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Roberto was born in Catania, Sicily, in Italy in 1936.
Born to devoted parents, his father owned a small produce store which brought the three of them enough to live fairly well on.
In the Autumn of 1943, General George Pattons’ Seventh Army & British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomerys’ Eighth Army invaded Sicily from the east & south coasts. Within weeks the two commanders had driven straight into Messina, leaving thousands of perished Italian & German infantry in their path.  Roberto’s father was among those perished. However, before he left for the Gulf of Gela, he and my mother conceived me, who you will meet at the end of this tribute.

Although Antonio Palaccio (Roberto would alter his last name once in America) was in no way a Nazi sympathizer, he left the family store and fought bravely as part of the Italian resistance, defending his homeland.  Antonio was virtually unaware of the atrocities of the Nazi regime with which the Italian leader Mussolini had allied himself.

 

After his father Antonio’s death, Roberto’s mother moved them to stay with her sisters family in Messina, the city now under American occupation which became increasingly welcomed as the months passed.   It was there from age 8-15 when Roberto began to identify closely with American vitality and exuberance, his curiosity about the United States growing daily.   Roberto picked up english quickly while fraternizing with the Americans.   Roberto’s aunt and uncle were fairly well off Sicilians, his uncle an administrator of sorts for the city of Messina and an important liaison to the American occupation. 

By 1956 Roberto’s uncle, "Vec" Barusso, had a 50% stake in a winery with his brother, who had moved to Tuscany shortly before the outbreak of WWII and had become an important merchant in the region.  With news of a place called Disneyland opening reaching even the remote town of Messina, Vec decided it was time to send the handsome 20 year-old Roberto to California, to make his fortune.  His mother said Roberto bought a record of the WW II ballad "I Want To Make My Home In The San Fernando Valley" and listened to it for weeks before he departed for Los Angeles, CA, which by the 1950’s had become the newest of the New World.

 

Vec had taught Roberto everything about wine from fermentation to wholesaling. 
With his extremely quick wit and increasingly proper english, with the advantage of his dazzling accent, Roberto was welcomed and immediately revered at his new place of employment, a large wine importer in Long Beach.  Roberto found life in the 50’s and early 60’s in Los Angeles to be the most excitement available on earth.  He had gotten himself a small house to rent about five blocks from the ocean in the new beach community of Hermosa.  Serving as the Chief Merchants assistant at the Long Beach importers office quickly became cumbersome and hindering, Roberto thought, as he new his knowledge could be earning him much more up north of Los Angeles.  He heard the newlywed Kennedys had honeymooned up in the resort town of Santa Barbara, its neighboring Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Valleys expanding by the month in terms of fine wine production.  Roberto had also known for years of the rich vineyards even further north over the hills from San Francisco. 

In 1961 with a large allotment of money from the family vineyards in Tuscany, Roberto bought a small plot of land up in the fringes of Sonoma county.  Here he built a small Tuscan style villa/winery which, five years later, had produced enough in sales to expand to 20 acres with 10 assistants, and an accountant.  Roberto altered the product name to Palazzio, more conducive to the United States he thought which Roberto, now a 30 year old millionaire and single, felt strongly a part of.  Americans thirst for anything exotic, and Roberto was as exotic a character as one could find anywhere.

The only thing missing in his immigration success story was a woman.  He had experienced much luck in 1950’s West Los Angeles, often seeing aspiring actresses from month to month and young students from UCLA, instantly swept away by his natural charm and vitality.  But up north, for nearly 15 years his attention was entirely to his business.  Tourism boomed in northern and southern California in the 1960’s and 70’s, including wine tasting, and Palazzio Vineyards produced more than enough to enable Roberto to travel to England where, in 1974 he met Angela Barrie while taking photographs for recreation in Trafalgar Square.   She found him irresistibly handsome and confidently made his acquaintance.   When Angela asked how long he had been in London from Italy he apparently responded in his heavy accent, "I happen to be American, I’m here from California, and have you ever by chance been to a place called Disneyland?"

Roberto and Angela were married six months later in Catania.  I was honored to be her Maid of Honor, I am Francesca, Roberto’s younger sister and, aside from Angela, his only true confidant.   Angela and Roberto bought a residence on Gordon St., London and enjoyed each others company every minute of every day, their comfort uninterrupted due to the continued success of the Palazzio Villa, which Roberto ran by telephone from Gordon St.  In 1980 Angela passed due to breast cancer, leaving Roberto lonely, but fulfilled rather than empty.

Years later I realize that that is the essence of the mystique and wonder surrounding Roberto, that he was happy even after Angela passed, having "tasted the most premium of love available to a human being," as he used to put it.  Much the same way he thought fine vine should be appreciated.  Roberto never married again, he never needed to.  He continued to live in London, although traveled to nearly every cosmopolitan city on the globe during the 1980’s and 90’s.  A Labrador retriever became Robertos best company for his final years, traveling with him between England, Italy and America.  Roberto Died in April 1999, of natural causes in a hotel in Milan Italy, on business.  We, the remaining Palaccios, know Roberto passed while doing what he loved, making his fortune in this world.

 

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