Open since 2016, Nilda's bills itself as the only lechon purveyor in northern Italy. Co-owner Adrian Dela Cruz, who shares ownership with his parents Nilda and Andy, says his customers drive from as far as Rome, Florence and Venice to secure their charcoal-roasted pigs — before travel in and out of the northern region was banned.
Milan, near the Swiss border, has been locked down longer than the country as a whole. On March 7, the government placed a travel ban on the northern region, restricting all movement in and out except for family or work emergencies. But by then the virus had already reached further south.
Nilda's chose to close a day before the decree. "It was for the safety of me and our family and our workers, but also for our customers," Adrian says. "We wanted to avoid getting in contact with this virus." Business had been brisk before the closure, but Nilda's customers — 90 percent of whom are Filipino, Adrian estimates — were getting anxious. He says that the Filipino community in Italy was affected by a distrust of Asians in general as the virus began to spread from China.
"In the first days, when the coronavirus started to scare people, there was … weird and racist behavior against Asians," says Adrian, who moved to Italy with his family when he was 9 years old. "Many videos were posted on Facebook and on the news where Filipino people were insulted by Italians for no reason. And this shocked the Filipino community a little bit, because in all of the years that I'm here, I never saw such behavior from Italians against us."
By the middle of March, the racist sentiment against Asians seemed to have been subsumed into more fundamental worries in Milan. "There used to be a lot of people walking around, and cars coming and going, but these days it's practically empty," Adrian says. "It's very rare to see cars, apart from some ambulances passing." Even pedestrians were sometimes stopped by the police, unless they had a reason to leave their homes, such as a dog to walk. (Adrian is grateful for his own dog.)
"I hope that they can find a solution to this virus so that we and everyone can get back to normality, to a normal life," he says. "It is still going to take some time, I think."
Nilda's Lechon is located at Via Palmanova, 60, 20132 Milano MI, Italy.
+39 327 874 0295