Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Events: Reports

    Neapolitan Cinema by Neapolitan Directors

    Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo' inaugurated the 8th edition of 41 Parallelo, an initiative that is the American spin off of the Napoli Film Festival, with a double bill: the screenings of two of Francesco Rosi's greatest films, Salvatore Giuliano (1961) and Le Mani sulla Citta' (1963).

    Run by Davide Azzolini, 41 Parallelo takes its name from the common latitude of Naples and New York, and this year it pays homage to two of the most iconic and beloved Italian directors of all times: Francesco Rosi, with an event on Fenruary 5th and Vittoria DeSica, with an event on February 12.

    “In the past editions we featured films by new Neapolitan directors and films about Naples. This year we decided to dedicate the festival to two great Neapolitan directors who are among the greatest of Italian cinema,” Casa's director Stefano Albertini said. Along with writer and professor Antonio Monda, Albertini introduced Francesco Rosi and his cinema, reminding the audience that the filmmaker just died a few weeks ago. “He was one of the last giants of Italian cinema,” Monda added.

    How to describe Rosi and his work to an audience who is not that familiar with him and his work?

    “I can do that by telling you an anecdote,” Monda said, “I went to visit him on the set of Three Brothers (1981) and the way he screamed ACTION told everything about him. I had never heard anybody it scream it that way, with all that passion, turmoil and belief in his work. He was a master at his work as he learned the craft by the best of Italian cinema.”

    Rosi was an apprentice of Luchino Visconti and is known for his socially engaged investigative dramas. His films, especially those of the 1960s and 1970s, denounced certain situations and had political messages. Salvatore Giuliano, Berlin Silver Bear winner, tells a story of mafia. “Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano’s bullet-riddled corpse is found facedown in a courtyard in Castelvetrano, a handgun and rifle by his side. Local and international press descend upon the scene, hoping to crack open the true story behind the death of this young man, who, at the age of twenty-seven, had already become Italy’s most wanted criminal and celebrated hero. Filming in the exact locations and enlisting a cast of native Sicilians once impacted by the real Giuliano, director Francesco Rosi harnessed the facts and myths surrounding the true story of the bandit’s death to create a startling exposé of Sicily and the tangled relations between its citizens, the Mafia, and government officials. A groundbreaking work of political filmmaking, Salvatore Giuliano established Rosi’s reputation and assured his place in cinema history.” (Criterion Collection).

    With the second film that was screened, Le Mani sulla Citta' (Hands Over the City), Rosi won the  1963 Venice Golden Lion. The film is about real-estate developers and their political cronies in Naples. “This expose of the politically driven real-estate speculation that has devastated Naples’s civilian landscape moves breathlessly from a cataclysmic building collapse to the backroom negotiations of civic leaders vying for power in a city council election, laying bare the inner workings of corruption with passion and outrage.” (Criterion Collection)

    These are just two of the great films by Rosi - “La sfida” (“The Challenge”), which delved into the intricacies of the Neapolitan mob; “Il Caso Mattei” (“The Mattei Affair”),  an investigation of the still-mysterious death of powerful Italian manager Enrico Mattei that digs deep into capitalism and global economics; “Cristo si e' fermato a Eboli” (“Christ Stopped at Eboli”) about the exile of anti-fascist intellectual Carlo Levi are just a few of them.

    Upon hearing about Rosi’s death, Martin Scorsese issued the following statement in remembrance: “Francesco Rosi was, without a doubt, one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of Italian cinema—really, when all is said and done, one of the greatest filmmakers we’ve ever had, period. Rosi’s greatest films – ‘Hands Over the City,’ ‘The Mattei Affair,’ ‘Lucky Luciano,’ ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli,’ ‘Three Brothers’ and the incomparable ‘Salvatore Giuliano’ among them – are unlike anything else in cinema: complex historical investigations, as passionately devoted to uncovering painful truths as they are to celebrating the beauty and poetry of the people and the land Rosi loved with all his heart. There are so many passages in those pictures that have permanently marked me: the young husband sifting through the sand for his wife’s ring in ‘Three Brothers,’ the collapse of the building in ‘Hands Over the City,’ the mother wailing over her son’s body in ‘Salvatore Giuliano’… So many more…”

    An interesting fact: at the presentation Monda explained that during an interview with Rosi, he found out that the woman playing the mother crying over the body of Giuliano was a woman whose son has been killed by the mafia. “In a way Rosi pushed the envelope of Neo-Realism even further, using real life people in his films,” Albertini concluded.

    And as far as Neo-Realism is concerned, the program for the 12th will present two great films by the father of the movement itself: DeSica. I bambini ci guardano (the Children are Watching us) will be screened at 5 pm and Matrimonio all'Italiana (Marriage Italian Style) will start at 7 pm, following a discussion between Albertini and Monda.

  • Events: Reports

    The Art of Making the Napolitan Pizza

    On January 20th, Rossopomodoro, a Neapolitan restaurant and pizzeria located in Manhattan’s West Village, hosted an event supporting a petition urging UNESCO to add Neapolitan pizza to a list designated to protect cultural assets from disappearing. 

    The evening started with a presentation on the petition and its importance.

    Moderated by Simone Falco, CEO of Rossopomodoro US, the panelists of the evening were Italy's former Agriculture and Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, Franco Manna, President and Founder of Rossopomodoro, Sergio Miccu, President of Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, Antimo Caputo, Ceo of Antico Molino Caputo Flour of Naples and Nicola Farinetti, Owner/Partner of EATALY.

    The evening was also an opportunity to have a delicious aperitivo withauthentic Neapolitan pizza from Rossopomodoro’s Neopolitan Pizzaiolo Rosario Granieri and other small plates from Rossopomodoro Executive Chef Kenneth Welch. 

    UNESCO's “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding” is composed of intangible heritage elements that concerned communities and State Parties consider require urgent measures to keep them alive. 

    “Recognition of the art of making Neapolitan pizza by UNESCO would protect the pizza and the economy associated with it” Scanio said, stating that inferior products that use Italian names to suggest authenticity are not only sub-standard, but threaten Italy's economy. False 'Italian-sounding' products (in latest estimates given by Italian Farming Association Coldiretti) are estimated to potentially cost Italy 300,000 jobs, with turnover in this sector having already reached 60 billion Euros. 

    “Pizza is one of the most widely known Italian food products,” Scanio states in the petition, “it is one of the most important symbols that represent our country. Neapolitan pizza is the only type of Italian pizza that is officially recognized on a national and international level.

    Since February 2010 it is officially known to be A Guaranteed traditional specialty of the European Union. It is only fair that Italy asks UNESCO's central headuarters in Paris to insert pizza in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. UNESCO's recognition would be a “weapon' used to protect pizza itself and the economic advantages linked to it, in the battle again the Italian Sounding phenomenon.

    We need to protect our Made in Italy. We are talking about a tradition that was bron in Naples and that is passed on from generation to generation. It is now widespread not only in Italy but all over the world.”

    On March 26, 2011 an official request for  the inclusion of Neapolitan Pizza and the Art of Pizza Making in the  List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding was presented in Paris. Then in 2012 UNESCO changed the procedures and each country can present only one petition a year, so this petition is in line waiting to be addressed. 

    “My request is,” Scanio continued “that our petition be considered in the first months of 2015 in order to be taken care of by the beginning of Expo Milano.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Enjoying an Italian Meal with the Cristoforo and Amerigo's Menu

    Two young Italian actors: Danilo Ottaviani, 24 from Turin, and Francesco Meola, 29 from Milan, have left Italy in the pursuit of their ambitious American Dream. Under the names Cristoforo (as in Colombo) and Amerigo (as in Vespucci) the two have been reciting a menu of Italian and Italian-American songs and poems in the Italian restaurants of Little Italy.

    It all started for fun and as an opportunity to do what they really love but as the project is getting bigger, and spreading out to other neighborhoods, the two are reliving the adventurous spirit of the two Italian explorers that are so important to America. 

    The two are now acting in numerous Italian restaurants including Ribalta and Amarone, which are outside the Little Italy area. The duo attributes their success to a magnificent Italian repertoire of poems, songs and comedy scenes that capture audiences of all nationalities.

    Depending on the request they act in Italian or in English, and among the most requested pieces we find 'A Livella by Totò and the verses of Dante.

    We were able to find out more by speaking to them directly.

    How did you guys meet and come up with the idea?

    Francesco Meola - I met Danilo Ottaviani in the Spring of 2014 during the opening night of Neighbors, a show I wrote and acted in both in NYC and in Italy. Danilo was in the audience. After the show we shared opinions and I was getting wonderful vibes from this tall guy beside me. We started talking about projects here, as Italian actors, and the fact we can't wait to get a job, we have to create our job. Because of that he explained to me the project he was involved in: street performances in the Little Italy of Manhattan, made to entertain the customers seated at the tables of the restaurants.  The repertoire was a bunch of different poems selected from Italy’s longstanding cultural tradition. I immediately understood the potential of this idea we established our comical duo: Cristoforo & Amerigo.

    Danilo Ottaviani - Being an actor Italian in Little Italy was a great idea, so we decided to give a new look to the project, creating an attractive menu, two strolling players that offer special dishes for hungry customers and entertainment made in Italy.

    How did you pick your names?

    FM - We wanted to keep the original project created by Danilo, shaping it in a more specific way. So we started to work on these two characters: two Italian immigrants, travellers and dreamers. We wanted to give to the audience a simple idea: even if they are poor immigrants and they have to face several adversities, they always have in their pockets a poem or a song to offer.

    The selection of the names, Cristoforo and Amerigo, was influenced by all these concepts and by the idea of those two Italian travellers, so important for the birth of the American Nation. Therefore, we finally created The Cristoforo & Amerigo's Menu: a collection of poems, dialogues, songs and sketches, included in a real menu. 

    DO - Cristoforo Colombo and Amerigo Vespucci, have probably been the most important explorers of the entire history, and they were both Italian. We were sitting in Union Square in a sunny afternoon, talking about the project and Francesco came up with this two names. I just thought it was a great idea.

    How do you decide what to put on the menu?

    FM- Our goal is to communicate in a interesting and funny way all the distinctive peculiarities of our country: food, love, joy and a lifestyle that is grounded, gaudy and loud. When we started to approach this material, we understood how lucky we were, as Italians. In fact, we had a treasure to take advantage of and we had to select just a part of it. So we started to think about what we really wanted to perform, in order to satisfy our tastes and, of course, the tastes of our audience. So we opted for a good variety of pieces which could give a brief and bright idea of the richness of our culture. Dante, Totò, Modugno, Rodolfo Valentino, Umberto Saba, Paolo Conte, Dean Martin: these are just some of the names that appear in our Menu.

    DO - Our project will always be a work in progress because there is so much to chose from 

    Please share some anecdotes - the funniest, strangest, saddest request...

    FM- One evening we took pictures wIth some guys who thought we were part of the cast of Newsies. Another evening we sang for 30 seconds “Volare” and a Swedish lady gave us 20 bucks. Another night we recited one of our poems ('A Livella written by Totò) with the owner of a restaurant in Little Italy. And it happened that during some dialogues about love, some old ladies tried to seduce us... but we were working so we flew to the next table.

    DO- The first time we did it the police stopped us… It was not fun, but it was a great night. It also happens that the owners of the restaurants after the performance invite us to stay for dinner. But for me the funniest thing is that you never know what is going to happen, which can be scary at the times but it is also the reason why we do this job; it is an adventure.

    How do people from different countries react to your show?

    FM- Reactions are universal. So, when the audience is willing to listen, it is always very inclined to reward our street performances with good tips: Italians, Americans, foreigners and native citizens… it doesn't matter. But it's also true that it's not simple: first of all we have to break the wall of skepticism. We are weird characters and our first approach is the most important part of our show. We never know what to expect: because we can find tables with one person in a good mood but with the others who don't want to listen, or couples that don't want to be disturbed (of course we never want to bother anyone, so when we see they don't want to participate to our performances, we immediately walk away to another table and to another customer. So we can be rejected, but normally when the customers have the desire to listen to our poems and songs, we receive compliments, wishes of good luck and so many words of encouragement. They are the best fuel to never give up and to be proud of what we are doing. Some restaurant managers have a very good disposition and they see us as a source of entertainment and a way to bring in more costumers. Others, the minority of them, reject us without even listening to our project as they are afraid their customers would be bothered by our presence. 

    DO- I don’t think it’s about people from different countries, it is about having two REAL Italian actors, performing in New York City’s Little Italy. This is what makes all the people form every country in the world, happy. For them it’s like going to a country and also knowing a bit of its culture.

    Does performing in Little Italy feel any different from performing in other neighborhoods?

    FM- Performing in Little Italy is an advantage because we can use the history of the neighborhood. At the same time, the audience is not too demanding. Normally they always want to listen to the same songs of the Italian American repertory. So performing something more intellectual or sophisticated is very challenging. Other restaurants in different neighborhoods are more inclined to accept our theatrical dialogues or our poems. But we never do any distinction because we love what we do and we always are happy to satisfy every single request. So we sing, we recite and, if they want, we dance. Sometimes we just sing “Tanti Auguri a te” (“Happy birthday to you”) seeing a table which celebrates a birthday.

    DO- Little Italy is the perfect place for what we want to do, we haven’t found other neighborhoods besides that one. Yet, our goal is to spread Italian culture throughout the world not just in the Italian communities or venues.

    Is America still the land of opportunity?

    FM-As Cristoforo and Amerigo, we still believe in the American Dream and we consider this land a prolific ground where we can build our future. Besides, through this experience, we are aware the dream is something you strictly have to pursue; otherwise it could die after a few months. But we are stronger, Cristoforo and Amerigo are stronger and we are not inclined to give up easily. That's the strength of our ancestors who arrived here with nothing and built a fortune. The secret is to always work hard and be imaginative and positive.

    DO- I strongly believe that America is the land of opportunity; it still has many contradictions but it recognizes and rewards merit, something that in our beautiful country, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    What Are We Eating this Christmas?

    In Italy Christmas is not just colorful gift boxes, blinking lights, and cheerful carols, Christmas is an opportunity to slow down, sit at the dining table and enjoy family and friends but also delicacies from a strong gastronomic tradition.

    Every Italian region has its time-honored dishes that happen to be the real “stars” of the table. These are dishes that are synonymous of Christmas and every holiday season, year after year, they are prepared with care and respect for tradition.

    They are soups, meat-based recipes, breads, and sweets, exceptional treats that make a special night even more extraordinary.

    Preparing these recipes is not just plain cooking but following a certain tradition – on Marche’s idyllic rolling hills, capon is boiled in water on Christams Eve. When fully cooked it is left in the pot overnight, either on the stove or outside of the window, on the sill.

    On Christmas morning all the fat on the broth’s surface is removed and set aside, as it is considered “blessed,” a necessary unguent useful for cuts and burns.

    Some say that in the South, Christmas and the holidays are awaited for with more eagerness, as they used to mark the return home of emigrants who came back for a brief cheerful visit. Christmas in Naples is so rich of menus, and there are sweets that actually make Christams, without them there would not be reason to celebrate – these are called struffoli, tiny honey covered fritters sprinkled with colorful sugar grains. They are prepared days before Christmas Eve, and are given to guests throughout the week leading to the holiday.

    For more specific information, let’s look at each region closely.

    ABRUZZO: Lu rintrocilio, pasta with a sauce of mutton, pork, chili, and grated pecorino.

    BASILICATA: Piccilatiedd, bread with almonds.

    CALABRIA: Quazunìelli, dough pockets filled with raisins, walnuts, cooked must, and cinnamon.

    CAMPANIA: Insalata di rinforzo, cauliflower, pickled vegetables, peppers, Gaeta olives, and salted anchovies. Fried eel is another favorite of all Neapolitans tables. While waiting for Midnight, on Christmas Eve, people like to munch on fruit and mixed nuts and struffoli.

    EMILIA ROMAGNA: Panone di Natale, bread made with candied fruit, honey, cocoa, dark chocolate, dried figs.

    FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA: Brovada e muset, soup of turnips and cotechino, cooked pork sausage, served with polenta.

    LAZIO: Pangiallo, bread made with dried fruit, candied peels, honey, and chocolate.

    LIGURIA: Pandolce, bread made with raisins, candied pumpkin, essence of orange flowers, pine nuts, fennel seeds, milk, and marsala.

    LOMBARDY: Cappone ripieno, capon stuffed with a mix of ground meat, mortadella, and hard-boiled eggs. It is served with mostarda di Cremona, fruit preserve spiced with mustard essential oil.

    MARCHE: Pizza de Natà, bread made with walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, raisins, chocolate, grated lemon and orange peel, and figs.

    MOLISE: Pizza di Franz in brodo, pieces of pizza dough, baked in the oven with eggs, parmigiano, and parsley.

    PIEDMONT: Insalata di carne cruda all'albese, beef filet tartar scented with white truffles.

    PUGLIA: Carteddate, rose-shaped fried cookies drizzled with honey.

    SARDINIA: Pabassinas, sweets made with almonds, walnuts, raisins, anis seeds, and cooked must.

    SICILY: Mustazzoli, sweets made with almonds, cinnamon, and cloves.

    TUSCANY: Brodo di cappone in tazza, consommé of capon.

    TRENTINO: Canederli, balls of flour, eggs, old bread, speck, pancetta, and salame.

    UMBRIA: Panpepato, bread with walnuts, chocolate, almonds, candied fruit, honey, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pepper, and red wine.

    VALLE D'AOSTA: Carbonata, strips of meat macerated in wine and aromatic herbs, served with polenta.

    VENETO: Ravioli in brodo di cappone, ravioli cooked in capon broth.

    Italy has many Christmas sweets, ranging from simple cookies to extraordinarily elaborate puddings and cakes. Pandoro the Christmas cake of Verona, has achieved national popularity and is Panettone’s fiercest enemy. It is a light, sweet yeast bred cake made with lots of butter and baked in a high 8-pointed star-shaped pan. It is generally just dusted with confectioners' sugar and there are versions with custard fillings. Pandoro symbolizes Christmas like few other cakes: It even looks Christmassy. The Italian Trade Commission describes it as, “tall, distinctive and shaped like a Christmas tree, it is topped with powdered sugar reminiscent of snow, or a twinkling star.” And indeed, if cut horizontally, each slice is a star.

    Many love Siena’s panforte, a rich flat cake of honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied citron, citrus peel, cocoa, and spices. In Ferrara, people celebrate with panpepato (see description above).

    Zeppole, representative of the area of Sorrento, are small fried ricotta doughnut-like cookies dusted with confectioner’s sugar that must be served warm.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Sweets You Can't Refuse

     Per Lei
    1347 2nd Avenue
    (212) 439-9200

    In Italian, panna cotta literally means “cooked cream”, and it is simply the perfect dessert. The
    dessert appears on restaurant menus much more fre­quently than it does on people’s din­ner tables, yet this dish is actually very easy to make. Blend thick cream, egg white and honey, then bake the mix in a bain-marie at a low temperature. It is generally believed to have origi­nated in Piedmont but is consumed throughout Italy, where it can be served with wild berries, chocolate, nuts and creams. Per Lei’s to-die-for panna cotta is prepared the traditional way (it really does feel and taste like cooked cream) and served with pista­chios. It alone is reason to make the trip uptown!

    321 W 46th Street
    (212) 246-9171

    ● Founded in 1906 by Sebastiano Maioglio, Barbetta is the oldest Ital­ian restaurant in New York and, on top of that, it is still owned by the same family. Barbetta has been serv­ing Piedmont cuisine since its incep­tion and the regional influence can be glimpsed in their dessert menu. Among its beloved classics is Monte Bianco, a staple at the restaurant since 1962. Monte Bianco is a deca­dent dessert of puréed, sweetened chestnuts topped with whipped cream. The name comes from the mountain Mont Blanc, given the peak of delicious chestnuts’ resemblance to the snow-capped mountain. While its roots lie in the region of Piedmont, the dessert has now spread through­out Northern Italy.

    Del Posto
    85 10th Avenue
    (212) 497-8090

    Four-star cuisine calls for four-star desserts, and that’s just what you get at Del Posto, the most elegant cre­ation of Mario Batali, Joe and Lidia Bastianich and partner/Executive Chef Mark Ladner. Chocolate lovers will swoon over cioccolato, a selection of four chocolates and four rums (Amadei Cioccolato al Latte 32% To­scana, La Molina “con Mandorle di Avola” 60% Toscana, Domori Cacao Sambirano 70% Piemonte, and Dol­ceria Bonajuto “Modica” 90% Sicilia). Modica chocolate, for example, is a specialty chocolate made only in the Sicilian city of the same name follow­ing an ancient recipe that gives the chocolate a peculiar grainy texture and aromatic flavor. Those feeling more adventurous should try Pecori­no Romano cake served with honey gelato and roasted pears.

    19 E 26th Street
    (212) 265-5959

    How does babà au rhum with whipped cream & orange sauce and limoncello granita sound? More to the point, how does it taste? The only way to find out is to head to Tony and Marisa May’s SD26. Babà au rhum is a small yeast cake similar to brioche, soaked in a rum-and-sugar syrup. Sometimes it is filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. Baba au rhum is a dessert commonly found in Italy, particularly Naples and the South. And what’s more Neapolitan than limoncello? At SD26 they serve limoncello granita, Italian ice made with water and syrup.

    48 E 12th Street
    (212) 777-7781

    Who hasn’t heard of tiramisu? Italy’s most famous coffee-flavored dessert is made with savoiardi (la­dyfingers) dipped in coffee, covered with whipped eggs, sugar and mas­carpone cheese, and sprinkled with cocoa. The original recipe does not call for liquor, but one of the most common twists is the addition of Marsala. At Ribalta they substitute Marsala with rum. Tiramisu is not the only delicious dessert you can taste in this popular pizzeria. Mas­carpone and strawberries come with flaky homemade biscuits and fresh berries are served with vanilla gelato in a baked biscuit shell. (And don’t forget the big screen where in special occasions you can watch Italian soccer!)

    334 Bowery
    (212) 466-3300

    Forcella is located in one of NYC’s most lively neighborhoods, in close proximity to NYU and Washington Square Park, so it’s always bus­tling with young fun people. Fans of Nutella (the famous hazelnut chocolate spread by Ferrero) have two delicious Nutella-based des­serts to feast on at this favorite lower Manhattan spot: Pizza alla Nutella (pizza dough stuffed with the sultry spread and almonds) and Angioletti, or little angels, alla Nutella (fried pizza dough strips with Nutella and powdered sugar). Those who want to try something different should dive into the mille­foglie. But forget about asking the chef for the recipe…it’s his secret.

    Bar Eolo
    190 7th Avenue
    (646) 225-6606
     Bar Eolo serves Sicilian-inspired contemporary fare and offers an award-winning selection of Sicil­ian wines. Over the course of his­tory, the island of Sicily has been a cultural crossroads traversed by the Greeks, Arabs, Romans, Jews and Normans, just to name a few. This cultural amalgam is especially evi­dent in Sicilian cuisine. The dessert list features traditional sfinci, ricotta doughnuts filled with a vanilla-or­ange pastry cream and served with a dark chocolate dipping sauce, and cannoli “millefoglie,” crispy layers of cannoli shell topped with chocolate-laced ricotta, with pistachio flour and a candied orange puree.

    Da Silvano
    260 Avenue of the Americas
    (212) 982-2343

    Silvano Marchetto is credited with introducing New Yorkers to Tuscan cuisine back in the mid 1970s. Since then, the amazing food, the fash­ionable and famous customers, and the entertaining environment make Da Silvano a favorite in the city that never sleeps. The classic dessert menu features simple yet scrumptious sweets. One Tuscan classic that can’t be passed up is Cantucci con Vin Santo. Cantucci are small, crunchy biscotti made with almonds. Today you can find them in all kinds of flavors, in­cluding chocolate, pistachio and raisin. When preparing cantucci, the dough is baked twice, which explains why the deliciously sweet has such a hard texture. Most peo­ple find it too hard, which is why they dip cantucci into a small glass of Vin Santo.

    Sant Ambroeus
    259 W 4th Street
    (212) 604-9254

    Among other specialties, Sant Am­broeus’s guests can enjoy the kind of exceptional desserts this refined res­taurants is known for. From the classic profiterole, chocolate bignè of espres­so-soaked vanilla sponge cake filled with chantilly cream and pistachios, to the traditional millefoglie, a layered puff pastry with vanilla bean cream, to the signature Sant Ambroeus, a choco­late mousse cake with a chocolate cus­tard center. The cafe also offers a wide range of ice creams, like coppa paciugo, pear sorbet with ..paciugo, pear sorbet with a pear eau-de-vie, and coppa colibri, fresh fruit salad with fruit sorbet.

    337 E 10th Street
    (212) 677-1913

     If you can’t decide which dessert to pick, don’t panic. At Gnocco you can find a dessert tasting plate fea­turing cantucci di Prato (homemade almond cookies), torta di ricotta (Ital­ian cheese cake served with whipped cream, wild berries) and torta al ciocco­lato e caffè (chocolate mousse topped with a coffee biscuit and served with almonds and Bavarian coffee). The dish should satisfy 3-4 sweet tooths. For something a little lighter and bet­ter for digestion, try the semifreddo al limone e menta, lemon and mint par­fait with peach.

    La Giara
    501 3rd Avenue
    (212) 726-9855
    Named after Luigi Pirandello’s short story La Giara (The Oil Jar), the restau­rant has been a fixture in Murray Hill since 1997. La Giara is a cylindrical earthenware container and alludes to the rustic fare that the restaurant serves...with a twist. The menu list sports something for everybody. Tra­ditionally eaten on St. Joseph’s Day, zeppole are a favorite of many and here you can find them year round. Zeppole are deep fried balls of dough topped with powdered sugar and filled with custard, jelly, pastry creams or honey.

    Marco Polo
    345 Court Street, Brooklyn
    (718) 852-5015
    Famous for its mix of northern and southern Italian cuisine, Marco Polo Ristorante is one of the most celebrat­ed Italian eateries in all of Brooklyn. The dessert menu features quite a few custards, including zabaione freddo, a common Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine (usually Marsala). The light custard is whipped to incorporate a large amount of air. Generally it can be enjoyed hot or cold and served with strawberries, blueberries, peaches, other fruit or light cookies. Another classic custard on the menu is crème brûlée, also known as “burnt cream,” a dessert consisting of a rich custard base with a hard caramel glaze.

    40 N 6th Street, Brooklyn
    (718) 218-7045
    Fabbrica, Italian for factory, has become a favored destination for those seeking contemporary Ital­ian cuisine and extraordinary bou­tique wines. The sweet ending to a perfect meal is affogato, vanilla gelato served with a double shot of espresso and cacao crumble. Af­fogato, meaning “drowned,” refers to the gelato’s being drenched with a shot of hot coffee. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, try the Fabbri­ca Sundae, an Italian-style sundae made with ricotta and hazelnut ge­lato and topped with amarena cher­ries, cannoli crumble and chocolate syrup. Now that’s a dessert nobody can resist.

    Pasticceria Bruno
    1650 Hylan Blvd
    (718) 987-5859

    In 2008 Chef Biagio, his son Chef Salvatore and Chef Gianfranco Fran­zese opened a new location in Staten Island. Pasticceria Bruno has become very popular thanks to the large se­lection of goodies on their breakfast, lunch and dinner menu created by our world-renowned chefs, and of course thanks to their delicious Ital­ian desserts, like cannoli, tiramisu and cassata. Around Christmas time, Chef Biagio makes his special panet­tone, a loaf of sweet bread with can­died fruit originally from Milan and usually enjoyed on Christmas and New Year’s in Italy. Kids and big kids alike go nuts for it during the holi­days.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    The Legend of Panettone

    A slice of panettone and a flute of champagne (or prosecco)… there is no more Italian way to wish a happy holiday season. It’s a ritual in many homes where panettone is a welcomed guest after every meal. But this sweet bread can be enjoyed everywhere, anytime, even at office parties while exchanging gifts or in stores while shopping. Giving panettone is not a simple act of kindness but a gesture rich in history and tradition.

    Panettone is a traditional cake-like bread stuffed with dried raisins and candied orange and lemon peel from Milan that has been embraced by fans worldwide. Immigrants to the Americas brought with them their love of panettone.  When it is enjoyed on Christmas in many countries, it’s paired with hot chocolate, or ice cream, and even eggnog. Although the traditional recipe remains a favorite, producers are offering many variations with cream, chocolate chips and frosting, and even liqueurs such as limoncello.

    Italians consume an estimated two-and-a-half panettoni (5.5 pounds) per family per year, and its popularity is also growing beyond the Italian border, with seven to 10 percent of panettoni produced now exported to France, Germany, the United States, Canada, Britain, and Spain. Americans are adopting this pleasurable Italian food custom with enthusiasm. According to the latest figures from the Italian Trade Commission, pastry imports to the United States are always growing.

    Right after Thanksgiving, there are plenty of tempting panettoni on the supermarket shelves: from the tiny ornament-sized boxes to be hung on Christmas trees, to large ones sold in holiday tins and elegant gift wrapped ones, hidden in red and green foil with golden ribbons. Panettoni used to be available only at a few places like Neiman Marcus or Garden of Eden, but now you can find them everywhere.

    The name panettone can be explained in many ways: documents from the 1200s portrayed an early form of it enriched with honey, raisins, and even pumpkin. The writer Pietro Verri (1728-1797) called it “pane di tono” (luxury bread in Milanese dialect). Raisins are used for good wishes, as they are indeed known to bring fortune and wealth because their shape is reminiscent of golden coins.

    One of the legends of its conception says that the person who invented panettone was the Milanese nobleman Ughetto degli Atellani who lived in the 1400s. He fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. To win her over, the nobleman disguised himself as a baker and invented a rich bread in which he added to the flour and yeast, butter, eggs, dried raisins, and candied peel.The duke of Milan , Ludovico il Moro Sforza, encouraged the launch of the new cake-like bread: pan del Ton (or Toni's bread).


    Another story says that Toni, the young helper of a cook, was the real inventor. It was Christmas and the court chef had no dessert to offer. What he had prepared wasn’t good enough to be served. So Toni prepared something using everything he had available. Hence the name panettone, “il pan de Toni” (Toni’s bread). Just after the end of World War I, panettone became widely known thanks to a young Milanese baker, Angelo Motta, who gave his name to one of Italy 's now best-known brands. Motta revolutionized the traditional way of making panettone by giving it its tall domed shape by making the dough rise three times, before cooking, which is what makes it so light.

    Around 1925, the recipe was adapted by a competitor, Gioacchino Alemagna, who also gave his name to a popular brand that still exists today. The stiff competition between the two led to the growth of the industrial production of the cake-like bread.

    When purchasing panettone, be sure to check the ingredients. With almost 80 million pounds produced annually in Italy (as well as domestic versions), not all are of excellent merit. Read the labels and watch for lower-quality ingredients such as margarine

    rather than butter or powdered eggs instead of fresh.

    To ensure a high-quality product, the Association of Italian Confectionary Industries (AIDI) has asked the Italian government to recognize panettone as a specialty item deserving protection. If successful, only producers meeting strict standards will be able to identify their products as panettone. Among the brands meeting AIDI requirements are Alemagna, Bauli, Flamingi, Maina, Motta, Perugina, Le Tre Marie, and Valentino.

    One of the largest importers of panettone to the United States , Frank Lettieri, owner of Lettieri and Co. in South San Francisco , primarily imports the Maina brand. “Maina really stands out is its moistness. In comparison, many panettoni are dry,'' claims Mr. Lettieri.

    Valentino USA brings products of the Italian confectionery tradition, like Panettone and Pandoro, in classic or special versions, as well as other goods that are typically consumed by Italians at breakfast, to the United States . Respect for traditional processing systems combined with the application of modern technologies and the support of strict controls over raw materials and finished products have assured Valentino a fine reputation in worldwide confectionery. Valentino USA is a name that guarantees quality and excellence, exactly what you need to celebrate the holidays in peace.


  • From Boccaccio to Shakespeare: the Connections of Literature & Theater

    Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo' (NYU) is presenting tonight From Boccaccio to Shakespeare, an evening of theater, by Kairos Italy Theater (Casa Italiana's Company in Residence) and Rocco Sisto, to uncover similarities and differences between Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Shakespeare.

    During the past weeks, led by Three Time Obie Award actor Rocco Sisto, KIT has been working on scenes from Measure for Measure while learning about the relationship between Shakespeare and Italy. Tonight, the actors will share the result of the workshop by presenting scenes from Measure for Measure together with scenes from The Mandrake Root and Decameron, introduced by Sisto himself.

    We interviewed Laura Caparrotti, founder and director of KIT, who will also be performing in some of the scenes.

    How did tonight's event come to be?

    I have been doing theater for 30 years (maybe even more) and through this time I have become more and more interested in how the world of theater is connected. Let me explain better, since I've been in the States, I have been noticing how much the non-English speaking theater is not consideredpart of the culture.  It's like theater from another part of the world is something else, something completely detached and not to be connected with the American one. In these 30 years, I have seen many theater productions, of all kinds and times, experimental, traditional, in translation and in their original language. The more I have seen, the more I have been comparing theaters and theater traditions. A book I love is called The Development of the Theatre: A Study of Theatrical Art from the Beginnings to the Present Day by Allardyce Nicoll. In the book Nicoll illustrates how theater has changed, since Ancient Greece, to serve society and how each form of theater has taken from the most ancient ones and/or has gone in the opposite direction. This premise is necessary to introduce the kind of work we have been doing, as a company, in these past weeks. We have worked first on the Mandragola (the mandrake root) by Machiavelli, a play written in 1518 to comment the political situation in Florence. Then we moved to the Decameron by Boccaccio, exactly on the three novels that Machiavelli referred to to write the Mandrake Root. Now, six months after the production of the Decameron, I have invited Rocco Sisto, a great stage and screen actor and a Shakespearean expert, to work with the company on Shakespeare, focusing on the similarities and differences with Boccaccio and Machiavelli writing.

    What play have you been focusing on?

    Rocco chose Maesure for Measure to dig into the Bard and in about 5 weeks, 9 of us (membre of Young KIT and I) have been dealing with characters, dialogues, monologues and emotions as written by the great playwright. What has been really amazing to me is to discover how an artist born and living in England was writing about the same subject of two artists whp lived in different times in Tuscany.

    What's the connection between Shakespeare and Italy?

    In his first class, Rocco Sisto explained to us how much Shakespeare was close to Italy. Italy was the place to be at the time. It was the fashionable land, it was synonymous of culture, art and elegant life. It was the place to look at and to take example from. Of course, I am saying Italy even if at that time there were many little countries, kingdoms and a few of so called republics. Yet, these places were the cradle of civilization and progress. In fact, Shakespeare located more than half of his stories in Italian territories. Even Shakespeare's language was not pure British: it was very close to Latin pronunciation. Finally, Shakespeare knew about our writers, our artists, our stories, through his studies, mostly, of Latin texts.

    How did things go?

    Starting from these notions, we went on studying and analyzing the play. Some of the situations are very similar to what we have found in Boccaccio and Machiavelli, yet the result is different. Shakespeare, living in Elizabethan England, is harsh and doesn’t give space to forgiveness or to breaking the law. If you make a mistake, you pay for it. In Boccaccio and Machiavelli, when you make a mistake or do something not so legal, you find the way to get away with it (which by the way says a lot about a certain Italian lifestyle). In all of the writers there are human beings, with passion, with love, with emotions and with duties. The outcome is different, the point of view changes and having explored the three of them, the result is for me that I can go deeper in Boccaccio and Machiavelli thanks to Shakespeare. And I can better understand Shakespeare by reading Boccaccio and Machiavelli.

    How is tonight's presentation going to be?

    After many years of doing Italian theater in the States, I feel that an important duty of Kairos Italy Theater is to work to widen the perception and the understanding of our culture in relation of other cultures, especially the American one as we are mostly operating in this country. This is why we are showing the result of the workshop in an evening that will start with an introduction by Rocco Sisto on Shakespeare and his connection with Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Italian stories and that will continue with the scenes from Measure for Measure we have prepared together with some scenes from Boccaccio’s Decameron and from Machiavelli Mandragola.

    What's coming up after this?

    There is a lot to do, both as an Italian theater company and as someone who deeply cares about spreading her culture and making understand that each culture is both similar and different from the other. With KIT, I will continue working on the past and the present of our theater, digging next into ancient theater (Latin and Greek) and then into Goldoni and the plays of the 1900s. There is a line that connects all kind of theaters, I am interested in finding such line and learning how much other cultures did give to mine and vice versa.

    Ours is not a political program to prove that we live in a global society and that we all have to love each other (which is very fine anyway), what brings me to focus on such aspects of theater and therefore culture is the need of looking not just at my courtyard, as we say in Italian, but to learn by looking beyond and embracing what could seem far and different from me.

  • Life & People

    “My wife in a Chador”. Interview: Claudio Angelini & His Theater

    In the play “My wife in a Chador,” a Pulitzer Price nominated author resembling Norman Mailer is recruited to run for Mayor of New York. Coincidentally the author's wife, who is half Arabic, is mugged on the city's mean streets and is so traumatized by the crime that she decides to return to her Islamic roots and adopt the chador (head covering). The question then becomes: can a man campaigning with an Islamic wife win the mayoralty of our city?

    Written by Italian news personality Claudio Angelini,  “My wife in a Chador” is a seriocomedy that raises a lot of questions. “The play moves back and forth between a political drama and a trenchant comedy. On the one hand, true to the author's Italian roots, it bears distinctive influences of commedia dell' arte. On the other hand, it presents the serious crisis of a couple divided between western culture and Islamic culture who manage to overcome their differences. There is also commentary on the specter of ISIS and Al Queda in American eyes, with the author suggesting that the threat to Westerners from Islamic fundamentalism can be defeated by love.”

    Claudio Angelini is a notorious Italian TV news reporter and author of 15 books of poetry, novels and essays. He was the Director of the RAI office of the Quirinale and the anchorman of Italy’s National newscast Tg1 for over twenty years. He was also Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, where he has been living for 18 years and where he currently serves as President of the Dante Alighieri Society and columnist for an Italian daily, Il Messaggero. Last season, Angelini made his NY playwriting debut with the musical "Obama in Naples," and his latest play “My Wife in a Chador” has just wrapped.

    We had a chance to ask him a few questions.

    "My Wife in a Chador" started out as a novel and ended up as a play. What happened?

        1)    Yes, it started out as a novel which I stopped writing when I met director Stephan Morrow. I told him what I was writing and he really liked the idea. So I wrote the theatrical version, borrowing some lines from the novel and adding some new ones. I also worked on the male protagonist and mellowed him out. In the play he's become more generous, therefore more appealing as a candidate for the mayoral run – he gives a street performer a new saxophone, he offers a painting job to an unemployed bartender just to help him out. I also changed the ending: in the novel it is more ambiguous in regards to what happens to the female protagonist (Abeera) after she comes face to face with a killer the night before the elections. We don't know what happens to her, if she survives or not. In the play she definitely survives and she will provide precious advice to her husband who will become the mayor of NYC.

    How did you get inspiration to write “My wife in a Chador” specifically, but overall what inspires you?

    It's really hard to say. I can get inspiration from an idea, a sensation, an image, an experience, maybe something random. Two years ago, for example, when I wrote the musical "Obama in Naples" I was inspired by the Neapolitan audience who came to the presentation of my book on Barack Obama ("Obama: a Year of Challenges," published by Rizzoli). They were fascinated by the American president.  During the presentation, which took place at the Circolo Artistico of Naples, I was showered with questions and that's when I understood people wanted a mayor like Obama. I immediately started writing the play and I completed it back in NYC. In the case of "My wife in a chador," I was inspired while at Starbucks as I was preparing to write an essay on America. Right in front of me there was a light skin girl wearing a chador; she was peacefully sipping on a cup of tea. I imagined she was an American citizen and, most likely, a woman committed in the liberation of women. I imagined that at times she would fight with her husband about the supremacy of either Islamic or Western culture. So, instead of writing the essay, I wrote a short story that I later sent to America Oggi. The story became a novel and then I stopped writing it in order to complete the play. Now I have picked up the novel again and I am finishing it up.  

    The play was defined a seriocomedy; there are both serious and less serious moments. Can you pick two, a serious and a light one, that you think are the most significative?

    It's a serious play because there are moments of irony and of suspense. There is suspense during the attack on John and his wife, while irony prevails when John meets a fascinating girl in a pub and she tries to seduce him. Yet, I think, the two most significative moments representing the two factors that are at the center of the play are: for the serious part, the scene where Abeera is willing to take off her chador in order not to interfere with John's election but he puts it back on her to show her his love and respect. For the ironic part, the scene where the Imam explains to Abeera that women have the same rights as men, but only up to a certain point. They need to appear inferior because they are... superior. They must work hard at home and take care of the kids because their role is more important... you get my drift.

    Would a man with an Islamic wife, just like John and Abeera, be able to become the mayor of NYC? 
I think so, even in the next election. New York is a multiethnic and multicultural city and it is ready to take such a big step. Anyways, this is an existing problem everywhere. There are situations similar to John and Abeera's all over the world. There is a touch of maturity, courage, and most of all, of love to overcome cultural and religious differences everywhere. This is the message of my tale, a tale that can be performed everywhere in the USA and in Europe, especially in Italy.  

    What kind of city is NY towards the “different,” and “foreign”?

    I've been living in New York for 18years now, and I still don't feel like a Newyorker. Yet, I don't consider myself a Roman or a Florentine, meaning a citizen of the cities where I lived the longest. I am an immigrant who still loves his home country but who understands it less and less. I admire the USA, and NYC in particular, especially because it is not your typical American city. New York is everything, It is also Italy, an Italy that is different from the country where I used to live, because it is less  bureaucratized and is more aware of its duties and rights.  I wish our country would be inspired by this city and I am happy that my kids have followed me here. When I was the director of the Italian Cultural Institute I was glad to welcome so many interns, but then, when they had to leave, I felt bad for them because they had so many illusions. One of those illusions was the expectation of finding back in Italy a reality similar to the one they found in America.  I thought of their disappointment, of their having to “re-live” the same old situations, the same old problems and issues. I think that coming here is good not only for a bunch of interns but also for politicians. And not for a short stay... New York can teach them a whole lot.

  • Events: Reports

    Mario Fratti Interprets Eduardo De Filippo

    Together with young actress Giulia Bisinella Mario Fratti, the author of Nine will read, on December 2nd at the Italian Cultural Institute, excerpts from "Filumena Marturano" by  Eduardo De Filippo.,  both in the comedy's original language and in its English translation.

    “I picked Filumena Marturano simply because it is an incredible masterpiece, one of the best in the world,” Fratti told us as he is taking care of the final touches of his presentation.

    In the balmy heat of late '40s of last century in Naples, Filumena Marturano lies on her deathbed waiting to marry Domenico Soriano, the man who has kept her as his mistress for twenty-five years. But no sooner has the priest completed the ceremony, than Filumena makes a miraculous recovery.

    As he reels in shock, Domenico discovers that this brilliant, iron-willed woman has a few more surprises for him. Eduardo De Filippo's famous play, written in 1946, memorably overturns conventional morality. Exploring themes such as family betrayal, divided loyalty and social status Filumena Marturano is an engaging and provocative piece of theatre, enjoying the status of a classic in Italian literature. In 1979, Laurence Olivier directed Frank Finlay and Joan Plowright in ''Filumena.'

    “De Filippo's work is not that well known here in the USA and I think that the main reason why it's because it is tough to translate,” Giulia Bisinella, who will read Filumena's lines at the presentation, told us. “But this is just a difficulty not an obstacle that cannot be overcome. The themes addressed in the play are real and very human, while the characters are all wonderful in all their nuances. Specifically, Filumena Marturano is a comedy that honors all women.

    Filumena is a wonderful, shameless woman, who, says whatever she wants to say with no constraint but who is also able to be incredibly delicate and feminine. She is both tough and fragile at the same time.  She is Woman with a capital W.”

    “When I travel around the world,” Fratti, who has just returned from Cuba, added, “whether I am in Russia, Argentina or anywhere, all theater lovers agree that De Filippo was the best. His magic was his ability to tell simple stories in a simple language that spoke to all.

    He knew human psychology and knew how to address popular themes. Also he was able to use Neapolitan dialect and give it the value it deserves, as it is an important part of Italian culture. Once I was in Russia and I saw a performance of Filumena Marturano. The audience was laughing so hard and I asked myself how that was possible.

    The translator had lived in Naples for two years in order to pick up the dialect, make it his own and translate it in a way that would please the audience... and he was successful. A good translation makes it all possible. And that's why at the presentation we will act each part in both languages.”

    Here in the US De Filippo is known as “The Naples-born author of more than 50 plays, which were performed all over Europe and in the United States, was famous for his boisterous, bittersweet comedies of Italian family life and especially of Neapolitan society during and after World War II,” the New York Times wrote in the actor's obituary back in 1984.

    But since then the representations of his work have been just a few. Thanks to Fratti, companies like Kairos Italy Theater and John Turturro (who in 2005 brought Souls of Naples to Broadway) though, his work is kept alive. 

    “I've never seen a play of De Filippo on stage,” Giulia Bisinella added, “but hopefully his work will be performed more and more.”

  • N.I.C.E. Awards Antonio Morabito and His Il Venditore di Medicine

    Antonio Morabito, with his film Il Venditore di Medicine, is the winner of the “Città di Firenze” Award” of the 24th edition of N.I.C.E. New Italian Cinema Events Festival.

    N.I.C.E. is committed to showcasing new Italian cinema abroad, but it has also been promoting the City of Florence, the Region of Tuscany, its territory and culture, supporting not only its tourism but a cultural and productive exchange. This happens every year through the screening of films produced or shot in Tuscany (often international premieres) and through the presentation of the “Città di Firenze” Award to the winning film of the US festival.

    The award, assigned by the American audience (mostly young film professionals and students of film and Italian language) through voting ballots, has the aim to draw the national and international attention to quality and independent films, which nonetheless don’t easily find their natural place into the Italian movie theaters.

    Morabito, who received his award in San Francisco, was extremely surprised but proud of his film, which is a piece that denounces the current illegal practices of some pharmaceutical companies that force doctors to prescribe their medications to their patients even though they are not necessary to make them feel better.

    “The topic touches all of us,” the director said, “Mine is not an investigation, but the simple narration of real facts.” The film is a horror where factual events are stranger than fiction, and where medicine equates any other commercial products: “Do you know what oncology means? Two thousand euros a vial!”

    The film stars Claudio Santamaria, in the role of the medical representative who, in order not to lose his job, accepts all sorts of compromises no matter what his conscience tells him; Isabella Ferrari, in the role of the area manager and Marco Travaglio in the role of the “evil” Prof. Malinverni, Chief of oncology.

    “Hopefully the film will find distribution and Morabito will become one of Italy's prominent filmmakers,” Viviana del Bianco, the festival's director said, “We are proud of all our filmmakers and we are working hard to help them get the attention they deserve.”

    N.I.C.E. is an important cinematic event for the Italian community abroad but mostly for American distributors in search of new material. Year after year, the festival showcases Italian films made by new directors at their first or second experience. This is an important opportunity for all these Italian promising directors to have their talent recognized outside the borders of their home country.

    “N.I.C.E., now in its 24th year, is the Italian film festival that has been in the US the longest,” Fabio Troisi, cultural attaché to the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, said in an introductory press conference, “2014 has been an historical year for Italian cinema. The Great Beauty has won an Academy Award – by the way, Sorrentino, the director, was discovered by N.I.C.E. - and five Italian films found American distributors. Five is not a high number, we know that, but it is a lot compared to other countries and to previous years. How is that possible? Better quality, that's the answer. There are new directors whose talent and films are being helped by N.I.C.E. Because they are given a chance to be seen.”

    Troisi's desire is to renovate interest in this festival that has been presented in NYC for the past couple of years, in limited editions. “We don't have a partner in New York,” Viviana del Bianco added, “but we have great support from the cultural institutions. Hopefully, next year, for our 25th anniversary, we will be able to show all the films.” According to del Bianco, the celebrations for the anniversary will be grand, and will see the participation of some of America's favorite filmmakers who have supported N.I.C.E. from the very beginning.

    “Scorsese, Turturro and Coppola, are just a few name I can throw out there...” del Bianco concluded, “meanwhile let's focus on Morabito and his promising talent.”