Roots, the first social restaurant in Modena, celebrates diversity and provides chances for migrant women residing in the city.

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We are speaking with Caroline Caporossi, the creator of Roots, the first social restaurant in Modena that opened two years ago, while seated in a unique area of the San Paolo complex, beneath the enormous spreading tree in its courtyard. She informs me that the location of the San Paolo church, which Roots managed to obtain, has great meaning under the peaceful tree.

The church, which was originally associated with the worship of young women, is currently a part of the social services organization that was established in 1998 as a result of the conversion of the San Geminiano girls' orphanage and the San Paolo provincial girls' school. The convent of San Polo was utilized as a school for underprivileged girls after 1816, and it became the San Paolo Provincial girls' school in 1859.

When Caroline talks about how she spotted the possibility for immigrant women in Modena, she does so with an eventually serene and favorably benign smile, making a connection between the need for trained labor and the desire to improve the lives of those brave people who need to be properly integrated into society.

Originating from a Calabrian family that immigrated to New York in 1902 and went on to open restaurants, Caporossi took a significant turn in life while maintaining a precise sense of sensitivity. Following her Italian spouse to Emilia after completing her studies in international affairs and working with immigrant communities in the US, she finally found herself involved with Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore's non-profit initiative, Food for Soul. Through this ground-breaking opportunity, Caporossi met Chef Jessica Rosval, who is now her friend and partner in The Association for the Integration of Women (AIW). And there's Ella, the Nigerian refugee lady whose story of struggling to find employment in the restaurant business inspired the original concept for Roots.

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Caroline Caporossi

When Caporossi and her friend, chef Jessica Rosval, founded the AIW in 2020, their first focus was on giving immigrant women the tools they needed to become more integrated into society both professionally and culturally.

When it comes to economic integration, migrant women between the ages of 25 and 35 are the most disadvantaged category.

For women who have never worked in a professional kitchen before, Roots' paid training program builds theoretical knowledge, technical skill sets, and one-on-one mentorship. More importantly, though, is that Roots has an impact on a personal level as well. It gives trainees the confidence they need to work their way up to a real professional environment while providing individualized care for each woman, who frequently faces obstacles because she is a woman and a migrant.

The culinary director chef Jessica Rosval, who is presently the head chef at Casa Maria Luigia and Gatto Verde in Modena, mentors a new batch of trainees every four months. Rosval says throughout the lesson that it's a time to learn and explore other cultures, and she feels the same way about the fortitude of the training ladies.


Caroline Caporosi


Jessica Rosval

«I have grown so much since Roots began. This is a profession of great discoveries, tremendous potential, and immense satisfaction. Here, we experience it every 4 months with a new group, teaching and learning from them, watching them grow and seeing their development – the satisfaction is enormous»
- says Rosval.

Roots have been warmly embraced by the people of Modena; Caporossi notes that the restaurant has been packed from its first day. Every evening at Roots has allowed the locals to sample undiscovered flavors from many cultures. From Nigeria's most well-known soup, Egusi, to the centuries-old street food dessert, Kue Ketan, which has been served on special occasions in West Sumatra, Indonesia, for over 500 years, there is something for everyone to enjoy. There are 134 different nationalities living in the city, and 13.1% of Modenese people are foreigners. In Roots, the humanistic and multicultural aspects of the city are highlighted, demonstrating how migrant women contribute to the community.

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Tahira Azmat, Roots alumni

The current trainees and graduates came to Roots with varying backgrounds and goals that were not necessarily related to the food industry; nonetheless, culinary education ignited a passion in each of them to pursue this career path professionally as well as a sense of self-awareness and independence.

«For me as a women, Roots played a big role, to show that I’m capable of working in the kitchen, I felt plenty of emotions, and that inner power of ideas that can’t wait to come out»
- shares Bouchra El Joubari, Roots alumni Roots

Originally from Marocco, Bouchra El Joubari relocated to Italy with her future spouse after receiving a degree in software management. After becoming a mother, she gave culinary studies a chance and discovered a world of limitless culinary possibilities.


«I met the most strong people this year in my life, this women strength is our biggest value. We don’t give them any resources, but we create an ambiance where they feel their inner strength and can express it.»

The enlightened faces of the women preparing the dinner in the Roots kitchen never fail to make one feel happy and in awe of the work that Roots is doing in Modena, an Italian city renowned for its iconic products and great gastronomy centers. But, Modena also has another side to it—a side that is open to new flavors and cultures and eager to hear the stories that immigrant women have to share.

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