Leichhardt link as who's who of Italian Australians tell their stories on SBS

PRODUCE: Harris Farm Markets chairwoman Catherine Harris.
PRODUCE: Harris Farm Markets chairwoman Catherine Harris.

Long-standing Leichhardt-based Italian community organisation Co.As.It has turned its hand to documentary making, producing an 11-part series that launched this week on SBS-TV and SBS On Demand.

The Italians features a who's who of successful Italian Australians - both migrants and the children of migrants - across fashion, food, coffee, and the arts.

The late designer Carla Zampatti is featured in one of her last interviews, while leading jewellery designer Nicola Cerrone, who emigrated to Australia at the age of 12 and opened a jewellery store in Leichhardt in 1972, tells the story of his 'overnight success', and his purchase with a $600 deposit of the Catherine St terrace that remains the site of his flagship store today.

Catherine Harris, chairperson of Harris Farm Markets, was born Catherine Mary Rossi. The Birchgrove resident was filmed at Harris Farm in Leichhardt, and shares the story of her ancestors, Francesco Villa and Maffio Rossi, who arrived in Australia in 1880.

LITERATURE: Bestselling author Melina Marchetta.

LITERATURE: Bestselling author Melina Marchetta.

Bestselling author Melina Marchetta, whose books include an inner west trilogy that concludes with 2019's Haberfield-set Place on Dalhousie, also recounts her Sicilian family's beginnings in Australia, and the spectacular, unexpected success of Looking for Alibrandi, also set in the inner west.

"The series highlights the contribution of Italian Australians over the years and the vast impact this has had on Australia," says Co.As.It General Manager, Thomas Camporeale.

"[It] has been a wonderful way to capture some of the significant stories of these celebrated Italian Australians.

"The series also looks to inspire Italian Australians to connect with their Italian heritage."

The not-for-profit Co.As.It was established in 1968 by the Italian Consul General to assist Italian migrants, and to preserve and promote Italian language and culture in NSW - which, more than 50 years later, is certainly the intention of The Italians, said the series' creator and director Carlos Raso.

FASHION: The late designer Carla Zampatti.

FASHION: The late designer Carla Zampatti.

The Co.As.It Marketing, Events and Communication Manager, Mr Raso said the interviews were originally a web series that arose out of COVID lockdowns, when Co.As.It's Italian Family History Group was unable to hold its monthly events that featured a speaker of Italian background.

"It has had 150,000 views on YouTube - it's certainly generated a lot of interest," Mr Raso said.

And now, Co.As.It is "thrilled" that the series will reach a wider audience through partnering with SBS.

Appropriately, given its central place in Italian culture - and its enduring embrace by Australians generally - food features heavily in the series. Starring in the 11-minute episodes are renowned chefs and restaurateurs Armando Percuoco, of Buon Ricordo fame and Alessandro Pavoni, of Ormeggio at the Spit; 'Australia's Coffee King' Les Schirato, CEO of Vittoria Food & Beverage; and Naples born and raised Luigi Esposito, the man behind some of Sydney's best pizza, served at his Via Napoli restaurants.

FOOD: Buon Ricordo restaurateur Armando Percuoco.

FOOD: Buon Ricordo restaurateur Armando Percuoco.

Rounding out the 11 episodes are internationally acclaimed comedian Joe Avati, Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini, and Chris and Anthony De Lorenzo, directors of the haircare dynasty which carries their family name and was established by their fathers, Vincent and Anton De Lorenzo, who opened their first salon in 1945 in Sydney's CBD.

The series, which was a finalist in the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards in the category of Best Audio-Visual Report, is screening on SBS-TV at 2pm on most weekdays, and otherwise available to watch on SBS On Demand and on YouTube or the Co.As.It website.

In the meantime, another series is in the pipeline.

"These are only some of the numerous Italian Australian success stories," said Mr Camporeale about season one.

"We intend to feature more tales of triumph in The Italians second season."

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