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Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Fancy Food Show and Italy – A Partnership in Specialty Food

    Every late June/early July New York City hosts an event for food lovers coming from all corners of the world: the Summer Fancy Food Show is North America's largest specialty food and beverage event that, with every edition, presents hundreds of thousands of products including pastas, condiments, cheeses, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more coming from 50 countries and regions. The 2015 edition is going to be super special as Italy signed on as partner country sponsor of the show. This is the first time since its inception in 1955 that the show organizer, the Specialty Food Association, has partnered up with a country to sponsor the event.

    Italy has always held a position of relevance at the show, being the largest international

    exhibitor with about 325 companies presenting specialty food products from every region of the peninsula. The announcement was recently made at the headquarters of the Specialty Food Association in Manhattan at a press reception. The special event welcomed the main characters of this new venture: Chris Nemcheck, Senior Vice President, Business Development & Member Relations Officer, Pier Paolo Celeste, Trade Commissioner in New York, Donato Cinelli, President of Universal Marketing, organizer of the Fancy Food Show's Italian Pavilion, and Louise Kramer, Communications Director at the  Specialty Food Association.

    “This year is going to be special,” Pier Paolo Celeste told i-Italy, “this is the first time ever that something like this happens. Italy deserved to be nominated partner country as we always play an important role in the show and bring together the largest number of producers. We are really honored. This year we will have 325 exhibitors as it has been in these past years. This is a moment of great interest for Italian food and wine culture. We just had Wine Week where we welcomed than 1700 operators coming from all corners of the US. For 5 days we put together 395  vineyards and 1200 wine labels. Our work at the Fancy Food Show is similar, we are working hard to consolidate our position in the American market.”

    “Italy has been a wonderful exhibitor with a pavilion filled with small Italian food producers for many years,” Louise Kramer added. “We usually have 50 countries represented at the show, and Italy has always had the most companies. This year they are actually sponsoring the show. Italy is so famous for its quality of food, for its small producers, the people who are passionate about food and its traditions,  plus there are new great twists on the classics like pasta made with ancient grains or gluten free...so all of these things are very on target for what consumers are looking for at the moment.”

    And what products are consumers looking for? Donato Cinelli had his say “All Italian food products are loved here in the US – from the most common ones like pasta and olive oil to the most unique ones. Truffles are cherished, sweets are successful. Being the Fancy Food a show focused on specialty products it helps small, unique, artisanal companies introduce their products in this market.”
     
    Apart from truffles, there are so many products that just a few years ago were not available but now can be found everywhere. We have to thanks Mr. Cinelli and Mr. Chris Nemcheck for this. “My mother's family is from Battipaglia and I have so many great memories growing up eating Italian specialties so when I started working here and Italy was our big client bringing all the Italian specialties I was at home. Together with Donato Cinelli, who has been one of the best business colleagues I have ever worked with, over time we grew the Italian participation at the show from about 150 to the 325 of today. Specialty has been an ever growing industry here in the US because people have disposable income and they are willing to spend higher amounts of money of specialty food. They really love to eat well, entertain their friends and family. When we opened up the Fancy Food to the Italians they really saw the value of coming to the US. Everybody loves Italian food, especially Specialty food.”

    “Selecting the companies which showcase their products at the show is no easy feat,” Mr. Cinelli explained, “We receive an unbelievable amount of requests. We look at those producers who carry the products that are in greatest demand and then we select those of the highest quality. We also like to give the possibility to new companies who are looking for their spot in the market to show us what they have...but still, only if the quality of their products is exceptional.”

    “The Fancy Food show gives chefs like me, the chance to get to know the Italian producers who are looking to come to the US with their products,” Chef Cozzolino of Ribalta and Prova said. “There is always the possibility to find those products that at the moment are still unknown. There are so many cheeses that are still missing from the American market, like conciato romano. At our restaurant Prova we are indeed trying to bring some products that are not here yet. They are products of the highest quality that deserve to be known.”

    At the press reception the high and unique quality of Italian food products was represented by the cuisine of Chef Cozzolino and the products provided by Caffo, Dolciaria Monardo, Colacchio, Wine Worldwide, Inc. and International Wine Masters, Legends from Europe (Grana Padano, Montasio, Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto San Daniele) and Tradizione Italiana (D&D Italia, Kimbo, La Doria, Pastificio G. Di Martino & F.lli, Aceitificio Marcello De Nigris).

  • Events: Reports

    Cultural Italian Springtime in NYC

    As winter is having a hard time leaving the city, the Big Apple is ready to have an Italian flavored springtime. There are plenty of cultural events that celebrate our culture.

        •    The multimedia presentation “Sinatra, An American Icon,” now through September 4, 2015, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.The exhibition is curated by the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles in collaboration with The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Sinatra Family. 

    “Sinatra, An American Icon” comprises mementos of one hundred years of the Italian-American superstar's legacy. Never-before-seen photos, family heirlooms, personal items, private correspondence, original art, and unique music are showcased for the enjoyment of fans coming from all corners of the world. The majority of the pieces come directly from the Sinatra family and have never been displayed in public. The general idea a viewer gets is that “The Voice,” was more than just that. Sinatra, a native of Hoboken, NJ, with humble Italian-American roots, was in constant search of artistic excellence, not only by singing and performing but also by painting and acting. Visitors can experience the exhibition but also attend screenings and participate in a Interactive Sinatra Walking Tour of NYC, a city that was special for the city (wich also inspired one of his greatest songs). During the tour people can see some of Sinatra's favorite hangouts or venues where he performed. Until May 26, fans can also visit The Morrison Hotel and Gallery (116 Prince Street), where numerous family photos, including some portraits by photographer Terry O'Neill, are displayed.

        •    April 15th marks the beginning of the Tribeca Film Festival. Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to bring crowds back to Tribeca in the aftermath of September 11th, the festival always welcomes Italian Cinema. Istituto Luce-Cinecittà, an institution which works to support the development and promotion of Italian cinema in Italy and abroad, is bringing four contemporary Italian films: Hungry Hearts, directed by Saverio Costanzo, Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wondrous Boccaccio), directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, the documentary Palio, directed by Cosima Spender, and Vergine Giurata (Sworn Virgin), directed by Laura Bispuri.

        •    Set in New York, Hungry Hearts, tells the story a couple, Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) and their possibly “Indigo baby,” a child with special powers and needs.     •    Wondrous Boccaccio is loosely based on stories from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. In the thirteenth century, while the Black Death is killing people everywhere, ten kids hide in the countryside and, just to kill time, they each stat telling a story.     •    Palio captures the atmosphere of Siena's legendary horse race, known as Il Palio di Siena. The madness of the event starts four days prior to the race, when horses are assigned to each district and bribery and corruption ensue.     •    Set in Albania, Sworn Virgin is the epic tale of Hana Doda, who escapes from her destiny of being a wife and a servant.     •    But this is not all, the festival is also going to celebrate the 25th anniversary of an Italian-American classic, “GoodFellas” by Martin Scorsese. The screening, which will close the 2015 edition of the festival, on the 26th, is scheduled to be followed by a conversation moderated by Jon Stewart, between the film’s cast and creators. Overseen by Scorsese, the special edition “GoodFellas” remaster is derived from a 4k scan of the original camera negative.     •    More Boccaccio! KIT- Kairos Italy Theater, the first bilingual Italian theater company in New York, presents three novels of the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio and The Mandragola (The Mandrake root) by Nicolò Machiavelli in repertory at Bernie Wohl Center (647 Columbus Avenue) from April 9 to April 12. Featuring Francesco Andolfi, Giulia Bisinella, Carlotta Brentan, Francesco Meola, Jacopo Rampini and Irene Turri, star in these classics directed by Laura Caparrotti. The Mandrake Root is a satirical play in five acts written in 1524 which is seen as critique of the House of Medici. The Decameron  is a collection of 100 stories that all have one aspect in common: love.     •    And for theater aficionados, Italian actor Massimiliano Finazzer Flory will star, on April 21st at the Morgan Library, in "Being Leonardo da Vinci.” Written by Finazzer Flory himself, the play depicts the life of Leonardo da Vinci and answers one main question: who really was Leonardo? Partly in English, partly in Rainassance Italian and part dance, “Being Leonardo da Vinci” is a unique interview, where Leonardo himself answers 52-questions asked by a special interviewer.

  • Art & Culture

    Anime Nere: 'Ndrangheta, Family and the Past

    What is more attractive: a life in the country herding goats and planting trees or a life in Milan, with money, drugs, and prostitutes? 20-year old Leo (Giuseppe Fumo) is definitely more into the latter and has little respect for his farmer father, Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane) but idealizes his Mafioso uncles, Luigi (Marco Leonardi) and Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta). That's the premise of Black Souls, Anime Nere, a feature film directed by Francesco Munzi, that is opening in the New York, at the Angelika Fim Center on April 10. The film will open in Los Angeles on April 24th.

    Based on real events described in Gioacchino Criaco’s novel, BLACK SOULS (ANIME NERE) is a tale of violence begetting violence and complex morality inherited by each generation in rural, ancient Calabria, a real- life mafia (‘Ndrangheta) seat in Southern Italy. The drama was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 71st Venice International Film festival. Black Souls was also an official selection of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2015 Guadalajara International Film Festival.

    “I made this film in a town that legal professionals and journalists stigmatize as one of the most mafia-ridden places in Italy, one of the nerve centers of the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta: Africo,” the director, Francesco Munzi, has stated. 

    “Africo, in the province of Reggio Calabria, on the Ionic coast, it has a beautiful coastline and is unknown to tourists. Rising up from the sea, are some of the most beautiful, untamed mountains in Italy – the Aspromonte

    The landscape is marked by the anarchic building developments so indicative of the south of Italy. When I said I wanted to make the film there, everyone tried to discourage me: it’s too difficult, it’s 

    inaccessible, it’s too dangerous. 

    It was an impossible film. I sought help from Gioacchino Criaco, author of Anime Nere, the book on which the film is loosely based. I arrived in Calabria full of prejudice and fear. I discovered a very complex and diverse reality. I saw mistrust turn into curiosity, and people opened their doors to us. I mixed my actors with the residents of Africo, who acted and worked with the cast. Without them, this film would not have been as rich. Africo has a very tough history of criminality, but it can help us understand many things about our country. From Africo, we have a better view of Italy.”
     

    Variety calls it “This year’s mafia pic,” while The Telegraph gives it 4 stars and describes it as “Shades of GOMORRAH and THE GODFATHER.” “Anime Nere is far more than a gangster movie set in the Italian south: it becomes a morality tale about breaking cycles of violence and finding a new way. This is its true strength, and Munzi does a superb job of detailing the various forces at work. Dark and sinister, full of foreboding and twists, his elegant film tells the story of a man's struggle to escape his past with integrity and force,” has said Piers Handling of the Tornonto International film festival.
     

    The Carbone family consists of three brothers, Luigi and Rocco, who are engaged in the family business of international drug trade, and Luciano who has remained in the ancestral town of Africo in the Aspromonte mountains on the Mediterranean coast, taking care of the land and his goats. His 20-year old son Leo shoots up a bar owned by a rival family with a longstanding blood feud with the Carbones. Leo's reckless actions create trouble that brings the whole family back to Africo for the inevitable bloody showdown. 
     

    Anime Nere is a story of “youth and experience, of father and son, brother against brother,” and most of all, of the past, a past that sooner or later comes back to knock at the door. “The past always returns,” Munzi himself has explained in the past, “It is something you cannot leave behind and the wife of one of the brothers, interpreted by Barbora Bobulova, realizes it when it's way too late. She knows the history of the family but she thinks it is something of the past.”
     

    “I tell the story of a group of people who think they can create their own destiny but they do it in the wrong way, almost as a revenge: at first they are protectors  but then they become the attackers.”

  • Life & People

    NYC. The Society of Foreign Consuls Honors the Work of 20 Women

    “Whether they are running small businesses, ruling in courtrooms, designing skyscrapers, penning best-sellers, putting out fires, caring for patients, patrolling out streets, teaching our children or serving in our governments, women leaders are everywhere you turn throughout the five boroughs, across the country and around the world. 

    The 20 local luminaries that the Society of Foreign Consuls has chosen to recognize tonight hail from 20 different countries, reflecting not only on talent and tenacity possessed by all New Yorkers, but also the rich multiculturalism that defines our great and global City. I am pleased to commend the Society's significant charitable contributions and ongoing efforts to promote gender equality, cultivate community, and deepen the ties between New York City and its thriving consular community over the past 90 years.”

    These were Mayor de Blasio's words of introduction at the Annual Award Ceremony by the Society of Foreign Consuls in New York that took place, on the occasion of International Women's Day, at the Grand Masonic Lodge. The Mayor himself could not be there but his words captured the spirit of the night, a night of celebration of the outstanding achievements and contributions to community empowerment in the USA by 20 international women. Among them, an Italian powerful woman, Monica M. Mandelli, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, led by Italy's Consul General in New York, the Hon. Natalia Quintavalle.

    Initiated in 2011 by Consul General of the Republic of Kazakhstan Raushan Yesbulatova, the reception in celebration of Women’s Day was so successful that it was established as an annual celebration. Since then, every year the Consulate General of the Republic of Kazakhstan graciously and organizes the event which was hosted by the Consulate General of the Slovak Republic. This year, along with Italy, women from Barbados, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay were recognized.

    All participating women come from different backgrounds and life conditions, but they have a lot in common: their tenacity, their love for their adoptive country, a country were they were able to express themselves and become who they are today, and, most of all, strong women who raised them and motivated them to be the best. Each honoree only had two minutes to say something as they were accepting their award, and most of them thanked their mothers and grandmothers. Many of them were the first women in their families who went to school and then moved to great careers.

    “These special ladies are wonderful role models,” said Hon. Jana Trnovcova, Consul General of Slovakia, “With their outstanding professional achievements they contribute significantly to the America’s society, and they give back to their own communities with their leadership, mentoring, charity work and professionally linking their countries with the USA.”

    Monica Mandelli earned a BS and an MS summa cum laude in Economics and Social Sciences from Milan's Università Bocconi, and an MBA, with distinction, from Harvard Business School. She is a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs and Global Head of the Family Office Coverage and Strategic Relationship Management Group within the Investment Banking Division. In this role, she focuses on developing the firm's relationships with significant families and their corporate interests on a cross-divisional basis. Monica is also Co-Head of the Firmwide's Women Network and has served in leadership roles in the firm's recruiting, training and mentoring programs.

    Monica's helpful advice is to always make yourself honorable. “Find what is unique in your style and turn up the volume a couple of notches,” she has said and joked about her strong Italian accent, something that makes her unique. She also uses her hands when she speaks, something typically Italian and that makes her stand out. “Instead of hiding it, I turned it into an asset.”

  • Life & People

    Italian Indie-Sensation Levante Debuts in the US

    During the summer of 2013 her video, which features the young singer as a frustrated protagonist at a high-fashion party shouting out the song's hook "Che vita di merda" (What a shitty life), became a YouTube sensation in Italy approaching 2 million views — numbers typically unrealized by all but homegrown superstars — and became a powerful social media meme. The song was Alfonso and the singer is Levante, a 26 year old singer-songwriter still working as a café barista who was signed by leading independent INRI label.
     

    Levante's debut album "Manuale Distruzione" (Destruction Manual) entered in the Top 10 of the Italian charts in March 2014 and within one year the indie sensation is supporting headlining heroes Negramaro on their summer soccer stadium tour. Now, like a hot wind blowing in from the East, Levante, born Claudia Lagona, is about to make her US debut atSXSW, the annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin, TX, taking place on March 17 – 21, 2015.

    Showcase dates follow on Monday March 23 in Los Angeles at Genghis Cohen, the famous Hollywood Chinese restaurant that was the real-life inspiration for the famous Seinfeld episode "The Chinese Restaurant” and that launched the careers of singer-songwriters such as Sara Bareilles, and on Wednesday March 25 at The Standard, East Village in New York.

    Back in Turin, Levante, who sings about everyday life — love, pain, friendship, joy, took the time to answer some of our questions as she prepares to come to the US.
     

    How did you decide to call yourself Levante?
     

    It was Levante that chose me. When I was thirteen a friend jokingly gave me that name. It started just like that and it became the most serious thing in the world, that's why I decided to give my nickname to my music.

    Where do you find inspiration to make your music?

    I find inspiration from life, often my life, but I love telling stories about others’ lives too. I started making music because I felt an extreme need to do so. After the death of my father (when I was nine years old) I found the best cure in writing lyrics and composing melodies. Like in a secret diary where I could express everything, really everything through my music.
     

    Did the cities of Catania, the city where you were born, and Torino, the city where you grew up, have any influence on you becoming the artist that you are today?
     

    Catania and Torino are very different and distant from each other (geographically speaking), but they are also very similar in terms of sharing a deep passion. Catania gave me the fire, the anger and the strength... Turin made me grow well, taught me perseverance, discipline and the right way to deal with life. They still have a strong influence on me.
     

    Mina, Carmen Consoli, Tori Amos and Janis Joplin are listed as some of your muses, what do you have that’s reminiscent of them?
     

    Oh God, I don’t know if there’s something in me that resonates of them but I’m pretty sure that their music gave me so much. I desired the precision and power of Mina’s voice, as much as I loved Carmen Consoli and Tori Amos for their authenticity of being artists, for their lyrics and their rock appeal simultaneously refined. From Janis Joplin’s rough voice I definitely got the unstoppable passion for music. BTW I do not think I'll ever be able to be like them, but at least I can dream.

    How important was social media for you?

    They are really important, they are the main way to communicate nowadays . Everything moves in, out and around social networks and like it or not, our lives cannot ignore that . Relationships of any kind often occurs through social networks un-fortunately. That's why I love being so present and to get in real touch with my fans.
     

    What are your expectations from these US dates?
     

    This is a dream that I had never dreamed of, because I never thought of being able to sing in the United States. I hope to give all my best and to learn as much as I can from this new adventure. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity.
     

    How important is it for an international artist (in your specific case and Italian musician) to write and sing in English as well?
     

    There was a time in my life when I used to write songs in English but I quit. I realized that I could not give one hundred percent of myself just because i’m not a native English speaker. I eat, I dream and I love in Italian, that’s my life. I find it romantic and interesting to write and to sing in Italian expressing something to those are unfamiliar with my language. To Bring Italy in the world is not a limit for me but it’s a feature that I really love. I hope that Italian music will be known by more and more people every new day.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Emilia-Romagna’s Food Crowned Italy’s Best


    “Italy’s Greatest Gastronomic Treasure, Emilia Romagna.” This is the title’s of David Rosengarten’s latest article published on Forbes, an extensive piece that goes beyond Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, tortellini and balsamic vinegar.
     
    The long reportage starts with a cute cliché, that “If you ask an Italian where the best food is in Italy, you almost always get the same answer. “Eh,” they like to say. “At my mother’s house!”… looking like “how could you be so stupid to not know that?” Yet, apparently if you ask around and push for a regional answer everybody agrees on Emilia-Romagna, “the wondrous north-central region that lies in the fertile Po River Valley.”
     
    What Rosengarten proceeds to explain is that for Italians this is not an uncommon answer, Emilia-Romagna is known to be a major player for its rich and savory cuisine but in the US its cuisine is not that popular. Americans, for example, tend to be big aficionados of Tuscan cuisine and the reported even gives a funny example: “Once, in New York, a great restaurateur opened a place called Amarcord, a reference to Fellini, who was one of Emilia-Romagna’s greatest sons. No one came. Finally, the restaurateur closed the place for a week, re-tooled, and re-opened as Il Toscanaccio. The joint was jammed from Night One.”
     
    According to Accademia Barilla,  the first international center dedicated to the development and promotion of Italian Gastronomic Culture, the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna is the result of the coming together of Byzantine traditions and Lombard customs. “The local diet relies heavily on salumi and cheeses. These long-lasting products originally come from the nomadic populations in the area that sustained themselves with animals and few wild fruits and vegetables.” Most of Italy’s favorite cold cuts are indeed from this region: Prosciutto di Parma DOP, Mortadella di Bologna IGP, Cotechino di Modena, Cultatello di Zibello DOP, Salame di Felino, Salama da Sugo from Ferrara IGP and Spalla Cotta from San Secondo… and as far as cheeses are concerned, the king of all cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano DOP is produced here.
     
    “Pasta is king in Emilia Romagna,” Accademia Barilla continues to explain, “thanks to the local cultivation of wheat. Fresh egg pasta is rolled and cut into lasagna, tagliatelle, tortellini, cappelletti and tortelli stuffed with various ingredients like beef, poultry, ricotta and swiss chard, cheese, eggs and herbs.” Then these pastas are served with delicious, rich sauces such as Classic Bolognese Ragu, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Sauce and Sausage ragu. Sweet pastas may be served as a dessert as well.
     
    Bread is also a key ingredient, often served with cold cuts. Piadina is a soft, flat bread that is typical of this region, and so are gnocco fritto (fried dough), tigelle (flat bread from the mountains) and Coppia Ferrarese DOP (sourdough bread in a twisted shape).
     
    Seafood, poultry and meats are eaten for the second course. Throughout the region people eat rabbit, and serve more pork than beef  - from porcini veal chops, to pork chops, or pork tenderloin with marsala sauce.
     
    Most of the food served in the region follows traditional recipes but as Rosengarten explains there is also room for creativity. “They have a top-ten-list molecular palace for chrissake, Osteria Francescana, three Michelin stars and all. But even there there’s tagliatelle Bolognese on the menu.”
     
    Throughout the article the author has included a few restaurants that should not be missed when traveling to Emilia-Romagna: Europa 92 in Modena, as well as “Il Cappero alle Mura” and “Zoello Ristorante” in Castelvetro di Modena, ending up with “Trattoria dai Mugnai” and “Ponterosso”, both in Monteveglio, Bologna.
     
    But, for those who want to have food from Emilia Romagna in New York City, one of the favorite is Via Emilia (47 E 21st Street) known for its soulful tortellini in brodo (pork, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano dumplings in hen broth) gnocco fritto (warm puffy fritters served with Prosciutto di Parma,sopressata dolce, mortadella and coppa) and Tigelle (Modena’s mountain bread served with soft cheeses, cold cuts and pancetta spread.
     
     


  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Emilia-Romagna’s Food Crowned Italy’s Best


    “Italy’s Greatest Gastronomic Treasure, Emilia Romagna.” This is the title’s of David Rosengarten’s latest article published on Forbes, an extensive piece that goes beyond Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, tortellini and balsamic vinegar.
     
    The long reportage starts with a cute cliché, that “If you ask an Italian where the best food is in Italy, you almost always get the same answer. “Eh,” they like to say. “At my mother’s house!”… looking like “how could you be so stupid to not know that?” Yet, apparently if you ask around and push for a regional answer everybody agrees on Emilia-Romagna, “the wondrous north-central region that lies in the fertile Po River Valley.”
     
    What Rosengarten proceeds to explain is that for Italians this is not an uncommon answer, Emilia-Romagna is known to be a major player for its rich and savory cuisine but in the US its cuisine is not that popular. Americans, for example, tend to be big aficionados of Tuscan cuisine and the reported even gives a funny example: “Once, in New York, a great restaurateur opened a place called Amarcord, a reference to Fellini, who was one of Emilia-Romagna’s greatest sons. No one came. Finally, the restaurateur closed the place for a week, re-tooled, and re-opened as Il Toscanaccio. The joint was jammed from Night One.”
     
    According to Accademia Barilla,  the first international center dedicated to the development and promotion of Italian Gastronomic Culture, the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna is the result of the coming together of Byzantine traditions and Lombard customs. “The local diet relies heavily on salumi and cheeses. These long-lasting products originally come from the nomadic populations in the area that sustained themselves with animals and few wild fruits and vegetables.” Most of Italy’s favorite cold cuts are indeed from this region: Prosciutto di Parma DOP, Mortadella di Bologna IGP, Cotechino di Modena, Cultatello di Zibello DOP, Salame di Felino, Salama da Sugo from Ferrara IGP and Spalla Cotta from San Secondo… and as far as cheeses are concerned, the king of all cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano DOP is produced here.
     
    “Pasta is king in Emilia Romagna,” Accademia Barilla continues to explain, “thanks to the local cultivation of wheat. Fresh egg pasta is rolled and cut into lasagna, tagliatelle, tortellini, cappelletti and tortelli stuffed with various ingredients like beef, poultry, ricotta and swiss chard, cheese, eggs and herbs.” Then these pastas are served with delicious, rich sauces such as Classic Bolognese Ragu, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Sauce and Sausage ragu. Sweet pastas may be served as a dessert as well.
     
    Bread is also a key ingredient, often served with cold cuts. Piadina is a soft, flat bread that is typical of this region, and so are gnocco fritto (fried dough), tigelle (flat bread from the mountains) and Coppia Ferrarese DOP (sourdough bread in a twisted shape).
     
    Seafood, poultry and meats are eaten for the second course. Throughout the region people eat rabbit, and serve more pork than beef  - from porcini veal chops, to pork chops, or pork tenderloin with marsala sauce.
     
    Most of the food served in the region follows traditional recipes but as Rosengarten explains there is also room for creativity. “They have a top-ten-list molecular palace for chrissake, Osteria Francescana, three Michelin stars and all. But even there there’s tagliatelle Bolognese on the menu.”
     
    Throughout the article the author has included a few restaurants that should not be missed when traveling to Emilia-Romagna: Europa 92 in Modena, as well as “Il Cappero alle Mura” and “Zoello Ristorante” in Castelvetro di Modena, ending up with “Trattoria dai Mugnai” and “Ponterosso”, both in Monteveglio, Bologna.
     
    But, for those who want to have food from Emilia Romagna in New York City, one of the favorite is Via Emilia (47 E 21st Street) known for its soulful tortellini in brodo (pork, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano dumplings in hen broth) gnocco fritto (warm puffy fritters served with Prosciutto di Parma,sopressata dolce, mortadella and coppa) and Tigelle (Modena’s mountain bread served with soft cheeses, cold cuts and pancetta spread.
     
     


  • Art & Culture

    And the Oscar Goes to Milena Canonero

    The 87th Academy Awards were the Oscars of Birdman, the film by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu about a washed out actor (played by nominee Michael Keaton) who wants to redeem himself by starring in a serious play, that opened the latest edition of the Venice Film Festival.

    Birdman won four of the coveted statuettes: Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay  and Best Cinematography, yet in order to be a real victory Michael Keaton should have been awarded the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

    The winner was Eddie Redmayne for his intense portrait of Stephen Hawking , the famous physicist afflicted of SLA, in The Theory of Everything.

    But an Oscar night is not complete if there isn't at least one Italian winner: and this year the honor went to Costume Designer Milena Canonero, for the costumes of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Although it didn't take home the top honors The Grand Budapest Hotel tied the winning film, Birdman, for the number of wins with four: in addition to Costumes, it won for Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Production Design (Adam Stockhausen's production design and Anna Pinnock's set decoration) and Makeup and Hairstyling.  

    The Grand Budapest Hotel is set between World War I and II, in a candy-colored imaginary Eastern European nation called Zubrowka. Hotel clerks wear purple uniforms that are faithful to the 1930s, soldiers wear gray-and-black uniforms based on the fusion of different military sources, the old Madame D wears a Black Diamond mink fur by Fendi while the sexy black leather coat worn by Willem Dafoe was made by the house of Prada.

    Each and every costume choice carefully matched Wes Anderson's vision. In order to do that, Canonero had to submerge herself  into Anderson's world, listen to his needs but also to her own creative input.  

    Just a week before the Oscar win, Caronero's efforts on The Grand Budapest Hotel were recognized by her colleagues (Costume Designers, Assistant Costume Designers and Costume Illustrators) with a victory in the Period Film category at the 17th Costume Designers Guild Awards. She also won a BAFTA for the film.   

    The Turin-born costume designer has dedicated her life to the craft of Costume Design and has worked for both film and stage productions since the late 1960s. Milena Canonero, who studied art, design history and costume design in Genoa, made her debut in Stanley Kubrick's iconic 1971 film A Clockwork Orange.

    She is the one who gave Alex, the sociopath played by Malcolm McDowell, his signature Bowler Derby Hat and white suspenders. She won her first Oscar four years later with Kubrick's period drama Barry Lyndon. Canonero met director Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: Space Odissey, and they often worked together. Hers are also the iconic twins’ blue dresses from The Shining.

    She won two more Oscars: in 1981 for Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire and in 2006 for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. Overall, Canonero was nominated nine timesand in 2001 she received the Career Achievement Award in Film from the Costume Design Guild. 

    The Grand Budapest Hotel was her third collaboration with director Wes Anderson, after The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited. "Thank you Wes, this is for you," the Italian designer said as she accepted the statuette at the ceremony addressing the director directly. "You were a great inspiration, like an orchestra director, a composer, you are our source of inspiration." The simplicity and sincerity of her address have been praised by viewers worldwide... and they have been reason of great pride in Italy.

    Italy's Premier, Matteo Renzi, tweeted, the day after her victory, “ Congratulations to Milena Canonero, elegance, grace and talent at the Oscars," while the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini has declared, "(This Oscar) is yet another confirmation of the strength and vitality of Italian cinema and creativity. Her victory makes Italy proud."

  • Facts & Stories

    Thank You Michele Ferrero

    Rumors are that, despite his age and illness, Mr. Ferrero never stopped taking care of production of both new and old confectionery products.

    His never ending industriousness made of him one of the world's richest men and a symbol of the excellence of the Made in Italy.

    “His fortune, estimated by Forbes last year at $26.5 billion, made him No. 22 on the magazine’s
    list of billionaires and easily eclipsed the reported fortune of Italian media mogul and serial prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.” (The Washington Post)

    An important player in Italian economic history, Michele Ferrero succeeded in transforming the small laboratory of his father Pietro into a multinational empire, based in the Piedmontese town of Alba, that includes 20 factories and more than 30 thousand collaborators in 53 countries.

    It all started in 1949, when, Pietro Ferrero died and Michele had to take over the family business, a lab that produced good sweets at a reasonable price, a sum affordable to everybody from the laborer to the farmer, as poverty was among all in the difficult times of post Second World War.

    At first they made Pani di Giandujot, also known as “the poor people's chocolate,” a sort of gianduiotto chocolate in the shape of a brick, a specialty of Piedmont made with a paste of sugar, cocoa and hazelnut, to be cut into slices. “It was an immediate success,” Michele Ferrero said in a rare interview, “even today we don't really understand how it all happened.”

    Yet, this success was nothing compared to the success of Nutella, the inimitable hazelnut chocolate spread that celebrated its 50th anniversary just a year ago. Nutella, originally known as Supercrema, was created in 1951, and it basically was a Giandujot melted by the sun.

    Then in 1963 Michele revamped the recipe and renamed the hazelnut spread which ended up being an instant success and  still remains widely popular.

    Michele Ferrero never studied communications, yet he was blunt and direct and he had a vision... he knew how he wanted his business to grow. 

    “If we don't become known in Europe, we won't be known in Italy either,” he said back in the 1950's when the business opened in Germany. That was a first step, the beginning of the conquest of several different countries thanks to many different products: Mon Cherì (1956), Tic Tac (1969), Kinder Cioccolato (1968), Kinder Sorpresa (1974) and Ferrero Rocher (1982) (Michele's mom's name was Piera Rocher).

    Ideas, hard work and low profile, these are the words that defined his success, but that's not all. Michele Ferrero's life and career were defined by great attention to human values, respect for his homeland and his employees (Mr. Ferrero even bought them a few apartments in Liguria where they could go on vacation).

    In 1983 Mr. Ferrero founded the Fondazione Ferrero. "Work, create, donate," these are the verbs that appear in the logo of this institution dedicated to supporting ex employees and promoting cultural and artistic initiatives. 2005 saw the creation of Imprese Sociali Ferrero, a project which was strongly supported by Mr.Ferrero, which involves real enterprises, not just charitable activities, in India, Cameroon and South Africa,  aimed at creating jobs for the needy.

    “Michele Ferrero's story is a formidable and unique story,” Maurizio Martina, the Minister of Agriculture, said, “a story written by a real entrepreneur, known in Italy and worldwide,” Italy's neo-president Sergio Mattarella, has added.

    Thousands of people have attended his funeral, among them friends, employees, acquaintances and premier Matteo Renzi. The prime minister has used the event as an opportunity to encourage Italians to work hard and succeed.

    “He was a great Italian and his story is proof of great talent, nationality and values,” Renzi has reminded all those who complain about the economic conditions of Italy today. There can be so many more stories inspired by the life of Mr. Ferrero who started with nothing and became a worldwide success.

  • Life & People

    The Tales of Italian “Hardships and Triumphs While Battling Stereotypes and Myths"

    It all started with a “Dear John” letter, but in this case instead of being a letter of good bye to inform “John” that a relationship is over, the receiver in question, John Maggio, was offered, by executive producer Jeff Bieber, a great story which he transformed into a great film.

    The Italian Americans is a four-hour PBS series which is scheduled to premiere nationally at 9 p.m. on Feb. 17 and 24. Narrated by Stanley Tucci, the celebrated actor of Calabrian descent, “The Italian Americans” is made of four masterfully constructed one-hour episodes written and produced by Maggio himself that appeal not only to Italian Americans but to all Americans who are interested in history and finding out what makes America what it is today.

    The tales of Italian “hardships and triumphs while battling stereotypes and myths” are told in classic documentary format through interviews with historians, authors and well-known Italian Americans. They include Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., singer Tony Bennett, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, writer Gay Talese, the Sopranos creator David Chase, actor John Turturro, David Giovannitti, grandson of Arturo Giovannitti, a celebrated union leader, political activist, and poet best known for his involvement in the Lawrence Textie strike in 1912, and NYC's Mayor Bill de Blasio.

    The Mayor attended a special preview of the series at NYU's Eisner & Lubin Auditorium, organized by Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo' in collaboration with public broadcasters WETA and WNET. “Anything that celebrates our heritage, which has given so much to us and has framed our lives he in this country, and makes us think about it, is worthy. This is a particularly powerful project that has already touched people very deeply. This is going to mean so much to so many people, it's a discussion we've not had enough of,” the Hon. De Blasio said at the beginning of his speech.

    Mayor de Blasio is a proud Italian American who has spoken, with great enthusiasm about the importance of this film, of his experience growing up Italian American, his family has origins in  Sant'Agata dei Goti, by Benevento, and in Grassano, by Matera, of all the stereotypes attached to Italians that came to America, of the great sacrifices and the strong willpower to do something good in life belonging to all those who came here without speaking the language and with no support. But most of all, de Blasio spoke about the importance of taking his wife Chirlane and their kids Dante and Chiara back to Italy with him in order to see things firsthand.

    “Our family is blessed to have kept a very strong connection to the towns our families came from. Part of the beauty of our summer trip to Italy was to be able to see this through the eyes of my wife, who for someone who did not have the joy and privilege to be born in a family of Italian heritage has done a pretty good job in catching up. She's one of the greatest Italophiles you'll ever meet. But also with the eyes of my children Chiara and Dante. From the very beginning of their lives they were given a very strong sense of their heritage. Watch them take in all the different pieces of what makes them who they are was amazing. They were challenged of course, like any other young people trying to sort out identity...  I strongly urge to spread the simple notion that talking about heritage is powerful,” he said.

    De Blasio went to his grandfather's hometown for the first time when he was 15 and his life changed from that moment on, “It gave me an entirely different understanding not only of who we were as a family but of who we are as Americans, all of us. It's up to us to take the ideas, the messages and the meaning of the culture and maintain it, and keep it fresh. It's important to pass it on, so please pass it on.”

    De Blasio's speech was followed by some clips, including the Mario Cuomo footage from his 1984 speech to the Democratic National Convention, which still brings tears to a viewer's eyes and by a panel moderated by Casa Italiana's director, Stefano Albertini,  featuring bestselling author Gay Talese, director and producer John Maggio and journalist Maria Laurino, author of The Italian Americans: A History, a companion book to the series. Panelists discussed the importance of this film, and its exploration of the evolution of Italian Americans from the late 19th Century to today “to reveal a world uniquely Italian and uniquely American.”

    The series has already been aired on Italian television (RAI storia) and it consists of four episodes: La Famiglia, explores the journey to America, Becoming Americans, focuses on the issues of assimilation into American society, Loyal Americans, addresses the struggle of Italians who were declared enemy aliens and The American Dream, features many Italian Americans who became prominent in the world.
    Each episode is a must see!

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