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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • 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. 

     

  • Fatti e Storie

    La mostarda mantovana conquista il mondo

    IN ENGLISH >>

     

    Siamo sempre al Fancy Food Show, una delle più importanti fiere agroalimentari al mondo che si svolge ogni anno allo Javits Center di New York. Qui ovviamente l’Italia non manca mai, anzi è tra le nazioni più rappresentate. E noi, anche questa volta, non siamo accontentati della conferma dei nostri brand più importanti, siamo andati alla ricerca di novità, eccellenze poco conosciute da scoprire, di storie da raccontare. E ne abbiamo trovate. Storie che riscoprono e rendono spesso attuale un passato di grande tradizione.

     

    Una di queste è la storia di Paola Calciolari e delle sue mostarde mantovane. 

     

    “Facevo la farmacista. Ho preso una laurea in chimica degli alimenti, produzione del Parmigiano Reggiano perché la mia famiglia lo produceva”, ci spiega Paola, fondatrice di Le Tamerici, un’azienda di conserve alimentari di qualità in provincia di Mantova, specializzata nelle produzione di mostarde. “E mi sono messa a fare mostarda, è un prodotto tipico del territorio, ma non esistevano a Mantova aziende strutturate che lo producevano.”

     

    Davanti a lei, sul suo banco, sono esposti diversi barattoli pieni delle sue mostarde ai vari gusti. Verrebbe voglia di iniziare a provarle tutte ma, innanzitutto, ci facciamo dire esattemente cos’e la mostarda.

     

    “La mostarda mantovana è frutta candita con essenza di senape.” risponde prontamente Paola. Fettine di frutta vengono messe in una zuppa di acqua e zucchero, dopodiché avviene “un processo osmotico in cui la frutta si arricchisce di zucchero e rilascia l’acqua.” Poi, a fine canditura, viene aggiunta l’essenza di senape naturale che da il piccante a questo prodotto.

     

    “Di questa mostarda se ne parlava gia nei banchetti di corte al tempo dei Gonzaga. Quindi è un prodotto del Rinascimento, della storia, un prodotto che si usava per fare i tortelli.” Ci racconta l’esperta.

     

    A proposito, le domandiamo, come si usa la mostarda? 

     

    “Il formaggio è l’abbinamento più semplice, ma in realtà nasce come prodotto che viene usato con il bollito.”

     

    Ora non è piu bollito, ci spiega, ma tutto quello che è carne. Paola cita vari esempi, dal petto d’anatra, alla carne alla brace, fino alla salsiccia, quindi anche altre carni ma soprattutto altri tipi di cotture. “Una porchetta con la prugna ci sta benissimo, ad esempio.”

     

    E qui negli Stati Uniti si può usare benissimo insieme al tacchino di Thanksgiving. “Io ci metterei o il pomodoro verde o questa confettura di pere con rosmarino, con le carni bianche è meravigliosa. Poi questa l’ho messa anche su delle pizze gourmet.” 

     

    Anche da sola non è niente male.

     

    Per quanto riguarda i dolci, Paola consiglia di abbinarle ai semifreddi “perché il piccante viene smorzato dal freddo, ma rimane ne rimane il gusto. A me piace la mostarda di pera con il gelato al cioccolato.”

     

    Le Tamerici propone diverse linee di prodotti: una di solo mostarde, una di gelatine di vino (lambrusco, prosecco, vino passito di sicilia), una di confetture con aceto balsamico, che possono essere di ciliegia, amarena o fragola. Poi ci sono le varie confetture senza pectina, ad esempio, quella di arance rosse. “È un prodotto che lavoriamo un mese all’anno quando è disponibile questa tipologia di arancia.” ci spiega Paola mentro l’assaggiamo. 

     

    “La nostra filosofia è cercare chi è specializzato nel fare specifici prodotti nel territorio.” Ad esempio, per la confettura di mele, vanno da un produttore che fa solo mele campanine, piccole mele selvatiche di Mantova. Per altri prodotti, come la confettura alle cipolle rosse, vanno a cercare un produttore dove c’e la specialità, in questo caso, a Tropea.

     

    L’ex-farmacista si è lanciata in questo campo perché, nonostante si tratti di un prodotto storico, tipico della zona, a Mantova nessuno produceva mostarde, se non in casa. “Mia nonna preparava mostarde. Io ero appassionata di formaggi e ho pensato subito di fare l’abbinamento della mostarda col formaggio, cosa che era una novità.”

     

    Nel 1991 fonda le Tamerici, che nasce come associazione culturale e scuola di cucina e diventa in seguito un laboratorio di produzione in scala artigianale ed in fine un’azienda agricola. Nel 1996, partecipa al suo primo Salone del Gusto di Torino portando cinque prodotti con cinque abbinamenti di formaggio e suscitando l’attenzione di vari giornalisti. “Volevano capire il perché di questa cosa.” Adesso sembra naturale, ma all’epoca questo abbinamento stupiva, spiega.

     

    “Quando sono arrivata negli Stati Uniti 20 anni fa”, ricorda Paola “nessuno qui faceva questo.” Ora gli Stati Uniti sono un mercato importante per l’azienda, cosi come la Spagna, la Germania ed anche l’Australia. Un esempio di come le eccellenze italiane, anche se di nicchia, o forse proprio grazie alla loro specificita; e particolarità, riescono a farsi strada e a trovare il loro posto sul mercato internazionale. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Innovation, Sustainability, Family, and...Buffalo Cheese

    IN ITALIANO >>

    “The business was purchased by grandpa, who died shortly after however, so it was taken over by my grandma, Anna Maria, a great woman and a hard worker,” the young Roberta, who actively and with great determination and competence participates in the activities of Quattro Portoni, her family’s business located near Bergamo, tells us enthusiastically. 

     

    We are yet again struck by the precision, passion, and especially the vision with which the family heirs of small Italian businesses discuss their work abroad. She is surrounded by her family, united by a passion for their work that cannot go unnoticed. These are the stories we love to tell. 

     

    So, Roberta starts telling us about her grandmother.

     

    You said she took over the company?

     

    Roberta: Yes, she handled it along with another business. 

     

    Grandpa dealt in agricultural machinery, so they had an agricultural business in this sense. They rented their fields and the animals were taken care of by sharecroppers. 

    Afterwards, my grandfather had an accident at work while he was packing hay and he died.

    And my grandmother, at 36, was left alone to take care of four sons, the eldest of which was 11 and the youngest 5. 

    When did this happen?

    Roberta: Grampa died in 1968. And grandma went on to manage the business, initially with the agricultural machinery and then also raising the animals. She also founded a packaging company, which now handles the packaging of our products. This until my dad and his second brother, who was a veterinarian, took on the farm and started raising frisone cows up until 2000.  

    During that time, our company was in full expansion but in Italy there was the problem of milk quotas. We produced a lot of milk and had to rent out our milk quotas to others, until the situation became unsustainable because we risked having to throw away some of our milk. 

    So, my dad and uncle looked at each other and thought, what animal could fit in our stables and doesn’t face the milk quota problem?

    They thought of bufale. (Italian Mediterranean Buffalo, ed.)

    Di necessità virtu, as we say.

    Roberta: Exactly. But we took a risk because the bufale weren’t well-known in the North of the country then. Tendentially, these animals are typical of Southern Italy. 

    So they tried with 40 animals at first. And they found that the bufale have character. If they don’t trust you or if they’re nervous, they have the ability to hold their milk. So you milk them but nothing comes out! They have to be in a favorable, relaxed environment.

    They saw that things were going well so they decided to sell all the cows, they sold all the milk quotas and in 2003 we switched over completely. We got our first big batch of bufale from Latina, near Rome. In 2005, we started producing cheese, one year later we inaugurated our cheese factory. And from there our adventure began.

    Does the whole family work for the company?

    Roberta: My sister (points) is a pediatrician so she followed her own path. I’m about to receive my law degree and the idea is to become a corporate lawyer for the company. 

    But we’ve all lived through this adventure. At the beginning we didn’t know what we were doing. We all still remember the day when he (points at her father) brought the prototype of the first cheese he handmade himself: a total disaster. 

    But from there things kept getting better and there have been many fulfilling moments. There have also been a lot of prizes, which have allowed us to make ourselves known. Also because my dad and my uncle were the first to ever think of turning buffalo milk into a cheese that wasn’t fresh, but aged. Because there’s always been buffalo mozzarella, or ricotta, or scamorza, but nobody had ever thought of aged cheese. 

    So, since the local tradition was that of gorgonzola, taleggio, quartirolo lombardo, they decided, ok let’s make those but using 100% buffalo milk. Now, some others have started making something with buffalo milk, they usually mix it with cow’s milk. 

    Where do you sell it? How is your product distributed?

    Roberta: I think that the United States are our first client. (she turns to the others)

    Bruno: Yes, the United States are very important.

    Roberta: But also Europe!

    Bruno: (nods) France, Switzerland…

    You started exporting right away.

    Bruno: Well, exporting came naturally. We began getting our name out there through our presence at fairs such as this one. 

    We had our inauguration, there were plenty of people. We were also lucky that the event resonated well, television stations came, they wanted to see what we were up to. And this gave us some confidence so I suggested we participate in an international fair like Tutto Food in Milan. And there we met Forever Cheese

    During our very first fair, we met what remains to this day our most important client. It’s a channel we haven’t abandoned since. 

    So how do you envision the company’s future?

    Roberta: I see growth. Growth because we have on our side the advantage of having been the first. The market is certainly expanding and there are those interested in making aged buffalo milk products but we have now…

    Bruno: 12 years.

    Roberta: 12 years of skills and experience, which allow us to anticipate how the milk will behave, what the market’s interests will be, where people look to, what works best.

    Bruno: The key is that we control the entire production line, right from the animals. Our objective of expanding cheese production will also be an expansion of the farm. The two go hand in hand. We’re not going to become an industrial cheese factory, we will stay true to ourselves. And our model is hard to replicate, it takes years of investments, you have to be an animal farmer, and you can’t do that in a day, it takes years and lots of work.

    Can you describe the place you work at, your company? Take us with you...

    Roberta: So, we walk into a large gravel courtyard and on our right we have the old farmer’s home, where the sharecroppers lived and managed my grandparents’ company. 

    Directly across from the entrance are the old stables built by Nonna Anna and all the old part of the stables continue on in front of us towards the left. To the left are the silos filled with feed for the animals. Then, beyond the courtyards, continuing towards the right you’ll find the cheese factory that they built (points to her father) and beyond that the new stables, which were built according to animal welfare indications, so it’s extremely tall to allow for the air to flow properly. 

    Inside are the cisterns filled with liquid animal waste. We’ve started following a path of sustainability so we are part of a consortium that produces sustainable energy, biogas. So we give the liquid waste, it is then returned to us nitrate-free and this allows us to engage in a circular economy: we reutilize the cleaned waste to fertilize the fields, which produce forage for the bufale, which produce milk, which we turn into cheese, all within the range of a few kilometers. 

    We stand with them, with this passion that many of these companies share in Italy. Precious realities and strongholds of the past and especially the future of our economy. 

  • Fatti e Storie

    Innovazione, sostenibilità e.... famiglia. Grazie bufale!

    IN ENGLISH >>

     

    “L’azienda era stata comprata dal nonno, che però è morto poco dopo, quindi è stata presa in mano dalla nonna, Anna Maria, una grande signora, una gran lavoratrice,” ci racconta con entusiasmo la giovanissima Roberta, che prende parte attivamente, con determinazione e compentenza ai successi dell'azienda di familglia Quattro Portoni di Cologno al Serio, nel Bergamasco.

    Ancora una volta ci colpisce la precisione, passione e soprattutto visione con cui gli eredi delle famiglie delle piccole e medie imprese italiane presentano il proprio lavoro all'estero. Intorno a lei tutta la famiglia, in una abbraccio di passione per il proprio lavoro che non può passare inosservato. E noi amiamo raccontare queste storie.

    Così quindi Roberta ci racconta della nonna.

    E la seguiva lei?

    Roberta: Si, insieme ad un’altra attivita. 

    Il nonno commerciava in macchine agricole, perciò loro avevano un’azienda agricola in questo senso. Avevano affittato la coltivazione dei campi e facevano seguire il bestiame ai mezzadri.

    Dopo di che, mio nonno ha avuto un’incidente sul lavoro, imballando il fieno, ed è morto.

    E mia nonna è rimasta a 36 anni, vedova con quattro figli dei quali il più grande aveva 11 anni e il più piccolo ne aveva 5.

    Questo quando? 

    Roberta: Il nonno è morto nel 68. E la nonna ha continuato a gestire lei, prima a commerciare in macchine agricole e poi con l’allevamento. Ha fondato anche un’altra azienda di packaging che adesso segue anche il packaging dei nostri prodotti. Finché mio papa e il suo secondo fratello, che si è laureato in veterinaria, hanno preso in mano l’allevamento e si sono messi ad allevare vacche frisone fino al 2000.

    In quel periodo, la nostra azienda era in espansione ma in italia c’era il problema delle quote latte, perciò noi producevamo tantissimo latte e dovevamo affittare le quote latte ad altri. Fin a quando la cosa è diventata insostenibile perché rischiavamo di dover buttare via il latte.

    Al che, mio papà e mio zio si son guardati e han detto quale animale ci sta bene, è della grandezza giusta per queste stalle e non incontra il problema delle quote latte?

    Hanno pensato alle bufale.

    Di necessita' virtu.

    Roberta: Di necessità virtu. Ma all’inizio è stata una scommessa perché la bufala non era molto conosciuta al nord. Tendenzialmente sono animali tipici del sud italia, è sempre stata fatta la mozzarella di bufala, la ricotta, ma al nord era poco conosciuta.

    Allora hanno provato con 40 capi all’inizio. Hanno scoperto tra l’altro che le bufale hanno carattere, cioè se non si fidano, se sono agitate, hanno la capacità di trattenere il latte. Perciò tu le mungi e non esce nulla. Devono trovarsi in un ambiente favorevole, rilassato. 

    Hanno visto che andava bene e quindi hanno deciso di vendere tutte le vacche, hanno venduto tutte le quote latte e nel 2003 abbiamo trasformato completamente tutto l’allevamento. Abbiamo preso la prima grande parte di bufale a Latina. Nel 2005, abbiamo iniziato a fare caseificazione, un anno dopo abbiamo inaugurato il caseificio. E da li è iniziata l’avventura.

    Lavora tutta la famiglia?

    Roberta: Mia sorella (indica) è pediatra quindi lei ha preso la sua strada. Io mi sto per laureare in giurisprudenza e poi l’idea è quella di diventare giurista d’impresa per l’azienda agricola.

    Però abbiamo vissuto tutti quest’avventura. All’inizio non sapevamo niente. Ci ricordiamo ancora tutti del giorno quando lui (indica il padre) ha portato il prototipo del primo formaggio fatto a mano da lui: un disastro totale. 

    Pero poi è andata sempre meglio e le soddisfazioni sono state tantissime. I premi ricevuti sono stati tanti e ci hanno anche permesso di farci conoscere. Anche perché sono stati, lui e lo zio, i primi a pensare di trasformare il latte di bufala in formaggio non fresco ma stagionato, perché la mozzarella di bufala è sempre esistita, così come la ricotta o la scamorza affumicata, ma mai nessuno aveva pensato ad un formaggio stagionato. 

    Allora visto che la tradizione locale era quella di gorgonzola, taleggi, quartiroli lombardi, hanno detto, va bene facciamo così ma con il latte di bufala al 100%. Qualcun’altro adesso ha iniziato a fare qualcosa con il latte di bufala, alcuni lo mischiano con il latte vaccino.

    Dove lo vendete? Com’è distribuito il vostro prodotto?

    Roberta: Penso gli Stati Uniti sono il nostro primo cliente (si gira verso gli altri)

    Bruno: Si, gli Stati Uniti sono importantissimi.

    Roberta: Ma anche tutta l’Europa!

    Bruno: (annuisce) La Francia, Svizzera...

     

    Avete puntato subito all’esportazione?

    Bruno: Mah, e’ venuta spontaneamente l’esportazione. Noi abbiamo cominciato a farci conoscere grazie alla presenza alle fiere come questa.

    Abbiamo fatto la nostra inaugurazione, c’è stata parecchia gente, abbiamo avuto anche la fortuna che ha avuto un certo echo, sono arrivate anche delle televisioni a vedere cosa stavamo combinando. E questo ci ha dato un po’ di fiducia in noi stessi per cui alla fine ho proposto di partecipare ad una fiera di carattere internazionale come Tutto Food a Milano. E abbiamo incontrato, per esempio, Forever Cheese

    Durante la nostra prima partecipazione ad una fiera, abbiamo conosciuto quello che è tutt’ora il nostro cliente più importante. È stato un tramite che non abbiamo più abbandonato.

    Qual’è quindi il futuro dell’azienda?

    Roberta: Di crescita. Di crescita perché abbiamo dalla nostra parte il vantaggio di essere stati i primi. Sicuramente il mercato è in espansione e c’è chi è interessato ad iniziare a fare prodotti di bufala stagionati ma dalla nostra abbiamo un know how ormai di…

    Bruno: Di 12 anni.

    Roberta: Di 12 anni, che ci permette di prevedere come si può comportare il latte, che cosa sono gli interessi del mercato, dove si rivolge la gente, che cosa funziona di più.

    Bruno: Abbiamo una chiave di volta che è il fatto che noi abbiamo controllo di tutta la filiera, abbiamo l’allevamento di bufala. E il nostro obiettivo di espansione nel formaggio, sarà un’espansione nell’allevamento degli animali. Si va di pari passo. Non ci trasformiamo in un industria di formaggi, restiamo noi. Ed è difficile replicarlo, ci vogliono anni di investimenti, bisogna essere allevatori, uno non s’inventa allevatore, lo si può diventare con gli anni, con la fatica. 

    Mi descrivete il posto dove lavorate. La vostra azienda? Insomma portateci con voi....

    Roberta: Allora, entriamo in un grande cortile di ghiaia e troviamo sulla nostra destra quella che era l’antica casa dei contadini dove al tempo i mezzadri vivevano e gestivano quella che era l’azienda agricola del nonno e la nonna. 

    Esattamente di fronte all’ingresso, c’è la vecchia stalla che ha costruito la nonna Anna e tutta la parte vecchia della stalla si sviluppa davanti a noi verso sinistra. A sinistra, ci sono i silos del mangime per il bestiame. Poi, oltre il cortile, proseguendo verso destra c’è il caseificio che hanno costruito loro (indica il padre) e oltre al caseificio c’è tutta la stalla nuova che è stata progettata secondo i dettami del benessere animale quindi e’ estremamente alta per permettere un aerazione. 

    Dentro invece ci sono delle cisterne del liquame. Abbiamo iniziato a percorrere una strada di eco sostenibilità perciò facciamo parte di un consorzio che produce energia eco sostenibile, biogas. Forniamo il liquame, ci viene riconsegnato privo di nitrati e questo ci permette di far parte di un’economia circolare: riutilizziamo il liquame pulito e con questo fertilizziamo i campi con cui produciamo foraggio per le bufale, che producono latte, che viene trasformato in formaggio, tutto lì nell’arco di pochi chilometri. 

    Siamo con loro, con la passione che è nelle mani di tante aziende così in Italia. Un vero patrimonio per l'economia.

     

    Per saperen di piu'  http://www.quattroportoni.it/

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