Articles by: R. C.

  • Facts & Stories

    Happy New Year and Superstitions Italian Style

    Superstitions are plentiful in Italy year-round, however such beliefs and practices seem to multiply exponentially around the holiday season, a time of endings and new beginnings, when everyone is trying to stock up on good fortune for the year ahead. Some of the most common ones are practiced by many across the country, while others are rather obscure, and in some cases pretty bizarre. 

    A widespread practice - presumably dating back to roman times - consists of eating lentils on New Year’s Eve to ensure prosperity in the new year. However, most people may not be familiar with the Abruzzese tradition of eating seven (like the seven virtues) soups with seven different legumes to exponentially raise the chances of economic good fortune. 

    Dried fruits and nuts, such as figs, dates, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and so on, are also associated with prosperity and can be found on almost every Italian dinner table during San Silvestro (New Year’s Eve.)

    In the Valle d’Aosta and Marche regions, eating 12 purple grapes as the clock strikes midnight is thought to bring good luck, while in Tuscany, Umbria, and Emilia Romagna people eat other fruits such as pomegranites, which represent prosperity.

    Then, as everyone knows, the new year must be wrung with a bottle of bubbly. But you may not have heard that the popping noise the cap makes when it comes off supposedly serves to chase away evil spirits. 

    Another ritual consists of wearing something red - usually underwear - for good luck. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on when and where this practice originated - some say it comes from the Romans, while others claim it was adopted from China, where the color symbolizes good fortune - however it is one of the most widespread New Year’s traditions nationwide. 

    Some of these superstitions can be seen as sensible advice. For example, in Calabria, they say you should avoid borrowing money on December 31st because that would mean needing to borrow that money all year. Others, on the other hand are less obivous. For instance, traditionally, young women used to throw a slipper down the stairs: if it landed pointing towards the front door, it meant they were to be married soon, if not they were doomed to remain single.

    In Lazio, women had to pick from three different needles without looking, if they chose the one with a red thread, it meant they were to be married soon, black meant they were destined to be widows, and white meant they would remain “zitelle” or spinsters. And still on the topic of marriage, in Apulia, two grains are placed in a cup of water, if they stay together it means there will be a wedding before the end of the new year.

    There are certainly some traditions that this year cannot be respected but we remember them for next year

    Fireworks are as in most parts of the world, since fire symbolizes light, energy, and good health. However, some people take this a step further: in Friuli, young men jump over fire to ensure virility and fertility.  Finally, a very satisfying - though perhaps not 100% safe - tradition typical of southern Italy, particularly of Rome and Naples, is that of getting rid of old objects by throwing them out the window, and with them bad memories and misfortunes. 

    These are just a few of the countless New Year’s supersitions that can be found across Italy. Were you familiar with them? Are there any other ones you would like to share? We would love to hear from you. 


    Happy New Year!

  • Facts & Stories

    The Befana’s Sweet “Coal” Recipe

    Here is what you need to make sweet coal:

    Black food dye (in gel or paste form)

    250 grams or 1 cup of sugar

    75 ml. or 2.5 oz. of water

    50 grams or ¼ cup of powdered sugar

    A few drops of lemon juice

    1 egg white

    1 tblsp of vodka


    Start by making the icing:

    Whisk the egg white until stiff then add 100 grams (½ cup) of sugar, a few drops of lemon juice and a tablespoon of pure vodka. Add 50 grams (¼ cup) of powdered sugar and the food dye (choose the quantity based on how dark you want your coal to be).

    Mix everything with a wooden spoon with an upward motion.


    Then make the caramel:

    Pour 150 grams (¾ cup) of sugar in a high-bottomed steel non-stick pan, covering it with about 75 ml (2.5 oz.) of cold water. Careful not to add too much though, the coal’s consitency will depend on how much water you pour!


    As soon as the caramel turns blonde, pour the icing into the same pan and mix with a wooden spoon. Stop and wait for the mixture to grow in volume without touching it! Pour everything into a plumcake mold covered with baking paper and let it cool to room temperature. Sprinkle it with plenty of powdered sugar. 


    And now you can hang your candy-filled stocking by the chimney, sit back and enjoy your treats. Who knows, the Befana might still come down to pay you a visit!


  • Facts & Stories

    Discussing the Future of Design with Mauro Porcini at St. John’s University

    On October 28, 2019, St. John’s University’s School of Professional Studies celebrates its adherence to the Design Factory Global Network, a prestigious global network of innovation hubs in universities and research organisations with the mission to create change in the world of learning and research through passion-based culture and effective problem solving.

    This will be the first in a series of events in the form of encounters, exchanges, and collaborations on both global and local scales, which will bring together students, faculty, and industry leaders to foster radical innovations and cultivate the development of highly sought out professional skills such as problem solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

    “We want to show the importance and the potential social and economic impact of methodologies such as design thinking,” states Katia Passerini, Dean of the College of Professional Studies. “Mauro Porcini’s achievements as Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo, is a perfect illistration of their effectiveness and of how the human-centered approach can become a best business practice.”

    As former President of the leading multinational information technology company IBM, Thomas Watson Jr. stated in a 1973 lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, “Good design is good business.” 


    The event will take place from 4 to 6pm at the Collins College of Professional Studies, St. Augustine Hall, 2nd Floor on St. John’s University’s Queens campus.

    Click here to rsvp >>>


  • Giovanni Colavita
    Facts & Stories

    Colavita to Bring Quality Italian Wine to the US

    “This enterprise is a perfect fit for us because in Italy, and also here in the United States, wine and food always go together.” commented Giovanni Colavita, CEO of Colavita USA. The food company has in fact been trying to get into the wine business for quite some time now, according to the President of Colavita SpA, Enrico Colavita.


    Panebianco, which is based in New York City, was founded by Palermo-born Livio Panebianco in 1997. Mr. Panebianco wished to bring quality Italian family-owned estate wines (“little jewels” as he called them) to the US, seeking out the best wines for his clients. The company’s portfolio has featured prominent wineries from all over Italy, including Marisa Cuomo from Campania, Girolamo Russo from Sicily, La Togata from Tuscany and Musso from Piedmont.  


    Colavita, the prominent Italian food company mainly known for its olive oil, is, like Panebianco, a family business dedicated to bringing quality, estate-grown Italian agricultural products to the United States. With its large-scale distribution strength and expertise, the company will provide the infrastructure for national sales and distribution as well as consolidated relationships within specialty food, restaurant and supermarket channels throughout the US.


    Nunzio Castaldo, former Senior Vice President, Portfolio Management, and 31-year veteran of American wine import and distribution company Winebow, will be CEO of Panebianco LLC.


    “The new Panebianco LLC has a portfolio of premium wines with strong heritage and will have the added competitive advantage of Colavita’s vast food channel experience and distribution leverage.” Giovanni Colavita stated, explaining how this puts the company in a strategic position to present unique products to a larger American audience.


  • Art & Culture

    Introducing San Francisco to Ugo Tognazzi and “Commedia all’Italiana” Films

    The ninth film series organized by Cinema Italia San Francisco, an organization founded in 2013 and devoted to presenting the best of classic Italian cinema, will be dedicated to the prominent actor, director, and screenwriter Ugo Tognazzi. The program, composed of five film screenings and a themed party, will take place throughout the day and into the night on April 27, 2019.


    Born in 1922 in Cremona, Italy, Ugo Tognazzi was and remains an icon of Italian cinema. He acted in over 150 films during what is known as the Golden Age of Italian Cinema, alongside other internationally celebrated actors such as Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni, and contributed to the creation and popularization of the “Commedia all’Italiana” a mixed genre combining comedy and drama, which was extremely popular throughout the 60s and 70s in Italy and beyond.


    The program, produced by LUCE CINECITTA in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco, will begin with the screening of the 1973 film by Elio Preti, “Property is No Longer a Theft” (“La proprietà non è più un furto”) at 10:00 am, followed at 12:45 pm by “Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man” (“La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo”) by Bernardo Bertolucci starring Anouk Aimée and Tognazzi, whose performance won him the award for Best Male Actor at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival.


    The 1971 dramedy “In the Name of the Italian People” (“In nome del popolo italiano”) directed by Dino Risi, in which Tognazzi stars opposite Vittorio Gassman, respectively playing the roles of an upright communist judge and a fascist illegal buildings manufacturer, will then follow at 3:30 pm.


    Later on, at 6:30 pm, will be the screening of the Franco-Italian comedy “La Cage aux Folles”, directed by Édouard Molinaro. This film adaptation of the eponymous play by Jean Poiret (with music by none other than Ennio Morricone) about a flamboyant gay couple living in Saint-Tropez (made up of Tognazzi and Michel Serrault) who pretend to be straight, with Tognazzi playing his son Renato’s mother, in order to meet with the highly conservative parent’s of the latter’s fiancée, was very successful when it came out in 1978, particularly in the United States.


    The Big Feast Party will then take place at 8:30 pm, a themed dinner named after the final film of the evening: “La Grande Bouffe” (or “The Big Feast”), another French-Italian production from 1973, this time directed by Marco Ferreri and starring Tognazzi alongside Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, and Philippe Noiret as a group of friends who plan to eat themselves to death, which will be shown at 10 pm to wrap up the event.


    All films we be projected from 35 mm prints and shown with English subtitles.

    For further information and to purchase tickets visit the CISF website

  • Events: Reports

    Meet the New Italians of New York

    Are you young and looking to spend a night getting to meet other Italians in your line of work? If you are a resident in the Tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), now you can, thanks to a project supported by the General Consulate of New York.

    The goal of “Meet the New Italians” is to embrace the new generation of Italian immigrants, help them in their professional and academic careers and introduce them  to an Italian network of employers. 

    There will be monthly meetings in which major representatives from the Italian community who have established themselves in a variety of elds will engage the younger generation in conversation. 

    Exploring Career Opportunities

    Each event is dedicated to a speci c sector (art, architecture, fashion, medicine, nance, restoration, sports) and offers up an occasion  to discuss possible career paths, future opportunities and current trends in that particular meeting’s eld. Participants will have the opportunity to meet people who, under similar circumstances, came to the U.S. and succeeded in establishing themselves. 

    The Consulate hopes that young Italians residing in its district will come to see it as a point of reference for them as they integrate into society. The initiative was designed by Isabella Periotto and Chiara Saulle, two young women who recently joined the Italian diplomatic mission in New York. 

    A Mentoring Approach
    In presenting the kick-off event of the series, last December Consul General Natalia Quintavalle underscored that the method is one of typical mentorship.

    That in itself is a small revolution, “for the Consulate to no longer be perceived as an of ce for resolving bureaucratic issues but as a place where all Italian citizens living in New York can convene.”

    One of the rst “mentors” at the meeting, Alberto Cribiore, Vice Chairman of Citi’s Institutional Clients Group, was taken aback by the idea of a consulate that seeks to “do more than print passports and instead really support the community, creating points of contact and synergy.”

    Learning to Speak Up

    Another excellent witness to this series of events is the noted designer Gaetano Pesce, famous exponent of Italy’s current “radical design” movement, who has lived and worked in Italy and New York for decades and whose works are on display at such places as MoMa, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

    “We’re going through a dif cult time,” he says. “There are many countries that don’t have our qualities but in the eyes of the world they’re more advanced because they know how to communicate them. They get by ne with what little they have. Whereas we have a lot more to say, yet all too often we don’t know how to say it. This cycle of events allows us to speak up and say what we are.”

    Last but not least, the director of the Cultural Institute of New York, Giorgio Van Straten, underscored the importance of appreciating young Italians who come to New York, oftentimes with highly quali ed backgrounds. “They are our great asset, and our fundamental goal should be to establish a relationship with them and place a value on what they do. They are the future of Italy.”

    To see the i-Italy episode of "Meet the New Italians": >>>

  • Facts & Stories

    One Sip Is All It Takes To Go To Portofino

    You can be whisked away to Liguria simply by tasting a lemon-flavored soft drink. Don’t believe us? Close your eyes and take a sip of Limonata Niasca Portofino. Your nose immediately picks up the intense scent of lemons from the Gulf of Tigullio on the Ligurian Riviera.

    Concentrate and you’ll also catch the subtle notes of elderflower. Take another sip and feel the fresh breeze off the gulf where they grow.

    Admire its pearly white color, its thousands of sweet, sparkling bubbles. There’s no doubt about it: you’ve landed in Portofino. Behind the fresh taste of this unbelievable drink lies a story that’s just as refreshing.

    “Just three years ago,” says Simona Mussini, a representative of Niasca Portofino, “a group of young people got together.

    We wanted to do something different in a place where luxury reigns supreme and nobody wants to get his hands dirty. So we purchased some fields and restored them. We worked hard and always with the utmost respect for nature,” she adds. “We don’t use fertilizers or poisons.”

    The group combines its respect for nature with a similarly deep respect for hard work. Farmers in the area have been enlisted as partners and collaborators. “What’s cool is that now farmers bring us lemons even though we don’t ask for them,” says Mussini. “They demonstrate the kind of pride we take in a product made through hard work. Indeed, to work the land you need to bend down – and that’s tough.’’

    We met Mussini at Summer Fancy Food in New York, where she described her Tigullio limonata with an equal measure of pride. “This type of lemon is much sweeter compared to the lemons from Southern Italy. Our beverage is all natural. We use Tigullio lemons, brown sugar and elderflower. This last ingredient adds a splash of fun.’’

    The drink is just one component of Niasca Portofino’s larger project. Founded by a group of residents and frequent visitors, the company seeks to resuscitate local traditions, rehabilitatethe abandoned countryside, restore spaces that have long been uninhabited, and make Portofino a vibrant place twelve months a year—not just during the summer.

    And of course,vby introducing the world to Portofino and its local products, the company also hopes to see an uptick in tourism. The project’s ambassadors are three highly driven youthful partners. ‘’Our success comes from the heart,” says Mussini. “It stems from an idea we developed over the years. In the end, we’ve got this amazing product. We want to show people that Italy is strong, and that if you have an idea and put effort into it, you can really create something good.’’ Think globally, act locally, and Limonata Niasca Portofino will make a splash in the US.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Lavazza Celebrates its 120th Birthday in New York

    True to its founder Luigi Lavazza and his creativity and inventiveness, the famed Italian coffee company Lavazza held the celebration of its 120th Birthday at a photography studio in New

    York’s Meatpacking district. This vast space belonging to “Industria Superstudio” proved perfectly fit for hosting the celebratory gala.

    Its “repurposed warehouse” look spoke to the company’s focus on innovation as well as the attachment to its roots. 

    It’s thanks to this very openness to innovation that Lavazza was able to become the world-renown company it is today. “My great grandfather would be proud to see that his dream continues to be something that a lot of people believe in” says Giuseppe Lavazza, vice president of the company. 

    Over a century ago, Luigi Lavazza moved to Turin from the countryside. There he started the company relying solely on his passion for coffee and his willingness to work hard. His story is one of success found through hard work and commitment, an example that many people all around the world – but especially in America – can relate to. 

    Coffee as we know it today owes a lot to Luigi Lavazza himself, who, after a trip to Brazil on which he discovered the essence of coffee, the different types that exist, their properties, had the idea to mix them together in order to produce new flavors, to create the perfect blend. And that’s how coffee is made to this day: by creating and producing distinctive blends.

    The same spirit of openness and innovation needed to make good coffee, is also what makes for a successful company. Lavazza opened to America in the 1990’s, hoping to leave a mark.

    This required a change in mindset, an adaptation to the American market, as Ennio Ranaboldo, chief executive officer of Lavazza USA, who has worked for the company for 25 years, explains.

    Lavazza has been moving closer to America and America to Lavazza ever since. 

    The main reason for Lavazza’s success certainly has to do with the quality and originality of what it has to offer, which is not just great tasting coffee, but rather the entire Italian experience of coffee.

    Lavazza embodies the lifestyle and activities that go along with coffee preparation and consumption in Italy.

    Christina Tosi, an American pastry chef of Italian origin at the popular Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC, as well as the creator of the gala’s wonderful coffee-based desserts, recalls her summers spent in Trentino with her family, where they would all share a cup of Lavazza every afternoon. 

    Her experience speaks to how coffee is an extremely important part of Italian culture, how it represents Italian culture in many parts of the world.

    Many Americans already associate coffee to Italian culture and it’s that idea that the company wants to build on. 

    Francesca Lavazza, Director of corporate image for the company, revealed that they have been working on Lavazza’s first ever international campaign: in America it will consist of 60 minutes of air time telling the story of Luigi Lavazza and spanning over 4 generations, the “story of a pioneer who went from the countryside to Turin and started this company from the ground, following his passion for coffee”, as she describes it.

    But Lavazza is not only opening up to America: with the Milan Expo taking place this year, the company promptly partnered up with the Italian pavilion, in order to reach out to the entire international community.

    “We want to be good hosts, welcome the international community with coffee and a smile” Francesca comments.

    Lavazza’s tireless dedication, fueled by the Luigi’s legacy of hard work and inventiveness explains why the company is quite literally reaching for the stars: one of its greatest endeavors was in fact to produce the first coffee in space by ideating a machine able to make coffee at an altitude of 400 km.

    The idea is that everyone should be able to enjoy the pleasure of coffee “no matter where: at home or in a space station” as Giuseppe claims.

  • Art & Culture

    Three of a Kind: Three Italian Jazz Prodigies to Perform in Brooklyn All in One Night

    Get out your calendars and save a spot for June 1st: starting from 7.30 pm, an incredible concert will take place at Brooklyn’s Roulette Theatre (509 Atlantic Avenue). Presented by Enzo Capua and the Italian Cultural Institute, the event will feature three leading figures of the contemporary international jazz scene: Giovanni Guidi, Alessandro Lanzoni and Domenico Sanna.

    Extremely young and talented, these three jazz pianists will be performing back to back, in some cases accompanied by other talented artists, in what promises to be a wonderfully varied and fun night.

    29-year-old Giovanni Guidi from Fogliano won the “Top Jazz” poll in 2007 and has been part of the international jazz scene ever since as a member of Enrico Rava’s band, leader of the Giovanni Guidi Trio – composed by New York bassist Thomas Morgan and Portuguese drummer Joao Lobo, who will be on stage with him at the show – and of the larger ensemble “Unknown Rebels”.

    Alessandro Lanzoni, the youngest of the three at only 23, is known as a solo artist and will be performing as such in Brooklyn. Though he was already a child prodigy at 13, he more recently started to emerge as a breakthrough jazz artist, winning the “Top Jazz” poll in 2013 among other titles.

    Though merely 30, Domenico Sanna is the eldest of the three. He will perform alongside Ameen Saleem, one of the most requested bassists in America and Europe, and drummer Dana Hawkins as the “Brooklyn Beat!” Trio. Sanna conceptualized the group “out of necessity”, out of compulsion to follow the beat, the pulse. Thus building from the origins of jazz to create a contemporary sound, infused with swing and R&B. 

    All these artists share the rare characteristic of being both young, fresh and innovative on the one hand but also experienced and masterful, having previously participated in a variety of famous festivals and events throughout their short but rich careers. This event will present the unique opportunity to see them all perform in the same place on the same night.

    General admission tickets will be sold for just $15.

    $10 with advanced booking.

    Visit for tickets and information.

  • Life & People

    Robert Rietti, "The Man of a Thousand Voices' Dies at Age 92

    Although we might not have been aware of it at the time, we have all probably heard Robert Rietti’s quite a few times before. Born on February 3rd, 1923, under the name of Lucio, he became known in the film industry as “the man with a thousand voices” due to his innumerable contributions to many of Hollywood’s greatest successes.

    Rietti (sometimes referred to as Rietty) started acting very young, supported by his father Victor Rietti, who saw great potential in his natural talent for memorizing and reciting dialogues. He quickly became a child star and was even handpicked by Hitchcock to play a leading role in "Sabotage", which he unfortunately ended up having to turn down.

    Growing up, his life was anything but dull, both on and off screen. He lived in London – where he was born – when World War II broke out and was held in an internment camp because of his Italian heritage for a period of time. 

    Strangely enough, he then managed to actually become a part of the British Army by serving in the entertainment corps.

    After the war ended he began using his voice more by working in radio, notably alongside Orson Welles with whom he often collaborated, starting with series such as "The Third Man" (1951) and "The Black Museum" (1952).

    But Robert Rietti was most appreciated as a dubber, something he seemed to be born to do given his natural ease with languages and his talent for mimicking accents. He discovered these skills while revoicing parts of films, something that was routinely done in the pre-digital era when directors felt the need to adjust the quality of the sound or dialog and the original actors were inept or unavailable to contribute.

    Rietti started by revoicing minor parts in “Call of the Blood” (1948) and then word of his talent spread and he was called to lend his voice to various roles, either jumping in and perfectly recreating the actor’s voice to adjust parts of dialogue, or even voicing over entire films – sometimes even taking on multiple roles in the same movie – and thus giving these characters a brand new customized identity.

    As stated in a recent article by Bruce Weber published in The New York Times, also in occasion of the actor’s death, Rietti’s voice took on roles such as that of Doctor Zhivago in the beautiful 1965 feature, it mimicked that of Orson Welles for Long John Silver in the 1972 “Treasure Island”, and replaced Robert Shaw’s in “Avanlanche Express” (1979) after the actor died.    

    According to the same article, he once had to voice a mindboggling 98 voices in one single movie, the 1970 Italian-Soviet film “Waterloo”, apparently as a result of a technical disaster. He even voiced a series of villains in the James Bond films, including “Thunderball”, “For Your Eyes Only”, and “You only live twice” in which he respectively pulled off sounding Italian, German, and Japanese.

    His incredibly adaptable voice is what made him so successful and requested within the film industry. Ironically, it’s also what made it impossible for audiences to recognize him. All the more so considering that he often was not credited for his contributions.

    Fortunately, he also appeared in various acclaimed movies and series in his entirety: he was in “The Omen” (1976), “The New Avengers” series (1977), “Madame Sousatzka” (1988), and “Hannibal” (2001), the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs”. The multifaceted quality of his career, added to the retrospective credit he has recently been receiving for his voice roles, ensure that his immensely rich contribution to the international film industry will be remembered.