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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • Facts & Stories

    Florence’s Favorite Sandwich Shop Comes to New York

    If you’ve paid a visit to Florence recently, chances are you’ve been to All’Antico Vinaio, or have at least seen the ever-present lines leading up to what is certainly the most famous sandwich - or rather “schiacciata” - shop in the city.

     

    Its three venues are all located within a few feet of each other on Via Dei Neri, right around the corner from Piazza della Signoria and the Uffizi Gallery. The first and smallest shop was taken over by the Mazzanti family in 1991 and since then they have been serving up their home-made “schiacciate” (deliciously fluffy bread, akin to focaccia) filled with prime Tuscan meats, cheeses, vegetables and spreads accompanied by a glass of wine.  

     

    Following the shop’s success, the family went on to open two additional sit-down venues on the same street, All’Antico Vinaio Atto II in 2013 and All’Antico Vinaio Atto III in 2015.

     

    Now, New Yorkers have the chance to take a culinary “trip” to Florence at Joe Bastianich’s Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, an Italian restaurant located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where the famed sandwiches will be served daily from June 13th to July 13th.

     

    Having been an avid frequenter of All’Antico during the two occasions I lived in Florence, and having already had the chance to sample more than a few bites - not to mention take home my very own full-sized schiacciata - during the opening night of the pop-up, I can attest to the authenticity of the New York version. 

     

    This is the first time All’Antico Vinaio travels outside of Florence. Bastianich and Tommaso “Tommy” Mazzanti are long-time friends and had been considering such a collaboration for some time. Tommy’s wife, Clara tells us that though it wasn’t easy, they were beyond excited to do it. “We still can’t believe we’re here in New York,” she says. Everyone - including their young son - flew over for the opening week but most of them will have to head back to keep things running smoothly back home.

     

    So far, the initiative has already been hugely successful, with lines reportedly forming outside of Otto daily, made up of people curious to check out the hype around “Italy’s most famous sandwich” as well as initiated clients craving some Florentine goodness.

     

    Could this mean that we might potentially see other All’Antico Vinaio stores pop-up around the world? The Mazzanti family hasn’t mentioned any such plans yet but one can always dream.

     

    In the meantime, for more information check out Otto’s website and if you plan on going, I would suggest getting there early and hungry (the portions are generous to say the least.)

     

    And if you want to keep up with the shop and their future endeavors, you can follow them on Instagram, Facebook or on their website.

     

  • Art & Culture

    New Italian Films Reveling a Complex Reality

    Seventeen Italian films were presented in New York, at Film at Lincoln Center during the 19th edition of Open Roads New Italian Film Festival, which ran from June 6-12. For this occasion, many of the directors, actors, and filmmakers - some emerging others more established within the Italian film industry - came to discuss their movies.

     

    The selection was larger than that of the previous years and featured movies that came out in 2018 and 2019, with the exception of one classic masterpiece, La Commare Secca (1962) by Bernardo Bertolucci, who passed away last Fall.

     

    The program was quite varied, as the scope of the festival is to give people living outside of Italy a sense of the country’s cinematographic landscape today.

     

    This year, Open Roads kicked off with Piranhas by Claudio Giovannesi, a film based on the eponymous novel by Roberto Saviano (author of Gomorrah) which was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the Berlin Film Festival. The movie tells the story of 15-year-old Nicola and his friends (all non-professional actors) living in Camorra-ran neighborhoods of Naples and their seemingly inevitable and only partly conscious descent into criminality.

     

    Giovannesi insists that this is “not a film about criminals, but a film about kids” and that his intention was to tell their story “not with judgment but with empathy.”  

     

    And that certainly is the case, you can’t help but like Nicola, relate to the rather tasteless but easily translatable aspirations that he and his friends share, smile and their seemingly innocuous obsession with tacky expensive clothes, watches, furniture, but also feel a constant pang of anxiety throughout the entire film because you just know that this won’t end well.

     

    “This is a movie about the loss of innocence. It begins with a game - plays with that idea throughout because the characters live it light-heartedly - and it ends with a war,” comments the director. “Naples is the star of the film,” he also notes “but this story can happen anywhere institutions are absent, where education is lacking, where there are no jobs.”

     

    And it is indeed happening, a lot. As shown in Agostino Ferrente’s Selfie, another film in the program, a documentary about the lives of young people from the gang-ravaged neighborhood of Traiano in Naples shot by the teenage protagonists themselves with their smartphones set on selfie mode.

     

    Other documentaries include Normal by Adele Tulli, one of the only three female directors present in this year’s selection. Hers is a stylized documentary, which tackles a topic that is completely absent from any form of mainstream discussion in Italy: the issue of gender norms and identity. The film is radical for the context it was produced in because it provides a critical perspective on conventional gender expression and explores the ways in which is instilled and reinforced within society.

     

    A very different type of documentary is Sono Gassman! Vittorio re della commedia by Fabrizio Corallo, which tells the story of one of the most celebrated Italian actors and reveals how Gassman’s comedic persona reflected and critiqued mid-20th century Italian society, while also showing the more complex aspects of his actual person.

     

    Another film that deals with the history of Italian cinema is Paolo Virzi’s Magical Nights, a satirical murder mystery set in the early 1990s, the tail end of Italian cinema’s golden age, told through the wild stories of three young screenwriters who are being investigated for the murder of a famous film producer who is found dead in the Tiber River.

     

    This feeling of decadence, excess and subsequent deterioration is further developed and perfectly captured in Loro by Paolo Sorrentino, set in a similar atmosphere as that of the director’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty. This time, however, it serves as the backdrop of the story of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s downfall amidst public scandals and personal dramas.

     

    Other films focus on telling different individual stories and perspectives that, when brought together, begin to paint the complex picture of the contemporary Italian social landscape.

     

    It’s the case of Twin Flower by Laura Luchetti, in which two teen runaways, Anna, who is escaping from human traffickers, and Basim, a refugee from the Ivory Coast, (both non-professional actors but with incredible chemistry) meet on a difficult journey through Sardinia.

     

    The same is true of  Edoardo de Angelis’ The Vice of Hope, which tells the story of Maria, who helps a pregnant woman flee her family’s human trafficking business while being herself pregnant and even of Ciro d’Emilio’s If Life Gives You Lemons, a naturalistic coming of age film about Antonio, a 17-year-old who has to drop out of school in order to take care of his mentally ill mother.

     

    At the same time, relationships and personal dramas remain an important topic, central to several films including Valeria Golino’s Euphoria, in which popular Italian actors Riccardo Scamarcio and Valerio Mastandrea play two very different and distant brothers who meet and clash when one of them becomes ill forcing them to face long unresolved issues and unspoken resentments.

     

    Mastandrea is also featured in the Festival as a director with his first film Laughing, an exploration of the ways people grieve the death of a loved one, which follows the difficult grieving process of the wife and son of a man who dies in a workplace accident, further complicated by the mediatization of the event which becomes a public scandal.

     

    Still an exploration of loss, but from a unique perspective can be found in Federico Bondi’s Dafne, a film about a young woman with down syndrome whose life is turned upside down by the death of her mother.

     

    Also dealing with family relationships and the tension between public and private is Beniamino Barrese’s debut film The Disappearance of my Mother, a movingly personal documentary that the young director made about his mother, former Top Model, turned feminist activist and self-proclaimed image-hater Benedetta Barzini and her desire to disappear.  

     

    Barrese explains that, as he began filming, the film quickly became a confrontation him and his mother, who was profoundly opposed to the idea of making the film. She finally accepts to let him film her only because, in her own words, “she would rather hurt herself than hurt him.” In the film, which shows the process of making the documentary interlaced with archival footage and old home videos shot by a pre-teen Barrese, the tension between mother and son is always present and at times gives way to violent outbursts from her part, always painful to witness.

     

    Though the director wasn’t aware of it at the start, he was making a film about their relationship, not just about her and her past. He does however manage to convey her ideas, particularly about images and their falsehood and destructiveness, despite not sharing them completely since his own life revolves around the creation of images. This last contradiction is the main source of conflict within the film, it’s what makes so ambiguous but at the same time so interesting.

     

    Valerio Mieli’s Ricordi? (Do you remember?) also explores conflict and contradiction as it tells the story of an unnamed archetypal couple facing the eternal issues of memory and the passage of time and how they affect love and relationships.

     

    In Lucia’s Grace by Gianni Zanasi, Alba Rohrwacher stars as Lucia, a land surveyor and single mother who faces a dilemma when she learns that her new building project threatens the environmental safety of the city. This is another exploration of moral conflict and ambiguity but rendered in a clever comedic key perfectly conveyed in Rohrwacher’s performance.

     

    A standout film and one difficult to define is Mario Martone’s Capri Revolution, which the director describes as “a film about illusion.” It’s set in Capri in 1914, and tells of the young goatherd Lucia and her journey towards emancipation and freedom. Lucia encounters a utopian commune of Northern Europeans whose ideals clash with those of the traditional islanders as well as with those of modern science, embodied by the island’s young new doctor. The heroine finds herself torn between these contrasting perspectives and in the end realizes that none of them hold the truth.

     

    The film is ultimately about “the impossibility of saving the world,” Martone notes “the same notion captured in the work of Giacomo Leopardi,” that is, the prominent Italian poet to which Martone dedicated his 2014 film.

     

    The commune that inspired the film truly existed and was thoroughly documented. Martone and screenwriter Ippolita Di Majo changed a few things, particularly the figure of the group’s leader Seybu, an artist who was actually a symbolist painter was modified. Ippolita, who is an art historian, admits that she modeled him after performance artist Joseph Beuys, whom she and Martone both admire. They were particularly interested in the ways in which he explored the relationship between man and nature, as Seybu does in the movie.

     

    Dance also plays a fundamental role in the movie, as the members of the commune partake in beautiful and complex choreographies in order to gain knowledge and understanding of the world. In this case too, the choreographies shown in the film are contemporary reinterpretations of the approaches adopted by the real commune.

     

    In fact, the filmmakers note that they were surprised to find that this group that existed over 100 years ago had so much in common with the utopian communities of the 1970s and that the themes they discussed are the same that we still encounter today.

     

    During the festival, many of the directors of this year’s films attended a round table moderated by Open Roads co-founder Antonio Monda held at New York University’s Casa Italiana. Each of them were there to talk about their films but the discussion quickly became a comment on the state of Italy. And in fact, the diversity and variety of the films presented is a reflection of this very state.

     

    As Martone commented, “Italy is struggling to understand itself and this makes it almost impossible for anyone else to do so.” But many filmmakers - certainly the ones present that evening - see it as their role to try and represent their reality. And they do. Each in their own different way, all these films are at least in part about the state of the country and of the world at large, about the people that inhabit it, the challenges they face, their struggle to navigate it.

     

    This edition of Open Roads is now coming to an end and perhaps the most important lesson it brought is the realization of the extent to which cinema can provide a lens through which to interpret the society that produced it and even the ones that come after it.

     

    And if you’re yearning for more Italian cinema, you have the chance to enjoy a retrospective on the work of master Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmi from June 14-26, also held at Film at Lincoln Center.

     

  • Art & Culture

    Italian Jazz in New York

    Following the concert of Italian pianist Alessandro Lanzoni, who performed at the Italian Cultural Institute on Tuesday June 4th along with bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric McPherson, two more Italian jazz concerts will take place later this month.

     

    On June 11th, the Institute will host a piano solo by Giovanni Guidi, a young musician from Foligno, Umbria. Guidi, class of 1985, was discovered at a very young age by prominent jazz trompeter Enrico Rava, with whom he toured in 2017 and then again in November 2018. He has won several awards, including the “TOPJAZZ “ award by “Musica Jazz” magazine, as the best talent of 2007, and participated in many festivals both in Italy and abroad.

     

    He recorded a couple of albums with Rava for the label ECM and in 2013 released his first album as leader titled “City of Broken Dreams.” His 2016 album “Ida Lupino,” which he recorded with Gianluca Petrella, Gerald Cleaver and Louis Sclavis was named “best Italian Jazz album 2016″ by the Musica Jazz Critic Poll.

     

    The following week, on June 18th, the Bebo Ferra - Paolino Dalla Porta Duo will perform. Ferra is considered the most renowned Italian jazz guitarist, having collaborated with many prominent jazz musicians worldwide, and having won awards such as first prize at the Sulmona Jazz festival for the soundtrack of Daniele Maggioni’s film "Tutto bene" and best soundtrack at the Banff Film Festival for the movie "my tomorrow" by Marina Spada. He currently teaches at the Como Music Conservatory and holds a summer workshop at Nuoro Jazz.

     

    Dalla Porta is among the most interesting and eclectic bassists of the Italian and European Jazz scene, combining various musical genres and jazz traditions from different parts of the world. He too has won several awards and composed movie soundtracks. He is part of the legendary band “Oregon” lead by Ralph Towner and teaches at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and leads summer workshops at Siena Jazz and Nuoro Jazz.

     

    The two musicians first worked together in 1997 on a project by the "Centro Meridionale di Cultura Italiana" for a festival and found in jazz the common ground, through which they expressed their search of a new synthesis between European and Mediterranean roots. Both members of this acoustic duo use their strong and refined technical skills to produce poetic themes and create a dynamic and nuanced interplay between their instruments.

  • Facts & Stories

    Creating an Italian Export Network

    The Italian Export Forum (IEF) is not just a two-day event which will take place from the 14th to the 15th of June on the Sorrentine Peninsula, it’s a new multichannel platform with the goal of connecting Italian businesses and institutions in order to work together to better navigate the global market.

    Italy is a great exporter: in 2017, it was the 3rd country in the world for export growth and the 9th for absolutely export value, with a total export volume of 448 billion euro.

    However, according to the IEF, the different actors involved in exporting goods, services and ideas from Italy currently act separately in a fragmented manner that ultimately leads to overlap and dispersion. IEF organizers believe the country needs a global, integrated approach to export in order to optimize time and energy and raise the productivity of all the actors.

    IEF poses itself as the ideal context for all the actors to come together and determine their individual and unique offerings in order to obtain a cohesive and comprehensive picture of all that Italy can offer to the world.

    The forum’s program and presentation states that the event’s mission is to “Photograph the situation, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and propose universally beneficial solutions.”

    Being aware of the full picture can help businesses determine where and how to position themselves on the global market and perhaps adjust their offer based on its needs and identify new opportunities. Such a platform would also be a fundamental tool for institutions, which need to be fully aware of Italy’s exports to decide where and how to allocate any eventual support, without risking to waste public funds.

    Furthermore, IEF wants to bring focus to the Mezzogiorno, the southern part of Italy, which it believes has great economic potential, not only as a tourist destination. That is partly the reason why the conference is taking place on the iconic Sorrentine Peninsula, south of Naples.

    Born from the idea and experience of Italian entrepreneur and founder of The One Company, Lorenzo Zurino, organized in collaboration with Sace Simest and supported by Ispi - the Institute for the study of international politics, - Deloitte, Edelman and Lega del Filo d’Oro as charity partner, the conference will consist of a series of lectures, round tables and workshops on topics including food, fashion and internationalization. Moderating the fashion workshop will be i-Italy founder and editor-in-chief Letizia Airos. 

    At the end of the first day there will be a Gala during which the Italian Export Excellence award will be given out. The panel will consist of representatives from Italian and foreign companies and institutions with great experience working in the global market, including the ministry of agricultural policies, Confindustria, Agenzia Dogane, the Inspectorate for agro-alimentary fraud, the Dubai Economic Council, and the Italian Embassy in Qatar.

    The Osservatorio Italiano Export (OIE) - that is the Italian export observatory - will be set up as the central and permanent organism that will provide resources and support and institutionally connect businesses with public operators and decision-makers. The idea is that it will be a transparent but concrete and effective structure, operative all year long.

    The members of the observatory were chosen in order to provide the best support in the areas of legal/tax consultation, credit and insurance and points of reference with mediating organs, such as the Italian Chamber of Fashion, and with national and local institutions.

    So the forum aims to be much more than a conference: these two days are conceived as a starting point, the initial encounter that will lead to the creation of an ecosystem consisting of all the different actors involved in exporting Italy in all its forms.

    These actors will maintain contact through the multichannel platform supported by the OIE and meet regularly, year after year, in order to continuously expand their area of influence and adapt to and explore relevant global themes.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    New York Celebrates Italian National Day

    Although the ‘Festa della Repubblica’, Italian National Day, is celebrated on June 2nd, one day just wasn’t enough for all of this year’s festivities. After the successful second edition of the Italy Run, a 5-mile race through Central Park organized by the Italian Consulate, Nutella Cafe and New York Road Runners, celebrations picked up again on June 3rd.

     

    They began at the Italian Trade Agency, where guests had the chance to celebrate the accomplishments of Italian companies and brands in the US while enjoying top quality Italian products, including De Cecco pasta, Kimbo Caffè, Galvanina sparkling sodas, Ambrosi parmigiano, Bono olive oil, Fraccaro pasticceria, and Beretta salumi.  

     

    “This is never a routine celebration,” said Maurizio Forte, the director of the Trade Agency, “because there are always new reasons, new accomplishments to celebrate on this important date and it’s an honor to celebrate it in this country, where Italy has many ties - 25 million, maybe more, descendants, but also thousands of Italians, like yourselves, entrepreneurs, managers, and talents in many sectors.”

     

    “There are many reasons for our special bond with the US,” commented Italian Ambassador to the US Armando Varricchio, who came to New York to celebrate this special occasion, “73 years are certainly an important page of History. From those difficult years, when Italy rolled up its sleeves and got back up, seeking and obtaining the support of the US: we will always remember the ships that brought food to a starving country. But Italy has been able to win appreciation and respect by showing how we are able to be serious and work.”

     

    Three gorgeous Lamborghinis - red, white and green like the colors of the Italian flag - appeared in front of the Consulate General of Italy at 690 Park Avenue, attracting the attention of many passersby.

     

    This was later followed by the inauguration of two brand new designer Cassini bookshelves filled with Italian books kindly provided by Rizzoli Bookstore as part of a new initiative to promote the Italian language: “Mentre aspetti il tuo turno...leggi in italiano!” (while you wait for your turn...read in Italian!) The books are in fact placed in the Consulate’s waiting room and available for all to read, skim or admire.

     

    “We selected a variety of books from several publishers, (Rizzoli, Mondadori, Einaudi, Piemme, Sperling, Giunti, Bompiani) which represent our roots,” commented Livia Senic-Matuglia, Store Manager at Rizzoli International, who went on to explain that the idea is that everyone who passes through this room - Italians but also Italian Americans - will find something that resonates with them.

     

    The Ambassador and Consul General were obviously present at the inauguration, along with prominent figures such as Italian actress, filmmaker, and author Isabella Rosselini and writer Antonio Monda, whose books are included in the new library.

     

    Other personalities attended the festivities, including paralympic athlete, disability spokesperson, author and politician, Giusy Versace. “It’s amazing how sports become a great instrument for social inclusion and knock down cultural barriers. I was impressed to see how many Italians were present at the race but also so many Americans who love Italy,” she commented after kindly agreeing to stop and give us an impromptu interview.

     

    “I think that in these occasions, especially for those who watch this from home, for people who are tired, who have lost confidence, who no longer feel stimulated to go out and embrace life, sports gives so much energy, it can move everyone,” she continued in her contagiously positive and upbeat manner.

     

    Franciacorta wine and Aperol Spritz were poured and the reception officially kicked off with a performance of the Italian and American national anthems by the young musicians of the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi.

     

    “This event is a great occasion to reinforce the strong ties between Italy and the US,” stated Ambassador Varricchio. “It is an important celebration in Italy but also, and maybe more so, for Italians abroad. We celebrate the accomplishments of everyone in this room.” Pointing to the “blue flag” next to the Italian and American ones, the Ambassador then added that this is also an occasion to celebrate the importance of Europe. “Being an Italian citizen also means being a European citizen,” he said.

     

    It was then time for the musical entertainment. Italian jazz singer and musician Chiara Civello delighted the audience with a short but soulful piano performance next door at the Italian Cultural Institute. Civello performed pieces in Italian, English and Portuguese, and gave a preview of her current project which involves creating Italian versions of great Brazilian songs.

     

    Finally, the food came out and guests continued to mingle over various Italian delicacies and a special new dish created by chef Davide Oldani: the “Granotricolore.it,” named so in honor of the Italian flag.

     

    “In moments such as these we understand how present Italy is in New York and how strong the love for Italy and Italians is here,” concluded Consul General Francesco Genuardi.

     

  • Art & Culture

    Gucci’s Capitoline Museums Show Gets Political

    The Italian fashion house’s 2020 Cruise Show had already raised interest when it was revealed that it would be held in Rome’s Capitoline Museums, which, having opened their doors in 1734, are considered the world’s first modern museum and host an immense collection of some of the Classical world’s most iconic artefacts.  

     

    This isn’t the first time that Gucci has chosen to present its collections in an unconventional space, Alessandro Michele, the brand’s creative director since 2015, has been building an ongoing dialog between his designs and the ancient world, mixing together elements from both.

     

    Recent Gucci shows have been held at a variety of culturally significant locations ranging from the Cloisters of Westminster Abbey in London, to the Palatine Gallery at Pitti Palace in Florence, all the way to the more contemporary Dia Art Foundation in New York. And the photoshoot for the Pre-Fall 2019 Collection was realized in the archaeological parks of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Selinunte.

     

    “My new cruise collection is, as usual, an homage to many things and to different cultures and historical moments. Among other citations, there are some references to the Seventies,” Michele says in an interview for WWD, “It was a historical moment when women — finally — rejected all the constraints that were imposed in the previous centuries and they became free.”

     

    This time, in fact, Michele added a new dimension to this dialog between past and present by featuring slogans and symbols evoking current and previous women’s rights and the pro-choice movements, in light of the recent anti-abortion laws that have been passed in parts of the United States. These symbols appear throughout the show and even on some of the clothes themselves.

     

    Just to cite some examples, the 70s feminist slogan “My Body My Choice” is featured on items from both the women’s and men’s collections, the date May 22, 1978 appears on several pieces, commemorating the moment abortion became legal in Italy, and a red and pink uterus is beautifully embroidered onto a pleated roman toga-inspired silk gown.

     

    Female reproductive rights have become a hot topic recently, in the wake of the resurfacing of anti-choice movements, which have gained enough following to effectively “turn back time” and get some US states including Alabama and Missouri to pass abortion bans. The issue has also been discussed just next door to the Capitoline Museums, in the Vatican, where the Pope recently compared abortion to hiring a “hitman to solve a problem.”

    “It’s unbelievable that around the world there are still people who believe that they can control a woman’s body, a woman’s choice,” comments the designer, who recognizes that he is in the privileged position of being able to reach large audiences without being censored “I’ve been given the megaphone and I really want to use it for a purpose,” he states.  

     

    In 2013, Gucci founded Chime For Change, a campaign led by Salma Hayek and Beyoncé “to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality.” So far, it has raised over $15 million to support projects and advocacy in 89 countries. Gucci has also been fighting domestic violence in Italy, training 160 ambassadors in cooperation with the D.i.R.e (Women’s Network Against Violence), the first Italian association of independent women’s centers and shelters against violence.

     

    Gucci’s social engagement is not an isolated case. Nowadays, everyone is expected to have and express their opinion on just about anything. Consequentially, we are seeing more and more brands, celebrities, influencers, and all sorts of public figures taking stances, weighing in on current cultural and social issues.

     

    And, in fact, many celebrities sided with Michele on this occasion: Elton John, Salma Hayek, Harry Styles, Asap Rocky, Saorsie Ronan, Zoe Saldana, just to name a few, were present at the event. Not to mention Italian figures such as Alessandro Borghi, Valeria Golino, and even former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi, who reportedly stood up and clapped at the end of the show.

     

    However, unsurprisingly, other Italian politicians - particularly representatives of the 5 Star Movement - expressed their outrage against the event and reprimanded the Museum for accepting to host it, even though Gucci has promised to make a donation to support the restoration project of the Rupe Tarpea, the rock face on the southern side of the Campidoglio, over the next two years, similarly to what other Italian brands such as Fendi and Bulgari have done in the past.

     

    Whatever your stance may be, it’s an undeniable fact that today a fashion show can fully engage with social, political, and cultural issues. And that may be a little scary to consider but also exciting and potentially an effective way of promoting social advancement and human rights. 

     

  • Facts & Stories

    An Ever-Expanding Guide to The World’s Top Pizza

    The goal of the editorial project ‘50 Top Pizza’ is to create the ultimate global map of quality pizza: a Bible for the pizza lovers of the world if you please. Its curators, economic geographer and food lover Barbara Guerra, sommelier and master cheese and oil taster Albert Sapere, and prominent food and wine writer Luciano Pignataro, are expanding this year’s edition by creating new categories for the top pizzerias outside of Italy.

     

    Their statement reads: “Pizza is a global phenomenon which, without relinquishing its appeal to the masses, is undergoing a significant evolution in terms of quality. We believe, therefore, that it is right to pay tribute to and to spotlight all of those individuals who, throughout the world, have been able to distinguish themselves for the quality of the product they offer.”

     

    This year’s ranking of the 50 Top European Pizzerias gave 1st place to Ciro Salvo’s London venue 50 Kalo (sister to the one in Naples who came in third place in the 2018 Italian ranking); 2nd place was awarded to Bijou, a Parisian restaurant owned by another Neapolitan Gennaro Nasti; and Copenhagen’s Bæst, owned by Sicilian-Danish chef Christian Puglisi, won 3rd place.

     

    Unsurprisingly, England, France and Germany are the three European countries - out of the 23 featured in the list - with the most high quality pizzerias, counting respectively ten, eight, and five.

     

    The nominees for five other international categories were announced: 50 TOP Neapolitan Pizza (out of Italy), 10 TOP Pizza in Africa, 10 TOP Pizza in Asia, 10 TOP Pizza in Oceania, and 10 TOP Pizza in Japan, the results of which will be announced on July 23.

     

    The ranking of the 50 top in North America will be revealed on June 27th during a special event in New York. On this occasion, the nominees for Best Pizzeria in South America and the Best Pizzeria in Brazil will also be announced.

     

    The project does however remain deeply anchored in Italy where the guide counts over 1000 pizzerias. Some of these are already listed online, more will then be revealed later in June, leading up to the grand finale, which will be held on July 23 in the Teatro Mercadante in Naples, the birthplace of pizza. There will take place the much anticipated announcement of Italy’s top 50 pizzerias.

     

    In the past, the winners - and most of the contendants - in fact came from the Campania region. Last year’s top 3 spots were received by Franco Pepe’s Pepe in Grani in Caiazzo; Francesco Martucci’s I Masanielli in Caserta; and 50 Kalo’s Naples location. However, although the traditional Neapolitan style of pizza is certainly prominent, the guide is open to different kinds of pizza, which are featured on the ranking. For example, Simone Padoan’s cutting-edge pizzeria I Tigli, in San Bonifacio, Veneto came in 4th place and Rome’s La Gatta Mangiona was 7th.

     

    Considering this fact, along with the increased opening towards global variations on what is still regarded as a fundamentally Italian dish, it will be interesting to see in which direction this year’s ranking will move, whether it will stick to tradition or hold surprises.

     

  • Art & Culture

    The Italian Couple Behind Great Cinema

     

    The Italian Cultural Institute in New York hosted a conversation with movie industry power couple Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo on May 22nd as part of the “Fare Cinema” initiative launched by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anica and Istituto Luce Cinecittà, in collaboration with the ASC to promote the various crafts behind the success of Italian - and global - cinema.

     

    The conversation, moderated by journalist Maria Teresa Cometto, began with clips from the 2010 documentary “Dante Ferretti: Production Designer,” which retraces the Italian designer’s prosperous career, showing the films he has worked on, from Fellini’s “Medea” to Scorsese’s “Hugo,” one of the three films for which he and Lo Schiavo won an Oscar for Best Art Direction. (the other two are “The Aviator” and “Sweeney Todd’)

     

    In the documentary, some of the biggest figures in Hollywood share their experiences working with Ferretti, including British screenwriter Terry Gilliam, with whom he worked on “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” (1988) and of course director Martin Scorsese, with whom Ferretti and Lo Schiavo have often worked.

     

    “It’s a time capsule, the best work I’ve seen in my life,” Leonardo Di Caprio (who starred in several of those films) says about the set of “Gangs of New York.”

     

    Ferretti speaks about working with Fellini, whom he describes as his “beacon,” who opened the doors into the movie industry for him by promoting him from Assistant to Production Designer on the set of Satyricon, after firing his boss. Ferretti has been working since he was 17 and estimates that he has done around 85 films, plus various Opera and theatre sets.

     

    Lo Schiavo’s story is different: she was working as an interior decorator before making the switch to the movie industry. When asked why she explains that she was attracted to this world because it gave her the opportunity to work with different time periods, to be more versatile, creative. “It’s always a new challenge,” she says.

     

    And by looking at their work, you can tell that they both love challenges. Though they are certainly very different, they share strong personalities, larger than life, just like the scenes they create. The assurance with which they have forged their way through the movie industry is remarkable, and it reveals itself in each of their interactions.

     

    Ferretti describes himself as a maximalista and a megalomaniac (“just like Fellini.”) He expresses himself by using few words - mostly jokes - with the confidence of someone who knows he can let his work speak for him. His beautiful large sketches have been exhibited in some of the world’s most important art and design museums. “He was up in the MoMA for five months,” comments his wife. “Six,” he specifies, holding up his fingers.

     

    Lo Schiavo, on the other hand, is much more loquacious. She commands attention and respect and quickly takes over the interview. It’s not surprising that she was able to impress Fellini to the point of obtaining an instant promotion from Assistant to Set Designer, just like her husband.

     

    Her own self-assurance comes out in the way she approaches her work. She explains how her job can require taking on risks, like the time she had to furnish an entire villa (which had been owned by Ava Gardner) for “The Aviator”. “There was little money left because these were the last days of shooting, but the house was empty,” she explains. “But they wanted Ava Gardner’s house.” Through her contacts, she managed to get all that she needed “for almost nothing,” but everything had to go back in two days.

     

    The couple describes working together as their “best time.” They never argue on set and always understand each other. It took a while for them to start working together though. Apparently, Ferretti was very resistant to the idea. Finally he accepted, believing that she would soon grow tired and give up.

     

    “I had to start from the bottom. Dante didn’t introduce me to anyone,” she recounts. But, just like his, her success seemed unavoidable. Last March, she received the prestigious Special David di Donatello Award for her extraordinary career.

     

    A montage of some of their most iconic films emphasizes their incredible talent and versatility: how they are able to create worlds in such incredible detail that it blurs the confines of the screen and you get transported inside it.

     

    Their sets manage to visually convey multisensorial and even emotional atmospheres: In Fellini’s “E la Nave Va” you can immediately grasp the contrast between the upper and lower classes crossing the Atlantic at the turn of the century.

     

    In some cases, the sets and costumes are what make the movie. This is true of Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” a film that is extremely over the top in the most exquisite and beautiful way, where objects and layout are as much a part of the narrative as any dialog.

     

    When asked about experiencing regrets when rewatching a film, Lo Schiavo answers that she always wants to add something up until the very end but that ultimately her job is done when shooting begins. “I don’t usually rewatch the films I work on, but seeing these clips now I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve done,” she says.

     

    But this doesn’t mean the Ferretti-Lo Schiavo power couple is done making films. They are now working on another Scorsese film starring De Caprio and De Niro titled “Killers of the Flying Moon,” for which filming is set to begin this Summer.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Lady Gaga’s Mother Named UN Ambassador for Mental Health

    The United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) announced its four new Goodwill Ambassadors for the promotion of global health and one of them was Cynthia Germanotta, the mother of Singer and Actress Lady Gaga.

     

    Mrs. Germanotta is the President of the Born This Way Foundation (presumably named after Lady Gaga’s 2011 hit song and album), which she and her daughter founded in 2012 to support the wellness of young people and empower them to create a kinder and braver world. For this reason, she was named Goodwill Ambassador for Mental Health.

     

    On this occasion, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was appointed Ambassador of Health Workforce, while the Brazilian couple made up of Alisson Becker of the Brazilian national and Liverpool soccer teams and Dr. Natalia Loewe Becker will serve as Ambassadors for Health Promotion.

     

    “Each of our new ambassadors are champions in their own right, from helping their communities rebuild and develop sustainably, to fighting for better mental health and well-being, to being role models for healthier living,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who announced the Ambassadors in his speech to open the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva.

     

    In response to the nomination, Germanotta tweeted “I’m honored to serve as @WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Mental Health and to work alongside @DrTedros + his extraordinary team to ensure mental #healthforall is a global priority. We face many challenges but there are even more reasons for hope.”

     

    Lady Gaga also took to Twitter to congratulate her mother and to stress the importance of spreading awareness about mental health. The singer has long been outspoken about her own past struggles with mental health and continuously takes part in initiatives aimed at helping those facing similar challenges, such as the brand new program Mental Health First-Aid Kit, whose goal is to help high schoolers deal with such issues.

     

    The program, run by the National Council for Behavioral Health and supported by the Born This Way Foundation, teaches teens and those working with them to respond to signs of mental illness, reducing stigma and enabling them to help and support each other.

  • Art & Culture

    Italian Contestant Mahmood Wins 2nd Place at Eurovision

    Class of 1992, born and raised in the periphery of Milan, the son of an Italian mother and Egyptian father, Alessandro Mahmoud - a.k.a Mahmood - already made headlines in Italy after winning the latest edition of the Sanremo Music Festival in February 2019, a result that did not please everyone.

     

    His single “Soldi,” with which he chose to compete at both Sanremo and this year’s Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv, was a huge hit, earning platinum status, reaching number one position in all Italian charts, and even making it to the Spotify Global Top 50. However, certain people - most notably Italian Vice Prime Minister Matteo Salvini - were unsatisfied by his victory at Sanremo.

     

    “Mahmood …mah…the most beautiful Italian song? I would have chosen #Ultimo,” tweeted Salvini during the finale. Unsurprisingly, the Minister took issue with the singer’s “pedigree”: he didn’t deem him Italian enough to win an Italian song contest, no matter the fact that Mahmood is indeed a citizen, born and raised in Italy, and even sings in Italian.

     

    Not wishing to be left out of the discussion, (politicians get ‘FOMO’ too) Italy’s other Vice Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio from the Five Star Movement, chimed in by commenting that Mahmood’s victory only represented the opinion of the country’s “radical chic” elites which made up the jury and not that of the people, a tricky statement to support considering the widespread popularity of his music.

     

    Despite these and several other negative reactions, Mahmood was chosen to represent Italy in this year’s Eurovision, an annual competition between mostly (but not exclusively) European countries. Since Italy was one of the seven countries present for the first ever Eurovision in 1956, it is one of the "Big Five" countries that automatically qualify for the final.

     

    The Milanese singer was one of the favored candidates for this year’s edition, but in the end the award went to Netherlands contestant Duncan Laurence and his romantic ballade “Arcade.”

     

    “I don’t feel any disappointment nor remorse,” comments Mahmood, “this has been the biggest success in my career so far.” Beyond scoring second place, the 27-year-old also took home the Composer Award, something which is particularly remarkable considering that he is one of the few contestants who chose to sing in a language other than English. “They told me that it’s the first time an Italian song wins this award,” he explains.

     

    “Soldi” is a catchy Trap / Hip Hop / Pop track, with influences from traditional Arabic music. The video’s aesthetic matches the singer’s personal urban minimalist style, hip but understated. It’s an autobiographical song about growing up in the periphery of Milan and focuses particularly on his difficult relationship with his father, whose main preoccupation was money (soldi). It features one line in Arabic “Waladi waladi habibi ta’aleena” (my son, my son, darling, come over here) and is the fourth song in the history of Eurovision to include the language.

     

    This 64th edition of the contest has been a particularly politicized one. An international pro-Palestinian campaign urged artists and the public to boycott the event before it even began. No contestants did however drop out of the show. Madonna’s guest performance then featured two dancers flashing both the Palestinian and Israeli flags, breaking Eurovision rules. Even more controversial was Icelandic Techno Punk group Hatari, who held up Palestinian flags at the end of their performance and might now have to “face consequences”.

     

    So far, despite the provocations of various Italian politicians, Mahmood has (wisely) abstained from engaging in political discussions, letting his music and his story speak for themselves.

     

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