Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    Reports from The Gourmet Retailer show that stats from the National Cancer Institute do not look promising: “during 2009 alone, there will be 192,370 women diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,170 women that will die from it. With the disease affecting so many lives, it is important to think about prevention and the best way we can help ourselves prevent all types of cancer, including breast cancer, is through our lifestyle and diet choices.

    The American Dietetic Association agrees, stating that fruits and vegetables provide a complex

    combination of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, and are low in fat -- all properties that make them ideal for helping to prevent cancer. It is never too late to adopt a healthier diet, especially when statistics indicate that almost 13 percent of all American girls born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.”

    Dr. John H Maher, who writes and teaches regularly on nutrition for health professionals and is co-founder of BioPharma Scientific and creator of "The SuperFood Solution™: Lifelong Wellness Made Easy,” has these suggestions for a preventive diet:

    Yellow/orange vegetables -- Eating foods high in beta- carotene has been linked in many studies to lower rates of breast cancer. Tip: Baby carrots beta-carotene is more absorbable then regular carrots and carrots beta-carotene is 500% more absorbable than in raw carrots.

    Cruciferous vegetables-- Radish, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga, cabbage, turnips, turnip greens, contain indole -3-carbinol, which lowers women's levels of a type of estrogen that may promote breast cancer. Tip: Look for BroccoSprouts, a brand of broccoli sprouts with megalevels of SGS, a compound that fights mammary tumors in mice.

    Organic hormone free milk -- Why not fat-free milk? Because there's an intriguing compound in milk fat (including butter)-- conjugated linoleic acid -- that fights breast cancer cells in test tubes and animals.

    Tomatoes -- Whether cooked, dried, in soups, juice and sauces, even in Ketch-up form, tomatoes are filled up on a compound called lycopene. Diets high in lycopene are linked to lower rates of breast and prostate cancer.

    Grapes -- They have cancer-fighting antioxidant power.

    Cold water fish (salmon ,tuna, anchovies, swordfish, polluck, crab, sardines) and omega-3 rich nuts and seeds (walnut, pumpkin, flax) -- Research suggests that women with higher tissue levels of omega-3s have lower rates of breast cancer.

    Vitamin D --  Exposing yourself to sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D because sunlight is far more likely to provide you with your vitamin D requirement than food is.

    Dark cherries -- Cherries are a top source of a compound that may inhibit mammary cancer in rats.

    Limonoids -- Compounds found in the peel and white membrane of oranges, inhibit breast cancer in test tubes. Eat whole fruit oranges and tangerines. Look for herbal teas made w/ orange lemon peel. Use real orange and lemon oils in cooking and health drinks.

    Whole grains vs. refined grains -- At least one study has shown that women who ate the most refined grains had more breast cancer. Another study showed women who ate one serving a day of a cereal high in wheat bran lowered their level of breast cancer -promoting estrogen.

    Butter vs. margarine -- One study suggests that a diet higher in trans fats may increase the risk of breast cancer. Margarine, most french fries, both frozen and fast-food, and many processed and fried foods made with hydrogenated fats are a top trans fat source. If you prefer margarine, use a trans-fat free brand.

    Green tea – No matter if hot or cold, green tea is rich in EGCG, a compound that inhibits breast cancer cells in mice. Caffienated brands have twice as much potency as uncaffienated. And most bottled brands have little. Mix with herbal teas and lemon peel for taste.

    Olive oil -- Extra-virgin olive oil lowers the risk of developing breast cancer in those who carry a particular gene involved in about 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers.

    Garlic -- Kills breast cancer cells in the test tube and maybe in you. But if you're going to cook garlic, always peel and chop, then let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before you heat. Heating right away doesn't allow time for the cancer-fighting compounds to develop.

    Flaxseed -- It has 75 times more lignin precursors, compounds that inhibit mammary tumors in animals. Sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto your hot or cold cereal, add flaxseeds to your homemade muffin, cookie or bread recipe and give cooked vegetables a nuttier flavor by sprinkling some of them on top.

    Soy -- Isoflavinoids work as weak estrogens, blocking the more powerful estrogens from stimulating estrogen sensitive cancer cells.

    Phyto herbs -- Like don quai, fennel, black cohosh are also weak estrogens that compete with stronger estrogens for estrogen receptor sites.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    In a Class of Their Own

    Sometimes just getting on with our daily lives can be difficult. There are so many things to know, so many consumer warnings and health risks to keep track of, that even the simple act of eating can become stressful. The good news is that with some simple guidelines, the food you eat can be of superior quality and a source of pleasure rather than a cause of stress!   

    The first and most important step is to carefully read food labels. They should have all the information you need. If you are a lover of authentic, high-quality Italian food, you have probably run into these acronyms: DOP, IGP, and STG. What do they stand for? We’ll clarify these important standards with a series of articles that will divide the Italian Peninsula and its products from north to south.

    The code DOP stands for Protected Designation of Origin, IGP means Typical Geographic Indication, and STG Guaranteed Traditional Specialty.

    The DOP standard, which we are going to examine in this and subsequent articles, is

    guaranteed by the European Union and was created to promote the authenticity and artisanal characteristics of certain foods and agricultural products. The skilled artisans who develop these foods produce their designated specialties in specific regions. Italy accounts for about one-fifth of all the DOP products in Europe (there are 109 in total), which are split into the categories of cheese, fruit and vegetables, cold cuts or meats and olive oils.

    The IGP classification is a seal of origin; it’s easier to obtain and the guidelines are less strict than DOP. STG classification protects the traditional value of the production process. It aims solely to maintain specific methods that have stood the test of time.

    Many of these products are growing in popularity in the United States, which imports thousands and thousands of them regularly. Following are the DOP products from the northern part of the Italian peninsula:   


    - Fontina (cheese)

    - Valle d’Aosta Fromadzo (cheese)

    - Valle d’Aosta Jambon de Bosses (cured meats)

    - Valle d’Aosta Lard d’Arnad (cured meats)  


    - Asiago (cheese)

    - Bra (cheese)

    - Castelmagno (cheese)

    - Gorgonzola (cheese)

    - Grana Padano (cheese)

    - Murazzano (cheese)

    - Raschera (cheese)

    - c (cheese)

    - Taleggio (cheese)

    - Toma Piemontese (cheese)

    - Salamini Italiani alla cacciatora (cured meats)

    - Riso della Baraggia Biellese e Vercellese (cereal)  


    -Riviera Ligure (olive oil)

    -Basilico Genovese (vegetable/fruit)   


    - Bitto (cheese)

    - Formai de Mut dell’Alta Val Brembana (cheese)

    - Gorgonzola (cheese)

    - Grana Padano (cheese)

    - Parmigiano Reggiano (cheese)

    - Provolone Valpadana (cheese)

    - Quartirolo Lombardo (cheese)

    - Taleggio (cheese)

    - Valtellina Casera (cheese)

    - Salame Brianza (cured meats)

    - Salame di Varzi (cured meats)

    - Salamini Italiani alla cacciatora (cured meats)

    - Garda (olive oil)

    - Laghi Lombardi (olive oil)   


    - Asiago (cheese)

    - Grana Padano (cheese)

    - Provolone Valpadana (cheese)

    - Spressa delle Giudicarie (cheese)

    - Stelvio o Stilfser (cheese)

    - Garda (olive oil)

    - Mela Val di Non (vegetable/fruit)   


    - Montasio (cheese)

    - Prosciutto di San Daniele (cured meats)

    - Salamini Italiani alla cacciatora (cured meats)

    - Tergeste (olive oil)  

    As you can see, the north of Italy is home to many delicious cheeses, cherished on dining tables worldwide. Fontina is made exclusively in the region of Val d'Aosta, according to an age-old recipe dating back to the 12th century. The rather mild climate of this peaceful valley, nestled between majestic snow-capped mountains, is ideal for creating Fontina's incomparable flavor: faintly nutty and buttery. It’s a delicious table cheese, but it’s also excellent cooked. Fontina is a star in regional dishes such as bistecca alla valdostana, the local steak with melted Fontina, and fonduta, a rich cream of melted Fontina.   

    As far back as the year 1000 A.D., Asiago cheese was produced with whole milk by farmers in Piedmont. Now, it’s manufactured commercially and has become extremely popular. Asiago cheese is produced in two forms: fresh, also known as pressato, and mature, which is called Asiago d´Allevo. The former has an off-white color and a mild flavor, while the latter has a more yellowish color and is somewhat grainy in texture. It’s excellent for crostini, spreads, frittatas, and almost any way you choose to enjoy it.   

    Gorgonzola is Lombardy’s pride, and Grana Padano its glory. The former is frankly, rather ugly and odorous, but with a pungent taste and a luscious consistency. Its secret is pennicillium, a mold inside the flesh of the milky-white cheese which gives the cheese its signature flavor and colored veins. The blue streaks give it a robust, full, piquant flavor all of its own. Gorgonzola is enjoyed both aged and young, with polenta, on pizza, and in decadent sandwiches.   

    And what can we say about Grana Padano? It debuted in the twelfth century, thanks to Lombardian Cistercian monks who began using excess cow's milk to produce cheese with a long lifespan. Grana Padano is a semi-fat hard cheese that is cooked and ripened slowly (for up to 18 months). It’s produced all year round, and the quality can vary seasonally as well as by year. Grana can be shaved on pasta but is best enjoyed alone, in small wedges, or with fresh fruit. Grana Padano's sweet flavor and buttery aroma only improve with time, so always try to preserve its freshness.  

    The production of cured meats is also important, and although most people know and cherish Prosciutto di Parma, the North is home of Prosciutto di San Daniele. This cured meat that has been made in Friuli Venezia-Giulia for centuries, and is prized for its pink meat, creamy, smooth texture, and salty-sweet flavor. Prosciutto di San Daniele is delicious when served raw on country bread with a soft, sweet cows' milk cheese like Taleggio. Cooking it will alter its delicate flavor. Prosciutto di San Daniele is cured in the same fashion as Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di Carpegna, and the Tuscan Prosciutto Crudo: It must be aged for at least 12 months, but some are aged for up to two years.  

    Genovese basil is loved worldwide for making delicious pesto. It has a small-to-medium-sized leaf which is oval in shape, convex, and light green in color. It gives off a delicate scent; there is no trace of the mint, which can be detected in other varieties. Trentino’s Val di Non apples are simply delicious. They’re crisp, juicy, and rich with vitamins--the ideal fruit for those aspiring to a healthy diet.   

    All DOP products are labeled, so, when you are out grocery shopping, make sure that what you are buying is the real deal!

  • Libera Terra. For a Sicily With No Mafia

    Approved on March 25 1995, the Italian Law 109/96 provided the allocation of goods, land and properties of illicit origin to all those, such as associations and co-operatives, able to return them to needy citizens, through services and socio economic activities. Ten years later, 2500 out of a total of 6500 have been allocated…

    But let’s move back in time and explain from the beginning – the association Libera, founded to support civil societies against all mafias and committed in the creation of an alternative community by Don Ciotti, together with many relatives of Mafia victims collected over a million signatures for the approval of a law introducing the possibility to re-use the land confiscated from the mafia for social advantage. The chance of getting back what had been stolen from them represents to these people the actual possibility to create a different future

    for their children, in their own territory, a future free from the culture of violence and corruption.

    Another stepping stone was 2001, when in Sicily,  some of these lands were given, with a free loan,

    to social co-operatives of type B (social groups that bring together permanent workers and previously unemployed people who wish to integrate into the labor market), who started producing pasta, olive oil, wine, honey, legumes and cereals following organic farming methods.

    The first one was the Cooperativa Placido Rizzotto – Libera Terra in Sicily that brought back to life, after years of neglect, lands in the corleonese area. Rightly so, others followed in Sicily and later in Calabria and Puglia. All products, environmentally sustainable and made in the respect of the traditions of their territory of origin, are then put on the market under the Terra Libera label represented by Italy’s leading organic food company, Alce Nero.

    But is this dangerous at all? Silvia Forte, representative of the company at the latest Fancy Food Show in New York, replied – “Yes, despite all they still get threats. I have spoken with many of these guys working the fields and the stories are endless. Machines are stolen, lands are set on fire…I was talking to one worker from Sicily who told me that in order to see what was happening at night he started sleeping in his car, parked by the field…every morning he would then find a single bullet on top of the car. At first he didn’t react but collected all the bullets. Later he made a necklace out of these bullets and started walking around town wearing it, just to show that he was not intimidated.” 

    And business continues no matter what, so much that new products are regularly been added to the line., including delicious, high-quality wines. Centopassi, for example, is the name of the Sicilian line, dedicated to special fighters such as Peppino Impastato, Niccolo Azoti and Pio La Torre. “We have promised,” the company’s reps say, “One more step towards a higher quality level, achieved through the selection of the best grapes of our Nero d’Avola, as well as Catarratto and Grillo, the noblest white grape varieties of our land.” 

    “This is a special project,” Silvia Forte continues, “We hope it will continue to grow and that the deserted lands of other regions will finally be fruitful again.”

  • Art & Culture

    Architecture & Design. Antonio Pio Saracino. Sketch of a Trendsetter

    His name is Antonio Pio Saracino, he is 32 years old, he’s originally from southern Italy, and he moved to New York “just for fun,” as it often happens. He got his first bite of the Big Apple in 2003 thanks to an internship at the architectural & design studio,  Archi-tectonics, where he started just to learn English. 

    Today, only five years later, things are quiet different and in an amazing way: just one year after his arrival, in 2004 to be exact, Antonio and his American business partner funded ArchLAB, one of the most innovative experimental design studios, located in Union Square, basically in the heart of New York City. Since then, his projects have been published in the most prestigious international and national magazines, he has won four major awards for his design projects as the best  ‘Future Furniture’ by New York’s Interior Design magazine and he is the winner of the Architectural Award (2007) by the Museum of Chicago.


    But we’re not done yet; he has recently been named New York’s “Ambassador” of the newest trends in international design by the prestigious magazine AddictLab and crowned by New York’s ART News magazine as one of the 25 greatest trendsetters worldwide. 

    What more can we say about this real enfant prodige? Antonio is very humble and he doesn’t really believe to be one of the greatest who are out there right now ... he admits that he doesn’t think he has made it, but that he is only at the beginning of a long voyage… destination unknown... 

    He casually talks about the passion that inspires him and his effervescent projects. His work is constantly focused on a design of organic motif, inspired by nature and its shapes, that uses the finest technology to let the human body and the architectonic one be more interactive with each other. 

    “I think that modernity in architecture and minimalism in design today are dead and buried,” Antonio says when asked about contemporary and innovative trends, “Although there is a constant effort to revive them. We are witnessing a revolution in both design and architecture, thanks to extremely sophisticated technology that forces us to radically rethink the artificial world and the role of us spectators in the world that we are building. Since technology has invaded and multiplied nature, such body will never be the same again; it is projected over its nature in new dimensions of mobility, social connectivity and flexibility that were simply unthinkable until today. 

    It’s also true that technology has invaded and amplified the architectonic body and the shapes of design, in such a way that they would never be the same again. The world that we project sees the natural element become more artificial and the artificial sphere turn more natural, thus blending together! 

    As you can see in my project for the Seed House, inspired by a seed, that has won the American Design Award of 2007, or in my Modular Chairs inspired by natural shapes, or in the several architectonic membranes that have won the Future Furniture Awards, there are signs of reciprocal interactivity. I am particularly attached to the façade of the Cocoon House that features a frontal metal elastic net that witnesses how the dimensional tension between private and urban space has changed, this division is no longer identifiable with a bi-dimensional façade.” 

    In the past few years, the world has witnessed drastic changes in daily life: time, space, matter and individuality have evolved. “I believe that as both an architect and a designer,” the ‘Ambassador’ continues, “my role is to create an order between these technological and intellectual revolutions to translate them in the possibility to improve life and to help people accept change with enthusiasm in order to evolve.” 

    New York plays a major role in Antonio’s book as it was, has been, is and will always be, the real Mecca of innovative design. “It’s the ideal place to get inspiration and develop projects. Here one feels to be integral of a culturally rich environment that is always changing, always remolding itself.” 

    The future sees more and more projects around the globe, all united by one common thread – organic design… sinuous, elegant, and simply natural…nature at its best.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Cucina Povera Mania

    Never as in the last few years, everything that orbits around food has been so trendy. A now-fashionable style of cooking, popularized by master chefs Mario Batali and Cesare Casella, is La Cucina Povera. Literally this Italian expression means "cooking of the poor," or "peasant cooking," and on a deeper level it reflects a philosophy that is common in all cultures: making do with what you have to transform humble ingredients into dishes that are not only good but absolutely exquisite.

    The spirit of La Cucina Povera is about embracing constraints and discovering the delicious creativity that can arise from making do with what you have in the kitchen. Have you ever been to an upscale Italian restaurant and seen panzanella on the menu? Well, in case you didn’t know this nicely styled but rustic salad made with stale, old bread, red onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers is a staple of Tuscan and Umbrian peasant cooking. We can say the same about caponata, the delicious Sicilian eggplant-based salad.

    Executive Chef Cesare Casella may live and work in the most cutting-edge and cosmopolitan city on earth, but at heart, and on his menu, he has never left behind the bucolic Tuscan countryside of his youth (indeed the Dean of The Italian Culinary Academy at The International Culinary Center in New York City is originally from Lucca). At his trendy yet rustic restaurant Maremma, Chef Cesare introduces his customers to his self-described "Free Range Tuscan Country Cooking." If that means serving prosciutto bianco (house-cured lard with rosemary and grilled bread), farrotto (Lucchese grain cooked risotto-style) and Tuscan "cowboy style" spare ribs, slow-cooked with tomatoes, garlic, and giant spagna beans, who are we to complain?

    His mentors being his mother for her natural cooking talent and his father for his never-ending search for the best available products, Casella is a fanatic about the quality of the products he serves.

    Beans are his favorite food and he has 19 Italian heirloom varieties grown especially for him on a farm in the state of New York. He is determined to get Americans on a bean craze, and may already have a few converts. He founded “The Bean Republic," a charitable organization where he produces and sells beans, vegetables, grain and Italian spices — all organically grown.

    At his Roman-style trattoria Lupa, Mario Batali serves trippa alla romana (tripe with vegetables), bavette cacio & pepe (pasta with pecorino cheese and pepper) and spaghetti aglio & olio (pasta with oil and garlic), simple pasta dishes that are simple and simply of the highest quality at a moderate price. Pasta cacio & pepe is an old Roman recipe in the tradition of la cucina povera that has always been a favorite of the poor and rich alike. It is incredibly simple and quick to prepare, but its success relies on having good-quality Pecorino Romano, pasta, and fragrant peppercorns. At Babbo, Batali’s critically acclaimed West Village restaurant, Batali pampers diners with comfortable rustic Italian cooking at its best, at the same time daring them to savor some very unusual tastes…tripe, lamb's tongue, beef cheeks, crushed squab

    livers, and stinging nettles. "No matter how it's cooked, tripe is an ordinary dish," wrote Pellegrino Artusi, the author of "The Art of Eating Well", a little more than a century ago. A bon vivant and a celebrated host, Artusi thought of tripe was something fit for a family meal, not the sort of dish one would offer guests. Many of his contemporaries (we are at the end of the 1800s) saw it in a considerably different light; it was cheap enough that almost anyone could afford to buy it.

    In La Cucina Povera the cooking techniques are simple, the ingredients seasonal and at their best. “These chefs are keeping tradition alive,” says culinary instructor and culinary tour creator Renee Restivo, “and this is just amazing. Nowadays younger chefs go towards a more modern and inventive approach, often disregarding rustic tradition. I think it has to do with the definition of being a chef, as people feel that in order to stand out professionally they need to do something different. Fortunately there is this trend to help simple cooking be validated again and for that we must thank

    movements like Slow Food.” In her tours to Sicily, Renee introduces people to the cooking of the peasants and home cooks during authentic meals in private homes and in her favorite restaurants. “Sicily is such a hot region for chefs right now,” she says, “that top culinary schools in the U.S. have chosen it for chef’s educational journeys.”

    There are restaurants however that try to put humble food on the menu but for them it doesn’t work, why? “It’s a bit of a challenge, and education is key,” continues Renee. And that’s what chefs like Batali and Casella are doing…food lovers are slowly coming around. Slow Food’s motto is “Take it slow. Living the slow life with food, as the focus is as rewarding as it is easy. Everyday can be enriched by doing something slow.”

  • Italian Doc Remix. Ispirati da musica rituale e popolare

    Nell’East Village non mancano i localini dove ascoltare della buona musica - ce n’è per tutti i gusti, dal reggae, ai karaoke bar, e chi più ne ha più ne metta. È la zona preferita dove andare ad ascoltare qualcosa di diverso e di originale dal sapore estremamente newyorchese. Stasera si va tutti al The Stone, spazio dedicato alla musica sperimentale e avant-garde, per Italian Doc Remix (IDR). Per capire meglio di cosa si tratta, abbiamo interpellato Marco Cappelli, musicista e compositore napoletano, pilastro del progetto.

    “Qualche anno fa io ed il percussionista Jim Pugliese ci incontrammo per caso in Italia. Lui, nato in New Jersey da genitori di origine italiana, di Castelnuovo di Conza in provincia di Avellino, vive a New York da anni e ha un forte interesse, che può meglio definirsi una passione, per le sue origini. Ci siamo messi a parlare di queste zone della Campania ed entrambi siamo stati colpiti dal richiamo del sangue e ci siamo voluti dedicare alla sua musica tradizionale”.

    Si è formato così un gruppo, non intenzionalmente italiano o italoamericano, ma di musicisti newyorkesi legati alla musica sperimentale. Doug Wieselman, al clarinetto e sax, Jose Davila al

    trombone e alla tuba, e Ken Filiano al basso, accompagnano Marco Cappelli, chitarra e laptop, e Jim Pugliese, percussioni, nel rivivere la distorsione della memoria per dei pezzi del patrimonio tradizionale di una cultura, tramandata e ricordata da immigranti di seconda o terza generazione.

    “Queste melodie, che non fanno parte della tradizione della musica leggera napoletana ma della musica rituale e popolare, non sono delle cover”, ci tiene a spiegare Marco, “ma sono un punto di partenza dal quale prendere ispirazione. Io sono l’unico del gruppo che conosce gli

    originali. Loro non li hanno dovuti ascoltare, anche per non lasciar che ne vengano influenzati troppo, ma hanno sovrapposto la loro cultura, la musica che gli appartiene, con quello che gli

    suggeriscono. Il lavoro viene improvvisato liberamente su canovacci, proprio come succede nelle processioni rituali campane, dove la musica porta addirittura a dei trance”.

    Il repertorio è vario - ci sono brani ispirati a villanelle antiche, come “Vurumbrella”, brani della tradizione popolare, come “Sant’Allegrezza”, canto dell’Isola di Procida, e pezzi originali

    composti da Marco Cappelli, tipo “Mischio Francesco”.  “Vogliamo dare al pubblico”, conclude Marco, “della musica che allo stesso tempo è lontana dalla fonte originale - geograficamente, cronologicamente e culturalmente - ma piena di elementi della sua tradizione”. 

    La serata è punto di partenza per la registrazione di un CD per l’etichetta italiana Itinera, etichetta legata al festival di Pomigliano Jazz, dove il gruppo si esibirà a luglio. 


    (To hear a sample of the IDR music open the attachment below, or click here)


  • Life & People

    Zucchero’s All the Best

    The singer and songwriter has personally chosen the songs, whose original releases span is from 1986 to the present, and some feature stellar guest performances from artists such Luciano Pavarotti, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, and Vanessa Carlton.

    All the Best includes a 1995 version of Senza una Donna, the track that brought him international fame when he recorded it in 1990 with Paul Young, Baila, Il Volo, and other successes. The new tracks are Wonderful Life, a cover of the 1980s hit by the British band Black, as well as I Won’t Let you Down, and You Are so Beautiful.

    In a recent interview Zucchero confided that he was proud of the close bonds he’s formed with English-speaking artists such as Eric Clapton, Bono, ray Charles, and Miles Davis. “It’s not easy,” ha has said, “for a continental European artist to get the respect from an English or American artist. I think it’s different for me because my music is a little bit different. I have a lot of influences coming from the blues, soul, gospel, and Italian melodies. It’s a mixture of things they find interesting.”

    How did Zucchero get to collaborate with so many international stars? The story is that in 1988 Davis stopped in Italy on a world tour and was very impressed when he heard his song Dune Mosse, which was a radio hit at the time. The obvious blues influences that Zucchero unabashedly with romantic, Italian melodies appealed to Davis so much that he proposed that they record Dune Mosse together in New York.
    Ali D’Oro, recorded in 2001, also features another great American musician, John Lee Hooker, in the last recording of his career.

    Back in Italy, one of Zucchero’s longtime collaborators was Luciano Pavarotti. The pair first recorded a track together in 1992, Miserere, and then started working together on annual charity events for over twenty years involving their many friends from the worlds of classical and pop music. “He left a great void in my life,” Zucchero has said.

    There is an American tour planned for the fall of 2008, and we are sure he is going to woo the local audiences. “Americans are more open to Italian music now…and we are trying to do our best…” this is his promise.



  • Life & People

    Day of Slowness and Slowness Festival

     There are a couple of dates that you should mark on your calendar. But take it easy, don’t rush, there’s no need to. February 25th, 2008 is the Worldwide Day of Slowness, and on that same date, until the 27th, the Slowness Festival takes over New York City. Definitely not the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of slowness but this is the point.

    “Yes, New York is a fast-paced city,” Bruno Contigiani, a Milanese who, tired of running around thought of this new philosophy of living, has confessed to me “but it is also a kind city where there are some brief moments of personal relations. You see people holding the door open for others, or simply greeting you when you get on the bus, something you just don’t see in Milan, for example.” I actually am from Milan as well, and I must say that people would rather slam the door in your face than keeping it open for you! And no, I am not exaggerating. And one time I dared crossed the street with a red light and a car actually started going faster just to scare me. But this is another story.
    “We hope that the attendance will be great, with many people with new ideas, willing to spread the benefits of slowing down to anybody, as slowing down means to be able to control our own time. Slow down to wonder and think, to appreciate small things that daily life offers,” Bruno continues.
    The Associazione L'Arte del Vivere con Lentezza on February 15th, 2007 launched the first day of Slowness, a day that was welcomed with enthusiasm by citizens and the media. The initiatives were numerous, more than 100 held nationwide at the same moment, and varied: from walking around on a mule in Tuscany to the “Slow Marathon” in Rome, to the symbolic fines to the hurried Milanese.
    During the second day of slowness, scheduled on February 25th, 2008, different events will be spontaneously organized in many Italian cities, depending on the creativity of those people sharing our own idea of a voluntary and convivial choice to live better. “The 25th is a Monday,” Mr. Contigiani continues, “a day when slowing down is extremely difficult as it is the beginning of a new week.”
    On the occasion of the second anniversary, the desire to slow down will overcome Italian and European Borders, the event has attracted fans in France and other countries, to land in New York, not only for a day but with a three day long festival.
    Many different events will be organized in cooperation with the City Administration, with the Cultural Association Slow Lab, The Italian Cultural Institute, and the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce.
    Union Square will welcome Passovelox and the Slowness Guards, guards that will be fining New York people who are excessively in a hurry. If they stop and have time, they can also enjoy ancient street games organized and energetically animated by Giorgio Reali of the Associazione dei Giochi Dimenticati.
    Furthermore, restaurants around the city will hold the so-called Slow Dialogues where the new concept of time is discussed while tasting special menus. “The meal is a sacred moment, a moment where food and company are protagonists,” admits Mr. Contigiani, ”There is no room for cell phones nor newspapers, but only for concentration on what you are there to do, just enjoy your meal. Don’t you notice that when one person at the table gets on the phone all the others get to do the same? It’s contagious.”
    The food presented at the dialogues must be in its purest form, not elaborate, in order to be genuine and simply delicious. Also, portions should be of a normal size in order to give prevalence of quality over quantity. And let’s not forget, everything must be served with a smile.
    Shows will make the table experience even more pleasant with Baroque music played by Erasmus or contemporary music performed by the improvisational duo, Fabio Sorani and Giuliano Prada.
    “We need to discuss and find out why time is such a unique value and the one and only real richness of our society,” concludes Mr. Contigiani. All right, let’s check it out.

  • Art & Culture

    Capossela. Mythology in the Air

    “E balla il cha cha della medusa

    chi l’ha provato piú non riposa

    ballalo subito non hai una scusa

    se non lo balli saró scontrosa…”

    (LYRICS from Capossela’s song Medusa Cha Cha Cha)

    Mythology was in the air at Vinicio Capossela’s concert a few nights ago.

    That doesn’t really happen at Webster Hall, location of the fifth edition of Global Fest. Sure many international artists grace its stages but none is like Capossela.

    Not to belittle anyone, but that’s the way it is.

    “Twelve artists, three stages,” this is the motto of the New York-based event that every year welcomes major representatives of world music in search of business on the American market. Sure, the different performances can overlap, but who’s there to work needs to have a chance to sample as many artists as possible, thus needs to be able to move from one room to another easily. Those there just for fun can freely do the same or just stay for an entire set.

    There really is something for every taste: in the first couple of hours I moved from the jovial mood of Chango Spasiuk, Argentine artist who experiments with traditional music from the north-eastern corner of his country, to an even more folkloristic ambiance created by the Korean group Dulsori, the 99% female ensemble plays with amazing percussions, to the circus of Vinicio Capossela. I, among others, was simply mesmerized.

    Ironic, sentimental, audacious, and eclectic, Vinicio Capossela is an artist who started at the bottom doing the most disparate jobs just to be in the music business. Now he is one of the strongest representatives of Italian contemporary music and the shining star of an entire generation. His most evident music influences are Tom Waits and his blues, along with Paolo Conte and his chansons.

    His musical repertoire mixes together aspects of Brecht’s theater, cinema (his song Zampanò is inspired by Fellini’s film La Strada), traditional Mediterranean tunes, literary works (Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose is responsible for the song Con una Rosa), pantomime and Greek mythology (a portrait of Medusa the character of Vinicio’s song Medusa Cha Cha Cha was actually admired by the singer at a German friend’s art show. He was thrilled by the image he saw but also by the painter’s theory on the snake-haired monster).

    At the circus of Mastro Vinicio the singer is the protagonist of many little scenes where the alternating of masks and costumes leaves the public wondering what song he’s going to do next but also what cool outfit he’s going to wear for us. “New York is great for shopping,” Vinicio tells the microphone as he puts on a pink jacket with black furry lapels. Indeed I happen to know from secret sources, secret but safe, that right before the concert he was out shopping in the East Village, haven of second hand stores.

    The mostly all-Italian audience welcomed numerous Americans who were completely unaware of what was going on. Right in front of me two guys from Brooklyn were mesmerized. Capossela had just put on a wooden mask representing a bull and they were smirking but enjoying what they were seeing. They couldn’t walk away. But they were dancing, overcome by the Ballo di San Vito, even though they didn’t know what it was.

    “This is pure entertainment,” Matt Du Verger, one of the two, says to me, “Even though I have no idea of what he’s saying, I got the idea that it’s something important but said differently. Max, his friend, continues, “The program says that there’s a sense of desolation in his songs but delight as well, I just think it’s cool. Look at the people, they are in awe. It’s like being at a bacchanal.”

    All this enthusiasm was cut short by the time limitations of the event, sets are indeed supposed to last 45 minutes. But the production allowed an encore despite the numerous requests to leave the stage that needed to be prepped for the following artist.

    But for Mastro Vinicio they can do this and much more…

  • Life & People

    Ristorante Barolo's Soul

    When in New York, just mention this address – 398 West Broadway – and anybody would know where you are going. You will find yourself in the fashionable quarter known as Soho, among fine boutiques and art galleries, and across the spacious front of a restaurant.

      Barolo is not just a wine, a delicious and sensual red wine from Piedmont, but the place to be in Soho for a taste of traditional Italian cuisine with a sassy twist.

    Established in 1990, Ristorante Barolo has a reputation of excellence among local and international guests for its exquisite Northern Italian cuisine complemented by an award winning wine list of over 1200 precious wines…all selected by a Master Sommelier and personally tasted by the staff!

    As I am sipping a delicate and light glass of Soave wine, sitting in the first room of the restaurant, my old friend, the Executive Chef Maurizio Marfoglia, is in the kitchen preparing a nice filetto with a green peppercorn sauce for the owner, Paolo Secondo, who is watching a soccer game on a giant screen. The same screen attracts hundreds and hundreds of clients during the summer when it is placed by the entrance to show the activity surrounding the fountain in the back garden.

    Maurizio Marfoglia, who is from a small town just north of Milan, has trained in the best kitchens throughout Italy, France and Germany. He launched a successful early career owning two popular Italian restaurants by the age of 27and his success continued when, in 1994, he ventured to New York City. Since then he has had an amazing career as Executive Chef at some of the city’s best Italian restaurants including Sette MoMA. At Ristorante Barolo since 2001, Maurizio continues to innovate and perfect his specialty, Northern Italian cuisine, while overseeing a staff of thirty cooks in his kitchen.

    He has also served as the private chef to the Italian Ambassador to the United Nations and taught at the Cooking Institute of America.

    It is amazing and unbelievable at the same time, thinking that he was destined to become a dentist! And this is how I met him, years and years ago, as an assistant to his father at his dentist studio…but that didn’t last long and Maurizio ran away to the kitchen! Because I know him so well it’s hard to interview him, he’s joking around and making me laugh, giving me silly answers, challenging me to get anything out of what he is saying. The reality is that Maurizio likes to play and his ability to do is reflected in his menus and his recipes. “I like to reinvent classic Italian cooking by using traditional recipes revamped with new or unknown ingredients,” Maurizio declares, “see for example my green apple ravioli served with a lamb ragù, or the chocolate tagliolini, which by the way are not my invention but it is an old recipe that has been forgotten.”

    Having been a vegetarian for many years, Maurizio loves vegetables and is always looking for new ones; his most recent find are purple potatoes.

    “Looking for new ingredients is probably the best part of an Executive Chef’s job,” he admits, “You speak with the purveyors, you hear what they have and from there you start to create something new. Sometimes I get really drunk at night, then the following morning I have inspiration for a new dish…” Of course this last part is a joke!

    Maurizio is indeed an artist who, instead of having colorful paints, uses food to put together real masterpieces for the taste buds but also for the eyes. There was a time, a year or two back, that Maurizio, was experimenting with geometric food and pasta & fagioli was served as a small jello cube that, when pierced, released the pasta and bean in the plate. The idea was great but the preparation process was too messy so the dish is not on Barolo’s menu anymore.

    But the Executive Chef is not only a creator of recipes, he is also a manager and a teacher who overviews a kitchen of numerous cooks who have to feed up to 450 people at a time. Every April, depending on the weather, Barolo opens the doors of its outdoor garden a favored destination of many. Hostesses get dollar bills from clients who want to sit there and enjoy the nice weather surrounded by cherry trees while sipping a glass of Barolo.

    “Every dish on our menu complements a good glass of Barolo,” Maurizio explains, “we have a fillet in a Barolo sauce that is out of this world. But, you know that I am a bit unconventional, I think that a nice glass of young Barolo would go perfectly with a strong fish soup…I know many would hate me for that, the idea that fish goes with white and all, but I think they will marry really well.” It’s a belief that can be changed as the role of the Executive Chef is also that of an educator who, combines for us, ingredients we would have never thought would go well together. Who would have imagined that parmigiano reggiano ice cream would be a delight? I had to try it from Maurizio to believe it.

    “Yes, I am the soul of this restaurant,” he continues to joke, but in reality he is telling the truth…no actually a half truth, because the location of the restaurant is important at 50%. Ristorante Barolo is an exceptional setting for a formal dinner or a romantic rendez vous, but if the food were not as sensational as it is your experience there would not be a complete success.