger years taught them to make it well, and they said they don't shy from the best product possible. American Italian doesn't compare in freshness, Alessandro said.
"Italian food comes from poor people. It's one, two, three ingredients and the base is good tomato, good basil and good mozzarella," Alessandro said. "We try to keep everything simple."
For the perfect Italian food, one must stick to tradition. Stefano said it is crucial to know every detail of the cooking process, especially how long to cook pasta.
"It's down to the minute," Stefano said as he shook his head and finger simultaneously.
Not only did Alessandro want a place of business, he wanted a home for his family.
His wife and 2-year-old child live with him in Auburn, and he is grateful for the opportunities they have now thanks to the move. Stefano's girlfriend will be joining him in Auburn once she leaves Rome, and he is looking forward to her arrival.
Before settling down, Alessandro and Stefano did "economic research" to find the best town to lay their chefs' hats. The population growth and business' success drew the brothers into the area and the culture. The school district and location opportunities kept them hooked.
The search lasted three months and consumed loads of gasoline. Their small team traveled through Georgia, Alabama, Lousiana and Mississippi until they landed on the Plains.
"We like the area," Alessandro said. "It is the South, but there is a little more culture around here and it isn't the traditional little town in Alabama."
Alessandro said he misses the relaxed culture in Rome. Everything in America is faster, he said. Despite the speed, the South is a welcoming place and the Southern hospitality is a part of Auburn he has grown to love. Alessandro said Rome is more cold-natured.
Alessandro and Stefano's family is very proud, they said, but the distance is challenging.
"It's not like they can come and visit all the time, but to that, we are here and successful and that's what matters," Alessandro said.
Aside from positive reviews, Alessandro and Stefano said Auburn locals have been very welcoming, chatty and willing to try new things in the restaurant. Alessandro walked in from a coffee run, stopped at a table where a couple was eating and was praised for the food he had placed in front of them. The positive reviews and table-side conversations make the patience it took to open Fratelli's worth it, Alessandro said.
"It was a perfect match," Alessandro was saying when Stefano burst through the door with freshly baked, aromatic Ciabatta resting on a hot baking sheet.
"Fresh bread every day!"
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