USA-Italy, return ticket: the odyssey of the Campilongos, now separated from their dear ones

The owners of the famous Terùn in Palo Alto had returned to Italy to look after their mother, who is seriously ill. They managed to return home in California, and went into quarantine

Maico and Franco Campilongo in front of their f

Maico and Franco Campilongo in front of their famous Terùn in Palo Alto, California. The two are now in quarantine, but they will be back in Italy in July for Identità Golose 2020

Initially published in Italian on March 17th 2020

Incredible and crazy stories in these days of emergency are intertwined with the life of each one of us, the everyday things, the personal difficulties. Maico Campilongo should have spoken at the Identità Golose 2020 congress on March 9th, and he will speak for sure in July. In the meantime, together with his brother Franco he’s in quarantine in the latter’s house in Palo Alto, California, where they have been living and working for years and they have built a very successful business, as we recently said here From Palo Alto to Identità Milano. The story of Terùn tells us pizza has no borders.

The odyssey of Maico and Franco, started on March 6th, when they should have been in Italy for the congress: everything was postponed, the plane tickets had been cancelled, except then they had to book them again because the conditions of their mother, who has been sick for years, suddenly deteriorated, and she was urgently taken into hospital. So they rushed to take a flight from San Francisco to Italy, «to be frank, we started that journey with the idea that this time we would have to say goodbye to our mother, and would have to plan the funerals. Otherwise, we would have not left, given the current situation».

The Campilongo brothers with their parents, a few years ago 

The Campilongo brothers with their parents, a few years ago 

They landed at Fiumicino on Saturday March 7th, a few hours before Giuseppe Conte signed the first decree against the Coronavirus emergency which extended the red zone to all of Lombardy and the nearby provinces. Elsewhere there were no bans, but the atmosphere was surreal: «When we arrived in Rome, with the airport half empty, they checked our temperature and we rented a car. We had to go to Tuscany [they are originally from Calabria, but because of their mother’s serious illness they moved her to Tuscany, to live with their sister in Fucecchio, so she could count on better health facilities] our mother was at the hospital in Empoli. The motorway was deserted. We arrived at home in the evening, then on Sunday we went to visit our mother but could not say hallo, she was very sick».

One day later, on Monday, the red zone was to be extended to all of Italy. The Campilongos realised it was a matter of hours: «We had to decide what to do, because we have family, children, work and home in California. Since we had no contact at risk – we had been in Italy for a day only and had met very few people, in areas that were not yet under the Coronavirus emergency – we decided to return immediately to Palo Alto. We managed to get the last EasyJet flight from Pisa to London. The following ones were later all cancelled». Before arriving on board, the Italian authorities checked that their flight would be authorised: it was a return to their domicile, so they received the go ahead.

The Campilongo brothers with their business partner Michael Oliverio and Alex Atala and Massimo Bottura at Identità New York 2016

The Campilongo brothers with their business partner Michael Oliverio and Alex Atala and Massimo Bottura at Identità New York 2016

Maico has a US passport, Franco a green card while he’s waiting to be granted citizenship too: so the airport authorities in London didn’t raise any issues, and allowed the following transfer. The two could get the first flight to California: «Those were terrible moments, when they made us feel as if we had to be ashamed of being Italians. We felt like people thought we were plague spreaders. It was terrible». The flight from London to San Francisco was almost empty, and so was the airport when they arrived, «it usually takes around two hours to pass controls, it’s always packed with people. It took us only 5 minutes. We realised the emergency was arriving there too».

From that moment on the brothers went in voluntary quarantine: «We’re both at my place –Franco says – So that Maico’s wife can continue to work and my daughter can attend school. We had no contacts with them, or else they should have gone into isolation too. We sent them to live with our cousin and now we’ll stay in here for at least two weeks». While they chat, the family sends them some food supplies: «This time they sent us a quiche and a banana bread». And they smile.

They explain: «The situation in the US is constantly evolving. We’re seven-ten days behind Italy, so to speak. My wife – says Maico – works at Stanford University, where they are gradually limiting activities: they first cancelled larger events, then the lessons when the first cases arrived, and so on».


«The situation in the US is constantly evolving. We’re seven-ten days behind Italy, so to speak»

The Campilongos have already closed iTalico, their second restaurant, while their top place, Terùn, is open only for delivery or take away: «Until yesterday there was no indication of a general closing, we adopted the necessary restrictions because we want to protect our employees [55 people at Terùn alone] and clients. We’re a point of reference in Palo Alto. Many asked us not to stop, "please, hold on", almost as if our presence was a hope for the entire Silicon Valley. But health comes first».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso