Articles by: Marina Melchionda

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Cazzetta. Glocal Style Italian Olive Oil

    The Italian Pavilion at this year’s edition of the Fancy Food Show featured dozens of booths exhibiting some of the best olive oil produced in the country. National or local, big or small firms, they all came to New York in search of a new market, the American one, which is discovering little by little the nutritional values of this product thanks to the recent re-evaluation of the Mediterranean diet of which it is a fundamental ingredient.

    Travel to the Mediterranean and the resulting enthusiasm for its cuisine created a buzz for olive oil in the last few decades. Food celebrities proclaimed the virtues of EVO – extra-virgin olive oil, the finest, most flavorful oil produced entirely by physical means (now in centrifuges, not presses) without the use of chemicals or excess heat. Consumption of olive oil in the United States has risen 272 percent since 1991, according to the International Olive Oil Council, and is mainly imported from Spain, Greece, and Italy.

    The question now is: how should olive oil be consumed? What kind of oil goes on which dish according to the Mediterranean parameters?

    And, most of all, how is one firm different from another and how can you tell which one is the best?
At Fancy Food we tasted quite a consistent range of olive oils, appreciating their fruitiness or slight bitterness, and learning about the various ways to consume it, might it be on a slice of bread, in a thick pasta sauce, or raw on a grilled fish, depending on the various flavors and heat-resisting properties.
One of those we appreciated the most was Cazzetta Olive Oil, originating from Lecce, Puglia.

    Its four different extra virgin olive oil varieties, Spontaneo (Spontaneus), Biologico (Bio), Prezioso (Precious), and Quattro Macine (Four Mills), contain a secular family history of passion and dedication to this business. 

To explain why we found Cazzetta to be such a great representative of the best Italian oil, we first need to take a step back and provide a little history on the country’s oil production in more general terms.  As we know, in Italy the production of olive oil and its properties vary geographically based on the land where the trees are planted and the kind of olives produced.

    As the cultivation itself is regulated by a complex array of norms and rituals that are passed from generation to generation, each business ends up making a very distinguished product with its own flavor and composition. This is especially true with the smallest firms where production is limited to a couple of thousand bottles a year and the olive oil is almost handcrafted by the few employees. It is generally sold in a niche market of gourmets and restaurant owners. 
Although Cazzetta happens to be a big firm, owning more than 300 hectares of land in the province of Otranto, its oils are still produced according to the most traditional principles that espouse in a balanced way the most modern cultivation, harvesting, and manufacturing techniques and methods.

    The members of this family have never abandoned the spirit on which the company was first based: the love for the land that they own and have cultivated for more than four generations and their mission to bring to the people of Italy and beyond the best oil that the Puglia region can offer. 

The four variates of oil produced by the company, Spontaneo, Biologico, Prezioso and Quattro Macine, come  from olives picked from trees planted more than four hundred years ago. Just as it used to be in the old times, the harvest takes place by shaking the tree causing the olives to fall into nets so they never touch the ground. After being selected according to their origins and quality, they are processed between the months of October and January, when expert hands keep working 24 hours a day to obtain more than 100 hundredweights of oil a day from more than 500 hundredweights of olives.

    As founder Raffaele Cazzetta would have wanted, the extraction still takes place through a cold process and the oil is still collected today with the “mappu”, an ancient circular and concave tool. 
The production process is controlled by the members of the family who take care of the business. They are accompanied by the young generation who is not only expected to learn all the secrets of the trade but also to educate those who will come after them to bring only the best to their tables. 

Education is indeed one of the cornerstones of the Cazzetta family and business.

    When we met President Raffaele at Fancy Food we understood how much he cares about involving consumers in defending local production such as his own. They are able to bring to the world the local culture they represent. “It is not only about my business, it’s about almost all the Made in Italy, a unique ‘label’ created to defend thousands of entrepreneurs that make their productions the basis on which they build and raise a family”, he told us. The danger he said lays in the unlimited expansion of the phenomenon of globalization that finally leads to a flattening and homogenizing of production. “It must instead be a tool to overcome national borders, export our knowledge worldwide, and share our goods with other peoples, and vice versa. Now the risk is that the global market will become a tool in the hands of very few big producers that will offer standardized products at a better price maybe, but certainly to the detriment of quality”.

    As he told us, his personal aim is to inform people about this risk and make them aware that local production can disappear in favor of stateless ones, where there is no connection among growers, producers, and consumers. “We need instead to build a glocal world, where productions remain local and anchored to their territory of origins, but can overcome every geographical border and be tasted throughout the world and appreciated in their specificity”.

    Determined to achieve this goal, Mr. Cazzetta has already overcome the borders of most of the European countries and Japan. The Fancy Food Show was a perfect occasion for him to enter the US market and to present new products such as the Grappa-based Olive Liqueur “Several distributors and importers stopped by and showed great interest for my products as soon as they were given a taste. This shows that Americans are ready and open to new, different flavors and are also willing to spend a little more to have a product that is worth ten times more in terms of quality, in spite of what is commonly stated”.

    300 hectares of cultivated land, but still a family run business;  thousands of liters of oil, but still a niche firm; an international label, but a local based production. 
These are the pillars on which Cazzetta oils are produced. They are “ovicoltori per storia e per passione”, oil producers for history and passion, the two principles that  every Italian business should follow now  and in the future.

    After all, if Made in Italy is now popular on a global scale, it is now up to us to promote and support it the Italian way, the glocal way.

  • Fatti e Storie

    La politica italiana e le politiche per gli italiani all'estero. La visita di Bersani a New York

     English Version

    Sono le 7 di sera di Venerdi 16 Luglio quando arriviamo al Circolo di PD di San Cono nel cuore del quartiere di Williamsburg, a Brooklyn. Da lì a poco Pierluigi Bersani avrebbe incontrato la comunità italiana di New York, al termine del suo primo viaggio negli Stati Uniti in qualità di Segretario Generale del Partito Democratico.

    Un luogo insolito per un meeting di tale rilievo, dove i partecipanti sono stati chiamati a confrontarsi con l’Onorevole Bersani sul tema “La politica italiana e le politiche per gli italiani all'estero “. Insolito perchè, come ha voluto subito sottolineare Elena Luongo del Circolo PD di New York nei suoi saluti di benvenuto, “si è scelto di allontanarsi dai riflettori di Manhattan per avvicinarsi alla piccola comunità fatta di persone, storie, dando ad ognuno modo di esprimersi e presentare le proprie istanze. E’ una decisione che rispecchia in pieno lo spirito su cui nasce il PD”.

    I membri della comunità hanno accolto l’invito in numerosi. Nella sala gremita di persone si distinguevano voci di donne, di anziani, di giovani, molti giovani. Immigrati di vecchia e nuova generazione sedevano fianco a fianco, uno dietro l’altro, nella fitta fila di sedie allineate davanti al lungo tavolo dove si sarebbero seduti l’ospite d’onore ed i loro rappresentanti.

    Al suo arrivo, l’On. Bersani è stato accolto dai numerosi che gli sono andati incontro già accanto alla porta: la richiesta di una stretta di mano, di una foto insieme, testimoniavano non solo stima nei suoi confronti, ma anche un profondo senso di affiliazione al PD, di cui riconoscevano il rappresentante che loro stessi avevano votato lo scorso Ottobre.

    L’Onorevole si è infatti sempre distinto per il grande sostegno che ha saputo dimostrare nei confronti delle comunità italiane all’estero, come ha aggiunto Elena Luongo: “Abbiamo molto apprezzato il suo intervento a favore dei nostri concittadini che manifestavano a Francoforte, a Vancouver e a Buenos Aires per difendere i propri diritti. Le sue parole ci hanno fatto sentire meno soli e ci hanno confermato che a Roma, per usare una sua stessa metafora, c’è chi ‘mette l’orecchio per terra per ascoltare ciò che si muove nella società’”.

    Facendosi quindi portavoce del suo stesso principio, l’Onorevole ha accettanto l’incontro di New York, in questo luogo “dove ci si sente come in famiglia”, come ha continuato il moderatore del dibattito e Dirigente del PD negli Stati Uniti Gianluca Galletto, che lo ha accompagnato nel corso della sua intera permanenza negli Stati Uniti. “Sono rimasto molto soddisfatto di come il Segretario è stato accolto a Washington. Qui negli USA ricordano che, prima di rivestire questo ruolo, egli è stato un ottimo ministro e ha promosso leggi importanti, che hanno contribuito in maniera significativa alla crescita dell’economia italiana. Accettando di partecipare a questo meeting, poi,  l’Onorevole ha creato nuove basi per un nuovo tipo di sviluppo, quello sociale, e quello dei rapporti tra Italia e italiani all’estero”.

    A Renato Turano, ex senatore e imprenditore, il compito di aprire il dibattito. Nel suo intervento, una prima denuncia della crescente marginalizzazione degli italiani all’estero dall’attuale politica italiana: “Nel periodo in cui Bersani era ministro, noi parlamentari votati all’estero lavorammo duramente in vista di obiettivi che poi raggiungemmo. Riuscimmo ad intervenire sulla finanziaria per ottenere una maggiorazione dei fondi per l’insegnamento della lingua italiana fuori dai confini del Paese, per l’editoria e i consolati e gli altri organi di rappresentanza istituzionali. Con la dimezzazione o addirittura annullamento di tali fondi i nostri sforzi sono resi quasi nulli sotto l’attuale governo guidato da Berlusconi, e questo non può che preoccuparci. Il rischio è quello di spezzare il legame che abbiamo con fatica costruito tra le molte Italie sparse per il mondo”.

    L’apporto che la comunità italiana all’estero può dare alla crescita dell’Italia, dal punto di vista culturale, sociale, e economico è una ricchezza che invece il Paese non può permettersi di perdere, come ha subito suggerito SIlvana Mangione, Vice Segretario Generale del Consiglio Generale degli Italiani all’Estero e Dirigente del PD negli Stati Uniti. “Questa sala è il laboratorio della emigrazione italiana nel mondo. Ci sono persone emigrate decenni fa, ma anche ragazzi di nuova generazione nati qui oppure giovani appena arrivati dall’Italia che sono diventati dei professionisti negli Stati Uniti contribuendo alla crescita di questo Paese e apportando novità e ricchezze uniche nei loro settori di impiego. Siamo tutti la stessa terra  e siamo tutti qui per contribuire alla crescita del PD, per ricominciare a pensare in maniera compiuta ad una nuova strategia per la rinasc dell’Italia”.

    Il suo intervento è stato anche un’opportunità per presentare al Segretario e ai presenti una petizione promossa dal CGIE e dai Com.It.Es operanti nei Paesi anglofoni che tocca al cuore alcuni dei temi più cari alle comunità italiane ivi residenti. “Chiediamo maggiori fondi per l’insegnamento della lingua e della cultura italiana, per l’editoria e i giornali italiani locali che hanno recentemente subito un taglio ai finanziamenti pari al 50%, per i Consolati che, pur essendo così pochi, rischiano oggi di chiudere. Penso a quello di Detroit, che dopo l’accordo con la Chrysler ha visto raddoppiare la popolazione italiana residente, o quello di Philadelphia. Sono richieste che non facciamo solo per noi, ma per l’Italia stessa. Solo in questo modo potremo difendere le nostre origini e farci portabandiera dell’internazionalizzazione del Paese”.
    Infine, la Mangione ha messo sul tavolo altre due questioni chiave: riaprire la possibilità di riacquistare la cittadinanza per tutti coloro che sono nati in Italia e l’hanno perduta trasferendosi all’estero; urgente necessità di rispettare il principio di rappresentanza alla base di ogni democrazia, bloccando il secondo rinvio di altri due anni del rinnovo dei Com.It.Es e del CGIE e rimandando la revisione delle leggi istitutive dei due organi già prevista.

    Anche il pubblico presente ha voluto confrontarsi con il Segretario Bersani. Nel lungo dibattito che è seguito è emerso un profondo senso di marginalizzazione nei confronti dell’Italia, un distacco difficilmente avvertito negli anni (e nella legislatura) precedenti a cui tuttavia si vuole rispondere con un forte senso di unità e di appartenenza nazionale. “E’ un sogno che si è avverato vedere il leader di uno dei maggiori Partiti italiani avvicinarsi talmente alla comunità da ascoltarne pareri, opinioni, ed accogliere i contributi che ognuno dei suoi membri è disposto a dare”, dice qualcuno. Altri manifestano attraverso esempi di vita vissuta il proprio progessivo allontanamento da un’Italia che continua “a non dare”, con un governo sempre più lontano dalle esigenze del cittadino comune, e chiedono a Bersani una risposta, una strategia politica alternativa, quasi una promessa da rispettare quando (e se) salirà al governo.  La maggioranza dei presenti ha espresso comunque parole di incoraggiamento per un leader che avvicinandosi al “popolino”, dimostra di voler reincarnare nel PD i principi della vecchia sinistra italiana, vicina ai lavoratori, progressista, riformatrice.

    E’ ispirandosi alle parole del suo pubblico che l’Onorevole Bersani ha preso parola, non solo rispondendo sulla questione dei rapporti tra l’Italia e le comunità  italiane all’estero, ma preparandolo anche ad un breve escursus nei temi più caldi ed attuali che percorrono l’Italia di oggi, dalla crisi economica al pericolo democratico, dai crescenti flussi migratori alla dilagante disoccupazione giovanile.

    i-Italy ha anche avuto modo di approfondire alcuni di questi punti con il Segretario in un momento successivo. Per maggiore chiarezza di esposizione, e al fine di rendere più chiara e completa la panoramica offerta dall’Onorevole, abbiamo deciso di dividere il suo discorso in paragrafi, titolati a seconda delle tematiche che presentano.

    “Berlusconi non ha mai accettato che stiamo attraversando una crisi, denunciandola semplicemente come un fattore psicologico. L’Italia è l’unico Paese in questo momento di convergenza economica negativa che non ha affrontato un dibattito in parlamento sul tema, con un conseguente appiattimento della classe dirigente sulle linee politiche del governo.  Anche l’attuale manovra finanziaria nasce con decreto legge ed è in corso di approvazione in Parlamento per voto di fiducia. E’ una manovra da 24 miliardi che ricade su tutta la popolazione a reddito medio-basso e che non prevede fondi destinati alla crescita, che sia questa economica o sociale. E’ una manovra estremista fatta di tagli lineari, che incide su tutti i settori... nell’economia, nella sanità, nell’istruzione italiana... senza distinzioni di sorta. Incide sull’impresa e sul lavoro, non stimolando in questo modo la crescita economica e prevede misure fallaci contro l’evasione fiscale"

    Si stanno creando fratture profonde all’interno della coalizione guidata da Berlusconi, testimoniata in prima istanza dal crescente disaccordo con Fini e il suo gruppo. Se il governo non dovesse reggere fino alla scadenza del mandato nel 2013, quello successivo dovrà forse fare i conti con una situazione economica ancora peggiore creata da una manovra finanziaria sbagliata. Le attuali tempeste in cui è coinvolto il governo fanno sì che, come noi del PD suggeriamo da tempo, il Paese non sia di fatto governato, ed è in preda allo sconcerto per i continui episodi di corruzione, malcostume e svilimento della democrazia che stanno diventando insostenibili. Berlusconi sta governando l’Italia seguendo una logica medievale in cui lui riviste il ruolo di imperatore e si circonda di una classe dirigente a suo completo servizio.  La crescente indignazione suscitata da questo modo di governo mi suggerisce che sta arrivando il momento della svolta, e noi del PD siamo aperti al dialogo con le forze che si oppongono a Berlusconi

    Le condizioni salariali in Italia sono veramente precarie, soprattutto per le nuove generazioni. La disoccupazione giovanile fino ai 25 anni è quasi al 30%, quando fino a 2 anni fa era 8 punti in meno. Si pensi che in Sardegna arriva al 50%. Guardo a questi giovani presenti in sala, e non riuscirei a dirgli di tornare per aiutarmi a ricostruire il Paese. Ma sento la responsabilità di creare presupposti tali da fargli avvertire la necessità e il desiderio di farlo, perchè non trovo giusto che una persona di talento debba essere costretta a emigrare per realizzarsi. L’Italia ha bisogno di loro, ma loro no. E a questo bisogna rimediare

    Oggi abbiamo 840,000 immigrati minorenni in Italia, e ne nascono sul nostro territorio circa 45,000 ogni anno. Tra pochi anni saranno il 30% del totale dei bambini nati in Italia. Secondo l’attuale legge Bossi-Fini quando questi compiranno 18 anni diventeranno clandestini, perchè non considerati italiani. Ad ottobre inizieremo una campagna di sensibilizzazione sulla questione al fine di riformare questa legge promossa nel 2002 dallo stesso esponente politico, Fini, che oggi si proclama amico e sostenitore degli immigrati.

    “I tagli imposti dalla manovra finanziaria e le politiche governative adottate per arginare una crisi economica mai denunciata ma finalmente accettata stanno ricadendo in maniera rovinosa sui rapporti del Paese con i suoi cittadini all’estero. Tagliare i finanziamenti del 50%, in maniera retroattiva all’editoria italiana all’estero significa togliervi linfa vitale. Così come l’impoverimento della rete consolare e delle altre istituzioni governative localizzate fuori dal territorio italiano rischia di indebolire il ponte transatlantico che abbiamo costruito nel corso degli anni. Un giorno saranno i figli degli emigranti di oggi e di ieri a poter arricchire l’Italia internazionalizzandola, ma bisogna sostenere la crescita di un senso di appartenenza nazionale che passa solo attraverso l’insegnamento della lingua, della cultura italiana, e nella continuità dell’informazione. Tale senso di appartenenza passa anche per la possibilità di poter eleggere i propri rappresentanti in parlamento. Ecco perchè il PD ha pronta una nuova proposta per riformare il voto degli italiani all’estero, e siamo pronti dal prossimo autunno ad aprire il dibattito in parlamento.

    Il discorso del Segretario, interrotto più volte da scrosci di applausi, si è concluso tracciando un lineare e allo stesso tempo articolato identikit del Partito Democratico e dei suoi obiettivi, in cui le istanze della comunità italiana all’estero e il dialogo tra classe dirigente e elettorato hanno un ruolo primario:
    “Noi dobbiamo fare il partito dei progressisti del nuovo secolo. Siamo formati da diverse componenti politiche, che devono diventare degli ingredienti di un un’unica ricetta, in cui ogni sapore è distinto ma forma insieme agli altri un unico cibo.
    Io mi propongo di definire con il PD il partito del lavoro e della nuova generazione, dei moti moderni.... della costituzione, dell’Unità della Nazione che va ancora costruita...  Il PD deve diventare il partito del popolo, di un popolo unito, della gente comune che abbraccia il progresso e la modernità. E voi siete una delle ricchezze culturali più grandi che abbiamo, e intendiamo aiutarvi nel portare avanti le vostre istanze. Questo che ho fatto negli USA è stato un viaggio importante, ma sicuramente quello di stasera è stato l’incontro più interessante che ho avuto in questi giorni”

    Per firmare la Petizione clicca qui

  •   Elena Luongo
    Life & People

    Italian Politics and Politics for Italians Abroad. Democratic Party Leader Bersani Meets the NY Community

    Versione Italiana

    It’s Friday July 16, 7 pm when we get to the Democratic Party Club “San Cono” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to attend Pierluigi Bersani’s  meeting with the Italian community in New York. He is concluding his first institutional visit to the US as General Secretary of the Italian Democratic Party.

    It is an unusual venue for such an important meeting. The participants have been called to confront their opinions with those of Hon. Bersani on the theme “Italian politics and politics for Italians abroad”. In fact, as PD New York Club member Elena Luongo stated when giving her welcoming speech, “it was chosen to get away from the spotlights of Manhattan and reach the small community of Williamsburg, a community made of people, stories, to whom we wanted to give the chance to express themselves and present the issues they most care about to the Secretary. It was a choice that fully respects the principles on which the Democratic Party is based”.   

    Many members of the local community responded to the invitation to attend the meeting. The hall of the club was fully packed and all around you could hear voices of women,  of old and young people... many young people. Old and new generation immigrants were sitting side by side in the long rows arranged in front of the central stage where the guest of honor and other representatives of the community were about to take their places.

    Upon his arrival, Hon. Bersani was welcomed by a large group of people who were waiting for him right next to the door. They all shook his hand, somebody also asked him to pose for a picture together...these gestures not only showed the deep respect and esteem they feel for him as a person  but it was also clear that they felt very close to the party and to the leader that they themselves elected last October.  

    The Secretary has always distinguished himself for his great support of the Italian communities abroad.  Ms. Luongo commented,  “We really appreciated the way you exposed yourself by backing the Italian communities in Frankfurt, Vancouver and Buenos Aires when they were protesting to defend their rights. Your words made us feel less lonely and confirmed in our eyes that, as you have said once, “in Rome there is somebody who places his ear near the ground to listen to what the people have to say”.

    Transforming this phrase into a true philosophy, Hon. Bersani accepted the invitation to attend the meeting in New York, in a “venue where one feels like being surrounded by family”, as the moderator of the debate and Director of the Democratic Party in the US Gianluca Galletto said. He accompanied the Secreatary  during his entire visit to the US. “I was very happy with the way he was welcomed in Washington. Here in the US people remember that, before becoming leader of the PD, he had first been a great minister, and the laws which were passed under his name have contributed in a significant way to the general growth of Italy. Being here Hon. Bersani has also laid down the basis for a further strengthening of the relationships between Italy and the Italians abroad.

    Renato Turano, former senator and entrepreneur, opened the debate. In his speech he denounced a growing marginalization of the Italians living abroad from the political life in Italy: “During the period in which Hon. Bersani was minister and the left-wing coalition was the ruling one, we members of Parliament who were voted abroad worked hard to reach certain goals, and we finally made it. We obtained an increase in the funds destined for teaching the Italian language abroad,  for the publishing industry and for the consular networks with the other Italian institutional organizations located throughout the world. Under Berlusconi’s governments such funds have either been cut in half  or eliminated, thus nullifying all our efforts, and this cannot leave us indifferent.  The risk is to break the transatlantic bridge that we have built with great sacrifices”

    Italy cannot afford to lose the great contribution that the Italian community abroad can offer to the country in terms of economic, social, and cultural development, the Vice Secretary of the Consiglio Generale degli Italiani all’Estero- CGIE (General Council of the Italians Abroad) and Director of the Democratic Party in the US Silvana Mangione suggested. “In this hall there is a valid example of Italian emigration. There are people who immigrated here dozens of years ago, others that were born here and are the first generation of Italian-Americans, and others still that have just arrived in the US and have quickly become professionals, contributing in various ways to the growth of this country with the skills they acquired in Italy. We are a single nation coming from the same background and are here to work together for the rise of the Democratic Party, to start thinking of new ways to help our country flourish again”.

    Mrs. Mangione also took this opportunity to present the Secretary and the rest of the public with a petition promoted by the CGIE and the Com.It.Es (Committees of the Italians Living Abroad) operating in Anglophone countries that touches some of the issues about which the Italian community abroad most deeply cares. “We ask for an increase in the funding destined for teaching  the Italian language and culture; for the publishing industry and in particular for the press agencies and newspapers that have recently suffered from a 50% financial cut; to the Consulates that are very small in number if compared to the population they are called to represent, and are destined to become even fewer. I heard in fact that the one in Detroit, a city that has seen a doubling of the Italian population living in the area since Fiat bought Chrysler, is going to close together with the one in Philadelphia. These are requests that we are not doing exclusively for our own interests, but for the good of Italy. Only if we obtain what we ask for shall we be able to defend our origins and become standard-bearers of the internationalization of Italy.”

    Mrs. Mangione also brought up two other issues of extreme importance: the possibility of re- obtaining Italian citizenship for all of those who were born in Italy but had to renounce it when they moved abroad; the necessity to make the government respect the principle of representation which is at the base of every modern democracy. It is in fact urgent to renovate the representative organs of both the CGIE and the Com.It.Es. postponing to a future date the reform of their institutional statutes.

    The public attending  was also very active as many of them stepped into the discussion sharing their points of view with the rest of us and Hon. Bersani. They started a long debate in which they showed how far they feel from contemporary Italian politics, a detachment that they probably never felt in the preceding years (and legislature) but which they would like to contrast with a great sense of unity and national affiliation. “It is a dream come true to have the leader of one of the major Italian parties here with us to listen to our opinions and criticisms and welcome the contributions we came here to offer”, somebody said. Others seemed to be very resentful towards Italy, a country that “only knows when to ask but that never gives” and is ruled by a government that is turning away from the problems of its citizens. Bersani was asked if he has a strategy to invert this trend, almost as if they wanted him to promise them that things would go better. The majority of them, however, expressed words of encouragement for this leader that is working together with and for the people, demonstrating that he would like to embody in the PD the old traditional values of Italy’s left wing.

    Hon. Bersani took the platform inspired by the comments made by the public and offered them an insight into contemporary politics in Italy. He talked about the current economic crisis, the dangers that the Italian democracy is facing under Berlusconi’s government, and the questions of immigration and unemployment.

    i-Italy had the opportunity to further discuss some of these issues with the Secretary after the conference ended. In order to offer our readers a clearer and more consistent account of what was said about each one of these questions, we chose to divide them into separate topics and just quote extracts of what Bersani said.

    “Berlusconi has never accepted the idea that Italy is facing an economic crisis, he defined it just as a 'state of mind' and invited consumers to spend more. Italy is the only country where in the last two years there has never been a debate in Parliament on how to face the current contingencies and as a result our leading classes have just conformed the positions of our Prime Minister. This year’s budget is being approved in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies with a vote of confidence, that leaves no space for debate. It is a 24 billion euro austerity package whose effects will mainly fall on the lower classes and that does not feature any strategy for development of the country which could lead us out of the crisis. It is an extremist law that foresees cuts in every sector... economy, healthcare, education... with no distinction at all and which will ultimately lower the investments in the productive sector. We are not going anywhere with this”

    There are important fractures within Berlusconi’s coalition, principally the one involving the President of the Chamber of Deputies Fini and his group. If the government should fall before 2013, the one that will be elected after it will find the country in a disastrous situation, worsened even more by this new austerity package. The internal disputes in the dovernment distract it from ruling the country, as my party has been pointing out for a long time. The population is distraught by the many scandals involving its representatives, episodes of corruption, immorality, and disrespectful behavior towards our democratic system and ideals.  
    Berlusconi is ruling Italy by creating a Middle Age political structure in which he is the emperor and the rest of the ruling class is there just at his service. The growing indignation towards this state of things will soon bring about a change. In the mean time, we of the PD are open to dialogue with all the forces that oppose the Premier”

    Working conditions in Italy are very precarious, especially for young people. Today about 30% of the people under 25 are unemployed, a figure that has grown by 8% in the last 2 years. In Sardinia, it goes up to 50%.
    If I look at these young Italian representatives that are with us tonight, I just can’t tell them to come back and help me rebuild Italy. But I feel a responsibility towards them because they deserve the right to “choose” in which country they want to live. Talents should never be forced to emigrate to accomplish their objectives. Today Italy needs them but they do not need Italy. I will act so that things will change soon.

    Today we have about 840,000 immigrant minors in Italy. Every year 45,000 children are born into  foreign families living in our country and in a few years they will become about 30% of the total number of our underage population. According to the Bossi-Fini law, however, when these children, who are not considered Italian, will reach the age of 18, they will acquire the status of illegal immigrants and will be forced to leave the country in which they grew up. The Democratic Party will start a campaign of awareness in their favor and next October we will request that the current law be amended. It is an unfair law that was promoted 8 years ago by the same man who now proclaims himself to be “a friend of immigrants”, Gianfranco Fini."

    “The cuts contained in this austerity package and the government policies adopted to ward off  the current economic crisis are dramatically affecting the lives of the Italians abroad. Promoting a retroactive measure that cuts financings to the local Italian press and media by 50% means condemning  them to certain death. Furthermore, the closure of some of the Consulates and other institutional offices operating outside the Italian borders may imply the risk to destroy the virtual bridge that we have built between Italy and its citizens abroad over a very long time.
    One day we will need the descendents of those who are emigrating today as ambassadors of a new international Italy.  To have them involved, however, we have to start building in them a sense of national affiliation and we can do it only if we invest in promoting Italian culture abroad.
    Such a feeling can also be enhanced if we keep giving our co-citizens the possibility to elect their own representatives to the Italian parliament. This is why the Democratic Party has prepared a proposal to reform the methods for voting abroad and will bring it up in Parliament next autumn."

    The Secretary’s speech, that was often interrupted by loud applauses, ended with a brief description of the aims and activities carried on by the Party, among which is the improvement of the relationship with the Italians abroad and the enrichment of the dialogue between the ruling class and the electoral base: “We have to become the progressive party of the new century. We were born from the gathering of different political currents, and now I want to make them become a one single entity... like a food made of many ingredients: you can tell them apart  but you cannot separate them anymore
    The Democratic Party must become the party of the people, of a united people, of common persons who embrace progress and modern ideas. You Italians living abroad are among our greatest assets and we are willing to support your requests. My visit to the United States has been an important trip for me but the meeting we had this evening was certainly the most interesting one that I have had lately.”

    To sign the Petition click here

  • Art & Culture

    Convivio delle Eccellenze. A One-Day Celebration of Milanese Culture

    On July 12 New York hosted a delegation from the city of Milan for a one-day festival dedicated to its excellencies in the cultural, artistic, and culinary fields.

    “Art is nourishment to the soul” was the motto of the “Convivio delle Eccellenze milanesi” an initiative that the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs of the City of Milan, Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, presented before a strictly selected public of about 50 guests in the conference room of the Italian Cultural Institute, where the first part of the event was hosted.

    Organized and created for Thinx Events and Francesca Parvyziar, sponsored by the Municipality of Milan and Expo Milano 2015 in collaboration with ED Contract - Doimo Group, Alessi, Poderi San Pietro, Thinx, La Myse Service, and Cerasarda, the convivial was divided into several different phases embracing every field of art and culture, from music to literature, from cuisine to design.

    Upon their arrival, Consul Laura Anghillare, Deputy Consul Maurizio Antonini, Italian journalists, critics and art lovers were welcomed into the conference room where an illuminated table made of Plexiglas and LED material manufactured by ED Contract – Doimo Group was displayed at the center of the room to symbolize the typical Italian custom of strengthening human relationships by sitting around a table. A designer object, it was divided into four different parts, each one representing important monuments and pieces of art in the city of Milan: Leonardo’ da Vinci’s “Ultima Cena”, La Scala Theatre, the Navigli, and the Arcimboldi Theatre.

    “The purpose of this event is to celebrate the union between food and design, a “couple” that has a philosophical and aesthetic value. Design has in fact the merit of transforming food into metaphysical objects, giving an inner soul to inanimate objects. This is why the table shown here represents only the beginning of a long- term project aimed at founding a number of “Caffè Milano” in different Italian Cultural Institutes throughout the world, where guests will be invited to taste excellent food while discovering the newest trends in cinema, theatre, and literature”, proudly stated Riccardo Viale, the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute.

    Commissioner Flory defined the event as a further occasion to strengthen the relationships between Milan and New York, two cities that although geographically distant, have in common the role of being global cultural poles: “This initiative is a continuation of the recent visit of Mayor Letizia Moratti, who presented our “Museo del Novecento” (XX Century Museum) at the MoMA this past May. It intends to further promote the numerous attraction that the city of Milan has to offer, a city that  soon will become the world’s culture capital when it hosts the Universal Expo in 2015”, he told the audience. When he read the greetings sent by Mayor Moratti  he grabbed the occasion to highlight the universal reach of the Convivial: “Design and food are universal languages that have the power to bring peace, dialogue, and integration among peoples and different identities. A multi-ethnic city, Milan needs to be guided by a single ethic, the one of creativity. Transforming culture into creativity means evolving from multi-ethnicity to universality and confronting the challenges of our times”.

    As a symbol of communion among diversities, the lunch prepared for us by Chef Pietro Leeman in collaboration with the St. Ambroeus restaurant in New York, was centered on the element of bread, a simple food that has a key role in Mediterranean cuisine that is in itself the fruit of the encounter between different national culinary identities.

    Chef Leeman, owner of the Joia Resturant in Milan, delighted us with dishes inspired by the Lombard tradition and prepared with natural products all coming from that area. The food he cooked and elegantly garnished was served in Alessi pottery and paired with DOC, DOOP, and DOCG wines offered by the Poderi San Pietro vineyards. It accompanied the rest of our afternoon together, that also featured two screenings: the first was the last interview with the internationally known Milanese poetess Alda Merini, conducted by journalist Paolo Ortaggi for TV 2000; and the second was the documentary “Reato di Vita” (Life Offence) , dedicated to the initiative “Milano per le nuove generazioni” (Milan for the new generations), directed by Elena Maggioni, and interpreted by the young students of the Scuola Civica del Cinema di Milano and actress Carla Chiarelli.

    As this first part of the festival was about to come to its conclusion, we were entertained by pianist and violinist Caterina Demetz who performed a number of Chopin pieces.

    A handmade linen handkerchief dedicated to the theme of bread enclosed in an elegant box evoking the Cathedral of Milan  was the gift Commissioner Flory presented to the guests while inviting all of us to attend his lecture on the Milanese author Alessandro Manzoni’s “Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed) at the  Lincoln Center.

    “It is commonly known as a love story, but it is actually everything but one”, he stated while stepping onto the stage of the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. In his introduction to the novel he portrayed author Manzoni as a tormented man, torn between the necessity to follow his era’s literary currents which were more inclined to romanticism than to history and philosophy and the need to tell the past and present torments and issues of his Lombard community. This sense of responsibility leads him to write the one and only romanzo ottocentesco italiano, the first attempt at building a national culture in a country that was still not unified.

    Commissioner Flory took us on a journey through the pages of this novel set in the XVII century, and introduced us to its main protagonists by reading a half dozen passages. The various alterations in his tones of voice demonstrated a rare and passionate empathy towards the characters who showed vices and virtues that can still be found in the people of our times, giving the novel a character of temporal and geographical universality.  
    Some of the passages he selected moved many of us because of the evident feeling with which he recited them. Human stories and historical events closely interconnect in “The Betrothed”, as episodes such as the sack of the bakeries of Milan and the plague that hit the area in 1629-1631 affected the story of the betrothed Renzo and Lucia and postponed their final reunion. Each passage was accompanied by works by Bach, Beethoven, Prokofiev, and Schubert performed by Pianist Caterina Demetz.

    At the end of his performance, after having saluted an enthusiastic public, Mr. Flory told us that this representation is only the first of many that he intends to organize in the near future. “French and English novels are well-known worldwide and it is just not fair that a story of the beauty and complexity like “The Betrothed” is still mostly unknown. I feel it is my duty as Commissioner of Culture of the City of Milan to give correct this situation and present it to the widest audience possible”.

    This said, he announced an upcoming world tour. We hope that it will bring him to New York again soon, maybe for the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy. After all, “I Promessi Sposi” is the novel which has been acknowledged as the first work of national breath in the history of Italy

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    La Cucina Italiana, where Food is Culture

    Many of you amateur cooks living in America must have read at least a few times La Cucina Italiana, a monthly magazine founded in Italy at the beginning of the XIX century and present on the US market in its English edition from several years. Some consider it a must have for all the "Americans who are Italian in their hearts and in their kitchens".  We could not agree more.

    Among all the magazines and journals focused on the sector of Italian products and food, we decided to write about this one in particular for one, main reason: La Cucina Italiana does not only present its readers with a list of recipes inspired by the Italian culinary tradition, but it  also explains the history and tradition behind every dish or food combination, and how it is connected to its territory of origins. Every issue includes a special section dedicated to one particular product, its nutritional properties and ways of use in common household everyday cooking, with several recipes that can satisfy both the traditional and adventurous cook. In synthesis, the magazine presents not only a culinary journey through Italy, but also a cultural one.

    The pictures that accompany every dish are without a doubt one of the most striking characteristics of the magazine: they present the food exactly like any Italian mother would: meticulously garnished and arranged on the serving tray so as to stimulate the appetite of those for whom they were prepared. Moreover, the simplicity of the ingredients encourages the average reader to test his culinary skills in preparing a traditional Italian meal.

    “The pictures featured in our issues are the exact reproductions of the recipes that we propose. The idea is that if the readers follow our directions exactly, sure enough they will obtain that same result”, explained Lapo Niccolini, Presiden and Owner of Quadratum S.p.A., La Cucina’s publishing house.

    As in the best Italian tradition, the magazine is a true family business, given that the Niccolini family’s company   A&G Marco S.p.A.

    has taken care of its distribution since its foundation in 1929. “My father finally took over the publishing house Quadratum in the early 1980s and when he passed away in 1999 I inherited it with my sister Laura and my uncle Marco Borioli“, he told us during our meeting at La Cucina’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

    The history behind this magazine well reflects the evolution of the Italian society and in particular the role of the Italian woman who, from the role of mothers and housewives that they had at the beginning of the century, have become businesswomen and active members of the society surrounding them. La Cucina has managed to accompany them along this long path, adapting its contents to their new lifestyles and needs and to the smaller amount of time they could spend in their kitchens. After the war period, the magazine reappeared on the newspaper stands losing its tabloid format, but keeping its logo, that looked almost the same to the one one we have today. It became a vademecum for Italian women nationwide, being able to embrace all the different regional and local culinary traditions present in the country. “The title La Cucina Italiana itself reconnects us to an idea of ‘national cuisine’, where local dishes are reinterpreted with a modern twist that makes them accessible to a wider audience of amateur cooks”.

    It is almost needless to say that the contents of the Italian and the American editions of the magazine are significantly different. The editorial staff of the US edition, in fact, pays a good deal of attention to two different aspects: first,  the mission of “educating” the public to the concept of “Italian authenticity”, by offering a wide overview of the country’s different local culinary traditions and peculiarities (“We bring into American everyday life what was previously considered exotic by involving our readers in stories and legends that attract them to the point that they become their own”); second,  the recipes being presented to the audience which always feature not only ingredients that are easily accessible in the US, but that are finely adapted to the “last teaspoon” - to American measurements. These two characteristics from our point of view,  definitely place La Cucina Italiana apart from any other Italian food publication circulating in the US.

    As our conversation went on, Mr. Niccolini dwelt on the inner mission of the magazine: “Our work starts in the kitchen and then is reported black on white. We do not try to be glamorous but authentic”. The concept of authenticity at the base of La Cucina’s culinary philosophy features particular and sophisticated shades of meaning: “It is not the dish itself that is authentic, but the purpose for which it is made that must be identified as Italian. The purpose in question is that it can be prepared at home, being easy to make and appealing for every generation in the family. It is not a case that during this harsh economic crisis La Cucina has become even more popular here in the US: people tend not to eat out so often anymore and have learned the pleasure of sitting around the kitchen table”.

    Making a cuisine popular also means offering people a number of different alternatives on how to mix, match, and combine the ingredients on which it is based. La Cucina Italiana’s team of chefs creates over 1,000 recipes every year and, if you do your math and multiply them for the number of years the magazine it has been in distribution in the US, you come up with an avarage 25,000 dishes that are all collected on its official website.

    Those who feel that self-learning is not enough and aspire to become real gourmet chefs will find a solution for this too in La Cucina. “In recent years we have evolved from being only a magazine to becoming a brand that offers a wide range of products and services for all kinds of people who love spending time in the kitchen. Our culinary school is based in Milan and offers individual and group lessons, some of which are also open to children”.

    The Dean of the school Chef Fabio Zago has recently come to New York to give culinary lessons and test the possibility to open a US branch in the City. The experiment was so successful that it has opened a path to a possible concrete project.

    Mr. Niccolini is also planning to expand the presence of the brand both on the international and on the virtual level.
    “As for today our contents and thousands of recipes are distributed under license in Holland, Flemish Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, German Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and in seventeen Middle Eastern Countries. As we are working on new forms of collaboration with English and Brazilian editors, I am also planning to enhance our presence on the web. But as we said before, we are a family business and like to play it step by step, as our goal is not only to reach a wider public, but also to maintain and possibly improve our contents”.

  • Art & Culture

    Marco di Marco. All the Numbers of Italian Jazz

    A concert at one of the most exclusive and historical Jazz clubs in New York. An intimate public including fans of this musical genre, Italian and American media operators, and people who just follow him and his trio whenever he comes to New York.
    A stage illuminated by soft colors and surrounded by a deep and warm silence welcomed Italian jazz pianist and composer Marco di Marco on one of the first warm nights of the city summer.

    Accompanied by Harvie S (bass) and Ron Vincent (drums ), two extraordinary musicians that have played with him during most of his American appearances, Mr. Di Marco performed his own original pieces and personal arrangements of traditional jazz pieces that have enriched the 14 albums he released during his more than 40-year-old musical career.

    In recognition for his contribution to the international growth and promotion of Italian jazz, President Giorgio Napolitano named him Cavaliere della Repubblica Italiana, Knight of the Italian Repubblic, in 2007. On top of this prestigious honor, the Italian Ambassador to the United States of America, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, presented him with a special award for his career at his concert at the “Blues Alley” in Washington D.C. which immediately preceded the show in New York

    Mr. Di Marco’s performance at the Birdland was a great occasion for us to introduce this extraordinary Jazz pianist, whose international fame is constantly increasing, to our American readers who happen not to know him yet.

    Meeting him at our headquarters gave us the chance to discover not only a sweet, pleasant and at the same time sharp personality, but also the extraordinary story of a man divided between two careers, that of an accountant and that of a musician. He discovered his love for piano at a very early age just by chance and followed his passion despite a destiny that seemed to be pre-determined...

    How did you manage to carry out two such different careers at the same time?
    I started my activity as an accountant when I was 24, as soon as I got my degree in Economy and Commerce at the University of Bologna. My father was in the same profession and had a thriving activity, so I stepped in. I always had my music in my heart though, and I never abandoned my piano lessons and practicing.
    Carrying on these two careers at the same time was not always easy but I just could not even think about leaving my passion behind me. Now that I’ve retired from my accountant activities two years ago, I can finally dedicate all my time to my music and my public. I started a new period of my life, which I inaugurated with a concert at the Sala Bossi at the conservatory of Bologna in occasion of my retirement. I will repeat the experience for my former colleagues at the Teatro Manzoni on October 26 with a quartet from London and a saxophonist from New Zealand, who was also in my album “Marco di Marco. My London Friends” that I released in 2004.

    You discovered your love for music at the age of six. Was it love at first sight?
    I started playing the piano following the footsteps of my sister, who is nine years older than I am. Since she practiced for about 7 hours a day, I did not have much time left to do my exercises however my teacher saw continuous improvements in my playing and persuaded my mother to let me continue my lessons.
    I played classic music for 13 years, but when I turned 19 I fell in love with jazz and started giving my own concerts.
    Maestro Giordano Noferini, who then became the director of the Conservatory of Bologna, finally introduced me to the world of composition and kept me under his wing for over 10 years.

    You released your first album in Paris. What brought you to France?
    I found Paris on my path when I welcomed the Georges Arvanitas trio with Jacky Samson and Charles Saudrais during their one week visit to Bologna. We played together at my place for the entire time that they stayed in that city and we were just a great match. Since we decided to make an album together, I left for Paris to meet them again in November. This is how my first album, “Un autunno a Parigi”, An Autumn in Paris, came to be. It was released in 1970.
    Paris was my source of inspiration for the longest time. Just think that in only 6 years, from 1970 to 1976, I released four albums...

    And then you discovered New York, or maybe New York discovered you...
    My meeting with New York pianist Jack Reilly opened a new horizon for me and became the first step that I took on this side of the ocean.
    He found out about me by reading articles that appeared in important trade magazines such as Down Beat, and proposed a 12 -concert- tour in Italy to me. As our friendship grew and strengthened, we produced a two-piano- album in 1979 and then decided to perform in New York at the Cami Hall and the Carnegie Hall in 1981. That was also the year of my first American album, “Marco di Marco Quartet in New York”, with Dave Tofani (bass and flute), Jack Six  (bass) and Tony Bedford (drums).

    What did you bring to America as an Italian jazz player?
    First of all, two ears and a soul to learn from my colleagues that have grown up with this music. As for myself, I brought my way of interpreting this genre, an Italian way, I would say. We Italians have a way to express our feelings, sensibility and sentiments that isdifferent, warm, and melodic. This is a merit for which we are recognized, and that differentiates our jazz from that of all the other nations, including France.

    What kind of feelings do you wish to hand down to your public?
    In order to answer to this question, I need to quote my maestro Giordano Noferini who used to define me as “a great expressionist with the soul of an impressionist”. I am humbled by this definition he gave me and by which he praised my capacity to communicate with the public and at the same time to absorb the emotions that it expresses. Sometimes I feel my audience so much that it moves me, and I end up crying silently.

    Among all the artists that you met on your path and who somehow shaped your career, to which one do you feel you owe the most?
    I think that the person who more than anybody else supported and encouraged me during all these years was Enrichetta Sansilvestri, my first piano teacher. Our relationship ended two years ago, when she died at the age of 95.
    On that evening I had a concert at the Johns Hopkins University in Bologna and she was supposed to be in the audience. I had put a bouquet of flowers on her first row seat, but she died before the performance started.
    When on that night I played the piece that I composed for her, “Enrichetta”, I just broke down in tears. I was like a son to her, she was like a mother to me

    Every artist looks at his albums like they were his own children, but is there one to which you feel particularly attached?
    I am very proud of the latest album that I released, “Event” (2006). It is the registration of a piano solo concert at the Carnegie Hall that I did not use for a long time, until a friend of mine decided to put it on CD. It was then that I realized what an extraordinary concert it had been, and I left immediately for London. When my audio technician and I finished working on it on the 28th floor of a skyscraper downtown, I just felt like melting for joy.

    Mr. Di Marco stated that he feels kind of intimidated by this latest outstanding album, "it brings my jazz to its highest levels", but he is determined to go back to composing and give his audience the gift of more of his music. In the meantime, you can learn more about him by visiting his website

  • Life & People

    A Tavola! NOIAW Celebrates its 30th Anniversary with Lidia Bastianich

    June 10, 2010 is a date that will be remembered for a long time by those who were part of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the National Organization of Italian American Women.  

    For the occasion Chair and Founder Aileen Riotto Sirey and Executive Director Maria Tamburri chose one of the most exclusive venues in Manhattan to welcome the more than one hundred attendees. The doors of the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue opened to Italian-American VIPs and public personalities that have contributed, each in his own way, to the growth of the organization. Among them the former governor of the State of New York Mario Cuomo with his wife Matilda, the Consul General of Italy in New York Francesco Maria Talò  with his wife Ornella, and actors Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor.  


    Special guests for the evening were Hon. Antonio Tufano, National Vice President of ANFE - Associazione Nazionale Famiglie Emigranti, and the representatives of its Regional Delegation in Sicily, General Manager Gaetano Calà and General Assistant Manager Marco Scapagnini. 
    The organization has recently welcomed a group of NOIAW members to Sicily and Rome, where some of them had the opportunity to visit their towns and territories of origins.  
    It is hard to summarize in one brief article the different moments that characterized this night of celebrations: the solemnity of the formally elegant decorations of the restaurant somehow contrasted with the familiar environment that surrounded us.  

    The Cocktail Terrace located on the 10th floor hosted the Silent Auction in which all sorts of merchandise were on display, from authentic Italian products to pictures, portraits, show tickets and voyages. Together with the Live Auction that took place later on in the evening, it is part of a general effort carried on by the organization to fund a whole range of programs, from the events involving all of its members and organized throughout the year to Cultural, Mentoring, Educational, and Exchange Programs aimed at supporting NOIAW's youngest members in continuing their education.  
    Auction time was the first occasion for us to meet old and new friends belonging to the organization. Among them, Lidia Bastianich with her children Joe and Tanya and their families, and her mother Erminia Matticchio. The entire evening was dedicated to them "for the extraordinary contribution that they gave to the promotion of Italian culture in the US", as Mrs.Riotto suggested.  
    Lidia and her family founded and are carrying on a true family business in the US, according to the best Italian tradition. Aside from being a TV star and the host of shows such as Lidia's Italy, Lidia's Family Table, Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, Lidia's Italian Table, and La Cucina di Lidia, she is also the author of several bestselling cookbooks, including Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy and Lidia's Italy.  

    She is the owner and chef of four renowned and high-range Italian restaurants in New York - Felidia, Del Posto, Becco and Esca - as well as “Lidia's” in Pittsburgh and Kansas City.  

    Her son Joe is an internationally famous sommellier who, in partnership with chef Mario Batali, runs upscale restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He was recently honored by Bon Appetit magazine with the “Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Award” and by the James Beard Foundation in 2008. 

    Tanya runs the family travel agency, Esperienze Italiane, which focuses on Italian food, wine, and arts. She also oversees the development of Lidia's pasta and sauce product lines and has recently conceived a new house wares and cookware line that is soon to be launched.  
    Before the dinner featuring a menu conceived and prepared under her direction, Lidia signed copies of her book Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, that was displayed in almost every corner of the elegant room. Her family's table occupied the area right before the central stage in the dining room: eleven places all together for her, Tanya and Joe with their husband and wife, five grandchildren, and His Excellency Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Celestino Migliore, who found his place right next to Lidia. 
    Right before his blessing, singers Cristina Fontanelli and Giada Valenti sang respectively the  US and Italian national anthems as a tribute to the two motherlands of the members of NOIAW.  

    It was time to finally taste Lidia's dinner... The three course menu was accompanied by a selection of wines from the Bastianich vineyards, located in the area of the Colli Orientali region of Friuli in Northeastern Italy, in the town of Buttrio and Premariacco, in the province of Udine, about one hour from Venice.
     Lidia's wines, that have received 5 “Tre Bicchieri” Awards from the Gambero Rosso in the 7 years since the winery was founded, beautifully accompanied both the dishes Lidia decided to serve to the guests who came to celebrate her and her family.  

    A first dish of Crespelle stuffed with asparagus, spinach and ricotta cheese and baked in the oven with béchamel sauce preceded a second, very nourishing course: brasato with dark red ragu sauce accompanied with a side of potatoes and chard. "I wanted to offer something that the guests here would recognize as truly Italian. Oven baked pasta is a dish that Italian mothers usually prepare when they have to feed many people or a huge family, while the brasato is generally appreciated for its unique tenderness. The side dish is particularly dear to me, because my mother used to make it when I was very small and still lived on the other side of the ocean. She would say 'A tavola!' and we all ran to the kitchen" she told us.

     As we were served the dessert, a Lemon Curd Tiramisu, it was time for Donna De Matteo, Chairwoman of the Scholarship Committee, to award the five winners of the NOIAW scholarships. Every year the organization selects five out of the numerous young women who apply to support them in pursuing their studies. This year's winners of a $5.000 check were Emily Abraham (Law, Northern University); Ines De Meglio Cenatiempo (Spanish, BA, Sacred Heart University), Larissa Lury (Directing for Theatre, MFA, University of California), Lauren Mancia (History, Ph.D., Yale University), and Gabrielle A. Pati (Adolescent Education; Minor: Italian, Hunter College, CUNY).

    The latter shared with us the emotions she felt for this important recognition: "As an Italian-American I have made the Italian language my field of study and I hope that one day I'll have the opportunity to teach it to the children of the future and open their mind and lives to such a wonderful culture as the Italian one is. I want to thank NOIAW for the important opportunity it is giving me to help me pursue my path." 
    It was finally time for Mrs. Riotto to present the award to the Bastianich family, "We are gratified to have Lidia as a Distinguished Member of our Board, and we honor the whole family for their success in promoting our heritage, for their generosity and for being such an outstanding example of an Italian American family", she said inviting the family to the podium.  

    This was, without a doubt, the most touching moment of our evening as Lidia's mother, Erminia, took the microphone and talked to a full audience in Italian. "I do not speak English that well: although I live in America since many years, I still remain a 100% Italian woman. Here in America, though, I found my happiness personified in my five great-grandchildren, a wonderful gift that my daughter Lidia and her son and daughter donated me."  
    It was with these words in our mind that we finally left the Waldorf Astoria. On that evening we not only celebrated NOIAW's 30th Anniversary, but also our Italian-American heritage, and our role as women to promote it and hand it down within our families - just as Lidia does with hers. 

  • Cesare Casella
    Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Italian Culinary Academy. A Cultural Laboratory for Budding Chefs

    When young Americans want to learn more about Italian cuisine and become true, authentic Italian chefs, where do they go? To the Italian Culinary Academy, of course!

    Located in the heart of Soho, the institution was founded by Dorothy Cann Hamilton in 2006 and ever since then it has been directed by one of the most famous Italian chefs in New York, Cesare Casella owner of the restaurant Salumeria Rosi.

    On June 7 at the headquarters of the International Culinary Center, that also hosts the French Culinary Academy, journalists, and operators in the food industry were welcomed for an evening Awards Cerimony organized by the Italian Trade Commission: director Aniello Musella complimented the students of the school by awarding nine of them with a $5,000 scholarship that could help them fulfill their dream to cook the best Italian food for their fellow Americans.

    Aspiring Italian chefs come from all over the US and Canada to attend the program offered by the Academy. The reason is easy to guess: the institution offers them a once in a life time educational experience that includes a long visit and internship in Italy as well.
    The program starts with a period of study and apprenticeship in the Soho location with accomplished Chef-Instructors. A custom-designed Italian kitchen is their laboratory where they can learn to master the skills and recipes necessary to complete a repertoire of cuisine from every region of Italy.

    Once the basics of Italian cuisine have been learned, the students off go to Parma, to the internationally famous ALMA, where they follow a 29-week-program that includes Italian language training and an internship in one of Italy's top restaurants where not only do they enhance their knowledge of Italian cuisine, but hey also learn the "Italian way" to cook and serve food.

    "When our students return from Italy they are sort of Italicized, they have learned so much of its culture and regional culinary traditions... In Italy food is culture and culture is food, you can't keep the two things apart. At the same time, today the Italian Culinary Academy is a cultural center in New York",  Cesare Casella commented to us during the course of the evening.

    Mrs. Hamilton is very proud of her school. It is the minor sister of the French Culinary Academy that was founded in 1998, after her first visit to Europe. "I had never tasted some of those dishes, in New York there was not such a wide number of ethnic restaurants. My trip to France made me understand that we had something important missing here: the food business, or better, the business of good food. We had great products here, but we did not know how to use them", she said when introducing her story to us.

    Luckily for her students, she was invited by the directors of ALMA to go to Italy and visit the school. There she was served a dinner prepared by the students of the school and..."wow, if these people can cook like this after only 8 months of training it means that they do a good job.

    It was than that she decided to found the Italian Culinary Academy and build a partnership with the school in Parma. "At that time Marcella Hazan was one of the teachers here at the French Institute and she told me that there was only one Italian chef working in the US that she would want to be the Director of the new Italian School. And that chef was Cesare Casella."

    Cesare has proved himself to be a great mentor for the students at the Academy. After a cocktail hour with samples of Stuffed Olives Ascolana Style, Prosciutto Crudo, Octopus Soppressata, Vitello Tonnato (Chilled Veal in Tuna Sauce), and Caprese Salad, the dinner we were served in the dining room of the school featured dishes that were not only authentic Italian but also elegantly presented and garnished.

    The first course, a generous helping of penne pasta with green beans and chunks of speck, was enriched by a very delicate cheese and heavy cream sauce and was paired with a Terlan Lagrain 2004. A Valle dell'Acato Frappato 2009 accompanied the second course, Lombo di agnello con asparagi, patate e cipolline (Lamb Loin with potatoes, asparagus, and baby onions). Finally, the light taste of a Panna Cotta with ripe strawberries was enriched by a sip of Castello d'Ama Vin Santo 2004.

    Mr. Simonluca Dettori, who represented the Italian Trade Commission at the dinner, complimented the students for the wonderful dining experience that they gave to us.  "We have always promoted upscale Italian cuisine in the United States and we are proud to help young American chefs who want to carry on this tradition of true culinary excellency. We believe that at the end of their courses at the Italian Culinary Academy, they will have learned the Italian way of cooking very wll and also the importance of using authentic Italian products. From my point of view, beginning today, these students are not only chefs but ambassadors to the United States of the Italian life-style".

    Among the students being given an award was Torre Liebchen, a young Italian-American coming from Kinnelon, NJ. He comes from a family of chefs and restaurant owners. His maternal grandfather, an Italian immigrant from Genova, owned restaurants in NYC for 38 years and his mom and dad used to own an Italian trattoria and a sports bar in New Jersey. " If you ask me from whom I got my passion for cooking I answer "from my grandma and grandpa" , from my nonni. They taught me that food is a kind of religion that has the power to bring the whole family together. We sit around the same table, and taste gnocchi with pesto, or roasted lamb, or spaghetti with carbonara sauce and enjoy long hours together", he told us.

    Torre has just graduated from college at Monmouth University and he appeared  to be very excited about the opportunity the ITC is giving him to enter the Academy. "My family has suffered severe hardship in the last 3 years that made it difficult for me to complete my studies. But I made it, and I want to go on towards the fulfillment of my dream. I am grateful to all of those who will be generous enough to help me in this, and of course to the Italian Trade Commission".

    Joseph Faiola, a former student of the Academy, was also there with us. He is about to open a new restaurant in Landisville, Pennsylvania, "Cafè Girasole", whose menu will essentially feature dishes from Rome and its province. From the conversation we had with him, we realized how much he has learned from his experience at the school with Chef Casella. "I will only use Italian products to cook for my customers whom I will treat as if they were part of my own family. You don't know how difficult it was to find authentic Prosciutto di Parma down where we are located. Importers and distributors suggested I buy a locally produced prosciutto that would cost me 6$ per pound or so. But it was not the cost that I was concerned about, but the quality. I wanted the best, and I finally got it".

    The enthusiasm we found in these students suggests to us that the future of Italian cuisine in America can be nothing but brillant. This is also thanks to the Italian government that supports institutions such as the Italian Culinary Academy, and to Chef Casella and Mrs. Hamilton, who obviously believe in what they do.

    We wish their students a brilliant career as Italian Chefs and, of course,  as Ambassadors of Italian culture to the United States

  • Life & People

    Sardinia, A Continent Within Italy

    As many of our readers know, the Region of Sardinia was one of the sponsors of this year's National Holiday Gala hosted at Cipriani Wall Street on June 2.

    Held right before the beginning of the celebrations, the press conference organized on the second floor of the restaurant became an occasion to introduce to the journalists and travel agents attending the beauties of this island located right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea,  North of Sicily, West of Tuscany and South of France.

    Consul General Francesco Maria Talò and the Director of the Italian Government Tourism Board in North America Riccardo Strano welcomed the audience on behalf of the  Regional Commissioner for Tourism, Sebastiano Sannitu, who could come to New York but sent a video-message inviting all of those attending the press conference to visit Sardinia.

    Sardinia is actually not unknown to American operators in the tourism sector: aside  from being one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Mediterranean  area, starting a number of years  ago the local government  decided to promote  its multi-faceted beauties and cultural and historic attractions  at an international level.

    As Mr. Strano reminded us, only two years ago the region hosted the "Italy Symposium", an important commercial and promotional event that allowed about 250 media and tourism operators to explore the island on a tour that brought them to discover its rare beauties from coast to coast

    Some of those fortunate  ones  were attending the press conference on June 2 and shared some of the memories they have of their trip  with us . "I was amazed by the sense of  hospitality of the local population. They treat you as part of their family, welcoming you into  their houses, offering food, and helping you in every possible way", said one of them.

    The local inhabitants of Sardinia have a way of life that is indeed envied throughout the country. The rhythms are extremely slow and are dictated by the rotation of dark and light, night and day, seasons, and harvests.

    The unpolluted air they breathe , together with the uncontaminated food they have, must be  some of the main reasons why they  have longer life  span on the average than their co-nationals.

    The motto of the latest tourism promotional campaign launched by Commissioner  Sannitu was not chosen by chance: "In Sardegna vivi di più" (In Sardinia you live more) is  really based  on hard facts, given that the region has the largest number of hundred-and-more-year-old  inhabitants  than any other region in Italy.

    If this is not a sufficient reason to visit Sardinia for you, we can give you a hundred more. As Mr. Strano suggested ,  inspired by Mr. Sannitu's video-message, "Sardinia is almost a continent": from the sea to the mountains and the lakes; from tradition to innovation; from folklore to luxury; from food and wine experiences to sport challenges; the region can offer you this and much much more .

    What does the name "Costa Smeralda" suggest  to  you? Beautiful, limpid, crystal-clear  sea? The most renowned Italian  jetset  VIPs ? An assonance with the precious emerald stone? Well, you got it. In the summer time this North-East corner of Sardinia is populated by some of the richest,  most powerful or influential people of Italy and Europe, and  it  becomes a long, infinite, red carpet, where mostly famous cinema and showbiz stars show off their  glamorous lifestyles  to the curious spectators.  Its sea of rare beauty is dotted by luxurious yachts, while on the seafront,  fancy restaurants, discos, and clubs follow one  another.

    If you are not a fan of mundane life, no worries at all: the region offers over 2,000 km (about 1,250 miles) of beaches, with harbors, minor islands, and protected marine zones where  you can  admire uncontaminated sea beds populated by colorful and varied fauna and rich coral banks.

    Lake and mountain lovers will not be left unsatisfied  either. The inland territory is characterized by mountainous landscapes interrupted by green hills and plains, while most of the lakes and  bodies of water are extremely interesting to visit thanks to their particular ecosystems  preserved  for many  years  through the International Convention of Ramsa.

    The history, culture, and tradition of Sardinia is very little known outside its borders. As all island civilizations have a strong tendency to conserve their own traditions intact, this fact is even more evident in Sardinia, an  island with a mountainous, rough terrain divided into numerous sub-regions that are independent from one another.

    Its language, traditional costumes, music, dances, and popular religious rituals pertain to a world that lives on and spontaneously regenerates, and changes shapes, colors, and accents from town to town. Every village has its own custums, is  protective  of  them  and preserves  them as a cultural treasure.

    In most cases ,  people wear them  for  town festivals  but there are some centers, such as Busachi, in the province of Oristano, or Desulo, Tonara and Orgosolo, in the province of Nuoro, where you'll find old ladies that dress  in XIX century fashion  everyday .

    So don't be surprised if, while touring around, you find yourself  witness to  a folk dance performed in the middle of a square: they are an  integral part of  the  pagan or religious celebrations that take place throughout the region all year round. 

     Another part of the cultural tradition of Sardinia  is,  of course, its food. We had the opportunity to taste some of the region's most famous product and dishes during the June 2 Gala, when the porcetto (roasted suckling pig) and  the rich malloreddus pasta with sausage sauce and chunks of pecorino cheese enriched the huge Sardinia inspired buffet offered  to those attending the reception.

     Thanks to its geographical conformation, Sardinia is both a land of fishermen and peasants, and the extraordinary variety of its inner cultures can offer the visitor a wide range of recipes, products, and combinations to choose from. While spices enrich the flavors and aromas of some of the dishes, almond and honey-based sweets can become a perfect ending  to a nourishing dinner when accompanied by  mirto, the local liqueur produced by an infusion of alcohol and Myrtle berries

    How can somebody experience all of this in one only vacation? Consul General Talò offered us  a solution : travel by bike. Such an eco-friendly and affordable means of transportation is not only in line with the way of life of Sardinia's inhabitants, but also with the motto launched by the Consulate for the June 2 celebrations: "Bike to the future". Embracing the cause of sustainable tourism, one can visit Sardinia from coast to coast on two   wheels as the region is constantly expanding the length and number of bicycle paths crossing the island.

    From the Saracen town of Oristano to the nearby fisherman village of Cabras, with its typical pilgrim white houses called cumbessias; from the Medieval town of Sassari to the main urban center of the Island, Cagliari, founded by the Fenicians in the VIII century B.C, riding by bike will allow you not only to visit the main cultural and historical sites of the region, but also to explore places and  sites  of rare beauty of which you didn't even know the  existence... 

    So this is just a hint  about the many reasons  you can find to visit Sardinia and spend your vacation  there.

    The rest is for you to discover... so don't forget to bring a bike with you , two eyes ready to be surprised, a mouth  for  exploring  new tastes,  a spirit  which is hungry for new adventures...and enjoy!

  • Life & People

    "L'Italia siete Voi". Celebrating 64 Years of Republic in New York

    On June 2010 at 6 pm over 1,000 people got together in the largest and fanciest Italian restaurant in New York, Cipriani Wall Street. Italian National Day was confirmed as the holiday that the Italian and the Italian-American community most wait for throughout the year.

    It's indeed an occasion to remember their ancestry, the millenary culture they represent, the great contribution they have given as Italians to the growth of their new country, the United States, and the strong bond they keep with the old country on the 64th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic and almost 150 years from its Unification.

    This year's gala, the third that's been hosted in this elegant ballroom which was the venue desired by Consul General Francesco Maria Talò, featured moments that will make it very hard to forget.

    It's motto "Bike to the future" represented the main theme of the event extremely well: Consul Talò, actress Gianna Palminteri, hostess of the gala and wife of actor Chazz Palminteri, some of the highest Italian institutional representatives, and a number of officers from the NY Police and Fire Departments, joined us at the entrance riding elegant, sparkling Montante bycicles conceived, designed and produced in Asti, Piedmont, by the firm bearing the same name.

    The message was sound and clear: the Italian government in New York promotes ecological, financially accessable means of transportation to help  keep the city clean, unpolluted, and green, as Consul Talò immediately pointed out upon his arrival.

    Decorated with huge bouquets of flowers, the bikes found their place at the base of the stage located in the middle of the ballroom and were surrounded by the stands of the major sponsors of the Gala, firms that Americans have learned to know and appreciate for their quality and that have become part of their everyday life. Among them, there were stands representing the Vintage-style Vespa motorcycles by Piaggio, Pirelli tires, and Alitalia, that offers direct flights from New York to the main Italian cultural and business centers, including Rome and Milan, at advantageous prices.

    Sardinia, the region that sponsored this year's Italian National Day, was the absolute protagonist of our evening. The Press Conference organized at the upper level right before the gala introduced us to the numerous initiatives that the regional government is organizing to make its territory more bike-friendly, fully espousing the "Bike to the future" moto. Today, the Region and its beauties are enjoyable from coast to coast thanks to long and articulated cycle paths giving the visitor the opportunity to share with the locals their laid-back and simple life and visit unknown natural and historical sites before reaching the region's well-known attractions and tourist centers.

      The cultural beauties of Sardinia also characterized the colorful and rich buffet offered during the evening. From the appetizers to the main course, we enjoyed a touch of its culinary tradition whenever we approached the half-dozen buffet bars dislocated in the hall.   Its famous porcetto (roasted suckling pig), the rich malloreddus (local pasta) with sausage sauce and chunks of pecorino cheese, accompanied more classical national dishes such as seafood and meat salads, risotto milanese, prosciutto, meatballs, and roasted lamb. The dishes were all paired with Italian wines and cocktails, among which the famous Bellini, a mixture of peach juice and prosecco invented by Cipriani itself.

    One can easily imagine what a joyous atmosphere the Consul General found around him when stepping onto the stage to welcome the attendees together with the three main governmental institutions located in the city of New York: Riccardo Viale, director of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York; Aniello Musella, director of the Italian Trade Commission in North America; and Riccardo Strano, Director of the Italian Government Tourism Board in North America. They were virtually joined by the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano, New York Governor David Paterson, NY Major Bloomberg, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and by the Ambassador of Italy to the United States Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, who all sent a personal greeting messages.

    The Consul General declared himself to be deeply satisfied with the outcome of the evening which gathered together old and new generations of Italian and Italian-Americans. "375 years after the arrival of Pietro Alberti, the Venetian sailor who we consider to be the first Italian immigrant in the US, I see before my eyes one nation made up of people with the most varied backgrounds.

    There are the old generations and the descendents of those who came here for the most part hungry and poor to find in the US a better future for themselves and their families; there are academics, scholars, researchers, entreprenuers who have been here for just a few years; and finally I also see very young just graduated young people who ve just arrived with their unique skills and education and who are already distinguising themselves in their work fields. (...) All of you, Italians in New York, contribute and have contributed in your own way to the growth of this country. I encourage you to follow this path but also to never forget to look back and remember where you came from. You are Italy", said Consul Talò during a speech preceded by the intonation of the the American, Italian, and European anthems by the students of the Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi.

    Concluding, he seized the opportunity to present the newly-conceived logo for the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy for the first time in the USA. It is his sincere hope, he told us, to see all of the Regions of Italy collaborate and contribute to make next year's celebrations as sumptuous and memorable as this important milestone requires them to be.

    i-Italy and Italics  broadcasted the full event live (click here to watch a raw cut of the show) and interviewed some of the most eminent attendees. Among them:  Andrea Barbaria, Consul General of Italy in New Jersey; Riccardo Viale, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, Riccardo Strano, director of the Italian Government Tourism Board; Claudio Bozzo, President of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce; Silvana Mangione, Secretary General of CGIE (Consiglio Generale degli Italiani all'Estero-General Council for Italians Abroad); Vincenzo Marra, President of ILICA (Italian Language Inter-Cultural Alliance); Judge Dominic Massaro; Stefano Albertini, Director of  Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò at NYU; Natalia Indrimi, Director of the Primo Levi Center; Alfio Russo, Director of the Education Office at the Consulate General of Italy in New York; journalist Enzo Capua, organizer of the NY Edition of the Umbria Jazz Festival; Mico Licastro, CONI Delegate in the US;  Economic Advisor Gianluca Galletto; PR Sally Fisher; Artist Andrea Mastrovito, Winner of the 2008 edition of the "Premio New York", sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute; and many many more...

    Stay tuned, the video of the gala is also coming up!