ALMA: Access to Language Methods for Increasing Migrants' Abilities to Start Their Own Business

alma: Access to  Language Methods

ALMA: Access to Language Methods for Increasing Migrants’ Abilities to Start Their Own Business is a European cooperation project aimed at stimulating migrants to begin a new business, to inspire and provide them with practical guidelines in order to start and run a successful company within a new cultural and linguistic context.

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Photo of Pietro Caruana

Pietro Caruana

An entrepreneur inspired by his native Sicily 

Pietro’s big smile immediately transports visitors to the smell of lemon trees, great pasta and red wine: ‘Hospitality is a big thing in Italian culture. I just love interacting, talking, and laughing with customers. Have missed this a lot during the pandemic but I am happy we were able to offer a whole restaurant to your door experience with our deliveries’. 

Everything is a Sicilian business here at Sale & Pepe. ‘We offer classic and authentic Sicilian cuisine. Everything is homemade here with many of our products coming from Sicily, like the ricotta for our cannoli. I like classic Italian cuisine, what we call la povera cucina, the food of the poor’. The Sicilian atmosphere is everywhere in Sale & Pepe (salt and pepper in Italian) with great Sicilian wine, delicious local dishes, mouth-watering desserts and even a small library. 

‘I wanted to bring the spirit of Sicily to my restaurant’ Pietro says, ‘so you can immerse yourself in our region. Once you are here you can eat, drink, learn some Sicilian words and learn about Sicily by borrowing a book from our Piccola Libreria Siciliana (our small Sicilian library). And as we get ready to close in the evening I put on ‘Nessun Dorma’ and everyone gets into that Sicilian spirit.’ 

Pietro came to the UK from Sicily speaking very little English and knowing very little about the British culinary culture. He started working at Italian restaurants first before opening his own business. His restaurant has all the ingredients of a truly Sicilian place: from the paintings on the wall, to the wine cellar, the menu and the books he lends to his customers, it is all a great trip to Sicily.

Pietro’s tips for new businesses

Pietro’s top tips for those who are new to setting up a restaurant are simple:

  • Work for a restaurant first. You need to understand the environment and national context of your business before you enter into a venture of opening your own. 
  • Once you open your own business, give it a clear identity. This will usually be a country or region but can also be a particular area of food, eg vegan or fish. Identity and branding is everything from how you decorate the place, to the dishes your serve, to other activities and services you can offer. I do for example a lottery charity fundraising with the first prize being a trip to Sicily. 
  • Learn the local language and be prepared to promote your own language too. Although I speak English to my customers, I am trying to sell the Sicilian culture and language in my restaurant, which is full of Sicilian dialect words on the wall. 
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things and adapt. During the covid period I adapted to running the whole restaurant as a takeaway and I am still doing it sometimes as we need to adapt to the pandemic. Offering more than just pizza and pasta and mixing up the menu with some specials and day dishes makes the customers come back more often.