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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • Art & Culture

    Public Meets Private at La Reggia di Caserta

    Starting Monday September 23 and through January 16, 2020, the Royal Palace “Reggia” of Caserta will host an exhibition of 112 paintings from antique dealer Cesare Lampronti’s collection. The show, titled "From Artemisia to Hackert," will feature works by Artemisia Gentileschi, Pietro da Cortona, Rubens, Pompeo Batoni, Guercino, and Canaletto, just to name a few. 

     

    It’s an unusual exhibition for La Reggia di Caserta since it showcases the collection of an antique dealer. Purists might object to the display of works that, unlike traditional museum pieces, are actively on the market and in the hands of a dealer who owns a gallery in London. 

     

    Back in 2012, the roman dealer in fact had to relocate his historical from the Italian capital’s historical center due to “a climate of ostracism and diffidence towards our profession.” Nonetheless conceding that he likes to think of his London gallery as “a window to our art in the global scene.”

     

    This does speak to the fact that, as the prominent Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi put it - perhaps a little severely but not wrongly - “the Italian art market has to be more free; today it is subjected to too many prescriptions that make it a minor market.” To this he added that, however, thanks in part to this exhibition, “antique dealers will no longer be viewed as delinquents by this country that doesn't understand artworks are universal assets.” 

     

    One of the goals of this initiative is in fact to bring closer the world of private collections and commercial art galleries to that of public museums. The show aims to disprove the preconception that these two realities are inherently separate by highlighting the connection between the works already present in the museum and the ones belonging to Mr. Lampronti. 

     

    For example, one of the artworks is the view of the Port of Salerno by Jacob Philipp Hackert, the one piece missing from the Palace’s collection of port views by the 18th century German landscape painter commissioned by King Ferdinand IV of Naples. 

     

    Tiziana Maffei, the Director of La Reggia di Caserta, assures that the Lampronti collection, though private, was assembled with  love and passion but also great care and refinement. “Cesare Lampronti comes from a family of antiques dealers,” she explains in an interview with Rai News 24, “[the collection] clearly carries with it a history and, as with all collections assembled over the years, stories are just as important as the works themselves.”

     

    And this collection, which Mr. Lampronti - who was born in 1942 to a Roman Jewish family - had to rebuild after after it was “annihilated” by the Fascist racial laws, and is now making its way back to Italy, certainly has a fascinating story to tell.

     

    As many pointed out, this is truly a generous gift on the part of the dealer, especially considering how, as he explains, few Italian museums are able to acquire and display new artworks. “The most active are small American museums for example and also small French museums,” he says, “Italian museums rarely have the means to buy.” 

     

    But, as this exhibition suggests, things are starting to change and hopefully Italian museums will follow suit in collaborating with the private sector to bring more artworks out for the public to admire.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Kicking Off the New School Year With La Scuola

    Last night, September 12, a celebration to kick off La Scuola d’Italia’s 43rd school year was held in the prestigious 101 Club at 101 Park Avenue, the iconic building owned by Comm. Peter Kalikow, a great supporter of La Scuola and of Italian institutions in New York. 

    The purpose of this annual appointment is to gather all members of La Scuola’s community including parents, faculty, board members, and all those who have supported and continue to support the school and its students. 

    The first to speak, as guests savored delicious cocktails and food - which ranged from fresh sushi rolls to decadent cheese-stuffed maccheroni - was one of the school board’s trustees and father of two La Scuola students, Massimo D’Angelo, who, after thanking everyone for attending, acknowledged the outstanding work the teachers and board are carrying out for the development and growth of the school. “The school has been through some tumultuous times,” he noted “we are changing and I see in this room the spirit of that change.”

    Afterwards, Cav. Richard Nasti, Executive Vice President of H.J. Kalikow & Co., LLC as well as chair of Stony Brook University and of its Center for Italian Studies, took the stage, speaking also for Mr. Kalikow, who “although not himself Italian or Italian-American, has embraced the culture and is philantropic to italian causes, philantropic to the consulate, and happens to be probably the foremost ferrari collector certainly in this region, probably in the country.”

    Cav. Nasti, began his speach by remembering Mario Mignone, the executive director of the Center of Italian Studies and a beloved supporter and member of the Italian community in New York, who passed away a couple of days ago. “Mario Mignone was an extraordinary individual.” he stated after asking everyone to join him in observing a moment of silence. 

    “There aren’t many people in this country who did more to promote Italian culture, Italian language. I went to his funeral mass in Stony Brook this morning and I’ll tell you, it was an hour for communion. That’s how many people were at this funeral.”

    He then went on to express his support for La Scuola and brought the importance of building a culture of philanthropy to help institutions like La Scuola keep evolving, growing and offering their students an excellent multilingual and multicultural education before passing the microphone on to Consul General Francesco Genuardi.

    The Consul applauded the incredible work done by the faculty and the school’s “fantastic community, which has always had a special energy and has, in these past years especially, displayed great strength and unity.”

    He emphasized how, especially now that La Scuola offers the International Baccalaureate program, it has become “the perfect springboard” for students to reach the most prestigious schools in America, in Italy, and all over the world, making it increasingly attractive not just to Italians and Italian Americans but to New Yorker wishing to provide their children with a well-rounded international education.

    Follwing this intervention, a short video presentation of La Scuola, which i-Italy created working closely with dedicated parents, faculty, and student, as well as the head of the school Prof. Maria Palandra, and particularly Diego Rodino’ Di Miglione, who all agreed worked incredibly hard to put together this event and who followed the video’s production closely, displaying his passion and dedication to La Scuola and to its future. 

    You can see it here.

    Prof. Palandra then took over, inviting everyone to come visit La Scuola, which is holding open houses on October 5, November 14, and February 28 (for more information or to book a private tour, visit >> )

    She defined the school as a place that “maintains alive the culture and language of Italy and that is growing and becoming more and more international” and explained that their goal to have a more diverse, more dynamic school, year after year.

    The head of the school then spoke about the school’s scholarship programs, which provide not only a perfect occasion to support the students but also to honor and commemorate people who are no longer with us such as prof. Mario Mignone, “someone who guided all of us who came from Italy and helped us find a way in this society,” to whom they have just dedicated a new scholarship program.

    She then invited on stage three students who were awarded a scholarship in the name of Mario Cuomo (sponsored by Nutella and Aldo Uva as well as by La Scuola chairman Charles Adams) during the school’s gala last spring: Alexander Pringle Bertellini, Alessandro Pezzella, and Marina Siddu.

    This scholarship will help these students continue their studies at La Scuola, a community they have grown to love and feel a part of. They each thanked their sponsors and of course their teachers for having inspired and supported them throughout the years, as well as their parents for having chosen La Scuola, providing them with an excellent international education and preparing them to succeed in today’s global world. 

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Water Found on Potentially Habitable Planet

    For the first time, astronomers discovered the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere of K2-18b, a planet considered “Earth-sized” located 110 light years away, within  the “Goldilocks” or habitable zone around a star where the temperature is just right - not too hot and not too cold - for liquid water to exist.

    K2-18b is considered a “super-Earth,” meaning its mass falls between Earth’s and Neptune’s, but it’s not quite like our home planet. For instance, it is eight times as massive and twice as big. 

    The planet is also much closer to its star than Earth is from the Sun and completes an orbit in 33 days as opposed to 365 days. Its star, however, is a red dwarf, much smaller and much cooler than the Sun, and so the temperature on K2-18b should be around 10C. (50F)

    “This is the first potentially habitable planet where the temperature is right and where we now know there is water,” said Angelos Tsiaras, an astronomer at University College London. “It’s the best candidate for habitability right now.”

    The UCL team used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the star as the planet orbited around it and found that the wavelengths of light that are absorbed by water dropped when the planet crossed in front of its star and then rose again as the planet moved out of the way.

    “To our great surprise we saw a pretty strong signature of water vapor,” said Professor Giovanna Tinetti, a London-based physicist from Turin and member of the UCL team. “It means first of all that there’s an atmosphere, and second that it contains a significant amount of water.”

    While the presence of water vapor in its atmosphere does not ensure that K2-18b actually has water on its surface, it’s certainly a start. Having established a precedent for finding a planet that meets some of the most fundamental criteria, will make it easier to find Earth-like planets potentially capable of sustaining life in the future. 

     

    No doubt further studies will have to be conducted on K2-18b and astronomers hope to keep finding more potentially habitable planets in the years to come, also thanks to upcoming initiatives such as the launch of Nasa’s James Webb space telescope set for 2021 and the European Space Agency’s Ariel mission which will launch in 2028.

  • Art & Culture

    Casa 2.0: New Initiatives For Cultural Exchange

    It’s September in New York. The rhythm starts to pick up again and, as always, the new academic year brings with it many new interesting initiatives across the various Italian Institutions here in the city. Among them is, of course, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò at New York University. So we headed there to meet with the Casa’s director, and our longtime friend, Stefano Albertini, who gave us a little preview of some of the most exciting events and projects they have in store.

     

    This is a pivotal time in the history of Casa Italiana because, as the director tells us, it will see the implementation of their new project, Casa 2.0. “Thanks to the resources generously left to us by the Baroness Zerilli-Marimo (ed. The founder of Casa, who passed away in 2015) we will be able to not only present initiatives but also to create and produce them.”

     

    A special committee was in fact instituted to come up with ideas and draft a long-term plan of how to allocate these newly acquired funds towards the development of the institution’s activities in this new phase of its existence. 

     

    This means that we can expect a whole new array of events that will not only be larger in scale but also more cohesive, rounded and engaging. These will range from the translation and publication of books in collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte Library (a collection by University of Toronto Press that publishes classic Italian books in English curated by prof Luigi Ballerini), to the production of plays, concerts, and exhibitions conceived and commissioned to fit specific spaces and contexts.  

     

    The first book Casa will help publish will likely be Voyage en Italie by the Marquis de Sade, so not really an Italian book but one that gives the perspective of a non-italian on Italy. “And this will potentially become the guideline for our upcoming literary projects: outside perspectives on Italy,” Prof. Albertini explains.

     

    Each series will have a lead event. This year’s lead exhibition, for example, will be tied to the concept of Propaganda. It will feature works from the Cerulli collection in Bologna ranging from posters to flyers, manifestos, magazines, newspapers, and casts. These will include objects of political propaganda but also advertisements, allowing visitors to compare the two spheres and see where they intersect as well as providing an occasion to reflect on how the notion of propaganda has changed, and how it has remained the same. 

     

    Generally speaking, the idea is to focus on how the knowledge that comes from history, culture, and art can inform not only the past but also the present and especially the future. 

     

    This is something that Casa Italiana has already started doing to some degree. Prof. Albertini reminds us of a play they produced in the past based on the first feminist text in history, Il merito delle donne by Moderata Fonte. The text was found in archive, translated, published and the Casa commissioned their theatre company to transform it into a performance. Now this very play will be presented in Florence in the context of Serena Dandini’s Festival delle Donne (Women's Festival). “We are extremely proud that a production that was born basically in-house is ready to take off and land in Italy, where it will be presented in an ideal context.”

     

    The director assures us that ongoing series such as ‘Adventure in Italian Opera with Fred Plotkin’ and ‘Dante and…’ (ed. where experts from different fields are invited to talk about Dante and his influence) will continue, but they will also intersect and expand. For example, on September 18, they will be hosting an event about Dante in Opera, which will bring together American conductor Michael Hurshell, Dante scholar Alison Cornish, and Opera expert Fred Plotkin. 

     

    “We try to connect our events,” Stefano continues, “so, for example, our exhibition on the drawings and writings of Carlo Levi (ed. on view through Dec. 13) will be accompanied by an integral screening of Christ Stopped at Eboli.” (ed. the phenomenal 1979 film based on Levi’s most famous book)

     

    The program will feature increasingly interdisciplinary approaches, bringing in experts from different fields to examine and interpret ideas from multiple perspectives. The idea for the future is to start delving into new fields, beyond the humanities, such as science, technology and even economics and politics. 

     

    Another particularity of the Casa is its ability to foster intercultural exchanges by bringing scholars, artists, and other leading figures from Italy in contact with their New York counterparts. “We don’t just want to have an Italian writer come here and present his book, we want him to stand alongside an American writer with whom he shares approaches, themes, interests and create an exchange. That’s what we can add as an American cultural institution, as a university.” 

     

    Prof. Albertini perfectly synthesizes the mission of Casa 2.0 by stating “I like the idea that Casa Italiana is center of cultural exchange between different worlds, a place which tries to bring them in contact, in dialog. It’s what we’ve always strived to do and it’s what we want to do even more.”

     

    And we wish them the best of luck!

     

    For more details on their upcoming events, visit Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò’s website.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Berrettini Will Play Nadal in US Open Semifinal

    "What a great fight,” commented the 23-year-old from Rome after a gripping three hours and 57 minute-long match against the 33-year-old Frenchman Gaël Monfils, which he won in five sets: 3-6 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-6 (5).

     

    “I think it was one of the best matches I ever saw,” continued Matteo Berrettini, “I was playing, but I was watching also. I’m very proud of myself.” And all of Italy is proud too and pleasantly surprised by this unexpected turn of events.

     

    It is the fourth time in the Open Era - which started in 1968 - that a male Italian player reaches a Grand Slam singles semifinal: Adriano Panatta won the 1976 Roland Garros and was a semifinalist in 1972 and 1975, Corrado Barazzutti made it to the semifinals in the 1977 US Open and the 1978 Roland Garros, and finally 26-year-old Marco Cecchinato was a semifinalist in last year’s Roland Garros.

     

    Berrettini and Cecchinato are, along with 24-year-old Lorenzo Sonego, part of the new generation of extremely young Italian tennis players who are quickly rising up the global ranks, making their towards a Grand Slam victory, something Italy hasn’t seen in 43 years. (ed. note that we are speaking only of male players here, recently Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone have given Italian fans great joy by respectively taking home the 2015 US Open and the 2010 Roland Garros)

     

    Tomorrow Berrettini will face the world’s No.2 player, Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard, who beat the Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-4 7-5 6-2 in a much quicker match yesterday, is the last of The Big Three - which include Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic - left in the tournament. 

     

    The other two semifinalists, Grigor Dimitrov from Hungary and Daniil Medvedev from Russia, like their Italian colleague, are both in their 20s and will compete in the US Open Semifinals for the first time. 

     

    For them, like for Berrettini, having made it this far is already a huge accomplishment. And who knows, they may not be done surprising us just yet.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Jump Start Your Day With Run 5.30 NYC

    We all know exercise is good for us and, when done regularly, a little movement can go a long way. But many of us also lead full, busy lives: we spend most of our days working and running errands and it often feels like we barely have enough time to be with our family and loved ones. We would love to be active, we just don’t have the time. Or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves, but it doesn’t have to be true.

     

    Sergio Bezzanti, a graphic designer from Modena and nutritionist Sabrina Severi co-founded Run 5.30 in 2009 with the desire to prove that it is indeed possible to get your daily steps in without compromising family or work time, and to have a great time doing it. 

     

    Run 5.30 is a non-competitive 5k run - or walk, skip, jog, whatever you want it to be - that takes place in a set city at 5:30am before a business day and culminates with a healthy breakfast. Not only are you doing your body a favor by being more active, you also have the chance to explore your city in a brand new light, all without taking any time away from your daily schedule. 

     

    Sure, waking up that early to go on a run or walk sounds unpleasant to some, downright impossible to others but, as Sergio points out, it’s mostly a mental barrier, “many people are skeptical at first,” he says, “they come because they got dragged by their partner or colleague, but once they do it they realise, ‘oh, okay, this is good, I can do this.’” 

     

    The ultimate goal of the Run 5.30 project, which has organized over 100 runs in cities across Italy (and one in Brighton, UK) since 2009, is to get participants to realize that this is something they can actually do, and hopefully have them continue doing it on their own or with friends beyond this fun yearly event.

     

    And, little by little, this message is spreading and Run 5.30 is growing. What started with just a few hundred people showing up to the first event held in Mantua in 2009, now attracts over 30,000 across ten major cities in Italy including Milan, Venice, and Palermo. One run was also held in Brighton, UK this past July, and now the project landed in none other than New York City. 

     

    Unsurprisingly, New Yorkers were keen to adhere to this new initiative and almost all the 500 spots for Friday’s run, which will take place at Pier 25 on Hudson River Park, were quickly filled up. The 5.30 philosophy fits in perfectly within such an active, bustling, and health-conscious city. 

     

    If this piqued your interest, you might still be in time to register for the run, check out the Run 5.30 NYC website for more info. 

     

    In any case, we suggest you keep 5.30 on your radar, something tells us you’ll be hearing from them again soon.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Italy to Get a New PD M5S Government

    Two weeks ago, the Italian government collapsed, following former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini’s announcement that he was backing out, which in turn caused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to give his resignation on August 20. 

    Salvini, whom polls show to be rising in popularity across the country, was likely hoping that the government collapse would lead to fresh parliamentary elections. And this was indeed a possibility. 

    However, to the surprise of many, the Democratic Party and Movimento 5 Stelle - the party who was co-ruling the country alongside Salvini’s Lega - agreed to form a coalition, in which they were also joined by Liberi e Uguali (LeU), a relatively small left-wing party. Together, these three parties hold the majority in parliament, which means that Italy should avoid having to go through a brand new election for now.

    Today, Conte presented the new government’s program and the list of ministers to President Sergio Mattarella, who approved it. The list features 21 ministers: 9 from the Democratic Party, 10 from Movimento 5 Stelle, and one non-partisan expert, Luciana Lamorgese, who will head the very sensitive Home Affairs Ministry after having served as a senior official there. She is one of 7 women on the list. 

    Former Deputy Prime-Minister Luigi Di Maio will serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs, while the Democrat Roberto Gualtieri who now chairs the European Parliament’s Economic Affairs Commission, will be the new Economy Minister

    Stefano Patuanelli, who was the Chair of the M5S Parliamentary Group at the Senate, will head the Ministry of Economic Development, Nunzia Catalfo (M5S), who contributed to the drafting of the controversial “Reddito di Cittadinanza,” will be in charge of the Labor Ministry.

    Alfonso Bonafede will remain at the head of the Justice Ministry and Sergio Costa will stay at the Environment Ministry. Dario Franceschini (PD) who previously served as Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism from 2014 to 2018 will resume his role. 

    The new Minister of Defense will be the Democratic Party’s Lorenzo Guerini, Paola De Micheli (PD) will be the Minister of Infrastructure, Teresa Bellanova (PD) the Minister of Agricultural Policies, Lorenzo Fioramonti (M5S) the Minister of Education.

    The one representative of LeU, Roberto Speranza will head the Ministry of Health and M5S’s Federico D'Inca (M5S) will be in charge of relations with the Parliament. 

    The other ministers will be: Paola Pisano at Innovation, Fabiana Dadone at Public Administration, Francesco Boccia at Regional Affairs, Vincenzo Spadafora at Sport and Youth Affairs, Elena Bonetti at Equal Opportunities, Enzo Amendola at European Affairs, and Giuseppe Provenzano at the Ministry for the South.

    The new Government will be officially sworn in tomorrow at 10am Italian time, after which the Ministers will assume their newly appointed roles.

    The Cabinet will then also need to pass a confidence vote in both the Lower House and the Senate, which should take place early next week This normally shouldn’t be an issue since the PD, M5S, and LeU can count on the majority of MPs, but during such uncertain times, anything could happen. 

  • Art & Culture

    'Piranhas,' a Film About Coming of Age Amidst The Camorra

    The film, which won the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival and was shown in the United States for the first time during Open Roads New Italian Cinema at New York’s Film at Lincoln Center this past June, follows the story of a group of teenagers growing up in the Camorra ridden neighborhoods of Naples. 

     

    “The work began right here in New York,” Director Claudio Giovannesi tells us, where, two years ago, he met with Roberto Saviano, the author of the book from which the movie is inspired and the project began.

     

    Giovannesi believes that showing his film in American theatres is an important opportunity. “There is at the moment great cinema in Italy and in Europe in my opinion and it often doesn’t make it to the United States,” he notes. 

     

    But, as the reactions of critics and audiences often show, European and Italian films are greatly appreciated here. There is a demand for them. “Great American cinema, has always loved Italian cinema,” he claims, citing Martin Scorsese, whom he considers “one of the greatest auteurs there are” and who “knows the history of Italian cinema perhaps better than Italians” and is greatly influenced by it.

     

    In Italian, the title of both film and book is actually ‘La paranza dei bambini,’ which literally translates to ‘a gang of children.’ “But that’s not accurate,” Giovannesi comments, “because paranza is a boat, paranza is a dish of fried small fish, paranza is a group of kids, and paranza is an armed Camorra gang. So it’s impossible to translate it.” 

     

    The complexity of the title reflects that of the film itself. On the one hand it’s a coming of age story, about friendship, family, first loves, but it’s also a film about the loss of innocence, about  criminality and how it permeates every aspect of people’s lives. 

     

    On the one hand, the movie certainly gives Naples great visibility, displaying the breathtaking and complex beauty of its historical center, which as Giovannesi points out “is still popular,” meaning it is “a place where people live, work, and you encounter good people and bad people.” It is also shot entirely in Neapolitan dialect (and was shown with Italian subtitles in Italy) using non-professional actors themselves born and raised in the very neighborhoods of the film. 

     

    Shooting also took place on location and the production included locals, such as street vendors, in the project by giving them honest work: “the people from the neighborhood were hired by the production as drivers, as service operators, as extras. This was a way for us to be guests and not invaders,” Giovannesi says.    

     

    At the same time, the themes it addresses are universal and the problems faced by Naples are shared by “all the peripheries of the world,” an expression the director uses attributing it to Saviano. 

     

    “It’s not a film about Naples,” the director explains, “it’s a film set in Naples, but it’s a film that asks a question: what happens to teenagers, to the feelings of these teenagers, when they make a criminal choice, a criminal choice which is initially made unknowingly, like a game, but then becomes irreversible?”

    The film, distributed by Music Box, will be showing at Film at Lincoln Center. For more information, visit their website

  • Art & Culture

    Mount Vesuvius Told Through Digital Art

    The MAV, the Virtual Archeological Museum located in the Campanian town of Ercolano built on the ruins of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the infamous 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius, (the same one that obliterated Pompeii) inaugurated a new multimedia art exhibition. 

     

    Titled “Vesuvio in the Box” and curated by Luca Beatrice, the show features 22 works, a video series and a 60 square meter LED wall by Neapolitan artist Gennaro Regina. 

     

    In line with the MAV’s mission to give a multimedial approach to the history, lifestyle and habits of ancient Herculaneum, it tells the story of the volcano’s devastating eruption in an interactive way: visitors are led into the cube, an architectural structure onto which the videos are projected. 

     

    The president of the CIVES Foundation, which manages MAV, Luigi Vicinanza, noted that "Gennaro Regina is an extraordinary artist whose beautiful works combine very well with our Virtual Archaeological Museum's activities. He melds tradition with digital narration, the present and future together."

     

    Regina, who is represented by the Neapolitan gallery Voyage Pittoresque Factory, wanted to allow viewers to admire the Vesuvius in all its forms. He titled the installation “Rebirth” to express his view that “destruction by people, facts, and culture is the rebirth of a territory.” 

     

    He adds that this kind of rebirth, “due not as much to what happens in politics but to what people manage to do” is currently taking place in the region.

     

    "Investing in culture means transmitting the beauty of our history and our places to young people,” commented Ciro Buonajuto, the mayor of Ercolano, “and Gennaro Regina, with his artworks, helps us to move in this direction.”

     

    Vesuvio in a Box will be on view Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m until September 30, 2019. The exhibition is free and open to all.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Mantuan Mostarda Conquers The World

    IN ITALIAN >>

    We are at the Fancy Food Show, one of the most important food fairs in the world, which takes place each year in New York’s Javits Center. Here, as you can imagine, Italy is always present, actually it’s one of the most represented nations. But we didn’t come here to talk about our most important brands, our intention was to unearth hidden gems, little-known excellencies that have yet to be discovered, find new stories to tell. And we did. We found stories of past traditions that are being rediscovered and reappropriated today.  

     

    One of these is the story of Paola Calciolari and her ‘mantuan mostarda.’

     

    “I was a pharmacist. I studied food chemistry, Parmigiano Reggiano production because my family produced it,” explains Paola, the founder of Le Tamerici, a preserves company specialized in the production of mostarda. “And I began to make mostarda. It’s a typical product of the area but there were no companies making it in Mantua.”

     

    At her table, are exhibited a variety of delicate glass jars, filled with different flavors of mostarda, jams, and wine jellies. We’d like to start sampling them right away but, first of all, we ask her to tell us exactly mantuan mostarda is. 

     

    “Mantuan mostarda is candied fruit with mustard essence,” Paola answers promptly. Small slices of fruit are mixed with sugar and water and left to candy for several days until “an osmotic process occurs during which the fruit absorbs the sugar and releases the water.” Then the natural mustard essence is added, giving the product its distinctive spicy taste. 

     

    “This is the mostarda that they served at court banquets during the time of the Gonzaga. (an important Italian princely family that ruled Mantua for centuries, ed.) So it’s a product of the Renaissance, a product of history, it was used to make tortelli,” the expert explains.

     

    On that note, we ask her how mostarda is used.

     

    “Cheese is the simplest pairing, but it was actually born as an accompaniment to bollito.” (a way of cooking meat, similar to stews, ed.)

     

    Now it’s no longer bollito, she tells us, but all meats. Paola cites various examples, from duck breast, to grilled steak, to sausage, so other types of meat but especially other cooking methods. “Porchetta would pair wonderfully with the prune one, for example.”

     

    And here in the United States, you can very well serve it with your Thanksgiving turkey. “I would put the green tomato mostarda or this pear and rosemary jam, it’s marvelous on white meat. I even put this one on gourmet pizza.”

     

    It isn’t bad by itself either. 

     

    As for deserts, Paola recommends pairing it with semifreddi “because the spiciness is softened by the cold, but the taste remains. I like the pear mostarda with chocolate gelato.”

     

    Le Tamerici carries different lines of products: one consisting of only mostarde, one of wine jellies (lambrusco, prosecco, vino passito from Sicily), one of balsamic vinegar jams which can be cherry, amarena, or strawberry flavored. Then there are various pectine-free jams, such as the blood orange one. “It’s a product that we work one month per year, when this type of orange is in season.” Paola tells us as she offers us a sample. 

     

    “Our philosophy is to look for whoever specializes in making the specific products of their territory.” For example, for their apple jam, they rely on a producer who only deals in campanine apples, a variety of small wild apples from Mantua. For other products, such as their red onion jam, they look for a producer in the area that specializes in making them, in this case in Tropea, Calabria.  

     

    The former pharmacist dived into this field because, despite it being a historical product typical of the area, nobody was producing mostarda in Mantova, if not at home. “My grandmother made mostarda. I loved cheese and I immediately thought of pairing mostarda with cheese, which was a novelty then.”

     

    In 1991, she created le Tamerici, which was born as a cultural association and cooking school, to then become an artisanal scale production lab and finally a company. In 1996, she attends her first Salone del Gusto in Turin (an important international food fair, ed.) bringing with her five products with five cheese pairings. This immediately caught the attention of journalists: “They wanted to understand why.” Now it seems natural, but at the time people were surprised by it, she explains.

     

    “When I first started coming to the United States, 20 years ago,” she recalls, “nobody was doing it.” Now, the US are an important market for the company, as are Spain, Germany, and even Australia. A perfect example of how quality Italian products, even those that are niche, or maybe precisely thanks to their specificity and uniqueness, manage to pave their way and carve out their space in the global market. 

     

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