An Oral History of. Paolo Cividino. Interviewed: January 3, 2012 Published: 2014 Interviewer: Alicia Barber, Ph.D.

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An Oral History of Paolo Cividino 4 th Street Prater Way History Project Interviewed: January 3, 2012 Published: 2014 Interviewer: Alicia Barber, Ph.D. Born in Italy, Paolo Cividino grew up in California,
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An Oral History of Paolo Cividino 4 th Street Prater Way History Project Interviewed: January 3, 2012 Published: 2014 Interviewer: Alicia Barber, Ph.D. Born in Italy, Paolo Cividino grew up in California, and moved to Reno in He is founder and owner of Tutto Ferro, a custom steel fabrication business located at 616 East 4th Street. In establishing his operation along the 4th Street corridor, he joined a community of long-established iron workers, steel fabricators, and machine operators practicing in the area. The 4 th Street Prater Way History Project is a collaborative community history project launched by the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County in The project s website, with full transcripts, photographs, and other historical material about the 4 th Street Prater Way corridor through Reno and Sparks, Nevada, may be found at This interview may be downloaded and/or printed for personal reference and educational use, but not republished or sold. Citations should include the name of the person or people interviewed, the date of publication, and the fact that the work was produced for the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County as part of the 4 th Street Prater Way History Project. All transcripts in this collection as well as interview recordings are available in the Special Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. Requests for permission to use transcripts or recordings for commercial purposes should be directed to the Special Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, (775) , Copyright 2014 Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County All rights reserved. Published 2014. RTC 4th Street Prater Way Oral History Project Cividino 1 PAOLO CIVIDINO Interviewed on January 3, 2012 Alicia Barber, Interviewer Born in Italy, Paolo Cividino grew up in California, and moved to Reno in He is founder and owner of Tutto Ferro, a custom steel fabrication business located at 616 East Fourth Street. In establishing his operation along the Fourth Street corridor, he joined a community of longestablished iron workers, steel fabricators, and machine operators practicing in the area. Photo by Patrick Cummings Barber: I m with Paolo Cividino, the owner of Tutto Ferro, which is located at 616 East 4 th Street in Reno. I want to start out asking a couple of biographical questions. Where and when were you born? Cividino: I was born February 21, 1971 in Lignano, Italy. My mother s name is Dora and my father s name is Frank, or in his dialect it s Ciccio. My father was born in a town called Majano, which is really close to Udine, a big city in northern Italy about fifty miles north of Venice. I was born very close to where my father was from. My mother s family is from Treviso [phonetic], which is also in northern Italy, but my mother was born in Vancouver, Canada. Both of her parents came over on a boat. My grandmother on my mother s side came over on the very last boat from Italy to America before they shut all shipping off during the Second World War. So my mother was born in Vancouver. She has two sisters. Both my mother s parents were Italian. They had a pre-arranged marriage. This is pretty old-school. My parents are pretty old: my father s eighty-four, and my mother s seven years younger. My father was part of the Resistance during the Second World War, and fought against Hitler and Mussolini. My father has a really amazing past and my mother has a really amazing past. My mother s first language was Italian, and she grew up in a really tight Italian community in Vancouver during Prohibition. She s got some pretty good stories. Her father was a logger, and he was gone all the time. She had two sisters, so here you have these four women in this house, and the only way that they could make money was by making wine, so that s what they would do. All the Italians would go over to their house. They d play Briscola, which is an Italian card game, in the basement, and the cops never swept my grandmother because they knew she was selling wine. They knew she was making grappa and all this stuff, but she had three girls. What are they going to do, right? My father would go over there to play cards, and that s how he met my mother. The priest who married them got my father work in Daly City, so they moved from Canada to San Francisco. My two older sisters were born there. My father wanted to move back to Italy and so did my mother, so they moved to Lignano Sabbiadoro, which is a beach town north of Venice on the Adriatic. It s a resort RTC 4th Street Prater Way Oral History Project Cividino 2 town in the summertime. All the Germans, Austrians, French, and Swiss would go there. One of my father s sisters, my aunt, was there. She and her husband had a pasticceria, a bakery, and did really, really well. My parents had a bar, but a bar in Europe is more like a coffee shop. You would serve alcoholic drinks, but it s not like an American-type bar. Then they had a lavanderia, a laundromat. They had a villa there in Italy, and they would rent that out during the Ferragosto, the three months when the Europeans travel. They did really well. But I think my father had had a taste of what it was like to live in America and be self-employed. In Europe everything is very regimented and it s hard to get ahead, and I think that he felt stifled there. He tasted the American dream, and I guess he and my mother discussed it, and they decided to move back to the States. So I lived in Italy until I was four. Barber: Do you have any memories of Italy from your youth? Cividino: Yes, I do, but I was fortunate; my family went back to Italy almost every other year. My parents were really good about getting back there. Looking back on it, it was really special. I have a lot of really vivid memories of Italy all through my childhood, and of all my cousins in Italy. I moved back to Italy from 96 to 98. I enrolled in a School of Biblical Studies, and I lived there for two years and got to be with my extended family over there, which was really great. I have dual citizenship, so I can work there legally. Part of me wonders why I ever came back. Part of me thinks I should have just stayed there. Barber: Do you speak Italian? Cividino: I do speak Italian, yes. I don t speak any dialect. My father speaks dialect, but I don t. My Italian is like anything if you don t practice it all the time, you start to lose it. Over the holidays I get on the phone with my cousins and my relatives, and my Italian is bad. It bums me out because when I lived there, it was very good. I tend to understand fairly well because it was my first language, but when it comes to speaking, I stumble. I just bought Rosetta Stone because I was upset at how much I ve lost. I want to take my son, Enzo, back to Italy this spring if I can. He s going to be six in February, and I think that he ll remember that. I hope it s one of many trips. I have a very good friend who lives in [unclear], Switzerland, and I ll stay with him and also stay with my family and go down south. That would be nice. Barber: When your family moved back to the United States, where did you live? Cividino: My father bought a house in Walnut Creek [California]. He went back to Italy to finish working, and was gone for around six months. Then he came back, and we were all together. That s where I grew up. My father had plenty of work in San Francisco. He was super employable. He s a master bricklayer. He would commute into the city, and he worked in the city for thirty-plus years. Barber: As a bricklayer primarily? RTC 4th Street Prater Way Oral History Project Cividino 3 Cividino: No, there really isn t that much work laying brick stateside. In Europe when you re young, thirteen or fourteen, you have to decide what you are going to do. Are you going to go to a technical school, are you going to try and further your education in a non-technical manner, or are you not going to go to school at all? My father was super good with his hands, and my grandfather s an amazing bricklayer, and he just said, Look, I need you. My father wanted to be an architect, and my father s brother was an architect, and I think it was a point of contention between them, but my father was just too good with his hands. So he went to technical school to be a bricklayer. When you do that in Europe, you ve got to understand he could build anything with anything. The craftsmanship that those guys come out of school with is mind-boggling. He ran finish work in the city. He did all the finish in the Transamerica Building and the B of A Building and the Del Monte Building. He s just unbelievable. He s the guy who I was always trying to be like, but always feeling like I was falling short of that. That whole complex. Barber: Were you aware of his craftsmanship when you were growing up? Cividino: Absolutely. My father grew up in Italy when Italy was super poor. During the Second World War, if you had a cow and a chicken, you were considered pretty affluent. My grandparents had land with a vineyard and a large garden, and my father grew up a farmer. So it was pretty funny growing up in the Bay Area. We had a big lot with a half acre for a backyard, and we raised rabbits and slaughtered them. All my neighbors thought we were crazy, but to me, it was normal. We had a huge garden. My father had beautiful fruit trees, and he would graft all these amazing apples onto apples, and pears to pears. He s just a super talented guy. Shortly after we moved to the States, my father bought twenty acres in Grass Valley, which is where my parents live now, and it s beautiful, huge oak trees, horse-type country. We would go up there every weekend and work, building fences, digging trenches, you name it. I was always at my father s side working, and I really enjoyed it. It rubbed off on me, for sure. I take a lot of pride in being good at what I do. I want to be careful when I say it. I don t want to sound arrogant, but I just think that in this country, being a craftsman is not something that people value as much as they should. I think that when you are dealing with a craftsman, whatever the medium is, it s pretty awesome when someone has that kind of grasp of what they re doing. My father was amazing. You look at some of the things that my father built. He was young during the war, working in France, in Paris, with my grandfather because they were running from the Nazis. They were working in France, and my grandfather this is really cool, I ve actually seen this was awarded a key to the City of Paris because he ran the crew that helped rebuild the church at the end of the Champs-Élysées that got bombed by the Nazis during the Second World War. These are really complex, Gauditype arches. My grandfather never made it past about second grade in school, but his mathematical skills were mind-boggling, and my father s mathematical ability is unbelievable, too. RTC 4th Street Prater Way Oral History Project Cividino 4 My sister s husband has a master s degree from Cal [University of California] Berkeley in mathematics, and my father could fully hang out with him, and they could do the most complex math together. Because of his situation growing up, my father never made it past the equivalent of about tenth grade. So it s pretty amazing. Those guys were smart. Reality happened a lot sooner for them. Adolescence never occurred. My father was a foreman bricklayer running a crew of full-grown men at the age of fourteen. That s how I was raised, with that mentality. That s just my reality. I know it s a little different than some other people, but I feel really fortunate to have it, and I think that it s served me well in my profession. I m fortunate, too, because the guys who I have in my shop, to a large degree, although their reality looks different, operate the same way. They re real craftsmen. I m really lucky. I m surrounded by super talented guys, and you start to think it s normal. I ll be around other people and I ll think, What is wrong with you? You can t do anything. You have no common sense. I have a lot of respect for where I come from, because I think I should. Barber: Let s go back to how you ended up getting to Reno and starting your business. You went to high school in the Bay Area, in Walnut Creek. So what brought you to Reno? Cividino: My family is super intense, and I wanted to get away from them. I did okay in school; I didn t do great. I had a lot of traumatic stuff happen in my family when I was around fourteen years old, and so I just wanted to get out of there. Getting into UNR wasn t that hard, frankly. I applied to some other schools. I got into a couple, I didn t get into some other ones. I wanted to get into the mountains. I was really into rock climbing. My sister s boyfriend, who s now her husband, the mathematical wizard, his name is John, great guy. When I graduated from high school, we went to Yosemite Valley and took the rock climbing class, the two-week, ten-day rock climbing class, and I was hooked. So I thought, Reno s perfect, I m going to move to Reno and live around Tahoe, so I did. I moved to Reno in 1989 to go to the university, and I did a lot better scholastically at UNR than I did in high school. I was really busy doing a lot of stuff. I was in a band and the band was busy, and I was working, but I did well in school because I really enjoyed it. Barber: Had you spent much time in Reno before moving here for school? Cividino: I had never been to Reno, and the first time I came over the hill and I saw those casinos I thought, Oh, my god, what am I doing? This is ridiculous. This is such a small town, such a hick town. Initially I didn t like it. I wasn t used to this kind of arid landscape. I was used to trees and the ocean. But it really grew on me, and it grew on me so much that when I graduated from UNR, I had a degree in biogeography with an emphasis on arid lands, which was kind of ironic because I really grew to love the desert, and I think it is the most mind-boggling environment to live in. It is so amazing and diverse and cool. Reno s grown on me, and I ve tried to leave. I have tried to leave numerous times, RTC 4th Street Prater Way Oral History Project Cividino 5 but for some reason I always come back, and I ve got to say that I ve met the most colorful, wonderful people in Reno. I really have. I think this town is disproportionately blessed with amazing people, and it s weird that the town is so retarded in the midst of that. I don t get it. Reno is a dichotomy to me. I don t understand how there can be so many wonderful, super talented individuals and yet it can still be so dysfunctional. It doesn t have an identity, really, in my opinion. It s trying to figure out what it is. It s kind of a weird place to be. Because you go to some cities and it looks like they have it together, and businesses are thriving. But they re really no different than Reno. It s just that Reno s a mess. When I arrived, Reno was still a small town. My first job was at Deux Gros Nez and the Pneumatic Diner, so I met really great people right out of the chute really colorful, creative, energetic people. The Deux was happening. It was the first café in Reno. It was open 24/7, and Tim [Healion] and John [Jesse] were really creative. I felt like it kept me alive, being in that environment. It was something that resonated with me because when we would go back to Italy, I would work in my cousin s pasticceria. I d make cappuccinos and gelato and stuff like that. It was really nice to be in that environment again, and I really did enjoy that. And I got a ton of rock climbing in. It was great. And I went to school. I moved here in 89, and Reno has changed a lot since then. Barber: How would you say it s changed? Cividino: It s become gentrified in a lot of ways. It s kind of like what happened to San Francisco. When the dot-com thing happened in the city, the city got really gentrified, and everyone who made the city colorful and I m not talking about the bums, but the people who made the city colorful what I would call the working class they all had to relocate. They all lived in Pittsburg and Antioch or Brentwood or Discovery Bay. The city became totally gentrified. I remember when I was a kid, you couldn t go to the Mission District. You d get shot, or if not shot, you d get mugged. Now you go to the Mission District and it s ridiculous, or Hayes Valley or any of those neighborhoods. The city s just changing. A couple of the really good friends who I grew up with still live in the city and know the city like the back of their hand. They re kind of disgruntled with what s happened there. It s lost its flavor. It s kind of lost its edge. Now you have this disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Reno in some ways is gentrified as well. You have a bunch of people, dotcommers or whoever, who moved here. They could sell their real estate for whatever they could sell it for, and they were pretty affluent in Nevada terms, so they could buy these enormous homes. You have these huge builders, Lennar and others, come in and build these Tuscan-style developments you can go anywhere and see them. It s mindboggling to me, and it s just trash. Reno s grown out, not up and not in. I get why it happened and how it happened, but it s sad. I don t think that there s a whole lot of soul in what s gone on. There s definitely no quality in what s been put up in the last fifteen, twenty years. I know because I ve worked on some of those homes. I ve worked on multimillion-dollar homes in Arrowcreek that are just as shitty as the tract down in Damonte Ranch they re all the RTC 4th Street Prater Way Oral History Project Cividino 6 same. It s ridiculous. I don t get that. I don t like that too much. I live near downtown, and I like that. I live close to where I work. I m not a huge fan of commuting. My house is small; it s 950 square feet. I just don t get this whole bigger, better bullshit. I m not into it. I m not really pleased with the way the city has grown. I m sick of bad stucco jobs and shitty strip malls. But I think it s got to be really hard to be an urban planner and get your head around how to do this correctly. I don t think it s an easy job. It s easy to critique it, criticize it, and make fun of it or be disgruntled about it, but I think that it s a hard job to pull off, because you have people who want to invest money, and you ve got to do this. I still think Reno is a small town. I think you still have the same kind of guys. At work I still duke it out with the same dudes. It s who you know. It s still that kind of town. There s a handful of guys who are super affluent and they call the shots, at least in my industry. And I get that and that s fine. It s a good-old-boy club, Coney Island on 4 th Street, and all that stuff. Reno has that proximity thing. It s got Tahoe and the mountains and the city and the desert and Pyramid [Lake]. It s nice to live here. Barber: You had a very specialized major in school. Did you have career aspirations related to your major? Cividino: I thought I was going to get a master s degree and then maybe try to get into teaching at a higher level, a university level. I really thought that that s what I was going to do. Here s the deal. I didn t go to school and pick my major because I had a job aspiration; I picked my major because that s what I was interested in. I m not like a guy who went to engineering school and became an engineer, or nursing school and became a nurse or a doctor. I m just a guy who went to school and studied what he was interested in. I was into plants and rocks. I didn t give a lot of thought to what I was going to do, which is maybe not that bright, but it is what it is. For some odd reason I ended up not going back to school. I was traveling a lot and I was working. I did that School of Biblical Studies in Europe. It was a program through Youth With A M
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