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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • Dining in & out

    The Two young Women Behind San Matteo Pizza and Pizza Quadrata Romana

    In 2010, Ciro and Fabio Casella moved to New York from Salerno and opened San Matteo Pizza Espresso Bar, a homey and authentic pizzeria serving Neapolitan-style pizza, panuozzi and other specialties from the Salerno region. They then opened a second larger location in 2016, San Matteo Pizza e Cucina, just a few blocks down.

    The latest addition to their NYC venues introduces a concept that is extremely diffused in Italy but virtually unknown in the US: Roman pizza “al taglio” or “in teglia”. They named it PQR, which stands for Pizza Quadrata Romana (literally “roman square pizza”) because this format is originally from Rome, though the pizza they serve follows a unique recipe invented by Roman pizzaiolo and president of API (Associazione Pizzerie Italiane) Angelo Iezzi, who devised a new method of making dough for a  lighter, easier to digest pizza that is lower in carbs and remains fresh longer.   

    Located on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, as are all the venues owned by the two brothers, PQR looks and feels exactly like any pizza “forno” (oven) you would find in Rome: the front room is quite small, with just three seats and a tray holder, the pizzas are baked in rectangular iron pans and placed on the counter as they come out of the oven.

    Ciro’s 28-year-old daughter, Marika Casella, welcomes us in from behind the glass as she cuts two generously-sized square slices and hands them to us: one serving of prosciutto and fig and one of truffle and potato. We eat them as Radio Italia plays songs by Vasco Rossi and Gianna Nannini before moving to the slightly larger back room.

    Marika arrived in New York in 2015 to join her father. She started working at San Matteo Pizza Espresso Bar a few blocks up and now alternates between working there and at PQR. She tells us she didn’t want to come to New York at first:

    Marika Casella: I really didn’t imagine I would end up here. I wanted to stay in Salerno with my friends. Then, as I started to get older, and with my father being here, I finally decided to come.

    I-I: Had you worked in a pizzeria before?

    MC: No, never. I had done several jobs but never in the restaurant business. It was all new, everything changed.

    I-I: What was your first impression?

    MC: The rhythm is frenetic.

    I was used to working on a schedule. Italians are creatures of habit, they’re more regular, they do things at certain times. Here, people come in at all times. Every day is different, you never know what it’s going to be like.

    I-I: What’s it like working with your father?

    MC: It’s good. Sure, sometimes we see each other all day (laughs) but ultimately we get along well.

    I-I: How do you find yourself here? Do you think you want to stay here?

    MC: Lately, I started thinking that I do want to stay here. But that’s very recent. The first years I always thought about going back home. I often go back. Home always calls.

    Last year, I spent the year back in Italy. And after that, I came back and now I see New York differently. Now I think I want to stay for a while, I feel more stable here.

    I-I: What do you think is the key to the success of your father’s businesses?

    MC: It's genuine.

    It’s a simple concept, pizza al taglio, it’s something that exists everywhere in Italy.

    Americans are already familiar with it, it’s very much like grabbing a slice. It’s already in their culture.

    But it’s a different type of pizza, more sophisticated, with different ingredients, many toppings, richer, and more expensive. It’s interesting, people here are intrigued by it. And when they try it, they like it. The dough is made in a unique way, by a Roman pizzaiolo, Angelo Iezzi, it's very light and it goes well with all sorts of toppings. I try a few slices every day.

    Somehow there’s nothing else quite like it here and it’s really catching on.

    I-I: What are some of the most popular flavors here?

    MC: Pizza "alla diavola", with spicy salami. The ones with bufala. The truffle pizza as well, and the burrata. Also some of the specials like the prosciutto and fig you had.

    People come in at all times, for lunch, maybe a little less in the afternoon, and then for dinner, but quite early during the week.

    We do a lot of deliveries, they’re great for groups because you can try out many different toppings, it’s easier than with round pizzas.

    I-I: What did you miss about America when you were back to Italy last year?

    MC: I actually missed the rhythm, the work.

    At first, when you’re back in Italy, everything is beautiful, relaxing but then eventually you do miss the rhythm, the frenzy.

    I-I: Once you get into this rhythm then you have to come back.

    MC: And you know what? You get right back into it. I was in Italy for a year and after two days here, I was already back in the system.

    It’s strange to think about because I always thought that the frenetic New York lifestyle really wasn’t for me. I’m a creature of habit, back in Italy I always go to the same bar, see the same people.

    When I came here, all my plans changed. But you get used to it. Like I said, I came here initially to join my dad but then I became passionate about this job myself. I didn’t expect it.

    I-I: Are you a soccer fan?

    MC: Yes. I’m a “tifosa” of the Salernitana. It’s not a major team though so I can’t see the games here.

    I-I: Maybe you could screen them here, there are a lot of people from Salerno in New York.

    MC: Maybe, we still have to get the TV though. And the rights.

     

    Letting Marika get back to her customers, we leave PQR and walk a few blocks over to San Matteo Pizza Espresso Bar, a cozy and welcoming pizzeria with walls covered in all sorts of adornments, from “vedute” of the gulf of Naples, to pictures of Totò, red Salernitana scarves, reviews, certificates, lucky horns, and a vintage neon Peroni sign. You can see the small but beautiful mosaicked wood oven in the back, depicting a yellow sun against a light blue background. In front of it are a tiny wooden counter and, amidst the numerous wine bottles, a shiny espresso maker that looks exactly like the ones you would find in any old Italian bar.

    We sit and sip our espresso as we wait for Imma Liguri, a pizzaiola from Naples, where, as she tells us, the concept of a female pizza maker is still hard to accept:

    Imma Liguri: I started working in Naples, it was hard as a woman there because the figure of the pizzaiolo is strictly male. There’s a very hectic rhythm to it, lots of arm movements, weights to lift...but I’m very stubborn.

    I come from a family of pizzaioli. I’ve always been interested in both pizza and cuisine. I focused on pizza because, with just two ingredients, water and flour, you can create a base for everything, even cuisine.

    I-I: And how did you get here?

    IL: I was working in pizzerias in Naples and surrounding towns and then I lost my mother 6 years ago.

    At that point, a friend told me about a man from Salerno who was looking for pizzaioli in New York. So I met with Ciro in Salerno. To be honest, he didn’t want me at first, but then he asked to see me again and I’ll always remember how he told me “I believe in you.”

    I had never left Naples but I came here, stayed with him and his family at first. Lovely people, they treated me like their daughter. It took me a while to get used to the city, to the rhythm.

    I-I: But you don’t spend all your time here, you take part in competitions too.

    IL: Yes, I do competitions, I’ve won several prizes, all over the country. I was just in Las Vegas. I do competitions in Naples too. I’m only 26 years old but I’ve been keeping myself busy! (laughs)

    I-I: In the last couple of years Neapolitan pizza has become very popular here in New York, but when you first got here, it was only starting to gain recognition. How did you “explain” it to Americans?

    IL: I had some trouble making Americans get that the pizza we make is cooked, not raw. Because for them if the dough sinks in it means it’s raw, but it’s not, it’s how Neapolitan pizza is. It’s a type of pizza that has to be eaten at the table, you can’t eat it with your hands.

    I did adapt a bit. Here, I try to make a pizza that’s easy to digest, that’s well cooked but not too much like American pizza. I use semolina on the table, to make it a little crispier.

    I-I: What makes Neapolitan pizza different?

    IL: It’s the hand of the pizzaiolo. It’s the person who makes the pizza that makes the difference. Or else we’d all be making the same pizza.

    I-I: You don’t have to be from Naples to know how to make though?

    IL: Of course not, Fausto here is the only person who makes the same pizza as me, I taught him. He can make it exactly the same, and he’s Mexican.

    Every time you put your hands on the dough, you have to understand if in that moment it’s hard, soft, if too much water could come out. You have to feel it, like when you touch a man and you can tell if he doesn’t take care of himself, if he’s delicate.

    I-I: I imagine you don’t get to interact with the clients too often…

    IL: No, listen, that’s why I love this venue. Since it’s so small, I always see the clients, often on their way to the bathroom. (laughs)

    They often come in to pay compliments, to ask for information about the oven, the flour I use.

    The greatest thing is when clients ask for me. When I leave to go on vacation, clients message me on facebook, asking where I am. I think it’s important to show that there still are people out there, especially young people, who want to do things well, with passion.

    I-I: So you like being here.

    IL: When I first got here, the restaurant was small, the pizzaiolo was from Salerno and I felt quite at home.

    And I loved how nobody looks at you here! Women can do any job, drive a truck, a bus. Nobody questions it. In Italy, more in the South, women are still supposed to clean, cook for their husband, take care of the children.

    I-I: Do you think you’ll go back to Italy?

    IL: I want to go back home eventually, I love home. I’m like that.

    I was afraid to come here. But the night before leaving, I dreamt my mother saying she wanted to see New York, and, since I’m a bit superstitious, I did it. I came here and it’s been a good experience. I understood that Italians do so much abroad that they don’t do in their own city.

    I-I: Why do you think that is?

    IL: I think that Italians want to exalt Italy abroad but don’t value themselves at home.

     

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    Their websites

    San Matteo >>

    Pizza Quadrata Romana >>

     

     

  • Art & Culture

    Leonardo’s St. Jerome on View in Saint Peter’s Square

    Though it is shrouded in mystery, as are most things concerning Leonardo, “St. Jerome in the Wilderness” (believed to have been painted between 1486 and 1490) has been unequivocally attributed to the Great Renaissance Master. It is the sole Leonardo painting in the Vatican Museum’s collection and in the city of Rome, making this exhibit, which will be open until June 22nd all the more significant.

     

    This unfinished oil on wood painting depicts St. Jerome as a modest elderly hermit longingly looking towards the heavens, unbothered by the roaring lion at his feet. The precise anatomical details, the saint’s deeply expressive features, and the mountainous background are all distinctively Leonardesque elements.

     

    The painting is displayed in the Braccio di Carlo Magno in St. Peter's Square, protected by a nearly undetectable temperature-controlled display case. The exhibition also features a video explaining the painting’s history.

     

    According to ANSA, the painting is set to travel to New York City in July, where it will be featured in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It should then be part of the much anticipated Leonardo exhibition hosted by the Louvre in Paris starting October 2019, a show which has already been at the center of diplomatic disputes between France and Italy.

     

    This year marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s death and several institutions across the world are carrying out initiatives to celebrate one of the world’s most acclaimed artists. Leonardo’s appeal is practically universal, he is undeniably one of the most fascinating and mysterious artists in the western canon. That’s probably why discussions surrounding him often become heated, particularly between France and Italy.

     

    Because of their incredible value, works by Leonardo, particularly his paintings, rarely travel. When the Louvre announced that it would be hosting the largest exhibition ever devoted to the Renaissance master, featuring 14 to 17 paintings and multiple drawings, it garnered great excitement and anticipation within the art world.

     

    However, in November, the Italian culture minister Alberto Bonisoli (of the right-wing party Lega), announced that he intended to back out of the agreement his predecessor Dario Franceschini had made with the French government in 2017, in which Italy was to loan all of its Leonardo paintings including the Uffizi Gallery’s “Annunciation” (around 1472), “Adoration of the Magi” (around 1482), and “The Baptism of Christ” (around 1475), as well as the Vatican Museums’ “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness” (1480).

     

    In line with his party’s nationalist approach, Bonisoli argued that Leonardo was Italian and that his paintings should therefore remain in Italy, that letting France host such an exhibit would “put Italy on the margins of a major cultural event.” For months, the two nations argued and tried to negotiate new terms, including loans of Raphael paintings from France to Italy in occasion of the artist’s own 500th anniversary in 2020.

     

    Finally, in early March, both sides announced that the issue had been resolved and that the loans would indeed take place. Bonisoli backtracked on his previous statements, now stating that he was “happy that France should celebrate the greatness of Leonardo.” We should therefore expect to see the Italian Leonardos, and amongst them "St. Jerome in the Wilderness" in Paris starting October but, given the complicated diplomatic relations between France and Italy lately, who knows.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Italian Confections Company Ferrero Buys Kellogg’s Cookie Brands

    Initially, it might be surprising to hear that an Italian company is buying an American brand (and from none other than Kellogg, one of the world’s most well-known brands, practically an emblem of western consumerist culture) rather than the other way around. However, given how the Ferrero group has been significantly expanding in the past years under the chairmanship of 54-year-old billionaire Giovanni Ferrero, this sale isn’t all that strange.

     

    The company has come a long way since Giovanni’s grandfather, Pietro Ferrero opened the first pastry shop in Alba, a northwestern Italian town south of Turin, in 1923. Since 2011, when Giovanni was left alone in charge of the company following his brother’s untimely death, he began focusing on increasing the sales of Ferrero’s original products (such as the famous golden Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Nutella, and Kinder chocolate snacks) while also garnering more revenue through acquisitions.

     

    The company has in fact purchased several international brands, from the British Thortons, which it acquired in 2013 through a 170 million deal, to Nestle’s American candy business, bought for $2.8 billion in 2018. It now generates over $12 billion in annual sales across more than 170 countries. However, Ferrero is looking to expand further, particularly on the US market.

     

    So far, it has been doing so by acquiring well-established brands such as these, which were being neglected within larger companies, and reinvesting and remarketing them. It did so with Butterfinger candy bars by making a version with larger peanuts, more cocoa and milk and no hydrogenated oils, which was launched in February with the “Better Butterfinger” campaign. This latest acquisition is therefore an occasion for the company to diversify its offerings and compete in the world’s largest cookie market.

     

    Kellogg, on the other hand, had been trying to sell some of its brands since the past November, in an attempt to move towards more targeted investment approaches. The company hopes that by divesting from the brands acquired by Ferrero, which it claims weren’t a good fit with the other offerings and difficult to maintain due to the competitiveness of the cookie market, it will be able to devote more attention and capital towards its “power brands”, such as Pringles, Cheez-Its, Rice Krispies Treats, and Pop-Tarts, as well as on its trademark cereal brands, whose sales have been more difficult lately.  

     

    The $1.3 billion deal would then appear to be a win-win situation for both Ferrero and Kellogg, who, by implementing different strategies, are both looking to grow and increase their revenue in the years to come.  

  • Facts & Stories

    Dogman Dominates the David di Donatello Italian Film Awards

    The award ceremony for the 2019 David di Donatello, referred to as the “Italian Oscar’s”, was held last night in Rome’s Studios and live-broadcasted by RAI. Piera Detassis, the first female president and artistic director of the Italian Film Academy, gave the awards a makeover this year, trimming down the number of Academy members from 2,148 members to 1,559 in an attempt to filter out some of the eldest amongst them, who no longer work in the industry.

    A new category was also introduced, the David of The Spectator, recognizing the biggest box office success. This year the prize went to “A Casa Tutti Bene” (“There Is No Place Like Home”), a dramedy by Gabriele Muccino about a family that gets stranded on a desert island where they were meant to celebrate the grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.

    Most of the awards went to Matteo Garrone’s gritty crime drama about a mild-mannered Neapolitan dog breeder: “Dogman.” The film had been nominated for 15 awards and took home 9, including Best Film, Best Direction, and Best Original Screenplay. To the surprise of many, its lead actor Marcello Fonte, who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, lost that award to Alessandro Borghi, who interpreted Stefano Cucchi in Alessio Cremonini’s “Sulla Mia Pelle” (“On My Skin.”)

    This moving Netflix-produced true-crime film about the last days of Stefano Cucchi, the young man from Rome who died under police custody in 2009 after having been severly beaten up, garnered 4 awards in total, a success that came as somewhat of a surprise since Netflix films are quite controversial amongst Italian exhibitors.

    Another Netflix film, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, won Best Foreign Film beating “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Phantom Thread”, “Cold War” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The Mexican director was there to accept the award in person.

    Other illustrious international figures awarded were Tim Burton, who received the David for Cinematic Excellence, as well as Dario Argento, Francesca Lo Schiavo and Uma Thurman, who won special Davids. In her acceptance speech, Thurman recalled working on Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” (1988) in Rome’s very own Cinecitta’ Studios at the very start of her career.

    Luca Guadagnino’s acclaimed 2017 “Chiamami Col Tuo Nome” (“Call Me By Your Name”)  re-emerged, winning a couple of awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Song: “Mystery of Love,” by Sufjan Stevens.

    For the first time in the show’s history, two women were nominated for Best Director: Alice Rohrwacher for “Lazzaro Felice” (“Happy as Lazarus”) and Valeria Golino for “Euphoria.” A good sign that maybe things are starting to change within the industry, despite the fact that neither of them won.

    Detassis, in fact, declared that she sees the awards as an “educational tool and a driver for promoting our cinema and our production.” For this very reason, some consider the ceremony to have been very “political” or safe, a point which is tied to the ongoing debate of whether these type of award shows should concern themselves with sending social messages or if they should focus exclusively on artistic and technical merits.

    What do you think?

     
  • Dining in & out

    Tradition and New (Female) Faces: Meet the Future of Italian Wine

    The 34th edition of the Italian Wine & Food Association’s Gala Italia, held at Il Gattopardo Restaurant on March 26th, introduced over one hundred journalists and members of the press to representatives from a variety of Italian wineries, representing the quality and innovation of the Italian wine industry.

    In fact, this year, the more established wineries that traditionally participate in the event, such as Antinori, Ferrari, and Travaglini, were joined by more emerging ones. “We are in front of a wine such as Antinori, which has been existing for the past 600 years but we also have houses that were born two years ago.” commented Lucio Caputo, founder and president of the Italian Wine & Food Institute, a non-profit founded in 1970 to promote quality Italian wine. “There’s space for everyone.”

    Of particular note was the presence amongst the representatives of young women such as Sonia Peratoner of Maso Grener, a small house founded by her family in 2013 in the region of Trentino Alto Adige, and Alessia Travaglini, who represented the fifth generation of the more established Travaglini house from the Gattinara area in Piemonte.

    “I’m very proud to be part of this family and of this world” said ms. Travaglini “It’s a challenge for me to bring forward the tradition and passion of the house on one hand, but also to do so as a woman. It’s important to change the role of women in this industry.” In fact, until very recently, the wine industry was represented almost exclusively by men.

    However, many agree that things are changing. Ms. Peratoner, who like ms. Travaglini is finishing her studies as she begins to work for her family’s business, remarked that she believes this is a good time “more women and young people are participating in the wine industry, particularly in sales and communication,” she noted.

    Overall, the wine industry is undergoing great changes. For this reason, Italian wine producers who wish to sell to the United States have to keep focusing on quality while also paying attention to the trends and demands of the American market. This is essential in order for Italy to maintain and perhaps improve its standing as one of the main wine exporters to the US.

    Italy is currently second, right below France, whose export numbers were heavily boosted by the increasing demand for rose’, a trend that Italian wine producers are beginning to tap into, as witnessed by the presence of several bottles of rose’ or “rosati” throughout the stands.

    “Rose’ is having a huge success lately” Dr. Caputo commented “There seems to be an interest in wines that are easier to drink.”

    “The consumers’ tastes, particularly regarding food, are influencing wine,” he continued, “we don’t eat like we used to. You can’t drink wines like Barolo or Brunello with salad.”

    Judging by the event’s attendance, there certainly seems to be an interest in Italian wine from the part of the American audience. And the influx of younger generations, of women, and of new approaches and ideas could be exactly what the Italian wine industry needs in order to evolve and prosper both at home but especially abroad.

     

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    The Italian Wine & Food Institute, headquartered in New York, is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1983 for the enhancement of the image and prestige of Italian wines, gastronomy and food products in the United States.

    To further this goal, the Institute organizes educational and promotional events, and carries out public relations activities to educate American consumers about the high quality of Italian wine and food.

  • Life & People

    "The Smile of Imperfect Women” by Elvira Frojo : Discussing Happiness and Well-Being Amongst Women

    On Saturday, we had the pleasure of welcoming lawyer, author and mother Elvira Frojo to our headquarters to discuss her new book "The Smile of Imperfect Women: Journey into the Alphabet of Well-being" with I-Italy’s Editor-in-Chief Letizia Airos and writer and journalist Francesca di Matteo. The book, itself an exploration of happiness and well-being and how to achieve them, served as a starting point to dig deeper into these themes, focusing particularly on how they relate to women.

    What does happiness look like for a woman today? How can we obtain it? What are the challenges we face? These are some of the questions raised in Frojo’s book. The answers, as we witnessed during the open discussion are varied. “This book is absolutely not prescriptive” the author stressed right from the beginning. Rather, it raises questions, important ones and proposes examples, methods of how to approach them.

    Each chapter is named after a word from the “Alphabet of well-being”, which cover various aspects of our lives, ranging from “Abbraccio e Tenerezza” (hugs and tenderness) to “Zenzero e Limone” (ginger and lemon).

    Though some of the issues raised can undoubtedly be applied to men as well, (after all, most humans strive for happiness and well-being) the point of the book and of the discussion is to explore what these things mean for women in today’s society.

    Discussing freedom for example, raises specific debates when looked at from a female perspective. It can lead to the discussion of motherhood and of the balance between working and being a mother, a difficult and controversial topic, as many of these can be.

    The theme of feminine beauty is also imbued with distinct connotations, part of a long ongoing discourse, until quite recently exclusively dictated by men. Here instead it is being approached by a woman for women and that’s probably why it can finally be centered around a crucial but until recently repudiated concept: imperfection.

    “As I began to write the book” Frojo explained “I automatically wanted to address women.” And she does so using the familiar “tu” in Italian, drawing the reader in, talking to her like a friend.

    Perhaps the most interesting part was opening up the conversation to the audience, comprised mostly (though not exclusively) of women, who reacted to the topics discussed, added their own stories and perspectives, sometimes with great fervor.

    That was the ultimate goal of this discussion: on the one hand to present and promote women, their stories, their accomplishments (which too often get overlooked) while at the same time giving women a platform to finally express themselves, share their ideas, be heard and learn from one another.

     

  • NYC Subway Plan by Massimo Vignelli, 1972
    Art & Culture

    The Influence of Italian Graphic Designers on American Visual Culture

    The purpose of “Italian Types: Graphic Designers From Italy in America”, an exhibition hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute in New York and curated by Patricia Belen, Greg D’Onofrio, and Melania Gazzotti, is to bring awareness to the work of Italian graphic designers in the US and to their lasting impact on American and global visual culture.

     

    The show features sixteen designers who contributed to commercial graphic design in America in the pre and post World War II periods: Fortunato Depero, Paolo Garretto, Costantino Nivola, Leo Lionni, George Giusti, Albe Steiner, Erberto Carboni, Romaldo “Aldo” Giurgola, Roberto Mango, Giovanni Pintori, Bruno Munari, Franco Grignani, Heinz Waibl, Giulio Cittato, Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli. The works exhibited, all created roughly between 1928 and 1980, come in a variety of formats from posters, to magazines, albums, and book covers.

     

    Beyond highlighting the overall impact of Italian designers on the American landscape, the show also tells the unique stories of each artist. Oftentimes, these read as typical immigrant tales, since many of the featured designers came to America in search of work opportunities. As renowned art director, writer and graphic design expert Steven Heller says in his introduction for the exhibition’s catalog “New York was a city of immigrant art and design.”

     

    Some of their stories end in success, but that is not always the case. For example, the now well-known Italian Futurist Fortunato Depero, the first artist presented in the exhibition, first moved to New York in 1927 where he set up his studio/gallery, the “Casa Futurista Depero” (Futurist House).

     

    He worked for important clients including The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, and showed his works in Manhattan Art Galleries, garnering positive reviews from important publications such as the New York Times. However, these were the years of the Great Depression and Depero eventually had to move back to Italy in 1930 due to economic hardships. After the war, in 1947, he tried to come back to the United States but had difficulty finding work and finally returned to his hometown in Rovereto.

     

    Other designers fared better. Leo Lionni, for example, initially came to the US in 1939 in order to escape racial persecution in Italy. He quickly started working for important clients, then later on opened his own studio in New York and eventually was appointed as art director of “Fortune” magazine, a position he held for 11 years, meanwhile doing freelance work for Tim-Life publishing group, Italian manufacturing group Olivetti, and the MoMA.

     

    Another success story is that of Costantino Nivola who moved to New York in 1939 after marrying Ruth Guggenheim. There he became the artistic director of “Interiors” and “Progressive Architecture” and worked on numerous public and private commissions, including the relief of the Olivetti Showroom in New York. He returned to his native Sardinia for Fortune Magazine to create works for the Rockefeller Foundation’s anti-malaria campaign and eventually began teaching in top universities around the US and Europe.

     

    Others, like the prominent designer, artist, children’s book author Bruno Munari, never lived in the United States but showed their work there and worked with American clients. Munari’s work was exhibited in Leo Lionni’s New York gallery as well as at MoMA. He also taught a course in design and visual communication at Harvard and many of his books were translated and sold in the US but remained based in Milan throughout his life.

     

    In fact, during the 50s and 60s, as some Italian designers were getting more and more commissions by important American clients, prominent Italian companies such as Pirelli and Olivetti (for which many of the exhibited artists worked at some point in their career) were also beginning to invest in designers, both Italian and foreign, turning cities like Milan into fervent creative hubs and bolstering the image of Italian design.

     

    The exhibition ends with pieces by Massimo Vignelli, whose important work, particularly his 1972 design for the NYC subway map, perfectly render just how influential these Italian designers were and continue to be. Like much of the works present in the exhibition, Vignelli’s subway map remains to this day striking for its simplicity, elegance and eternal modernity.

     

    “Italian Types: Graphic Designers From Italy in America” is on view at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York (upon reservation) until May 02, 2019 and a panel with the contributors of the catalog will be held at Cooper Union on April 3, 2019.

     

  • Life & People

    Honoring George Hirsch at the Italy Run 2019 Kick-Off

    Consul General Francesco Genuardi officially announced that the “Italy Run”, an initiative first launched last year on June 2nd to celebrate the “Festa della Repubblica” in partnership with the New York Road Runners organization, will be coming back this year. This 5 mile run through Central Park “is a way to show what Italy is today and the love of Italy for NY and, I think, the love of New York towards Italy” the Consul said.

    Michael Capiraso, the CEO and President of New York Road Runners, remarked on the “great involvement” witnessed last year. “As an Italian growing up in Jersey City and coming to NY I always dreamed of having an Italy Run” he said. And eventually, he turned to George Hirsch, magazine publisher, runner, Italy lover, and “passionate supporter of the italian community in New York” as Consul Genuardi said, to make it happen.

    In conferring to him the official title of “Ufficiale dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia”, the consul explains how beyond having played a central role in “attracting runners from all over the world not only to the New York Marathon but to the world of marathons in general”, Mr. Hirsch has been instrumental in the creation and organization of the Italy Run, and an overall “Ambassador of Italy and Italian culture.”

    George Hirsch’s love for Italy is in fact apparent from the moment he begins his speech, which he makes in Italian. He defines himself as “A New Yorker (born 10 minutes walking from here) but with an Italian heart.” He recounts how he fell in love with the country during his very first time there, and has always gone back since “for work and for vacation, many vacations, in every part of Italy.”

    George contributed greatly to the promotion of Italy in the United States. Notably, he was the chairman and publisher of the English language edition of “La Cucina Italiana”, Italy’s oldest and largest food and cooking magazine. He also recalls having participated in the founding of the Italian magazine Panorama back in the ‘60s.

    The greatest memory he shares though is perhaps one from a recent visit to Naples, where he lived the first time he was in Italy as a young US Marine. “I found the house where I lived the first time, in 1959.” He recognized the house, even his very apartment. In the one next door there was a woman - “making pizza, what else?” he jokes - who invited him in for “a pleasant and nostalgic visit.”

    “It’s not surprising that I always feel at home in Italy” he concludes, warmly and sincerely thanking the consulate and everyone in it for his well-deserved award.

    And thanks to people like Mr. Hirsch, who through his work at numerous publications such as “The Runner” and “Runner’s World”, promoted running and turned it into the global sensation it is today, many people are expected to participate in this year’s “Italy Run”. In fact, though this may come as a surprise to some, Italians, especially those living in New York, love to run. According to the Consul “Italians are a significant part of the New York Marathon and the number of italian runners keeps growing every year. Italy is the second most represented country in the marathon, after the United States.”

    “Italy Run” is also an occasion to show a healthy Italian lifestyle, as was emphasized by Aldo Uvo, CEO of Ferrero and a runner himself. In his video message, the latter talked about Nutella Cafe, the event’s main sponsor, as a “piazza” that wishes to bring together energy and passion, the two main ingredients of nutella, but also “the same ingredients of a great country, Italy, and a great city.”

    There will be a festival after the race, with other Italian brands, such as Colavita, Luxottica, and Clemente Italian Bakery from New Jersey, “a new entry representing a lot of Italian Americans in NJ.” The event will also be linked to a charity organization, “The Friends of San Patrignano”, who help those suffering from drug and alcohol dependency. It will be an occasion to bring people together and show the world the healthier side of Italian life.

    If you want to participate you can register online >>

  • Facts & Stories

    Improving the Image of Italian Wine

    Italy holds the top positions when it comes to wine imports in the US. However, the value and image of Italian wine in the United States has not been consolidated yet, particularly when compared to that of France.

    To address this discrepancy between the true quality and perceived image of Italian wine, institutions have been carrying out the campaign “Italian Wine: Taste the Passion” as part of a three-year project to promote Italian wine in the US. Here are the results of the year 2018.

    What came out of the report by the Italian Trade Agency on the progress of the campaign “Italian Wine: Taste the Passion”, which is part of the three-year “Progetto Vino USA”, supported by the Ministry of Economic Development to promote Italian wine in the US, is essentially that things are going well but there is still a lot of work to be done.

    The campaign is aimed at elevating the perception of Italian wine, bettering its placement, and increasing average sales prices to reflect the high quality of Italian wine. “In International classifications and blind tastings all over the world, Italian wines always come out on top”, Italian Trade Agency Director Maurizio Forte explained “so it’s clear that there is no issue of quality. And, our quality comes at much more accessible prices. There’s a perception issue. We have to push in this direction.”

    “Italian Wine” operated on many channels, by launching a promotional video, in different formats for different media, by being featured on specialty publications such as Wine Enthusiast, Market Watch and Wine Spectator, by creating pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and a website >> .  

    Additionally, it adopted other forms of promotion, such as placing a Vino Desk inside New York’s Italian Trade Commission, collaborating with distributors, sellers, and restaurant chains, organizing events across the US, but perhaps most importantly, working on the formation of restaurant workers and sommeliers.

    “When you go to a restaurant in America, usually, if the server or sommelier proposes a wine, you order it.” said Mr. Forte. “When people go to a steakhouse and order a good wine, we have to make it so that people more often think of Italy and not always have the choice fall on a Cabernet from Sonoma or a Great Bordeaux. This work has already been done but there needs to be a bigger push”, he later added, explaining why it is important to train industry professionals to know about the wines of Italy, not just those of France, who yes, beat us as the first overall supplier of wine to the US in 2018.

    While the commerce of Italian wine in the US increased by 6.8% in value and 1.2% in quantity from the previous year in 2018, the overall market value is lower now (at 32%) than it was in 2016 (at 32.4%), when Italy held first place as the US’ main wine supplier. In 2018, Italy was the main supplier of white wine (both in quantity and market value, 40%) and of red wine (quantity and value, 32,5%).

    It was also the main supplier of the sparkling wine category, thanks to the rise in popularity of prosecco but only in terms of quantity, not of value. (Champagne is expensive)

    It is France who held the position as the main supplier of wine overall (quantity and value), thanks largely to its unequaled quotas in the rosé wine category. And French wine indeed has, generally speaking, a better reputation and a higher sales value in the US than Italian wine.

    Well aware that changing the perception and habits of people is not a task that can be achieved overnight, the Italian Trade Commission declared itself satisfied with the outcome of the campaign so far, which gathered “900 million impressions, 85% of which on digital channels” and optimistic about its future.

    “There is no system that can tell you how many sales a social media post produced, you have to make a general analysis based on the overall sales performance” Mr. Forte commented. “Certainly all this communication and promotion has helped.” he added “Sales have gone up. The producers are asking us to continue and on February 14th, there was the Tavolo Vino and the new government has pledged to continue and increase the support to this promotional program.”

     

  • Art & Culture

    Cristiana Pegoraro Brings the Sounds of Narni(a) to Carnegie Hall

    The acclaimed Italian pianist Cristiana Pegoraro delighted the audience of Carnegie Hall last night with her concert “Fantasia Italiana”, which she performed alongside an orchestra composed of selected professors and students of the Narnia Festival and conductor Lorenzo Porzio.

     

    The concert was the New York debut of her project, the Narnia Festival, a “celebration of dance, music, arts, and culture” featuring among other things, world-class musical performances and international educational programs. The festival is held in Narni, Umbria, Ms. Pegoraro’s hometown, and brings together performers, teachers, and students from all over the world.

     

    This year, the festival is launching a series of educational programs and concerts to be held in New York City as well. Last night’s concert marked the beginning of an initiative which Cristiana Pegoraro conceived to give the participants of Narni’s summer program the opportunity to learn and perform in one of the most important cities and on some of the most prestigious stages in the world.

     

    Though the festival is international, the program of last night’s concert “Fantasia Italiana” was all Italian, featuring some of the Greatest classics: “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi and three ouvertures from Gioacchino Rossini’s “La Gazza Ladra” (“The Thieving Magpie”), “L’Italiana ad Algeri” (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”), and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” (“The Barber of Seville”), all adapted to include the piano.

     

    Ms. Pegoraro doesn’t simply play the music, she introduces each piece, recounts the story behind it, explains to the audience what the instruments represent, tells them to listen for the approaching storm, the flowing wind, the slow approach of Summer, the drunken shepherd. She accompanies the spectators on a this musical journey, which is not always easily accessible if you are new to the world of Classical music.

     

    The pianist continues to engage with her audience during the enthusiastically requested encores, for which she plays other great Italian classics but in a playful, lighthearted manner. She invites the conductor Lorenzo Porzio to take over the piano but then begins to join him, first by poking a key, completing a melody here and there, and finally by sitting down next to him to play “à quatre mains.”

     

    During the intermission, the vice-president of the Italian American Committee on Education (IACE),  journalist Maria Teresa Cometto, came onto the stage to present the musician with a plate recognizing the importance of her work in promoting Italian music and culture abroad and in fostering cultural exchanges between Italy and the US. Ms. Pegoraro accepted it inviting the audience to join her in Umbria, “the most beautiful region in Italy” as she calls it, this summer for the eighth season of the Narnia Festival, which will take place from July 17 to August 4, 2019.

     

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