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Articles by: Iwona Adamczyk

  • Events: Reports

    Music Within a Boy

    If you are ever lucky enough to hear Vincenzo Castellana play, you can justly claim you know him, because Vincenzo is music, and music is Vincenzo. 

    Vincenzo’s music is a lot more than simple notes craftily placed together to create a pleasant sound. His music is a vehicle for emotions emanating from within him. Music is a door to his world that invites anyone reached by its notes to enter and discover it. I entered through it sometime last fall, attracted partially by his music but more so fascinated by this young individual and his unusual passion. His music is as far from pop as possible and as unusual as the instruments he plays. He is wholeheartedly devoted to Sicilian Folk music and this devotion oozes from every note he plays and every tune he sings.

    So what attracts a young man to folk music? How did he learn to play instruments some never know exist? What makes him so passionate about it? The questions are numerous. Over the course of a few months I corresponded with Vincenzo on regular basis and conducted a few video-interviews over Skype. It is impossible to recount everything I learned about him and his passion in this short article, so consider this an introduction.

    Born in the capital of Sicily, Palermo, Vincenzo spent his childhood in its provincial town of Caltavuturo. It is there that he had his first encounter with the Sicilian tambourine, introduced to him at the age of five by the local shepherds. Little did he know that this instrument would play a huge part in his life, as it slowly became an extension of him. Fervent about Sicilian music even at this early age he was noticed and recruited by a folk group Gazzara, with which he performed live for the first time at the age of six. To this day he remains part of the group and with them he toured almost all of Europe.

    Vincenzo acquired a completely new understanding of the power and potential of the Sicilian tambourine through a meeting and subsequent formation of a friendship with a known Italian musician, Alfio Antico. Studying under his guidance awakened a vibrant interest in the research of traditional percussion instruments of the world.

    His ardent admiration of the Sicilian tambourine and other traditional instruments such as the fiscalettu, brogna or the marranzanu, carried him on multiple adventures and allowed him to collaborate with prestigious musical formations, to name a few: Ensemble Engyon, Compagnia di Tirammu, Gruppo Terra and Beati Paoli. He also remained an active musician of Taberna Mylaensis, with which he performed and traveled, eventually contributing to their latest album. 

    While studying at the University of Palermo (D.A.M.S. di Palermo), he got the chance to interact with the greatest interpreters of Sicilian folk music of the last half of the century. His theses focused on the phenomenon that has affected the musical life, especially of young people in Sicily in the sixties and seventies, a phenomenon that is more generally framed in global movement that can be described as the revival of folk music. This academic work has led him to collaboration with several artists world famous musicians, among them Claudio Baglioni, Gianni Morandi and the word renown Ennio Morricone, all of whom appreciated Vincenzo’s artistic and musical qualities.

    What is probably the most striking about Castellana is that he is determined to make a living as a musician and one of who is not swayed by fashion and trends of today’s musical scene. He is dedicated wholeheartedly to his native Sicily and its folk music. “My passion for Music and the Arts is a central thread in my life. I found myself composing music and creating artistic productions with anything that found its way into my hands” says Vincenzo of his ways to make a living as an artist. He has moved to Holland to pursue his dream of being a musician, as he finds Amsterdam to be a less limiting in possibilities of achieving his goal.

    He continuously performs with various musical groups, as well as leads courses for the tambourine in the hope of transmitting his knowledge to future generations in order for Sicilian folk music to stay always alive. He travels to discover the world and get to know and interact with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. “Music is a language in itself. It erases borders and limitations between people. It brings positive energy to everyone, and that is my way of communicating with the world. There is nothing more satisfying that to be able to give someone joy by singing to them or playing a piece especially dedicated to them” - elaborates Castellana.

    On one of his adventures he came across Michela Musolino, a singer and performer, but most of all a friend that shares in Vincenzo’s passion and love for Sicilian folk music. The two have formed a group called AcquAria and they have been performing together in numerous American venues. The response to their music is magical. It isn’t something that I can explain or relay here in words. It is something that each and everyone need to experience on their own. It is with a great pleasure that I announce AcquAria’s North Atlantic Concert Tour, which will begin on October 12th in the town of Mystic, CT. 

    Tour Dates and Venues:
    October 12 -  Mystic Seaport, Mystic CT
    October 14 -  Crossroads Music, Philadelphia PA
    October 18 -  Italian heritage Festival, Howard Beach Public LIbrary, Queens NY 
    October 20 -  Common Fence Music, Portsmouth RI
    October 21 -  Woods Hole Folk Music Society, Woods Hole, MA
    October 23 -  York CUNY, Jamaica NY
    October 24 -  Horses SIng None of It , NJ Folk Project   

  • Life & People

    Like Father Like ... Daughter

    In the month of June smiles came
    back onto the faces of New York’s pizza aficionados, as Roberto Caporuscio reopened Kesté Pizza & Vino.

    This seemingly small establishment may just be the closest to the Neapolitan pizza experience New York has to offer. The scrumptious dough, meticulously prepared daily from authentic Italian ingredients and topped with homemade mozzarella, fresh vegetables and imported Italian cured meats, comes to life under the skilled hands working the dough into perfectly round pies, which then swiftly make way to the brick oven where the flames caress them to a flawless, lightly charred perfection.

    Caporuscio would not have it any other way. After all Kesté in Neapolitan dialect means “this is it”! It is not surprising then that Caporuscio, who presides over the American chapter of a trade association, Associazione Pizzaiouli Napoletani, that certifies pizza makers, puts emphasis on authenticity of the ingredients and the adherence to traditional Neapolitan pizza making techniques.

    One of the secrets to achieving superior quality Neapolitan style pizza is the oven itself, and Kesté was designed and built by artisans flown in from Naples and therefore it meets Neapolitan requirements such as the size of the mouth and the shape of its dome.

    Having a true Neapolitan oven may be enough to make a decent pizza, but the number one component in creating and authentic, quality Neapolitan pie is a skilled pizzaiolo.

    Here also, Caporuscio did not fail, and having his hands full with multiple projects, such as the opening of Don Antonio by Starita Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, and running an accredited Neapolitan pizza making school in his New Jersey pizzeria A Mano, he handed over this important job to non other but his own daughter Giorgia Caporuscio.

    Two years ago, after obtaining a travel and tourism degree, Giorgia came to the United States to study English, but inspired by her father’s passion for the restaurant world and especially for pizza-making, she asked him if he would teach her the skill. And teach her he did!

    For eight months she studied under his expert guidance, before returning to her native Italy. She then told her father that she would like to help him run Kesté, but before Roberto gave her the green light to mange an already renown business, he decided to send her to Florida to help out in opening a Neapolitan Pizzeria Scuola Vecchia in Delrey Beach.

    Her trial period was far from over, as she then had to complete a long training internship in Pizzeria Materdei in Naples, under the supervision of pizza-making guru Antonio Starita, Roberto’s partner and teacher.

    In January of this year Roberto finally decided that his daughter was well prepared and ready to face the New York restaurant scene and brought her to the United States. It is with her help that Don Antonio by Starita has been opened and became an immediate hit among restaurant goers.

    Kesté has become home to Giorgia as she now briskly moves in the pizza preparation area, creating heavenly pizza, some with most unusual toppings, such as nuts, lemon and artichokes.

    After the reopening of Kesté, the menu has been completely redesigned, offering numerous pizza choices, salads and even homemade mozzarella, prepared daily on the premises.

    The restaurant now proudly serves gluten-free pizza daily, which received applause from the customers with dietary issues, whom previously were limited to eating at Kesté only on Mondays and Tuesdays. The wine list has also been enhanced offering quality wines at affordable prices.

    Hats off to Roberto Caporuscio and his daughter Giorgia for bringing true Neapolitan pizza, served in true Neapolitan environment, where family ties and tradition seep from every mouthwatering, succulent, finger-licking-good pie. Welcome back Kesté…

    Kestè Pizza & Vino
    271 Bleecker Street  New York, NY 10014


  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Becoming an "Artista del Gusto"

    Some mothers felt extra special this past Mother’s Day. It was made extra sweet, as their loved ones treated them to a Special Chocolate Class held at the newly opened Scuola Grande at Eataly.

    The classes were taught by a well-known food writer and chocolate expert, Francine Segan, who received training at the legendary Perugina Scuola del Cioccolato in Italy. Ms. Segan specializes in writing about Italy and Italian food and wine. In December 2009, she was named USA “ambassador” for Italian sweets by Associazione Industrie Dolciarie Italiane (AIDI), Italy’s national association of industrial confectioners. She recently published a book on Italian desserts titled Dolci: Italy’s Sweets.

    The class began with a brief history of the Baci chocolates, starting with the establishment of “The Perugina Societe for the Production of Candy" in 1907 in Perugia, the capital of the Umbria region in central Italy.

    Numerous stores under the Perugina name and protection of the Griffin logo, a mythological figure guarding the city of Perugia since Medieval times, then opened throughout the country. The famous Bacio (Italian for kiss, Baci being the plural) was created and introduced to the public on Valentine’s Day in 1922, and to this day remains unchanged.

    What is inside the candy that has been around for 90 years and is as satisfying today as it was on the product’s debut in the US at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, as the first flagship store opened its doors at One Fifth Avenue?

    It’s simple: a whole hazelnut, atop a mountain of gianduia cream then dipped in the finest, silky dark chocolate. For those who were puzzled as to what exactly is gianduia: “It is a European style chocolate made from a mix of chocolate and nut paste, most commonly hazelnut but sometimes almond, which can be used as a flavoring or as substitute for milk or dark chocolate” – informed Ms Segan during the discussion of the different types of chocolate.

    It is not just the delicious inside of the famous chocolate that spread its name across the world, but also the particular packaging and the love story behind it.

    Legend holds that the passionately in love Luisa Spagnoli, co-founder of Perugina, created the candy for her loved one, and that she would wrap each one of them in a secret love message.

    It was the Perugina Art Director, Federico Seneca who suggested that this tradition be shared with the consumer. Therefore, to this day after unwrapping the famous silver, starry foil we find a thin, transparent wrapper which delivers a sentimental message (now in a few languages!). 

    Participants in the class got to make their own box of Baci from scratch, being guided, step-by-step by the experts. While learning to temper chocolate the right way they also were educated about the importance of getting it to the right temperature, as well as received tips and tricks from the class instructor.

    The class was made entertaining by some fun trivia information about Baci. For example, learning that the blue and silver box with the couple kissing under a shower of stars was designed with an overt reference to yet another “Kiss”- the 1859 painting by the Italian artist Francesco Hayez.

    Until you will get a chance to sign up for one of the Perugina classes and become an “Artista del Gusto” yourself, I will share one of the recipes from the class with you, so you can wow your guests at the next party you host. Just don’t tell anyone you got it from me!!!

    Baci Pie (serves 10)


    1 piecrust (store bought or homemade)

    ½ cup of flower

    1 cup of sugar

    2 eggs

    ½ cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter

    ¼ cup of Italian hazelnut liqueur such as Frangelico

    18 Perugina Baci candies


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 10” pie pan with the rolled out piecrust. Using and electric hand mixer beat the flour, sugar, eggs butter and liqueur in a bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Place the Baci, nut side up into the batter. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top crust is set. Allow it to cool to room temperature before cutting. Slice and enjoy in good company with a glass of sweet Moscato!

    Click here for more pictures from the Chocolate making class. 


  • Events: Reports

    Gran Fondo 2012 Shows Off Healthy Italian Lifestyle

    On April 30th, the steps of city hall brightened up as they filled with vivid colors of the cyclists’ custom made Giordana jerseys designed for this year’s edition of the Gran Fondo New York. Now in its second edition, the Gran Fondo NY brings the spirit of Italian cycling to the Big Apple on May 20th, 2012.


    Founded in 2010 by avid competitive cyclists, Gran Fondo New York is on a mission to bring Italian cycling culture to the New York and New Jersey region and to raise the profile of competitive cycling in the United States. Gran Fondo New York is open to professionals as well as anyone who loves to ride.


    The first edition of the event brought together professional and amateur cyclists from nearly 70 countries including the US, Canada, Mexico, Italy, UK, Russia, Jamaica, Israel, and Poland. The Gran Fondo 2012, to be held on May 20th, has now doubled in size (more than 5,000 participants have already registered) and is not only promoting healthy living but it is also creating a growing, positive cultural and economic impact for the New York region.


    The event organizer Uli Fluhme stated: “It’s the marathon of cycling, which takes anywhere from 5 to 10 hours to finish.” Gran Fondo New York 2012 is to begin on the New York City side of the iconic George Washington Bridge and wind through a 110-mile course in New York and New Jersey that extends up to Bear Mountain State Park and ends at the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal in Weehawken, New Jersey. There will be 4 timed climbs and four categories: overall, age groups, cycling team, and him & her. The rest of the race is not timed. There will also be a Medio Fondo, a non-competitive ride for people who want to experience Gran Fondo but are not ready for the full and intense 110-mile course.


    Participants of the race are made up of CEOs, persons with visual impairments, amputees, firefighters, and even several former cycling legends. The male and female cyclist with the fastest timed climbs will be named King and Queen of the Mountain and awarded signature Pinarello bikes. Other prizes include cycling gear and maintenance products worth over $100,000.


    The Press Conference, held on the eve of Bike Month, gathered its many supporters on the steps of the city hall including New York City Council Member Jim Gennaro,

    Chair of the Italian-American Caucus and Environmental Protection Committee of the New York City Council, whom was joined by fellow caucus members, Council Members Vallone, Garodnick, Gentile, Recchia, and James. Together they praised Gran Fondo New York and its contributions to the promotion of Italian culture and to helping New York City become a premier international cycling destination.


    Council Member Gennaro stated: "As chairman of the Italian-American Caucus, I am very proud to welcome such a distinguished event to our city. The Gran Fondo is an excellent way to promote appreciation for Italian culture in an unconventional way. And as chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee, I'm very happy to honor a cycling event at the beginning of Bike Month. I am always looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions in the city, and anything that promotes cycling is a step, or a pedal, in the right direction."


    Gran Fondo New York organizers Uli and Lidia Fluhme received a proclamation from the Council Members and successively expressed their gratitude. “We are deeply honored for this recognition from the Italian-American caucus and would like to thank Council Member Gennaro for his dedication to environmental issues and promoting Italian culture. Bike Month is packed with activities that are designed to promote cycling and healthy lifestyles in NYC. We at Gran Fondo New York are very proud to be a part of these activities. Our goal was to bring world-class, Italian-style cycling to the greatest city in the world and judging by the response we’ve received in our second year, New Yorkers and cyclists worldwide are excited to join us. Italy and America have close ties, especially in NYC, and we hope this race continues to foster that spirit of camaraderie and deepen existing relationships” – stated Lidia Fluhme.

    Gran Fondo New York is also organizing the 2nd Annual New York City Bike Expo. This event will take place at the Penn Plaza Pavilion, located across the street from Madison Square Garden, on May 18-19 from 11am-8pm. Gran Fondo New York sponsors, including Pinarello, Giordana, and Diadora, will be on hand to showcase their latest products. The expo is a stand-alone event that is open to the public and successfully draws additional visitors to NYC.


    Alongside the Councilmen, showing their support for the initiative were multiple prominent personalities of Italian organizations, including Louis Calvelli from the Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere, Joseph Mattone from Figli di San Gennaro, Roberto Ragone from FIERI, Joseph Scelsa from the Coalition of Italo-American Associations, and Edward Jackson of the National Federation of Italian American Societies, Inc. Louis Calvelli noted: “It is wonderful to see and Italian initiative that does not have anything to do with food!”


    The focus on healthy living has been on the rise in the last decade. New Yorkers are known to be very health-conscious and it is truly wonderful to see an Italian project that fits their lifestyle and draws them to participate. The Councilmen promised to help tmake the Gran Fondo an even bigger mark on the NYC events calendar for next year as they try to get move the start line to a centrally located spot such as Times Square.


    Hats off and lots of luck to the organizers, everyone who supports this initiative, and of course to the participants!!! For those of you who love a good challenge and wish to join the race, it is not too late!
    Click here for more information or here to register. 

  • Events: Reports

    Toasting the Italian Lifestyle

    On April 18th Eredi Pisanò opened the door of its flagship New York City location to invite the public to yet another event celebrating the Italian Lifestyle. The Made to Measure event featured guided wine tasting brought by the Italian Trade Commission’s Fashion of the Vine Project

    Eredi Pisanò’s stylish menswear has successfully served the New York clientele for the past ten years. The family run, single label store crossed the ocean to arrive on Madison Avenue in 2001, after serving the population of Rome for more than forty years. The fashion forward gentlemen of the Big Apple warmly welcomed its classically tailored athletic fitting style and Italian Made, superb quality.

    To this day the Eredi Pisanò store is completely under the Azra family's operation. The oldest brother Armando designs the clothes while Raffaele manages the stores and the youngest brother Isaaco takes care of all the finances. 

    The general manager of the New York City store, Mory Kaba, showed i-Italy around the store. “Our main focus here is the SHIRT. Look at the detail work, even on the inside” – he said.

    It is true. The products are meticulously finished and are made of quality Italian materials. We didn’t expect any less… After all it is MADE IN ITALY!

    Kaba, himself dressed to perfection and holding a bag with the newest purchase, stated: “ I can’t resist but to shop here all the time.”  “I probably leave most of my paycheck here!” – he jokingly added.

    The stores window display was especially designed for the event. The Spring/Summer Eredi Pisanò collection and bespoke menswear mixed with wine bottles and glasses intended for toasting Wines of Italy lured the passersby to peek in and be part of the Made to Measure Event and wine tasting.

    Italian Trade Commissioner, Aniello Musella noted: “Eredi Pisano’ exemplifies Italian excellence and design as its collections are exceptional, innovative and impeccably finished. It is a pleasure to partake in this celebration of Italian Lifestyle with a special Wines of Italy Tasting. Those who value quality, innovation, tradition and the creative process understand what MADE IN ITALY means whether it is presented on a runway or simply decanted.”

    And so the wine was poured. The tasting featured a selection of wines from producers Franco Todini and Valdora. Wine Importer and Educator, Sam Ramic, of International Wine Masters led the tasting and discussed characteristics of the wine with consumers. The tasting was accompanied by a presentation of artisanal Italian cheeses: Piave Vecchio PDO  and Pecorino Toscano Stagionato PDO from producers Agriform and Il Forteto courtesy of Atalanta Corporation.

  • Art & Culture

    The Rebirth of Domenico Gnoli's Art

    A surreal yet strangely familiar feeling overcomes me as I walk in to a townhouse at 64 East 77th Street. Luxembourg & Dayan, a secondary market gallery founded to present curated museum-level exhibitions of modern masters and contemporary art, houses a rare works exhibition of an Italian artist that most have not heard of, nonetheless he is considered an Italian cult figure in the art world.  Domenico Gnoli: Paintings 1964-1969 is after all the first U.S. exhibit of his works since his untimely death four decades ago.

    Gnoli himself could not have picked a better place to show off his artwork. The intimacy and privacy of a New York townhouse further add to the elegant mystery that seeps from his canvases. Incandescent, large paintings adorn the few story building inviting onlookers to the world as seen by Gnoli.  And a strange world it seems… or does it?

    As I stand under a large canvas filled completely with detailed strands of a woman’s curly red hair, I see each lock, my eyes follow each curve and get lost in the high and low lights Gnoli created, and I feel small.  I feel like a child. In front of the pair of trousers I get the feeling of being about to be scolded by my father… The detailed dress or shirt collar, remind me of being in the arms of my parents as a little kid. The parted man’s hair viewed from the top could might as well be that of my father kneeling down to tie my shoe when I still did not know how to.

    Gnoli’s work is described by the gallery: “In canvases that are at once theatrical and humble, intimate and remote, humorous and melancholy, artist Domenico Gnoli uncovered a universe of meanings to be found in the details of everyday objects. His meditations on the material trappings of bourgeois Italian life directly challenged the politically charged discourse proffered by artists of the burgeoning Arte Povera movement by suggesting that identity is constructed primarily around consumerism and commercial choices. Supra-realistic, subtly colored, luminous and large, his paintings suggest that subjectivity can be expressed through the width of a pinstripe, or that the social values of an entire decade can be located in a lady’s leather handbag.”

    To me his work is much more than that. It is personal, warm, and respectful. It is scrupulous and painstakingly beautiful. His thorough examination of simple, everyday scenes is thought provoking and magical.

    I had the rare opportunity to interview Domenico Gnoli’s widow Yannik Vu and ask her a few questions about Gnoli and his work. 

    As a person closest to Domenico Gnoli, as an insider, can you tell us what was Domenico’s approach to painting?

    He was painting the way one is cooking. To him it was so natural. Some people need a lot of preparation; they lock themselves in a studio. He would come in with his brushes and things and everything was used. For example if he would have no easel he would take a chair and he would take a broom and attach it and he would put his canvas on top and paint, there was no mannerism about painting.

    Did he set a specific time for painting?

    He would very rarely do that. He would paint very regularly. I would say he would spend at least six hours a day on painting and then he would work at night on his drawings.

    His work is very meticulous; it’s very detailed, so I would assume it took a while to finish one of his paintings.

    He was a very fast executor. He always made a living out of his work, but his paid work at the time really was illustration, but his desire was to paint. So he had two parallel jobs, and the craftsmen allowed the painter to work but it was taking time away from the painter, so it is difficult to say how long a single work would take to complete, plus he was travelling from one place to another because he was working for magazines and they would send him on assignments. He went to Russia. The USSR at the time, we went to Prague and Israel and South and Central America. He illustrated for Life Magazine, Horizons and Sports Illustrated, I think he was illustrating for most magazines in America at that time. That is why New York was very important to him. He came to live, work and exhibit in New York in 1955 and 1956, and he left in 1962, and we came back in 1965, we actually got married in New York although we met in Paris. And finally he came back in 1969 for his last exhibition.


    What was his favorite technique?

    YV: He loved the texture of the fresco. He was a great admirer of Masaccio. He would prepare his canvases with sand and vinilic glue. At the beginning he worked wit tempera pigments and vinilic glue and afterwards acrylic became available on the market and so he worked with acrylic, he liked to work with water he didn’t like oil painting, it took too long to dry, he preferred this technique because it was faster. With the use of sand he was trying to give the reflection of the light in it.

    Was he at all into comic books?

    YV: He was a great friend of Jules Feiffer and for his own distraction he would draw. So we would be talking in the evenings after and he would draw cartoons, he had a very fast hand. He had various aspects to his personality. He even made bronze sculptures, but very few; he unfortunately didn’t get a chance to pursue this.  I am sure he would have gone great things but he didn’t get the time.

    There is a certain 3 dimensional feel in his paintings…

    YV: Yes, it comes from his days in stage design. He was working at the Old Vic in London as a stage designer for Shakespeare’s As You Like It. So yes, there is definitely a sense of theater in his work.

    The exhibit is a must see. It remains open until June 30th at Luxembourg & Dayan, which is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10AM to 5PM.

    here for more information about Domenico Gnoli and his life and for gallery information. 

  • Art & Culture

    Inventing an Italian Landscape @ Columbia University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies Distinguished Visiting Professorship

    Lurking with its serene and ethereal postcard images, Venice continuously becomes part of itineraries of travelers to the Bel Paese. Not many people who had the opportunity to travel to Italy have skipped the city built on water. It is hard to believe such was not the case in the eighteenth century.

    “At the end of the eighteenth century, Venice is not on the maps of travelers as they follow in the classicism and antiquity and therefore end up visiting Rome, Naples and Sicily” – stated Professor Anna Ottani Cavina at the inaugural lecture of the Compagnia di San Paolo Italian Academy Distinguished Visiting Professorship, held on March 21st, at Columbia University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies.

    CU’s Italian Academy CU’s Italian Academy Professor Ottani Cavina is the first to hold this prestigious position established at Columbia University by a generous multi-year funding from the Compagnia di San Paolo. “The Visiting Professorship in art history, archeology and Italian studies although in its first year, is already attracting a wide student audience” - pointed out Abigail Asher, the Director of Development and Publications at the CU Italian Academy.

    Professor Ottani Cavina’s renown is well recognized in the art world.  She was named to the “Légion d’honneur” of the French Republic in 2001, and is also Director of the Fondazione Federico Zeri, as well as a Professor of Art History in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Bologna.

    “Her Curriculum Vitae also includes being an Adjunct Professor of Italian Art History at Johns Hopkins University SAIS Bologna Center, and director of a famous exhibition "Louvre Paysages d'Italie. Les peintres du plein air" at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2001” - mentioned Professor Francesco de Angelis, Columbia’s Art and Archaeology Department Professor while introducing the celebrated speaker.

    He spoke highly of Professor Ottani Cavina’s ability to form a unique relationship with students and to ignite their scholarly curiosity, and dubbed her “an intriguing, clear and passionate teacher.”

    The idea behind the lecture, titled “Inventing the Landscape: Italy and Painters from Thomas Jones to Corot” was born from the reflection upon the aim of modern art, to often unveil the unseen, and the theory that certain artists were taking steps in this direction as early as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    Professor Ottani Cavina asserted: 
    “I am not here to tell the story of landscape painting genre in Italy, it would be too long and complicated, instead I would like to underline how a painted landscape is never simply a mirror of what we see, but it is a landscape of ideas, an altered landscape.” 

    Relating back to the discourse on Venice and its absence among popular visiting places in the eighteenth century, a question arises as to what exactly places a city on a traveler’s map. In her lecture, concentrating on three main points: immaterial beauty of Venice, the completely ideal botanical scenery of the Roman countryside, and the sublimity of the Italian Alps, Professor Ottani Cavina suggests: “Artists revealed that which is hidden, the unseen, so that a certain Italian landscape became visible, because of the iconic transposition handed down to us by the painters.”

    It is therefore thanks to artists like Turner that Venice, as it is known to the contemporary traveler, was born. It is the artist’s eye and his/her one of the kind rendition of what they saw or experienced that put places on a map by captivating viewers and in turn stimulating them to visit the little known places.

    The relationship between The Compagnia di San Paolo and Columbia University’s Italian Academy resulting in the creation of the Distinguished Visiting Professorship is a promising and truly admirable initiative, which will bring scholars in the fields of History of Art, Archaeology, and Italian Literature from Italy over the course of three years.

    The aim is to promote the knowledge of certain areas of Italian learning which have contributed to the development of culture. The Compagnia di San Paolo, founded in 1563, is a private, non-governmental organization which is known to generously and consistently supports education, art and the preservation and development of cultural heritage and activities, scientific, economic and juridical research, health, as well as provide assistance to the socially deprived.

    The need for these types of cultural events is evident as the auditorium of CU’s Italian Academy was filled to the last seat. The lecture brought to light many interesting concepts and the discussion lively continued as the evening concluded with a wonderfully catered three course dinner for special guests held in the ambience of the library of The Italian Academy.

  • Events: Reports

    ITALY'S MARGINS: Social Exclusion in Photography and Film 1860-2010

    ITALY'S MARGINS: Social Exclusion in Photography and Film 1860-2010, the newest exhibit hosted by NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò poses some interesting socio-anthropological questions.

    Can the story of a country’s development be complete without the examination and exemplification of all existing social groups? Are the marginal areas of countries and cities as much real places as they are imagined or perhaps even produced to be such? Who defines these margins: their occupants or the population living outside of them? Do the examination and exhibition of, and familiarization with the marginal conditions have a positive outcome for such or do they further label it as marginal and therefore “other”?

    The exhibit’s curator, David Forgacs, Guido and Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò Professor in Contemporary Italian Studies at NYU tried to answer some of these questions during an Inaugural lecture held on March 5th, the opening day of the exhibition at NYU’s Casa Italiana.

    During the lecture Professor Forgacs stated:
    “ I am not suggesting that Italy is a pathologic country, or that it has more marginality than anywhere else, but if you want to tell the complete story of the Italian development you have to tell the story of its margins, not just the winners.” This particular exhibit focuses on Italy, but the idea can be applied to any nation in any part of the world. “I see the construction of marginality as a normal byproduct of growth of nations”- continued Forgacs.

    The filled to capacity auditorium was just an initial proof of the success of this wonderful exhibit which since then had many visitors as it remains open until April 13th, 2012.


    The exhibit is divided into five sections. Section I, Urban Peripheries, focuses on the living conditions of lower-class people, and includes late nineteenth-century photographs depicting a variety of social life situations as well as later images from the 1900’s which portray the living quarters of slums. Franco Ferrarotti’s work from the 70’s raises the question of the importance of giving a voice to the subjects in the photographs and not just simply using them as objects of social research.

    Section II, Colonies, includes photographs of the eastern and central Europe migrant population living on the peripheries of Rome as well as pictures taken in India, southern Europe, Libya and Africa, some for research purposes and others as snapshots.


    Section III, Souths, centers around the idea of il Mezzogiorno (the concept of a single Italian South,) which has been widely challenged by economists and historians. Found in this section amongst other works and accompanied by photographs by Arturo Zavattini is the research of Ernesto De Martino, an ethnologist who completed a study that challenged the belief that the poor population of the South was uncultured.


    Section IV, Asylums, speaks on its own presenting images of the difficulties and struggles of the mentally ill and institutionalized members of the lower class. This section has a somewhat positive message as it talks about the reform of the mental health system brought about by the work of Franco Basaglia and his wife Franca Ongaro. In this section the viewers will also find the photographic companion book to Basaglia’s work titled Morire di Classe, where the mentally ill are finally given a voice by photographers Carla Cerati and Gianni Berengo.


    Section V, Migrants, Nomads and Others addresses the issues arising from the mass immigration and the arrival of asylum seekers entering Italy in search of a better life and the avoidance of prosecution and/or war and poverty.


    The extent of research and work put into this project is clearly visible. It is one of the “not to be missed” exhibitions. The director of Casa Italiana, Stefano Albertini says of the exhibition: “This exhibit is truly a reflection on what is Italy when seen from its margins. It comprises of videos, photographs and written texts. It is up for another couple of weeks. Don't miss it!”


    Casa Italiana once more proves to be the frontrunner in the ability to provide fascinating cultural events to the public. Its doors remain open Monday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm until April 13th.  

  • Events: Reports

    Mangia Piano. An Invitation to Eating Slowly

    New Jersey was invited and encouraged to “eat slow” during the two-day event “Mangia Piano: The Internationalization of Italian Local Foodways” held earlier this month on campus of Montclair State University.

     The event, sponsored by The Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies with the co-sponsorship of The Global Education Center and  The Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America in collaboration with The Food Management Program of Montclair State University and took place on the campus of Montclair State University on March 6th and 7th, 2012. It aimed to present the audience with some of the essentials of culinary arts that the consumer should never disregard.

    “With this project I wanted to shed a different light on food in general, but especially on Italian food that has always been symbolic in nature” – said Dr. Teresa Fiore, an Associate Professor and Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

    “The title, “Mangia Piano” refers to the Italian association of Carlo Petrini “Slow Food.” This is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what has been invented or reinvented in Italian food and what has been imported to the United States. It is time to pose the questions: ‘Is Italy still a plate of macaroni? How is it possible that such a dish could conquer the world?’ And moreover, to see that Italians tend to be healthier than Americans and that perhaps our diet is responsible for that”- continued Dr. Fiore.

    Therefore this initiative not only aimed to evaluate the importance of Italian food, or Italian diet but the Italian way of life that is closely linked to food and the enjoyment brought by it.

    The event differed from other events of its kind due to the fact that after a brief introduction by Dr. Fiore the audience, composed predominantly from the Montclair University student body, was introduced to organic and most importantly fair trade and local food products brought in from nearby farms and vendors.

    Grace Grund, a local vendor and activist of local food preservation spoke in detail about what was being presented and served for the audience. She stressed how important it is to know the origin of the ingredients on one’s plate: “ One should know where the eggs come from in the frittata being enjoyed.”

    Amongst the products the guests got to sample and appreciate were baked goods produced by Jane Yagoda, many flavors of lemonade made by Joe Tea of Upper Montclair and cheese from Cherry Grove of Lawrenceville. Grace Grund shared a story of the difficulties she faced with getting locally grown lettuce for the salad being served after she was notified of and issue with a previously arranged shipment. This only made everyone appreciate that much more the effort put into providing all locally grown product to be tasted.

    After the tasting, it was time to get to serious business. Donna Gabaccia, a Professor in the History Department of Minnesota University gave an interesting account of the migration of food and food products presenting a speech titled “From the Mediterranean Flat Bread to an American Fast Food.”

    Her speech was what she called a “rapid and condensed tale of border crossing, empire migration and commerce with a specific focus on flat bread, or what we now call pizza.” Taking the audience back to the 1400’s she stressed: “I would like to share my own perpetual wonder at the national passions that simple foods like flat breads and tomatoes can arise and the need to label food as national even though these foods constantly cross borders.”

    The second speaker was an anthropologist from the University of Bergamo, Cristina Grasseni. The author of the books Skilled Visions: Between Apprenticeship and Standards (Berghahn Books, 2007) and Developing Skill, Developing Vision: Practices of Locality at the Foot of the Alps (Berghahn Books, 2009) and a fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University spoke of the significance and consequence of food production and distribution models that are based solely on reciprocal faith between the vendors and the consumers.

    The following presenter was Fabrizia Lanza, a culinary expert who has taught  at Boston University, spoke about her rebirth when she decided to completely change careers and went from being a museum curator to owning her own cooking school in Sicily and devoting her life to teaching her native Sicilian culture through food and its appreciation.

    As a shining star of the following evening in the two-day event, Fabrizia Lanza has demonstrated her cooking skills in a cooking presentation, making typical Sicilian dishes such as sfincione, caponata di melanzane and macco di fave. These dishes were paired with Nero D’Avola, the well-known Sicilian wine.

    The evening was concluded by Professor Pietro Frassica, a faculty member of French and Italian Studies at Princeton University who spoke of his early struggles in the introduction of Food Study courses at universities and acquainted the audience with how he was able to extend the field of cultural studies to literary texts concerned with gastronomy in two seminars, “The Literature of Gastronomy” and “Italy: The Land of Slow Food.” 

    The success of the two-day seminar can be measured in the abundant attendance by not only invited guests, but also the numerous presence of the young student body, which shows the growing interest in the subject at hand. 

  • Life & People

    Eat Healthy & Speak Italian

    Ever wondered why Italians look great even though they consume quite an amount of carbohydrates? Well, the answer lies in the secrets of the Mediterranean diet. According to the Mayo Clinic: “If you're looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. It incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.”

    IACE, the Italian American Committee on Education has decided to plant a seed of this important knowledge in the youngster population of the tri-state area with the introduction of a series of classes in which hundreds of kids ages 10-15 will learn to prepare meals alongside a famous Italian chef at the International Culinary Institute and at the same time will get an introduction to the Italian language and a taste of the Italian culture.

    The 6th of March marked the kick off of the series of classes organized by IACE and sponsored by Barilla, a food company that leads in the global past business. “Mangia Sano e Parla Italiano,” or otherwise “Eat Healthy and Speak Italian” was the opening event in the series and was held at the International Culinary Institute (462 Broadway at the corner of Grand, New York City). The importance of healthy eating and the introduction and exposure to the Italian culture are two things that the New York consul general Natalia Quintavalle finds crucial for the enrichment of the young generation and also for preservation of Italian heritage. At the opening of the event she stated: “We as Italians are very much linked to the idea of the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet was inscribed on the representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritageof humanity.” The Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage are established by UNESCO and aim to ensure protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide as well as the awareness of their significance. She continued: “We are really very proud about that. The Mediterranean diet constitutes of an ensemble of all the skills and knowledge which make the Italian cuisine, or the Mediterranean cuisine something very special, something which remained constant over time and proved its solidity and its importance.”
    At the opening event the president of IACE Berardo Paradiso stated: “The Italian cuisine is great because it is simple. The most important thing about Italian cuisine is the fresh ingredients which one has to know how to mix and dose them.” He then informed the guests of some of the highlights of the IACE’s initiative: “Next week we are bringing the students to the opera, each year we bring almost 2000 kids to the opera, so they can learn the Italian culture through music. One month from now we are planning to show them Italian high technology at the Ferrari showroom. We have almost 42,000 children in the tri-state area that we reach out to on regular basis. All this is possible thanks to the Italian Government and the Italian Embassy of Washington, and our “angels in Italy” as they give us almost 70% of the funds that allow us to give to the schools to promote the Italian classes and Italian language.” He expressed his sincere gratitude to Antonio Benetti, the director of the Italian language program at the Italian Consulate of NY and Lucia Pasqualini, the vice consul for their dedication to the project. He also conveyed a distinctive appreciation to Maria Teresa Cometto, one of the Board of Directors members, whom he called “the instrument that put this project together and brings 4-5 thousand kids to this program.” He proudly informed the public of the fact that Italian has now become the second most popular foreign language (after Spanish) in the United States.
    The guest chef, along whom the kids got an opportunity to cook was Cesare Casella, the Dean of The School of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center in New York and chef of Salumeria Rosi, a renowned restaurant and salumi shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He passionately spoke of the simplicity of Italian cuisine and of the significance of usage of fresh ingredients. Chef Casella satirically painted a picture to the students of how vital it is to be flexible in your cooking in order to try to always incorporate the best and the freshest ingredients. He Explained: “Italians when they go to the markets they go with their minds set on making fish, and not necessarily on making red snapper.” He continued: “ When you arrive at the market you need to see which fish smiles to you. The red snapper may be dull and grayish and very sad looking, instead the sea bass may look at you with its bright eyes saying take me home!”
    Clearly the kids were having fun watching chef Casella slice, mix and simmer the ingredients. At the same time they were being introduced to the Italian names of all the ingredients used in the three recipes prepared during the class and to the various verbs involved in the cooking process. They vivaciously repeated after the teacher words like “cipolla,” “aglio,” “mescolare,” “bolire,” and one of their favorites, perhaps for the difficulty in recalling it: “olio extravergine di oliva.” They joined the chef in the kitchen and made pesto from scratch, they learned to roll home made gnocchi and they hand crushed tomatoes for a “real Italian salsa,” learning at the same time that “salsa” means sauce and it has nothing to do with the Mexican salsa served with corn chips.
    In the times when the focus on nutrition and healthy eating is high, classes like this should be offered more often. Not only are the kids more likely to start eating healthier, but when having fun children pay a lot more attention and learn quicker. This is important for both, learning about nutrition and learning language skills. This is a wonderful initiative of IACE and their supporters. More organizations and institutions should follow in their food steps.