I need some help.
I am Geovanni Vicente, and I have been working in this community for 24 years. All of which has been as an undocumented immigrant. After more than two decades of doing what I love through serving the community of Oakland, the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has forced my restaurant Filippo’s to close its doors.
This restaurant was my first job in the United States. I started as a dishwasher here before I knew anyone in the area, and even before I could speak English. My friend and mentor Philip Raskin gave me the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the restaurant business. I worked my way up from washing dishes to prepping food, then from the salad station to the cooking station, from busing tables to cashier, waiter, then manager. Philip trusted me with managing his restaurant locations for over 19 years before offering my wife and I the opportunity to purchase Filippo's on Rockbridge. Having a place of my own where I could create a sense of belonging and comfort for my family, friends, and strangers had been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and it has been one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. Owning a restaurant has not been easy. Over these past 5 years I chose to sacrifice a lot of important things in my life, particularly time with my mom, my dad, my siblings, and my kids. I regret that I cannot get that time or those memories back.
I’ve been living in this country undocumented for the past 24 years. I imagine that you'd be surprised by, and possibly even take for granted, simple things that citizens can do which I cannot. I cannot get on an airplane to see friends and family for the weekend. I cannot get a loan from a bank. I cannot file for protection from creditors under US bankruptcy laws. All of these sacrifices are worth it to call this beautiful country my home though.
I had previously relied on my wife to help support me with banking relationships due to my legal status in this country, but we have been separated and are in the process of divorce. This almost broke me, but through the love and support of friends, family, and this community I made it through. Once again, I'm asking for help. I desperately need help. I am behind on my tax payments, not to mention money the restaurant still owes to our vendors. I can and will work to get every vendor paid back overtime, but I need to make my $15,000 tax payment on time to avoid legal trouble.
It's so hard for me to ask for this help, and if my children's and my future didn't depend on this I probably couldn't bring myself to be this vulnerable. But their future does depend on this help, so I will do whatever I must to find it.
I’m still very proud of everything I have achieved as an immigrant in this country, most notably raising my beautiful, playful, strong and loving children and providing a haven for our community to gather and enjoy some old fashion Italian comfort food. I love to create experiences like these, I’m looking forward to working back towards future entrepreneurial endeavors. It saddens me to see the business that I love so very much closing its doors, and it's not easy to share this failure publicly. However, I’m incredibly proud of what I've learned, of who I’ve become, and I’m so grateful for the encouragement, support, and love I’ve felt from this community over the last 24 years. I am not ashamed of who I am.
I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer me during this time. Thank you for taking the time to read a bit about my story, and the story of the Filippo’s family. Feel free to reach out to me via email at [email redacted].
Memo from the owner's daughter
Filippo's has always been apart of my life since I can remember.
Filippo's is way more than just a restaurant. it's a place where people can come together and enjoy each other's company. When I look at Filippo's, I see a family friendly place where people can be themselves and enjoy the food. My dad put a lot of dedication and love into this place. Owning a restaurant is not an easy think to do and I am very proud of him for always working hard every day and never giving up. We love and thank everyone who supports us!
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- Jonathan Berardi
- Jonathan Berardi
Organizer and beneficiary
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