As a commercial decorative/restoration painter, he traveled the Middle East and even painted a year in Saddam Hussein’s palace. But he and his wife left that life and his painting business to be with their daughter in America.
Frascati was born and raised in Sacile, Italy in the Veneto region — an area renowned for its beauty, for its painters, architects and writers, who flocked there for inspiration. Padua, Venice and Verona, all well-known Veneto cities, were made popular by Shakespeare. The area is a haven for tourists, as well, with its quaint businesses, waterways and beautiful cathedrals.
Frascati and his wife Ornella were happy in their Italian home. They had extended family nearby, a successful painting business, and they loved their lives. But one thing was missing — their only daughter, Darlene and husband Nate, lived 9,000 miles away in Tooele, Utah.
That longing compelled them to pack their belongings and move to Tooele eight years ago, even though they couldn’t speak English and had to trust their lives would fall into place.
“In Italy it was a wonderful life,” Frascati said. “I have my business, all my family around, a good life. I never supposed to move to a different country. But, in life never say never, you know.”
Frascati and his two sisters and one brother were raised by working-class parents. His mother was a homemaker, and his father worked in a factory, building wood furniture.
When asked whether he chose art because of an innate talent, Frascati said no, that the talent came as a result of hard work. He began training and then the talent developed.
“I was just fascinated about art. Everything around me was art and style and I was fascinated about this.” he said. “I wondered ‘How can people do that?’ So, I went to art school, the Academy for art in Venice, and the professor taught me every single day and that is the start.”
At 14 years old, Frascati began his life’s work in this setting. He was an artist who would spend his next four years as an apprentice with two companies, honing his skills at transforming flat surfaces into multi-dimensional, colorful masterpieces. At around 19, he set out to paint on a bigger stage as he traveled the world.
“When I was young, after opening my business, “ he said, “I took my projects around in Africa, North Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.”
He worked for an Italian company in Baghdad, Iraq during his 25th year. He was painting Saddam Hussein’s palace. This was during the time of the Iraq/Iran War and was a difficult time in the region, he said.
“I did a big project in Saddam’s palace. I worked over there in Baghdad. I did decoration, marbleized. Different kind of stuff. It was a very special order,” Frascati said.
His company owned an apartment in which he stayed and additionally there were two engineers on the project. He said one of the engineers he worked with spoke Italian, but the other only spoke Arabic and English, so communication was difficult and consisted of a lot of gestures.
While abroad, Frascati said, “my last country, I worked in Iraq. In total, I worked five years in the Middle East for my business, just paintings and decorations. After that I stayed in Italy because many clients give me business and I didn’t have time to travel.”
It was at that point he opened his own business consisting of 15 employees and 15 subcontractors. They specialized in restoration and decoration.
“I give work for 30 people every day,” he said. “I just did supervising.”
In addition to the business, for about 20 of those years, Frascati also taught his skill to apprentices. They would go on to open their own businesses after apprenticing for three years.
According to Frascati, Americans, and in particular Utahns, don’t understand the painting profession to which he has devoted his life. He said the misunderstanding has much to do with the different mindsets that modern Americans have compared to the European or Italian mindset.
In Italy, couples invest in a home and plan to stay for their whole lives in that one home, he said. With the Italians “the couple buys a house for life.”
As a result, he said, “If you paint inside your house, if you make it nice, it is easier to sell. It adds value to the house. In Italy, all over Europe, people make a very nice house. They sell immediately.”
In contrast, many Americans do not want to invest money into their home to customize it, he said.
Frascati said that he chose to work at restoring and painting homes because it adds warmth and interest that he enjoys.
“This is my job. I just want to decorate my house and make the house feel nice and for people to see the beauty in my home,” he said. “… I can change every year something.”
To him, the vibrancy of age, dimension and beauty are what is missing from homes, and even the heart of Salt Lake City. He said murals could do so much more to add color and dimension to Salt Lake City’s flat and bland architectural landscape.
That is where Frascati comes in. Many of his Italian clients would give Frascati free reign to decide what project he envisions for their walls.
He said his first client in Utah told him, “You are the artist,” and encouraged him to paint whatever he felt inspired to paint.
“That is the best way,” Frascati said. He loves being trusted to create something extraordinary to transform a space.
He is currently working on a project that creates the look of a petroglyph on sandstone. He has another project underway painting the fan blades for a ceiling fan.
His website, italiandecor.blogspot.com states that he can match paint color by sight, without the use of a machine or computer.
The site also states, “He is known for his ability to reproduce marbles, woods, wallpaper, classic pieces of art or murals, all with paint.”
Frascati said with his business in Veneto, which is an upscale area of Italy, there usually was a two-year waiting list for his clients. In Utah, he said, people are upset if they have to wait days.
“I miss my business there because it was super busy,” he said. “My schedule was two years in front. People would wait for me for two years. Here, if I ask to wait 20 days because I can’t right now, they say, ‘Oh, my word, 20 days? Come on!’”
For three to four years after coming to Utah the jobs were sparse, he said.
Frascati said that time was “super crazy,” mostly because he was still learning English. But with his daughter’s help and practice, the language barrier lessened over time.
“Right now, it’s not perfect but I am able to communicate,” he said.
What Frascati misses about Italy was the status he had reached as a result of his hard work.
“I was very popular. I miss that,” he said. “But that is one thing I miss and I miss my family [there], obviously. But the rest — I live a good life in Utah and America. I am very happy to live here.”
Though Ornella Frascati was not the one who suggested the idea to move to America, she said she is happy they came to Tooele. Along with being close to their daughter and her family, she said she loves the winter weather.
“I like snow,” she said. “The people are very nice, very friendly. I love everything here.”
Frascati said he would like to work another 10 years at his profession and then his dream would be to focus his time on teaching his skill to another generation here in Utah.
But the dream of opening that school is one Frascati questions. He wonders if Tooele and Utah will embrace his skill he honed in Italy. For him, that would be the ultimate gift he could give to this area, to train others and pass on his trade while living in his forever Tooele home he and Ornella have created together.