Lo Sfizzicariello, social gastronomy where mental illness is cured by cooking

In the heart of the historic center of Naples, a stone’s throw from Spanish quarters there is “Lo Sfizzicariello”, a small social gastronomy run by a group of families of people affected by psychic malaise. Behind the counter, in the kitchen and in delivery, there are really them, “the crazy ones”, those whom the company has relegated to the margins, forced to do nothing because they are deemed unfit for work, locked up in the house, far from the “normal” eyes.

They are the protagonists of “Lo Sfizzicariello”, a documentary by Rossella Grasso which won the special mention of the Naples Film Festival 2019. A work carried out in close contact with the boys of the “Arte Musica e Caffè” cooperative which gave life in the social gastronomy project and who have decided to tell their work and tell their story in video to gradually break down the wall of prejudice that still too often relegates them to the margins.

The ‘sfizzicarielli’ tell how much work and human relations changed his life. A story of redemption that, through the voices of the protagonists, tells what mental distress is, what it means for people who suffer from it, the repercussions on their families and on society as a whole. A little known subject and which therefore generates prejudice, often even fear, and which institutions tend to place at the bottom of the list of subjects to be treated. The Sfizzicariello, a social and entrepreneurial reality that finances itself without any financial assistance from the public, breaks the codes by telling an unexpected story of everyday life and “normality”.

There are Francesco, Luigi and Nanni who start the day shopping in the colorful market of the Pignaseccathere are the jokes and the laughs of Simone and Davidethe light chatter between Enrico and Marco and the sharing of important issues during “Social Gym” meetings, where everyone is invited to express themselves on current topics, to talk about themselves and to open up to others. Even the most reserved and shy take an active part in the debate. There are periodic meetings with the psychiatrist who talks to the children and their parents because at Sfizzicariello together you can overcome everything and understand everything, just be united.

Between the four walls of Corso Vittorio Emanuele there are no leaders, “normal” and “different”, winners or losers. There is only a great desire to live and a lot of love to give and to receive. Love is friendship in big and small gestures and also a couple relationship like the one between David and Sabrina, the two tender little friends of the “Sfizzicariello”. They help each other to complete all their tasks. Their slow and careful way of cleaning squid together is here universal metaphor for love: the one who hands him the squid and the one who cuts it while joking and exchanging glances that express more than a thousand words. What is love if not helping each other?

The whole story aims to unmask another harm, what those who suffer from mental illness have no feelings. Instead, in the small shop, emotions are touched by hand. And there is also the possibility of a futureof a real life, even for those who otherwise could only live in darkness and loneliness.

At Sfizzicariello, we put ourselves into practice methodology of doing in society. And the results obtained in 10 years of activity can be seen in the bustle of customers who do not miss the opportunity to joke with the “Sfizzicarielli” and eat one of the delicious dishes prepared by them. There are those who 10 years ago would never even have taken the bus alone and today they move around and live in great autonomy. Who was forced to look at a wall alone in a room is now laughing and joking with everyone. He who carried anger within, pouring it out on others with violence, now gives everyone a smile and a hug.

All members strongly feel the need to contribute to creating a better society, starting from the walls of their gastronomy, extending to the whole city, promoting social initiatives such as “The hanging dumplingAnd petitions for the improvement of the well-being of all citizens. Sfizzicariello is a social gastronomy that carries a great message with facts: if you focus on tolerance, on work and on the dignity of people, the world can change.

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