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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • via ANSA
    Facts & Stories

    When Baking Meets Contemporary Art

    The undisputed star of this year’s Art Basel Miami, one of the main contemporary art fairs in the world, was without a doubt Maurizio Cattelan’s “Comedian.” 

     

    After selling for $120,000, the work - which consists of a banana taped to a wall - became a media phenomenon when Georgian-born artist David Datuna walked up to the Emnanuel Perrotin Gallery booth, pulled the banana off the wall and began eating it in a performance piece he dubbed “Hungry Artist,” prompting widespread debates in the art world and beyond.

     

    Since then, the infamous banana has been popping up everywhere, in ads, internet memes, and now in bakeries. 

     

    Just in time for the holiday season, Milan’s Pasticceria Clivati dedicated a special panettone - a Italian typical fluffy Christmas cake - to the artwork, made with candied banana, covered in a white glaze that mimics the gallery wall and topped with a banana as ripe as the one used by Cattelan.

     

    Founded in 1969, Pasticceria Clivati is spearheading the contemporary bakery concept in Italy by channelling pop culture trends such as this one. Recently, they created a Black Friday inspired cake. 

  • Art & Culture

    Applause Fills La Scala’s Opening Night

    For the first time ever, Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” which premiered in Rome in 1900, opened La Scala’s season. It was a huge success, the most applauded in recent years, met with a 16-minute ovation. Although, the 1996 Riccardo Muti directed interpretation of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Armide” still holds the record for the longest ovation, which lasted 20 minutes. 

     

    “We have made beautiful music, as we proved tonight,” commented the theater’s outgoing artistic director Alexander Pereira, who will go on to lead Florence’s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino starting December 16 and will be replaced by Frenchman Dominique Meyer, who has previously managed the Paris Opera, the Lausanne Opera and more recently the Vienna State Opera.

     

    Directed by Davide Livermore, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko masterfully took on the role of Tosca - once sung by the divine Maria Callas, - tenor Francesco Meli played her lover, Cavaradossi, and Baritone Luca Salsi was the devious Baron Scarpia. The orchestra was conducted by maestro Riccardo Chailly.

     

    But these wonderful artists were not the only ones to receive the audience’s praise. Before the show began, the room welcomed Italian President Sergio Mattarella with a warm applause and Life Senator Liliana Segre was also applauded upon arriving at the theatre.

     

    “Culture helps, in everything. As Primo Levi said, ‘knowing is an absolute necessity,’” commented Segre, jokingly adding: “I’ve been a member for 30 years, I’m always at La Scala, soon they’ll have me start coming to clean the place.”

     

    Other politicians such as the President of the Senate Maria Elisabetta Casellatias, former Prime Minister Mario Monti, culture minister Dario Franceschini, and the Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala, as well as journalists, designers, and other important figures were present at what is considered one of the most important cultural appointments in Italy. 

     

    Even American singer, writer and musician Patti Smith was there. Answering to reporters at the theatre’s entrance, she commented on the Sardine protest movement that is currently taking place across Italy. “People have the power, in Italy especially. The Sardines have the power,” she said.

     

    “It’s a great celebration of Italian culture. The most important day,” noted director Davide Livermore, who then added: “Few politicians have the courage to say that fascism is illegal. Nobody says it. The Italian Constitution was made by the right and by the left but they were all anti-fascist and against dictatorship. The fact that Mattarella was so widely applauded shows that we believe that the Constitution is anti-fascist, that Italy is united, and that it needs to grow.”

     

    The opening of La Scala resonated far beyond the theatre walls. The performance was live broadcasted in 36 different locations across the city of Milan, including Malpensa airport. And it was livestreamed on television and radio stations nationwide. 

     

    A very important event was held in the rotunda of the San Vittore prison, where a delegation of 50 detainees along with a group of politicians, magistrates and lawyers gathered to watch the show together.

     

    Two detainees introduced the event. “This opera teaches us that we have to think deeply before making choices,” one of them said, “and they must always be made with love in mind.” 

     

    “The figure of Scarpia teaches us that power is not only a priviledge, but also a responsibility,” added another. “And, as such, it must be used correctly and not abused.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Italians go Crazy Over New Nutella Biscuits

    Since Ferrero dropped their latest product on November 4, 2019, Italians have been raving about the new Nutella Biscuits. In just one month, 4,2 million packages were sold across the country for a total value of 12 million euro and supermarkets have been struggling to keep them on the shelves, making them even more coveted. Some people even got the idea to start reselling packages at ridiculously inflated rates. 

     

    Whether to rave about them, complain about not finding them, or make fun of those willing to pay up to 11 euros for a pack, people can’t seem to stop talking about these chocolate-hazelnut filled delicacies, particularly on social media, and numerous articles on the subject have appeared on Italian publications.

     

    As a result of all this media buzz, sales are in fact continuing to increase, demonstrating growing interest since the initial launch. "It was a crescendo," commented Angelo Massaro, managing director of the Iri survey company, "In the first week the packs sold in Italy were 27 thousand. In the second, they rose to over a million, and in the third, the last of which we have data, to a million and a half."

     

    Food giant Barilla responded by announcing the launch of a new cookie of their own filled with “Pan di Stelle” spread, a Nutella counterpart based on the brand’s popular star studded cocoa cookie, which was launched last January to challenge the dominance of Nutella. Dubbed “Biscocrema,” it will hit Italian supermaket shelves in January 2020.

     

    Meanwhile, Nutella Biscuits have already expanded into the French market and plan on spreading across Europe. 

     

  • Facts & Stories

    "Piatto Sospeso": Order Delivery and Donate a Meal

    Launched in 2017, "Ristorante Solidale" is a project designed by food delivery app Just Eat Italy to tackle food waste and promote social inclusion and solidarity. From December 2nd to the 15th, customers living in Rome, Milan, Turin and starting this year in Naples as well, will be able to add an extra meal - a “piatto sospeso” - to their order for the price of 3, 4, or 5 euro. 

     

    Very much in the same vein of the Neapolitan tradition of the “caffè sospeso” (pending coffee), whereby any custumer in a bar can engage in an anonymous act of charity by paying in advance for someone else’s coffee, these donations will then be used to distribute meals to those who need them.

     

    At the end of the operation, Just Eat will double the total amount raised to put together meals for people residing in shelters, immigration centers, soup kitchens, and community centers selected by local Caritas branches. 

     

    Partner restaurants and logistical operators will then help deliver these meals througout the day on December 17th, 18th, and 19th, leading up to the International Day of Human Solidarity on December 20th. 

     

    The issue of food waste is a very urgent one, in Italy and worldwide. Over 50 restaurants are participating in the initiative this year, demonstrating the growing sensibility and awareness on the issue. There certainly still is a long way to go, but it’s a start. 

     

    “In 2018, we delivered over 700 meals on Christmas,” commented Daniele Contini, Country Manager of Just Eat Italia. “We are very happy to repeat the Piatto Sospeso initiative. The growing participation from restaurants in our Ristorante Solidale project, the increase of participating cities, and the support of consumers who see the initiative as an occasion to do good, is for us a source of pride and motivation to keep doing more.”

     

    For more information on participating restaurants click here.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Paralympic Athlete Bebe Vio Gets a Barbie

    In 2018, Barbie launched the Dream Gap Project, a global initiative aimed at giving girls the resources and support they need to continue believing in themselves. In fact, according to the famous doll company, research has found that starting at age 5, many girls develop self-limiting beliefs and begin to think they're not as smart and capable as boys. They called this phenomenon the “dream gap” and have launched initiatives to try and close it. 

     

    One of these consists in highlighting empowering female role models from all walks of life. Barbie created dolls in the likeness of inspiring women from all over the world with the belief that by introducing girls to their stories, they will begin to see more opportunities for themselves.

     

    Italian paralympic fencing champion, Beatrice “Bebe” Vio is among the latest inspiring role models to get her own Barbie doll, joining various figures ranging from renowned mexican artist Frida Kahlo to aviation pioneer Amelia Earheart, principal ballerina Misty Copeland, filmmaker Patty Jenkins, activist and supermodel Adwoah Aboah, tennis player Naomi Osaka, fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad, actress model and activist Yara Shahidi, and many more. Other Italian dolls include astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, singer Elisa, Michelin starred chef Rosanna Marziale, and soccer player Sara Gama.

     

    “Look mom, I’m a Barbie Girl,” the 22-year-old athlete commented on an instagram post featuring her smiling, doll in hand. “This fills my heart and it reminds me of my responsibility to many children,” the post continues. “I hope that I will never betray you and that I will continue to  be a source of inspiration.” 

     

    Born in Venice the 4th of March 1997, Bebe was affected by severe meningitis at age 11, an illness which lead to the infection and amputation of both her legs from the knee, and both her arms from the forearms. Demonstrating incredible strength and determination, she did not let this stop her from pursuing her passion for fencing, reaching the sport’s highest levels. 

     

    At age 15, she joined the Italian wheelchair fencing team and in 2013, she won her first World Cup in Montreal. She became the 2015 and 2017 World champion, and took home the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

     

    A remarkable athlete with an infectiously postive outlook on life, she is certainly one of the greatest role models for girls - and boys - worldwide. 

     

  • Life & People

    Mimmo Lucano: “It’s easier to spread humanity than hate”

    In an event dedicated to the theme of “accoglienza,” a series of speakers discussed the importance of the inherently human value of hospitality at New York University’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò

     

    The guest of honor was Domenico “Mimmo” Lucano, the former mayor of Riace, known for having pioneered the “Riace model” - an example of “accoglienza” - by hosting refugees in the homes left abandoned by the decades-old exodus of its residents. Riace, like many towns in Southern Italy, has in fact been facing a major population decline for decades now, as people increasingly move North or even abroad in search of more opportunities, of a better life. 

     

    The first to take the stage was Pietro Costa, founder of BACAS (Borghi Antichi Cultura Arti Scienze), a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and sustaining interdisciplinary collaborations between artists and scholars from all over the world to broaden the dialogue between America and Italy. Founded in 2018, BACAS organizes short and long-term residencies and fellowships, and curates exhibitions, workshops, and symposia in the Vallo di Diano in Cilento, a beautiful area to the South of Naples that is unfortunately undervalued and largely ignored, like many in Southern Italy.

     

    BACAS shares with the former Mayor of Riace the mission of bringing new life to empty spaces and to create human connections. “One of our goals is to build a bridge between Italy and New York,” explained Mr. Costa. “And Mimmo symbolizes the crossing of this bridge.”

     

    Upon his arrival, Mr. Lucano was met with enthusiastic applause. He began his intervention by thanking Casa Italiana and those who brought him here, on his first ever visit to America. “I am not a migration expert,” he then humbly stated. “I am a teacher, and when I became mayor, I dedicated myself entirely to the job.”

     

    As Mayor of a town of 1600 souls, Mr. Lucano had the incredibly simple yet groundbreaking idea of addressing the issue of declining population that has plaguing many southern Italian “ghost towns” since the post-war period, by repurposing the emptied homes to host the increasing number of migrants and refugees that are arriving in Italy, themselves in search of a better life, away from war, violence, hunger. As he poetically put it, it’s as if “the sea were bringing back the people who left - they just have different faces.”

     

    A short intriductory video was projected, explaining the history of Mimmo and of Riace, showing life in the small town today, where old locals and newly arrived residents - migrants from all over the world - live together in harmony. And why shouldn’t they?

     

    Mr. Lucano believes that the real problem is mentality, perspective.“Today there is little memory of the fact that Italy used to be a place of departure for migrants,” he said. “And almost nobody realizes that since 2012, the number of people leaving Italy has once again surpassed the number of people entering it.” Nobody talks about that, we are so focused on the “invador” narrative.

     

    He says we have to go back to our identity, but he doesn’t mean it in the nationalistic sense that many politicians are putting on the word, he means going back to the roots of our culture, of our humanity. 

     

    Hospitality has always been a central value in our society. It was at the base of Ancient Greek culture, on which western "civilization” claims to be based, as Classics Professor and co-founder of literary programs for BACAS, Tiziana Rinaldi Castro beautifully illustrated by reading an excerpt from Homer’s Odyssey, which she called “the mother book of civilization” and defined as the “journey of a man returning from war, who experiences what it means to be a wanderer, vulnerable.”

     

    Professor Rinaldi Castro explained that because of the inherent vulnerability that comes with being a traveler, away from your home, the Ancient Greeks saw hospitality as a fundamental value. If a stranger showed up on your doorstep, you would make sure to feed them, bathe them, make them feel comfortable, before even asking them who they were, where they came from, what brought them there.

     

    This is the same mentality with which Mimmo operated, one that he believes to be natural. “I was brought up to feel proud when I met a stranger, not suspicious,” he stated with the disarming simplicity that characterizes this refrenshingly unusual politician.

     

    In fact, his political carreer didn’t seem very promising at first. He confesses that the first time he ran for office, he must have gotten a total of 20 votes, not even his father voted for him. But after he finally was elected Mayor of Riace in 2004, he got re-elected another three times. This despite, or perhaps because of, his decision to welcome migrants. “The people of Riace saw, they met those people, they matured a conscience. They understood what pushes them to come,” he explained. 

     

    Mimmo too met many people, heard many stories, some heartwarming, others heartbreaking. Because even once these men, women, children make it to Italy, after escaping war-torn homes, crossing countless countries in the direst conditions, often being detained in glorified concentration camps in places such as Libya, and finally embarking on makeshift boats to cross the Mediterranean, after all of this, oftentimes their journey still isn’t over. They are met with suspicion and resistance, put through never-ending bureaucratic procedures seemingly aimed at finding a reason to send them away again. Mimmo tried to help when he could, and that’s what ultimately cost him his job. 

     

    People have now started to adopt the preconceived notion that immigration is inherently a problem, a stresser on the land and the people receiving it, but as Mimmo put it, in the case of Riace, “they arrived in a land of houses without people.” By adjusting this perspective, a negative fact can become positive, a threat can become a solution. The new influx of people brought life back to the town, it helped keep open its school, fill its empty maternity ward, resuscitate its businesses, and populate its streets.

     

    The successful integration that took place in Riace, a small struggling town, disproves the rhetoric that many are using to spread fear claiming that migrants are coming to steal resources. “If it worked in Riace, it could work anywhere.”

     

    Unfortunately, there are those who are pushing for the negative outlook, creating and instrumentalizing fear. In 2018, Mimmo was removed from office and placed under house arrest by those who perceived what was happening in Riace as a threat. In 2019, he was indicted on charges of abuse of power and aiding illegal immigration and then probed for false public statement and fraud. As he eloquently put it, “they are criminalizing solidarity.”

     

    But he remains positive, and continues to spread his message. When asked whether the Riace model is replicable, Mimmo answers of course. “We built a small global community with a natural sense of human cohabitation at its core. That’s all there is to it. It’s easier to spread humanity than hate.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Rediscovering Sopravissana Wool After the Earthquake

    In 2016, Franco and Giacomo Loro Piana of the renowned luxury clothing company launched a new sustainably-minded menswear brand called Sease, a name derived from the combination of the words “sea” and “ease” and influenced by their love of sports and the outdoors. 

     

    It’s a “lifestyle” brand as the Milan store - part boutique, DJ studio, art gallery, record shop, and bookstore - clearly illustrates. The sportswear inspired clothes are modern and high-tech but the fabrics maintain a traditional spirit and sustainability is a key focus. 

     

    The Sease website reads: “Our fabrics are selected for their quality, innovation and sustainability, and are 100% Made in Italy. Our sources, materials and processes all express the ultimate technology, also in terms of biodegradability, low emissions and recycling, resulting in an overall reduction of the environmental impact of each item.”

     

    Now, for their latest capsule collection, the Loro Piana brothers propose items made out of sopravissana wool, which comes from an ancient almost extinct sheep breed that can only be found on the Sibillini mountains in the Marche region. 

     

    “The initiative,” Franco Loro Piana explains, “was born because two years ago, my father, along with other entrepreneur friends, decided to help the people of Visso by building a new facility in which to restart local artisanal activities, including restoration, called the company of master artisans.”

     

    Located in the province of Macerata, the town of Visso was one of several heavily impacted by a series of violent earthquakes that hit central Italy in the Summer and Fall of 2016. The town suffered severe damage and, as aid failed to arrive and repairs lagged, many were forced to relocate their homes and businesses.

     

    But local artisans and entrepreneurs were not ready to give up on their hometown. They came together to found the Company of Master Artisans of Visso, with the goal to bring work and life back to the town.

     

    In September 2018, the center was inaugurated. A physical space for the company to meet, practice and promote their crafts, organize events, and interact with the public. Loro Piana patriarch Pier Luigi, along with the other entrepreneurs that supported its realization, attended the official opening.

     

    It’s while working on this project that the Loro Piana family first encountered sopravissana sheep, a breed derived from the vissana sheep, which were crossbread with Spanish and French merinos in the 18th century. These animals progressively adapted to living at higher altitudes by eating thorns and thistles. A few local shepheards discretly perpetuated the tradition of breeding sopravissana sheep throughout the years, raising the animals in ideal conditions, where they have plenty of space to roam away from external stressers. These particularities are what makes their wool unique.

     

    While in Visso, Loro Piana also learned about the small local activities still practicing an ancient natural dying technique, which relies on the use of the guado or Isatis Tinctoria plant to produce a dye known as “Italian Indigo.”

     

    Uniting their desire to help the people of Visso relaunch their economy with their brand’s dedication to using sustainable materials and practices, Franco and Giacomo decided to incorporate both the use of Sopravissana wool and of Italian Indigo into a new Sease capsule collection, featuring ski jackets, trench coats and gilets.

  • Art & Culture

    COPOMAIO, a Hub for Italian American Organizations

    As the Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, can you tell us about this coalition? What are some of the services and activities it carries out?  

                                                                             

    The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMAIO) is in its 44th year! We enroll Italian and Italian American organizations and provide a clearinghouse for centralized thinking and unified directional guidance on matters advanced by our member organizations. We encourage, support and lend coordinative assistance to efforts and activities of common interest and concern of our members.  

     

    What does your appointment as Chair mean to you after so many years serving the Italian American community?  

     

    As I approach our 40th Anniversary and my tenure as Founder, first President and Chair of the National Organization of Italian Women, I have always enjoyed being a representative at COPOMAIO meetings. I particularly  enjoyed the opportunity to learn about other organizations in our community and listen to the struggles that ensued in achieving of some measure unified thinking among all members .            

                                                                                                                       

    As a child I had only 2 siblings, but I grew up surrounded by my mother’s family where she had 7 siblings and my father’s family and he also had 7 siblings. Each of their siblings married… and multiplied!  As I grew older and family moved away from the old neighborhood, and the elders died, my years serving Italian American community became a replacement for MY BIG ITALIAN FAMILY!  

     

    What does it mean to be the first woman to serve this role?

     

    I’m pleased and honored and wonder why it took 44 years! Hopefully in the future more leaders will emerge with XX chromosome!!

     

    You just had a meeting on November 2nd in DC, can you tell us about it? What were some of the points discussed?

     

    Our meeting was consumed by several important topics. First was a well received and extensive report by Angelo Vivolo and his efforts on behalf of Columbus and Mother Cabrini through his Columbus Heritage Coalition. We approved funds for the Bellini Fellowship for a doctoral student dissertation sponsored by Calandra Institute and we voted three more organizations into membership, bringing our membership close to 50 organizations. 

    Our biggest discussion/problem has been raising $25,000 to match a challenge grant of the same amount offered by Basil Russo’s organization the American Sons and Daughters of Italy. We will keep at it! 

     

    Are there any other major plans you have for the future?

                       

    Having served just one year as Chair, my focus has been twofold. First I have worked to build the rudiments to institutionalize COPOMAIO  by developing an email address, a Facebook Page, and a website (where you can make a donation if you wish!  My second approach is to build a truly national Conference of Presidents. Our member organizations are primarily based on the east coast with a few other groups located around the country. I have traveled to Chicago a few weeks ago, I will be going to New Orleans in March and hope to get to the West Coast before our next meeting in June to broaden our membership. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Italian Paralympic Swim Team Honored by the President

    “Our country grows with you. You are sending out a great message to all of Italy, thank you for your activity and for your efforts: you are a magnificent representation of Italy.” These are the words with which Italian President Sergio Mattarella addressed the Italian National Paralympic Swim Team, after the team’s remarkable performance in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London. 

     

    The Italian team came in first place, totaling 50 medals: 20 gold, 18 silver and 2 bronze. An incredible achievement, especially considering that the Federazione Italiana Nuoto Paralimpico (FINP) was only born in 2010 from the initiative of the President of the Italian Paralympic Committee, Luca Pancalli. 

     

    The strides taken by the team over the last 9 years are quite remarkable: they went from taking home 5 medals in Eindhoven in 2010 to this year’s 50 under the guidance of the coach Riccardo Vernole. Today FINP counts around 900 athletes, a number that keeps growing each year.

     

    “I still remember as if it were today the emotion I felt 50 years ago, when we still spoke of “handicapped,” not paralympic sports,” said the President of FINP, Roberto Valori. “My father took me to the pool to give me an opportunity. I remeber the emotion, the pain, the pride in his joyful eyes when he looked at me. It’s a strong feeling that has to be passed on. Seeing a disabled kid swim for me is more than a satisfaction, it’s a mission.”

     

    And in fact, also present were the young athletes of the under 18 Italian paralympic swim team, who won 23 medals in the 2019 European Para Youth Games, held in Helsinki, Finland. A great sign for the future of the sport.

     

    26-year-old paralympic swimming champion Federico Morlacchi also spoke. “Yes, it is with pride that we can say that we are world champions,” he stated, adding however that “the value of our athletic endeavors goes beyond medals and records. I believe that as paralympic athletes we also bring with us a message of social inclusion to diffuse the values of equality, respect for diversity, acceptance of the other. Sports become a way of diffusing culture, helping society to understand that disability is not a negative word.”

     

    Now the athletes are already getting ready to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, where we know they will inspire us and make the country proud.

  • Art & Culture

    A Wine Journey from New York to Valpolicella

    On a particularly frigid November morning, Consorzio per la tutela vini Valpolicella welcomed a select group of wine writers and conoisseurs inside the newly opened Di Palo Wine Bar to discover Valpolicella wines, produced in the province of Verona, Italy, during an event organized by Forwinesake

     

    The event consisted in a masterclass held by Filippo Bartolotta, an experienced sommelier from Florence, also known as the “sommelier of the stars,” who specializes in introducing people - including celebrities such as Emma Thompson and the Obamas - to the incredible world of Italian food and wine. He conducts various lectures, masterclasses, and training programs across Italy and the world.

     

    On this occasion, he discussed the still little known wines produced in the geographically designated area of Valpolicella, located in the province of Verona, in Northern Italy. With incredible passion and an abundance of hand gestures, he began by describing the territory, which he called an “amphitheatre” surrounded by Lake Garda on one side, the Alps on another, and finally the Adriatic Sea. This characteristic makes this rather small area truly unique in terms of climate, altitude and soil, all fundamental aspects of winemaking.

     

    We then learned that inside the Valpolicella region there are two subregions, Valpolicella Classica, which includes the valleys of Fumane, Marano and Negrar as well as the areas around Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella and San Pietro in Cariano, and Valpolicella Valpantena, which is centered around the Valpantena valley. 

     

    Bartolotta then went on to explain how when it comes to Valpolicella wines, the process is of the utmost importance, more than grape variety and even soil. The grapes - usually a blend of Corvina, Corvinella, Rondinone, Molinara and other grape varieties - are put out to dry for 100 days after they are harvested. This process, which dates back to Roman times, makes the sugar levels rise significantly.

     

    Spit cups in hand, we began our journey through Valpolicella as our sommelier walked us through the tasting of six wines: Corte Cavedini, Valpolicella DOC 2018; Albino Armani, Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore 2017 Egle; Secondo Marco, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2011; Villa San Carlo, Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2012; a 2015 Ripasso from Boscaini Carlo; and Ca’ dei Maghi, Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG Classico, 2011.

     

    They tasted unique, complex, each bursting with several distinct flavors. The first, as usual, was lighter, smoother, extremly drinkable, while the second one was already noticeably richer, darker. The taste was more acidic with hints of cherries, citrus, but also tobacco. You could also taste the minerality, present in most Valpolicella wines due to the volcanic components present in the soil. 

     

    Then we got to the Amaroni, which are among the most renowned Valpolicella wines. They are strong, rich wines, again herby and/or fuity but also mineral, almost salty. For this reason our guide suggests pairing them with slow cooked meat or dry cheese (though the flavors vary with each wine, for example the first Amarone was much more mineral than the second, which left a more pronounced fruity, sugary taste in the mouth and teeth.)

     

    The fifth wine was a Ripasso, which means that it is produced by remixing matured Amarone wine with newer and lighter wine. “Some consider this cheating,” Bartolotta says, then explaining that this is actually a procedure that dates back to Ancient times. 

     

    The name Amarone roughly translates to “very bitter” but that is only because it is an evolution of Recioto, a sweet wine and therefore the sixth and final one of our tasting. “Recioto is what put Valpolicella on the map,” Bartolotto explains, adding that it is however often wrongfully dismissed nowadays, since the consensus is that people today tend to drink less sweet wine. I am personally not a fan of sweet wines, but I have to say I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the Recioto, which felt velvety, fruity, floral, and also somewhat minty, giving it a nicer, fresher after-taste.

     

    After the class, we were invited to linger in the stylish and cozy Di Palo Wine Bar - the latest venture by the Little Italy staple Di Palo's Fine Foods store, known by all New Yorkers as the "purveyor of the city's best mozarella" - to try more Valpolicella wines, over 20 from 10 different producers across the region, this time served alongside a delicious mushroom risotto from Risotteria Melotti and of course some mouthwatering salumi and cheeses from Di Palo’s.

     

    Overall, a fascinating learning experience, a glimpse into the wonderful world of Italian wine, a quick trip across the unique region of Valpolicella, all rendered easily accessible in the heart of New York City, inside this Italian pocket, one of the few still left in Little Italy.

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