Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Limoncello, Campania in a Glass

    If you have ever been to Italy or eaten at an Italian restaurant abroad, you definitely know about Limoncello, a citrus-based lemon liqueur that is served well chilled at the end of a meal as as an after-dinner digestivo. Limoncello is one of the most popular liqueurs in Italy and through the years it has become popular in all corners of the world. Restaurants in the US, for example, are now increasingly offering limoncello on their beverage and dessert menus, while many have started to simply offer it to their clients at the end of a meal alongside the check. It's a way to capture the client's gratitude, make sure they are happy and come back for more. The fact that great quantities of limoncello can simply be offered makes you wonder about the quality of the product. 

    “We are trying to introduce people to true limoncello, something natural and not chemical that complements a meal or that can be used in cocktails, as its uses are many,” Diego Rodino' di Miglione of Àrvero Limoncello told i-italy. “Everybody thinks they have the perfect recipe for making limoncello. You ask people and they tell you that their mom or grandmother make the best around, then they try a natural product, made by certain simple rules and they immediately can tell the difference.

    The reason why we've started making Àrvero Limoncello is that at the moment 90% or even more of all limoncello out there is first and foremost made in places that are not the right original places, the citrus itself is not from Campania, the region where Limoncello comes from. In southern Italy we are slowly losing our supremacy, if you want to call it that, in Limoncello production and we let anybody else produce any sort of lemon liqueur and call it Limoncello or even Limoncino or Lemoncello. Nowadays, a liqueur that is labeled limoncello is made in Florida or, if we want to talk about Italy, it is made even in Piedmont, a region that is great for wine but that is too cold for limoncello. In my family, we used to make limoncello for ourselves with fruit from our land in Massa Lubrense. Massa Lubrense is a paradise between Capri and Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast. It is an ideal place for any kind of production: olive oil, fresh fruit & citrus, dairy products and cheeses. We produce our Limoncello there using traditional methods, with no addition of lemon paste to add color or other flavors, chemicals and preservatives. We called it Àrvero.”

    In Neapolitan dialect Árvero means tree and Árvero limoncello is a tribute to the uniqueness of these magnificent lemon trees that give this liqueur its distinct character. A true Árvero has its roots in the peninsula bordering the south of the Gulf of Naples. The so-called “femminiello ovale sorrentino” is the giant lemon of the Sorrento Peninsula. The thick, juicy skin of this fruit is the source of the aromatic oils that give the alcoholic infusion its unique color and inimitable aroma. As a demonstration of its authenticity, the bottled Limoncello often shows the presence of the oils in the neck of the bottle.

    “At first we used clear glass bottles,” Diego explained, “but people who are not in the know saw the oils at the neck of the bottle and thought it was not a good sign. Consumers need to be educated, meanwhile we are using frosted bottles!”

    Árvero, made at Distillerie Nastro d’Oro a high-quality distillery, distinguishes itself from other limoncellos by using traditional recipes and pursuing a tireless sourcing regime that ensures only the finest ingredients go into the liqueur. The lemons get picked at 6 am and by 9 am they have already been washed and processed for the infusion. They are processed locally, early in the morning to preserve the right humidity, without being frozen or stored. The result is a limoncello, made from a hydro-alcoholic infusion of fresh lemon zest and sugar, with rich aromas, a naturally vivid yellow color and a vibrant flavor.

    “We want to give Limoncello the importance it deserves,” Diego continued, “Giving it away diluted or with an abundance of chemicals puts it immediately in an inferior product category. Limoncello is not a PDO (Protected designation of origin) product but it must be traditionally and entirely manufactured - prepared, processed and produced - within its specific region, following traditional methods and using only certain ingredients to acquire its unique properties. Also, we want to prove that limoncello is both a stand alone liqueur and an ideal ingredient for cocktails. We encourage mixologists to use it for their concoctions and we are organizing parties were these recipes can be tasted by all.” 

    At the moment Àrvero can be purchased in NYC at Mr wright, in the UES, and at Rosetta Winery, in the Financial District. It is also available for online purchases and in other states, such as Illinois, as it can be found at Eataly Chicago. “Having our product at Eataly makes us proud,” Diego concluded, “Eataly is an institution as it is home only to products of Italian excellence. When you try to be selected by their product experts you know you are running against great competitors. Being on Eataly's shelves has been our goal from the very beginning of our adventure and making it is an acknowledgment that we are going in the right direction.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Exploring the Art of Tanning at Arts & Tannery

    Arts & Tannery, an exclusive event showcasing Italian leather products of supreme quality, returns to New York City to offer buyers a firsthand look into the latest trends in leather. This is an early return, occurring in July rather than in September as in previous years, so that buyers will have a chance to experience the latest trends in leather ahead of the competition.

    The event, born from the collaboration between the Italian Leather System Consortium (a 
    consortium that brings together the best of Italian companies working in leather manufacturing) and the Italian Trade Commission, will take place at the Midtown Loft and Terrace and welcomes 11 exhibitors, Italian tanneries presenting their Fall/Winter 2015/2016 collections.

    Each company has been carefully selected for their compatibility with the American market and high potential for American appeal. The 11 exhibitors -  Accoppiature Pisane, Alexander Vistmann, Atlas Conceria, Benericetti, Bo-Pell Conceria, Conceria di Urgnano, Pellegrini Group, Ri.Pell Conceria, Romana Conceria, Sanlorenzo and Vesta Corporation - come from different areas of the Italian peninsula.

    The event offers insight into the latest trends in leather as well as projected trends in the industry, and should be considered a crucial resource for buyers designing footwear, handbag, and clothing collections.

    “Arts & Tannery presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity for American buyers to explore top-quality Italian leather,”  Pier Paolo Celeste, Executive Director of the Italian Trade Commission network for North America, has stated, “  This being the case, the event has drawn the attention of renowned designers as well as those companies whose focus is excellence and innovation. Arts & Tannery offers interested parties access to a variety of cutting-edge raw materials, enabling buyers and vendors to benefit alike and resulting in superior quality of leather goods. As Italian craftsmanship progresses toward supreme precision and quality, new techniques and generational growth allows Italian leather to maintain its leading position in the industry universally.”

    Today there is an even bigger demand for Italian leather and components in the US.  In recent years, the leather industry regained its leadership among the suppliers to the US with a market share of 26,77% for the period of January/May 2014, with Brazil, Mexico and Canada following behind. “The event permits the development of a mutual understanding of leather and leather quality and catalyzes a process of international exchange ultimately crucial to the fluidity and growth of the industry.The relationship building between American designers and Italian producers at Arts & Tannery illustrates the crucial place that smaller Italian artisan companies inhabit in a shared leather industry,” Alessandro Francioni, Vice President of the Italian Leather System Consortium has stated.

    And to get some more information we have had the chance to ask Paolo Cipriani, Director of the Italian Leather System a couple of questions.

    This event is called Arts and Tannery, is tanning an art?

    Absolutely, tanning is a process of treating the skins of animals to produce leather that originates back in Ancient Rome. Back in the Middle Ages it became a corporation and today, it is still an ancient art even though production is made possible by modern technology. That of Art-Technology is an important combination.

    This season Arts & Tannery is taking place in July rather then in September. What’s the reason behind this change?

    To put it simply, market needs. The American market runs faster than the European one, and we must meet its needs, even though the market has now been globalized. The big brands are those who call the shots and each of our expositors collaborates with them in accordance with their timing and needs in the preparation of the samples first and than of the collection.  

    How did you select the companies showcasing their product?

    It’s all connected to the previous question. Each participating expositor has completed their collection of samples early with respect to European trade shows just to satisfy the needs of the American market which is far ahead of us. 

    What trends are you presenting in this edition?

    We are presenting four trends:

    East Ranges is inspired by Russia. And I’m not only talking about its cold temperature but also about several cultural factors that are typical of this country. Leathers are inspired by the artistic phenomenon of deconstructionism, but also by the realistic paintings of the Soviet Socialist regime. The country’s astronautical endeavors are captured in leathers that are shiny and metallic. 

    Urban Tribes presents the graphic elements of an ethnic reality in a ultra-modern key. Many surfaces are rough and rustic. Afro-inspired graphics are colorless so that the tribal becomes couture. There is also a mix of things: fur, fringes and strings. 

    Abstract Codes marries geometry with simplicity. Microcellular surfaces are in contrast with biomorphic elements, technological metals are paired with natural wood surfaces, sporty embossing and restyled patterns. 

    Chromatic Values honors color as an element of distinction. We are talking about boldness here: metallic blues, brilliant greens, piercing yellows, wild reds, feverish purples and deep tans.    

    How is export to the US?

    All participating tanning companies export about 80% of their total production. A great percentage of that is sold to the US, one of the major economic partners to Italian businesses. Our group has come to the NYC since 2004 and we have developed several important collaborations. 

  • Art & Culture

    My Brilliant Friend: Growing Up a Girl in 1950s Naples

    This is the story of two little girls who become friends in the first grade and grow up in the same neighborhood in Naples in the 1950s. Both children are from relatively impoverished households. Lila Cerullo is the daughter of Fernando Cerullo, a shoemaker; Elena’s father works as a porter at city hall.

    But this isn't just a coming-of-age story, there's more. There's violence and an unresolved search for love and knowledge. Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend (L'amica geniale, 2011), published in English by Europa editions, is a “unique representation of family relationships and friendship, private and public spaces in the city, and the changing social and economic landscape of modern Italy.”

    The novel was presented at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York as part of the New York European Book Club, a collaborative project of 7 European cultural institutions (the Austrian, Czech, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, and Spanish cultural institutes in York City) to promote leadership of each country's literature in English translation. The Club tries to meet monthly in a different cultural institute and discuss a well-known, contemporary novel of the respective country.

    Participation to the European Book Club is free, no matter how many sessions you want to attend. “All you have to do is register with us, then buy or borrow a copy of the book(s) you want to discuss,” representatives of the Club have said. 

    Elena Ferrante is the author of several novels and of three works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. With My Brilliant Friend she proves herself to be one of Italy’s great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction. Though one of Italy’s most acclaimed contemporary authors, Elena Ferrante has successfully shunned public attention and kept her whereabouts and her true identity concealed. Speculation about Ferrante's identity is a big deal in Italy, where it has been suggested that Ferrante may be a pen name for an established writer, who could even be male.

    The first installment of a trilogy, My Brilliant Friend “may remind the reader of neorealist movies by De Sica and Visconti, or perhaps of Giovanni Verga’s short stories about Sicilian poverty,” James Wood wrote in an article in The New Yorker back in 2013. “There is a kind of joy in the book not easily found in the earlier work. The city of Elena’s childhood is a poor, violent place (the same city is found in Ferrante’s first novel, Troubling Love). But deprivation gives details a snatched richness. A trip to the sea, a new friend, a whole day spent with your father (“We spent the entire day together, the only one in our lives, I don’t remember any others,” Elena says at one point), a brief holiday, the chance to take some books out of a library, the encouragement of a respected teacher...” continues Wood.

    My Brilliant Friend currentlyis one of the best books about being a girl out there, because it is real. These girls are fierce in life, in family and with each other... even good friends aren't always kind to one another. This is a book worth reading that leaves the reader asking for more. Indeed, the entire trilogy will cover about fifty years in the lives of these girls as they grow into maturity, marriage and motherhood, and it promises in addition to be the story of a society and a nation.

    My Brilliant Friend and several of Ferrante's novels are available on Amazon.

  • Facts & Stories

    The USA Pavilion for Expo 2015 Breaks Ground in Milan

    From May 1 to October 31, 2015 Italy will host Expo Milan 2015, the world’s largest stage to foster dialogue, aggregate ideas, and showcase innovations in food, sustainability, science, industry, economics, entrepreneurship and other elements between countries.

    For the first time in the history of world’s fairs the theme is food: “Feeding the Planet, Energy. for Life.” this theme will unite 140-plus countries into action around the challenges and opportunities facing the global food system and the sustainable development of the planet.

    The United States will join to show their role as a leader and innovator not only in the food sector, but also in many aspects of culture, science and business. Using provocative, interactive exhibits and state-of-the-art digital media, the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 will highlight American industry, talent, products, ingenuity and entrepreneurship within the context of sustainability, nutrition and health, consumption, technology and innovation. On July 16, 2014, Friends of the USA Pavilion Milano 2015 announced several key partnerships during a reception hosted in Washington by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to mark the groundbreaking for the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015.

    GE joins a growing list of partners at the forefront of American innovation that are supporting the USA Pavilion. Current partners include Uvet, DuPont, illy, SageGlass, 3M, McKinsey & Company and FleishmanHillard.
    “As a global leader in advancing food security, the United States feels we have to seize this opportunity to be involved in the 2015 World Expo in a significant way,” said Secretary Kerry during the reception, attended by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Ambassador David Thorne, Incoming Milan Consul General Philip Reeker, U.S. Special Representative for Global Partnerships Andrew O’Brien, U.S. Special Representative for Food Security Nancy Stetson, USA Pavilion partners and supporters, and other guests at the U.S. Department of State. “The Milan World Expo of 2015 is a chance for us to share with the world the work that American scientists, chefs, entrepreneurs, farmers, fishermen all continue to do day in and day out and hopefully help people to understand the ways in which we can make progress in the future.”

    “This is not simply a fair celebrating food, and I want people to understand that. This is much more serious, much more broad in its scope, much more visionary in its purpose, and it is important for people to understand that. From the very first World’s Fair that opened its doors in 1851, more than 60 World’s Fairs and Expos have taken place around the world. And each and every single one of them has been about the same thing: innovation, the future.”
    During a simultaneous reception in Milan, U.S. Ambassador to Italy John Phillips joined members of the Italian government, Expo 2015 officials, and other partners at a groundbreaking ceremony for the USA Pavilion. Featuring a fully functioning vertical farm, the pavilion will showcase America’s unique role in the future of food around the world with the theme “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet.” Pavilion programs and events will range from interactive exhibits and tastings to topical salons, regional food trucks and an innovation accelerator.
    “GE is excited to participate in the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 and help represent the tremendous innovation that American companies are bringing to the global food system,” said Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE. “GE is dedicated to finding solutions to the world's biggest challenges, including the challenge of feeding the world. The USA Pavilion presents a terrific opportunity to showcase what U.S. companies bring to this challenge, including sustainable solutions for energy, transportation, clean water and health.”
    The Friends organization – a collaboration between the James Beard Foundation and the International Culinary Center, in association with the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy – is still seeking partners to represent America’s diversity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, and create a global call to action around the challenges of feeding the planet.
    “We’re thrilled to collaborate with GE and our other generous sponsors on this important opportunity to address food-system issues and challenges on an international stage,” said Dorothy Hamilton, president of Friends of the USA Pavilion Milano 2015. “Together, we’ll engage with the global community to start a powerful conversation, and encourage action, to meet the challenges of the global food crisis. America has a lot to offer to this discussion, both scientifically and culturally, and we welcome others who wish to join us in representing the very best of the USA to the world.”

    “In total, 140 countries are slated to take part in this event,” Kerry concluded, “Tens of millions of visitors are expected. And we’re expecting millions more people to join us online and interactively. And that means that businesses, the ones that take part in the USA Pavilion, are going to be able to reach huge new audiences in every corner of the globe. So everybody who comes to take part in this is going to be part of being an ambassador, in effect. And the Italians have a saying that’s very similar to one that we have here in the United States: “Batti il ferro finche è caldo,” which means, if I said it correctly – (laughter) – strike while the iron is hot. My friends, the iron is hot.”

    For more information about the USA Pavilion or to become a sponsor, please visit:

  • Tourism

    Tasty Tourism: Destination Parma and the Prosciutto di Parma Museum

     “Parma proudly boasts some of the highest quality food products renowned at both national and international level: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and various cured pork meat products such as the Culatello from Zibello, Salame from Felino, Coppa, as well as wines from the Parma hills, Porcini mushrooms from the Taro river valley, and Tomatoes,” representatives at the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma booth told i-italy during the latest edition of the Summer Fancy Food Show.

    And that's no lie, because of its excellent products and savory dishes, Parma is considered by
    many the food capital of Italy. Food and Wine tourism is in rapid expansion both in terms of quantity and quality. Italian regions now feature several “Food and Wine Trails,” “Flavor Trails,” and “Wine Trails,” where tourists can enjoy not only the landscape but the delicious products of the area. 

    Parma also is the corporate headquarters for a number of prestigious food companies such as, for example, Barilla, Parmalat and canning industries, as well as the safeguarding entities for typical products like the Consortium for Prosciutto, the Consortium for Parmigiano-Reggiano and the Consortium for Culatello. The entire Parma economy is positively affected by the growth of the food sector.

    When traveling to Parma, food can be enjoyed in the city's restaurants and trattorias but the visit can continue at the Museo del Prosciutto e dei Salumi di Parma (Parma's Prosciutto and Cured Meats Museum). This is not the only food museum in the city. The city's key products are Prosciutto di Parma and cured pork meat products, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Tomatoes, so there is one museum for each sector. Following an in-depth preliminary study, the specific nature of each museum has emerged in order that it may communicate knowledge of their production process.

    “The Food Museums not only give added value to the ‘story’ behind the individual products, to the local economy and culture, they also encourage the setting up of a new tourist product, developing existing tourist sites alongside the food and wine trails.

    The Museums contribute to the enhancement of the importance of existing Parma typical food production sites, with particular emphasis on those which, because of their history, production process and quality are best suited for inclusion in tourism offers. Such offers interact with the Museums themselves, with programmed events and with the food and wine trails.

    The Museums add value to the entire territory through the gastronomical culture, both encouraging growth and awareness amongst local residents, in particular young people, as well as defining the image of the individual typical product and its area and gastronomic tourism,” the museum's site explains.

    The organization explains how each museum must be particularly attractive and emotionally involve the visitor, narrate a story and not only show ‘things’, involve all the senses and not just sigh and allow for tasting and purchase of products and related merchandising. 

    The museum of Prosciutto and cured meat products of Parma proposes a path through history which allows the visitor to re-construct the production process from pig to cured meat, the highly prized products of the art of the Parma masters. Here below in synthesis can be found a museum visit guide used to research the material and documents which can be found in the museum. 

    The route takes the visitor on a tasty journey. It all starts with an introduction which provides general information on the origins of the production of cured meat products. Then the figure of the pig, the source of prosciutto, is analyzed (the pig in history, in culture and art). Things get more technical when the processing of pork meat is studied. The different steps are slaughtering, salting, preserving.

    Traditions are also studies along with terminology. After this general section each product is presented individually by providing identification and description of the production places: Prosciutto from Parma, Culatello from Zibello, Salame from Felino, Coppa from Parma and Shoulder of ham from San Secondo. Focus is then shifted on Prosciutto alone describing the different stages of its production: cutting the haunches, preparing for processing, salting, resting, washing and cleaning, drying, maturing and sealing, testing and branding.

    The following steps include an in depth study of production areas, focusing on the role of climate and of machines in the production process, a look at salt and its role in preservation, a gastronomy section focused on the role of Prosciutto in the kitchen, featuring recipes and menus, a documentation area that presents the Consortium (Since 1963 the Consortium of Parma Prosciutto has safeguarded and guaranteed the quality of the King of cured meats, affixing its own seal only to those hams which correspond to the requisites of the rigid regulations) and a tasting area, the latter has been voted the favorite section of many!!!

  • Facts & Stories

    Gelato vs. Ice Cream

    Gelato is gelato and ice cream is a totally different thing: it is easy to fall in the trap of thinking that actually one is the synonym of the other but in all truth they are two different things.

    With the arrival of summer we all experience an uncontrollable desire for something cold and sweet yet not too fattening so gelato and/or ice cream immediately come to mind. Refreshing and thirst quenching they are ideal to fight against the humid heat of the city and the scorching sun of the beach.

    Gelato is made with fresh and genuine ingredients, it is lighter because it contains less butter fat and less air. Its main ingredients are fresh milk and egg yolks mixed with sugar and cream. We already said that the ingredients used are of top quality but what is even more important is that who makes gelato takes into serious consideration the correct balance of all the solid components of the various ingredients. The right balance is what makes gelato softer and creamier. These solid components are stabilizers of the emulsion water-fat, binding thickeners of water and the skim solids of milk.

    Ice cream is made with different ingredients: powdered milk, fruit juice concentrate, and additives such as coloring agents, sweeteners, emulsifiers, stabilizers and aromas. Ice cream is made in large batches and kept frozen for long periods of time while gelato is made daily in small batches with fresh ingredients. Indeed if it is frozen for too long it looses its silkiness. Gelato's density requires a slightly higher serving temperature, the perfect point between firm and hard, soft but not melting. Ice cream instead can be stored at arctic temperatures.

    It is produced several months in advance thanks to air – it increases its volume. More air makes for a lighter ice cream, less air makes it richer and creamier.

    Here are a few basic rules to figure out the quality of the gelato or ice cream you are about to eat. If it is a high quality cream ice cream (meaning chocolate, hazelnut, stracciatella) it should not be too liquid nor too thick, the creamier it is the less noticeable the ice clusters are. If the ice cream is flaky or wrinkly it is likely that something went wrong during the process of preservation.

    If either one is too sweet it could be hard to digest. The cause could be the excessive presence of sugar or vegetable fats that have a higher fusion point as compared to animal fats.

    Colors tell a lot too: if they are too bright (i.e. almost fluorescent green for pistachio) it means that the ingredients used were not 100% natural but were enhanced by chemical components. This is even more evident in fruit gelatos: the color should be similar to the color of the fresh fruit itself. If there are pieces of fresh fruit that is a sign of quality too.
    Last but not least, if the gelato does not melt quickly, especially if it extremely hot outside, it means that it contains hydrogenated vegetable fats... simply avoid it!

    There also are sorbets. These simple refreshments are all about fruit, sugar and lemon juice with no addition of milk, cream or eggs. The secret is to use fresh fruitas the ones made with cooked fruit taste like cold jam. Sorbets are generally eaten at the end of a meal to cleanse the palate, but they can also be a lightest choice for a hot day.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Summer Fancy Food: the Italian Sounding Problem Strikes Again

    “PARRANO, the cheese from Holland that thinks it’s Italian.” This is quite a catchphrase used to describe a cheese that “artfully captures two of the world’s best known cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano and Gouda in one, to create a truly unique cheese.”

    PARRANO is a full flavored cheese with the nutty flavor of Parmigiano and the creamy texture of a young Gouda that can be sliced, grated and melted… any way you serve it, it does not disappoint. What is disappointing though is that despite the fact that the producers state that the cheese is not Italian if you look at the label you can totally be tricked. First of all the name itself sounds a bit Italian (or even Spanish) and slightly similar to Parmigiano.

    Secondly, the logo itself is made of these three colors: red, white and green… the colors of the Italian flag. Then in big letters you see the writing “Originale,” (which in Italian means original) surrounded by other words written in a smaller font: “formaggio,” “gusto,” fresco.” All Italian words.

    PARRANO was just presented at the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show, and it was not the only misleading Italian sounding product that international companies presented to the attendees. The issue of Italian sounding brand names by manufacturers that have nothing to do with Italy has been going on for years and many are fighting against it. First and foremost the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) here represented by the Italian Trade Commissioner in New York, Pier Paolo Celeste.“

    The 2014 edition of the Summer Fancy Food Show has proved what commercial data had anticipated: the quantity of food that is Made in Italy imported in the US is in greater demand (+ 8,5% during the first months of 2014 vs 2013). During these wonderful three days of intense work we at the Italian Pavilion have experienced a great inflow of visitors and all of us at ICE are really proud of it, because we work on it all year long,” the Commissioner told i-Italy.

    And on the Italian sounding subject he added; “However, we have definitely noticed that there have been plenty of attempts to attract - by using our national colors and Italian names or references - the visitors’ attention on pseudo-Italian products.

    This phenomenon, commonly known as the Italian Sounding phenomenon, is stimulating us at ICE to increase all our educational activities in order to instruct consumers on the quality and uniqueness of Italian products and on how to read labels, that, if you know how to read them, can give you all the information on the origin of the product. An educated consumer is a happy consumer.” Indeed ICE is succeeding in educating consumers through seminars, meetings and literature.

    “I think that educating the consumer is very important,” chef Luigi Diotaiuti owner of Al Tiramisu restaurant in Washington DC told us, “but I think that it is also important to educate chefs and people in the food trade. The chefs of today seem to be more interested in being on TV or on posting pictures on social media rather than in learning their ingredients. I include myself in this, but I can say that even professionals are superficial and lack some basic knowledge. So knowledge comes first and then I agree that the labels are too misleading. You see an Italian flag or the word Tuscany on the packaging and you immediately think the product is Made in Italy. I think the labels should be designed following some strict rules, similar to the rules producers must follow to make a certain food, like Prosciutto di Parma, so that the consumer can know exactly what he is purchasing. Last, what separates our products from imitations is the quality. Parmigiano Reggiano is made following a method that is centuries old. It cannot be reproduced. It's not a question of 'my food is better than yours,' they're just different. I am proud of my food, and thanks for trying to imitate it but do your own thing and stop misleading people.”

    “I remember when I used to come to the US as a tourist, I would always make a trip to the supermarket. How funny it was to see all those Italian names on foods that had nothing to do with Italy! Very funny. Now that I have the honor to represent real Italian products, Italian sounding is no longer funny. It’s a catastrophe. All you need is a map of Italy, an Italian name, and “product of Italy” on the label. And the game is done. Who is going to check anyway? No one. Take a bottle of olive oil. In some (very few) cases, the true origin of the olives is written on the back of the bottle, but you need a magnifying glass to read it,” Beatice Ughi, founder and president of Gustiamo, importer and distributor of authentic, artisanal foods from all regions of Italy, added.

    “We strongly believe that fake Italian products are a huge and growing problem. In the USA, “made in Italy” is more attractive than ever before. Italian products are considered cool. They signify a glamorous and elegant lifestyle. Italy, according to Americans, makes food products that are healthy and good for you. If you eat Italian, you are engaging with traditions, family, and culture. “Made in Italy,” in the USA, is more appreciated and sought after than ever before. Italy can be found for sale everywhere in the USA, but at lower and lower prices.”

    “We need to protect and defend out products,” Luigi Diotaiuti added, “The French, for example, fought hard to have the right to be the only ones who can produce Champagne. Italy is lucky to have some amazing products whose reputation is being destroyed by fakes. What can we do to protect them?”

    “Is there is somebody who is monitoring this? Who should I ask?,” concluded Beatrice Ughi.

  • Facts & Stories

    Made of Italians: Go Back Home With Expo Milano 2015

    Milan's Expo 2015 (May 1- October 31, 2015) is going to be the largest global event organized on the theme of food. “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” will be a once in a lifetime experience and visitors will be able to experience, all in one place, the culture, the history, the innovations and the food of over 130 participating countries.

    New York City has just hosted a large event as well, actually the country's biggest food trade show, the Summer Fancy Food Show, so there was no better moment to present the expo one more time and also introduce some of its special programs.

    That's why the Consul General of Italy in New York, Min. Natalia Quintavalle and The Director for North America of the Italian National Tourist Board, Eugenio Magnani, in the company of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forest Policies for Italy, Maurizio Martina, the Director for Institutional Affair of EXPO Milano 2015, Roberto Arditti, and the Event Management General Director of EXPO Milano 2015, Piero Galli introduced, at eataly's La Scuola, the Expo's project “Made of Italians.”

    “Made of Italians is an initiative we are very proud of,”  Piero Galli told i-Italy, “We are here today to speak to those Italians who have left their home country years ago and have made of America their new home. This is an invitation to travel back and experience their roots in a way that was never done before and will never be done again... as this is a unique event that will not repeat itself.”

    Indeed the program was tailored to all Italians living abroad and all foreign citizens of Italian descent. “Expo Milano 2015 is reserving a special welcome for all those who wish to experience an exciting return to Italy,” Galli continued to explain, “They have brought to these shores their culture and customs, it is now time to travel back and not only enjoy the expo, and the city of Milan, but all the other cities and countries that surround it.”

    The program was launched in Consulates, Embassies and Permanent Agencies across the world on June 2nd, on the Italian National Day, when Italy became a republic. The Regional Councils for Emigration have participated with enthusiasm to Made of Italians and they will promote the Universal Exposition of Milano thanks to the involvement of more than 3.000 Regional Associations, from Argentina to Japan, which count more than four million and a half Italians living abroad with 50 million descendants. Made of Italians offers travelers and visitors special rates for travel to Italy and exceptional discounts. Etihad Airways offers travelers from Asia, Australia and the Middle East travel opportunities at special fares while Alitalia is providing special discounts on its domestic network.

    Once in Milan, the program's participants get a 25% discount for the entrance ticket to the expo plus a special welcome to the Italian pavilion that means, dedicated services such as Fast Track, tastings and discounts for complimentary services such as personal tours. Those who need a place to stay, can get special discounted rates at affiliated hotels, such as UNA Hotels and STARHOTELS. If there is not room in Milan, and visitors end up staying in a neighboring town or city, TRENITALIA, Italy's primary train operator, offers several discounts on the entire national rail long haul network.

    But there is more: free admission to selected Milan's museums and discounts to visit museums in other cities, special rental rates on Fiat Chrysler cars, offers on mobile communications through Telecom Italia, discounts in restaurants, stores, at Intesa Sanpaolo banks on payment cards, and at illishop in Milan and at the Coffe Cluster Shop on the expo site for coffee products and machines.

    “Is there a better incentive to travel to Milan?” Galli asked before offering “the first card to Ministro Martina, a great supporter of the initiative who lives in Bergamo therefore he is not going to travel far.” “The Made of Italians program is one of the major projects conceived within the expo,” Martina told the crowd, “Bringing Italians back to their home country is a great endeavor but it can be done. This is a great opportunity not just for Milan but for the whole country.”

    So how do people join the program? First one must register on Starting on October 1st, 2014, registered users will be sent a discount code to purchase tickets for the expo. After purchasing the ticket online the made of Italians Expo pass will automatically be activated. That means the registered visitor can use his special benefits towards the airfare purchase. Users will also receive an electronic voucher that must be printed to be presented a the Made of Italians welcome points in Milan to receive the pass containing additional promotions for the purchase of products and service not only in the city but across the country.

    “There is not much more to say,” Galli concluded, “There is no place like home, so come home.”

  • Art & Culture

    Bertolucci's Me and You: a Look at Youth

    Bernardo Bertolucci's first Italian-language feature in over 30 years and first feature in 9 years is about to open  in New York City, on July 4th to be exact, and in more theaters across the US.

    Me and You, (Io e Te, 2012), is the 4th film presented in the Cinema Made in Italy Series, “a major new initiative between Cinecittà Luce, the Italian Trade Commission and the film distributor Emerging Pictures, bringing FIVE new films from FIVE auteurs of Italian cinema to American movie audiences in 2014.” 

    The first film presented as part of Cinema Made In Italy was Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, which was followed by Valeria Golino’s Honey, and Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty. The last one will be Gianni Amelio’s A Lonely Hero.

    Me and You is a sensual coming of age story, based on a novella by Niccolo Ammaniti by the same title. “Niccolò Ammaniti brought me his novella Io e Te hot off the press,” the now wheelchair bound director has said, “It’s been 30 years since I made a film in Italian. 

    I longed to hear Italian spoken in a film of mine, with Italian actors and to shoot in Italy. Reading the first few pages of the book, I felt a spark… of a new project… to become inevitably a movie. The novella’s storyline had to change somewhat and had to go through several transformations. That’s why I wanted Ammaniti next to me in the writing of the script, together with Umberto Contarello and Francesca Marciano. But some of the biggest differences between the novella and the film were not even in the screenplay. They happened during the shoot. It’s the magic of cinema.”

    The 14 year old Lorenzo, played by Jacopo Olmo Antinori, has evident difficulties in relating with his peers. He needs the help pf a psychologist, who is wheelchair bound. Then one day he gets the chance to finally be himself and do what he wants: he ditches the school's ski trip and decides to hide in his building’s neglected basement. 

    He's armed with a satisfying supply of food, his favorite books and music and an ant farm. He is looking forward to spending an entire week alone where nobody tells him how to be a “normal” teenager. He is not aware that shortly thereafter his beloved retreat will be invaded by Olivia, played by Tea Falco, his older half-sister whom he has not seen in quite a while. 

    At 25, Olivia is a drug addict who's trying to get clean. Her delicate state makes co-habitation difficult, confrontation and old resentments come to the surface incessantly, and totally disrupts Lorenzo's plans. Their forced cohabitation also brings forth a need for affection and intimacy that will change the two characters into allies against all the unhappiness that this world can throw at them. 

    It all ends with a pact: Olivia will stop hiding from reality in drugs if Lorenzo will just stop hiding from the world.

    Lorenzo and Olivia are two people who have tried, each in his/her own way, to escape ordinary life. It is a basement, a place that usually is connected to fear, darkness and even death, to tempt them to look at the world differently and consider different options. 

    “In Me and You, I made sure that this one cellar had a different look in every scene, a basement storage room designed to be transformed by the boy, Lorenzo, and by the lighting,” Bertolucci has said, “I wanted the space to constantly have a different feeling to it, so that one could see something new as the story progressed.” 

    In this basement, Lorenzo was looking for refuge in solitude, while Olivia was trying to vanish by becoming one with the walls onto which she pasted her own photographic image. 

    Bertolucci is still a force to be reckoned with. Seated rather than standing, the director looks at his characters straight in their eyes, he does not look down on them and on their adolescent affectation in a hermetic world. 

    Me and You reminds us of other works by Bertolucci: it evokes the claustrophobic confinement of Besieged and it indulgently observes the problems of youth like in The Dreamers. 

    “Me and You is about the longings, disappointments, struggles and dreams of two

    young people,” Bertolucci has said “I guess many of my films have dealt with the youth and their specific emotional issues and states. Now that I am over 70, I continue to be intrigued by youthful characters and by the challenge of capturing their vitality, curiosity.” 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Summer Fancy Food Show: A Taste of Italy Away from Italy

    Good news for Italy: Americans haven’t had their fill of Italian cuisine. In fact, their appetite for Italian products – especially the healthy, authentic, quality variety – is still on the rise. 

    And Italy will again dominate this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. 

    Over 300 companies, including individual producers, cooperatives, consortia, associations and chambers of commerce, will offer the best of the Made in Italy label. The Italian Trade Commission has grouped them together in the Area ITALIA, which features 305 exhibitors on two floors, with 224 producers on level 3 and 81 on level 1.

    To know more about all this we visited the Italian Trade Agency in New York and met met Pier Paolo Celeste, Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the USA. In Mr. Celeste’s office, under a stunning De Chirico painting and over a classic Italian coffee, we took stock of the large Italian presence at Fancy Food.

    “As with every year, we are excited to bring exceptional authentic Italian food products to the American table,” said Mr. Celeste. “Italy is a nation steeped in tradition, culture, beauty and good taste. What better way to convey all its richness than a massive sprawl of the best there is in Italian gastronomy? As you walk through our area you’ll find yourself on a gustatory trip from the cool Italian North to the sunny, Mediterranean-washed South.”

    Fancy Food is clearly a fair for professionals, well known to those in the industry. To us, however, it seems like an excellent occasion for all.

    “Yes, definitely, you can find the biggest players in the Italian agribusiness representing their products. But it’s a real ‘Made in Italy’ fair, an enjoyable excursion for everyone.”

    The quality standard of Italian products is directly linked to the region from which they come. Each product gains its unique flavor because it comes from a certain area whose conditions cannot be replicated elsewhere.

    “The Italian government is getting serious about defending food made in Italy and the Italian Trade Agency is helping out in many different ways. We advise Italian producers to draw attention to the specific quality indications, such as the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), which identifies the designation of a product that is produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographic area; and the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), which certifies at least one of the phases (production, processing, preparation) takes place in a specific geographic area. There is also TSG (Traditional Specialty Guaranteed), which guarantees that a food has been traditionally produced, processed or made with traditional raw materials, but that does not certify that the protected food product has a link to a specific place of origin.”

    We often ear that the Italian Trade Agency has an educational function too. What does this mean?

    “We advise Italian producers on how to invest in the American market and, most importantly, to educate consumers. That is our mission too. Education is important and it’s achieved through tastings. At the Fancy Food Show people will have the chance to taste the high quality of our products. They will be able to tell the difference between lower quality products.”

    All foods and beverages will be displayed and offered for sampling, from olive oil (the most widely-represented group) and balsamic vinegar to preserved vegetables, from fresh pasta to baked goods, from ready-to-eat meals to organic cheeses and meats. Coffee, soft drinks, wines and liqueurs will also be displayed. 

    Anything special this year?

    “Well, there will be more gluten-free and organic products than before. And we’ll have Chinotto, a soft drink that Americans are not so familiar with. Chinotto is produced from the juice of the fruit of the myrtle-leaved orange tree and its appearance is similar to that of cola. It’s not as sweet but it’s rather bitter. Chinotto soda dates back to the 1950s and is produced in Italy by different companies.”

    As for the classic Italian delicacy – cured meats, or salumi – last year at Fancy Food the Italian Salumi Promotion Institute announced that a 40-year ban on the importation of Italian Salumi had been lifted,  and taught the American food trade all about meat products such as salami, pancetta, coppa and other cured meats that had been aged under 400 days. 

    Are things progressing in this realm?

     “Yes, there are new salumi like Prosciutto Toscano, which got its PDO in July 1996. Tuscan salt-cured ham has been made in Tuscany since the 15th century. It is aged for at least one year and cured with a blend of natural spices commonly used in traditional Tuscan cuisine, such as pepper, garlic, rosemary and juniper. This results in a more intense and spicy flavor compared with Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto San Daniele. Prosciutto Toscano has been available in the US since 2013. But there are more cured meats that are still waiting to be legalized in the US, and progress is being made.”

    Meanwhile how are food and wine exports to the US going in general?

    “It’s going great. At the end of 2013, Italy ranked 8th among nations exporting food and beverages to the US, with an increase of 7.20%, but came in a secure first place in the most important categories, such as olive oil, cheese, pasta and wine. In 2013, Italian food exports to the U.S. rose to $4 billion, $1.6 billion of which is in the wine sector alone.

    What explains this success?

    “This increase in Italian food exports is due to the fact that Americans have become more health conscious and have realized that Italian products not only taste good, they’re also good for your health. Authenticity, quality and good nutrition all come together in the Mediterranean diet. Try it yourself at the Summer Fancy Food Show, where you can taste Italy away from Italy.”