OUR INTERVIEW TO MICHAEL ROMEI
Our Bollettino Interviews are always a great way to keep in touch and share valuable information. This is true not only among our own Italian colleagues, but also those who are located in various parts of the world. This time we had the pleasure to interview our dear friend Michael Romei, Director of Concierge Services, Casa Cipriani NYC. We have asked Michael to tell us about the current situation in NYC, USA, some professional secrets as well as details of his Italian origin…
Coronavirus outbreak has brought the USA to its knees. Could you please describe the current situation?
The current situation in the USA remains challenged mostly due to the fragmented regions or states which are either compliant to Covid standards and restrictions or not. The real issue is that here in the USA there is no federal mandate regarding the virus; therefore, the rules and guidelines are left up to the individual state and/or local city governments. This has caused a continuous mix of standards throughout the USA. For example, NYC and the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) went from being the epicenter of the virus back in late March and April to the now the safest region of the USA. This turn around, is due to the strong leadership of the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo (Italian-American) who took action to bring the two adjoining states; New Jersey and Connecticut together to enforce the same standards and restrictions. This collaboration was organized early in the pandemic therefore keeping the virus from spreading throughout the immediate region. Early in the pandemic NYC was the epicenter simply due to the high density of the population in very close quarters. The strategy at the time was to adopt a somewhat strict lockdown with a gradual opening. This strategy remains therefore, NYC is still opening slowly and carefully. Masks are still recommended in NYC and strictly enforced particularly for all indoor establishments. Indoor dining in restaurants is just about to begin on September 30th with a 25% capacity control then to increase to 50% by November. Currently only outdoor dining is available in NYC. Museums and Art Galleries just recently began to open this month in September again with careful Covid standards such as timed ticketing only, mask requirements and distancing during the visit. NYC and the Tri-State area also have a careful standard for those arriving from other states. There is a 14 days quarantine requirement for those entering from high risk state which is somewhat enforced with a possible $ 2000USD fine. There is a list of 30 states that are considered a higher risk due to the percentage of positivity and high numbers of cases and deaths. For those arriving from these particular states; they are asked to document and certify a quarantine and submit this particular document online. This is monitored only randomly at the Airports, Railroad Stations, Bridges and Tunnels. NYC currently has the lowest positivity rate average between 0.24 to only 1% of those tested. The 30 states on the quarantine list have higher than 11% positivity rate together with other numbers and statistics of the virus. Some states opened too early and therefore had to close and restrict further. We remain hopeful and eager to return to our hotels. Some luxury hotels have already opened, some of which have been busy, others will most likely open later this or perhaps within the 1st quarter 2021.
From Social Media I noticed that you are doing interesting tours and visits around NYC. According to you, how is it important to discover the places we live in during this period and especially when it is not so crowded?
Like most of our Concierge colleagues I have been out of work for several months waiting and hopeful to return to a more normal work activity schedule. It is important for all us who are out of work to remain productive both physically and mentally. We are all experiencing a certain level of stress and anxiety and a feeling of uncertainty due to the virus at the moment. At the same, it is also important for us concierge to keep ourselves updated with current events and especially the development of our own cities and immediate region so that we will be substantially prepared and informed once we return to our work and profession. We also want to continuously display our relevance as a concierge by sharing knowledge and expertise as well as support for all concierge friends and colleagues worldwide. Therefore, I try to keep a schedule each day of various activities such as exploring the City and environs and reporting this in a short film. The films are called NYC Concierge Explores and it is a simple way of showcasing and highlighting various landmarks and attractions in NYC as well as surrounding areas. Additionally, I post a daily motivational and inspirational message of IG Story, I have been honored to be invited to participate in various Zoom Meetings of concierge associations throughout the USA and Les Clefs d’Or Sections worldwide. Although my travel, teaching and training activity is certainly on pause for the moment; I have occasionally shared my “Creating Service Magic” with brief lectures of service via IG Live Interviews or Zoom. Sometime in April together with two dear friends Frederick Bigler, Chef Concierge, The Peninsula NYC and Journalist Trish Sanborn; we began weekly Concierge Chats in a podcast interview format sharing thoughts and ideas during the pandemic not only with concierge colleagues but also with business professionals worldwide. Most recently I initiated an Outreach Committee program for our local NYCAHC (New York City Association of Hotel Concierges) so that we can come together and reach out to each other for support and friendship. The program is designed to provide 3-4 small zoom chats each month so that our members and colleagues can chat in a more personalized way as well we reach out to each other frequently to ensure that everyone is well and we are beginning to meet in small numbers to explore NYC and environs on our own. All of this and more are ways in which to remain relevant and cohesive as a profession and society in the true spirit of friendship.
Your Italian origins lead you to consider Italy as your second home. What emotions does this wonderful country give to you? Everyone considers Italy to be the most beautiful country in the world. Is it right in your opinion?
Italia is without a doubt my second home and although I was born in the USA, Italia has always been in my heart from birth. I think this is especially true being First Generation and born in a very Italian home which just happened to be located in the USA. I feel quite fortunate in many ways to have had parents who both shared with us all the beauty of the Italian culture; particularly food, wine and the art of hospitality. In fact, I attribute my own early lessons of hospitality to my parents who both taught us the importance of treating guests who visited our home like family and looking after their care in so many ways. This is of course the true Italian way of hospitality that comes from the heart and is therefore warm and embracing. I was also quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel often from a young age and particularly to visit my father’s family very often therefore Flying back and forth to Italy frequently and keeping in close relations. Since birth I also learned pieces of the Italian language from two different dialects to proper Italian. My father wanted me to learn property and encouraged to take formal lessons so that I would be able to read, write and communicate properly. I learned from a young age to appreciate all the beauty of Italy and my Italian heritage and yes absolutely I feel it is the most beauty country in the world and certainly one of the most popular travel destinations for a number of reasons. Sometimes while visiting Italy I look at the surroundings as if it is a painting or picture and say to myself what more could we fit into the picture that is already there: beautiful landscape, art, culture, food, wine, historic landmarks, fashion & style, creativity and design, warmth and love. What more could we possibly ask for? Most of us Italians here in the USA and elsewhere in the world have interesting stories of our roots, heritage and families and how we actually got here. Mine is maybe similar but perhaps a little different as my Father’s family and my own name Romei is well documented and steeped in some interesting Italian history. According to genealogy it is believed that the original name was Romee and was French in the 10th or 11th centuries and somehow the family moved into Italy and it became Romei. The family name is traced particularly to the beautiful medieval city of Ferrara where Giovanni Romei, a successful merchant banker married Princess Polisena d’Este. Giovanni later became administrator to the lords of Ferrara and was made Count of Bergantino by Pope Pius II in 1458. Later after his death the house was taken over and very well preserved by the nuns of the Corpus Domini Ministry. The house to this day represents one of the prime examples of Renaissance architecture in Ferrara and is actually a public music which just re-opened on September 12th 2020. The Romei name is not very common so most of us are related, some of us are closely related others are distant cousins and come from various stems from the original family. Part of my father’s family settled in the South in a village called Bisaccia, Avellino in the Campania region where we still have a family home. Others left Italy sometime after WWII in the early 1950s and settled in Ticino outside of Lugano. My father was anti-fascist and pro monarch; very proud of Italian history. He was well educated and began studies in the seminary, but he decided this was not for him. He then left at a young age and settled in Brooklyn NY where he had family who came over earlier. My Mother’s family who comes from the Benevento region and their dialect and culture was much closed to the true Napolitano. My mother shared with us her love of music, opera, piano, food and wine in particular her famous pizza making skills. Both parents shared their own version of an Italian way and although they were very different from each other they shared the most important Italian values such as Love, Warmth, Embrace, Respect and hard work ethics. It is for this and a lot more that Italia is always an emotion and feeling. A closeness that I have always felt and especially with all of my Chiavi d’Oro friends and colleagues which is why I am also so deeply honored to have been asked to be interviewed in your Bollettino on line. I remain hopeful dear friends and look forward to the day when I can return very soon to Italy and experience the warm embrace again.