Three New York expats bring a little slice of Sicily to New Orleans at their Magazine Street shop, Sud. We join them for an afternoon of
scopa (the popular Italian card game), refreshments, flowers, and fun.
Richard Dragisic chuckles as he recalls an encounter he had with a shopper shortly after opening his Magazine Street shop, Sud, in 2019. “A customer came in, looked around, and asked me where I slept!” he laughs. “The question seemed so strange at the time, but I get it now, and it’s quite a compliment. We’ve created more than just a shopping experience here; we’ve created a sense of home. Since then, we’ve made a point of always having one bed in our inventory for that very reason.”
Perhaps the shopper’s confusion stemmed from the genuinely warm welcome she received at the door or the sound of a teakettle whistling from the cozy galley kitchen in the back. But most likely it was because the shop was actually a home in its former life.
When shuttling between the Gulf Coast and the East Coast grows tiresome, Richard and Bill retreat to their home in Modica, an ancient city along Sicily’s southeastern coast. On a whim, they purchased a crumbling villa that was once part of the Grimaldi palazzo. After three years and an unheard-of number of what-were-we-thinking moments, the villa was meticulously restored from nearly 6,000 miles away thanks to the divine intervention of interpreters and craftspeople. Like all true Southerners, the couple enjoys entertaining and hosting friends and family there, but for those who can’t make the 20-hour trek, there’s Sud.
“We designed it to be not just a shop, but also a learning lab,” Bill says. “Here, we host book signings, cooking demonstrations, and movie nights to highlight Sicilian culture within our community. New Orleans is such a melting pot of cultural influences, so it’s a natural fit.”
Bill seems to have left one activity off the list that frequently takes place at the shop, and that is scopa. On lazy afternoons, the proprietors can be found playing a friendly round of the popular Italian card game. The objective of scopa, which means “broom” in Italian, is to sweep all the cards from the table. Much like poker or bridge, the social aspect of the game is as important as the outcome.
“In Italy, you see all ages and walks of life playing scopa at all kinds of venues, from public parks to private clubs,” Courtney says. “It’s fairly easy for a novice to pick up, but for seasoned players it flies by at lightning-fast speed. For them, it can get very competitive—think voices raised and arms flailing—especially when there is prosecco or passito involved.”
“Watching a game of scopa can be as much fun as actually playing it,” says Bill, who admits he’s a long way from being “seasoned.”
While the card players at Sud may still be perfecting their scopa skills, they’ve had great success in bringing a Sicilian attitude with a dose of Southern charm to Magazine Street.
This article was originally published on Flower Magazine.