Articles by: Marina Melchionda

  • Art & Culture

    Fourth Centennial of Galileo’s discoveries. Florence celebrates at ENIT in New York

    In November 1609, Galileo pointed his enhanced telescope with 20x magnification to the moon for the first time and used it to prove Copernicus’ heliocentric theory. By challenging the geocentric view that had dominated since Aristotle’s time, he revolutionized scientific thought and became the father of modern astronomy.

    In 2009, the world is celebrating the fourth centenary since his discoveries by declaring 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy. It is a global tribute organized and sponsored by the  International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO.

    Through various initiatives taking place in many different countries, the two organizations aim to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe through the day- and nighttime sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.

    The city of Florence has taken this opportunity to personally honor the scientist by launching the spectacular exhibit “Galileo: Images of the Universe from Antiquity to the Telescope,” which comprises 250 masterpieces – including paintings, ingenious instruments, sculptures and drawings – and recreates the history of astronomy from its earliest days.

    The exhibit, on view until August 30, is divided into eight sections. The first explores the dawn of astronomy and focuses on Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the biblical cosmos. The second section describes the spherical view of the cosmos developed in Classical Greece by Plato and Aristotle. The third examines Hellenistic Greece and the idea of the geocentric cosmos. These are followed by three sections on Islam, the Christianity of the cosmos, and the rebirth of astronomy. The seventh section is devoted to Galileo and his telescope (also on display), while the final part of the exhibit focuses on Kepler and Newton, and marks the definitive triumph of modern science.

    The Province of Florence and the Florence Tourist Board presented “Galileo: Images of the Universe from Antiquity to the Telescope” at a conference in New York on March 25. The conference took place in the headquarters of the North America division of  ENIT (Italian Tourist Board)

    and was hosted by its director Riccardo Strano.

    The exhibit was introduced by Matteo Renzi, the President of the Province of Florence, James Bradburne, Director of Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, where the exhibit is on display, and Antonio Preiti, Director of the Florence Tourist Board. “We are confident that the Galileo exhibit will be a popular attraction for visitors, particularly for Americans who are in love with Italian history and culture,” said Mr. Renzi.

    Mr. Strano echoed him, praising the beauty of the city that hosts the display: “The initiative is an example of the many ways we keep potential visitors informed of the ‘happenings’ in the beautiful city of Florence. It is among the most beloved Italian destinations by Americans.” 

    The conference was also an occasion for Italian representatives to meet Meryl Levitz, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. The capital of Pennsylvania, connected to Florence for more than 30 years, will host a corresponding exhibit at the Franklin Museum of Philadelphia from April 4 to September 7 entitled “Galileo, the Medici, and the Age of Astronomy.” When we asked her about Philadelphia’s relationship to Florence, Ms. Levitz said that “they both are considered to be the second favorite destination in their respective countries, after New York and Rome. I am confident that this is the first of the many occasions we will have to increase tourism to our cities and to further deepen the relationship between our people.”  

    We had the opportunity to exchange a few words with the President of the Province of Florence Matteo Renzi who told us more about the exhibit, its features, and its objectives. We also discussed the Internet and new media as potential instruments to increase tourism to Italy and to Florence in particular.

    When did you come up with the idea for the exhibit?

    "The idea originated with the Director of the Istituto e Museo Nazionale di Storia della Scienza in Florence Paolo Galluzzi who proposed it to the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in the fall of 2006. Given the importance of the ‘Year of Galileo,’ and the support of the Italian government, Regione Toscana, and Ente Cassa, we decided to launch the 2009 program as a ‘double-exhibition,’ covering both the spring and summer seasons. The exhibit celebrates an international pioneer in science, a great Tuscan-born thinker, as well underlines the importance of seeing science as an integral part of culture. Now more than ever it is impossible to separate 'science' from 'culture,’ an interdependence clearly shown in the exhibition, which also includes scientific instruments, tapestries, drawings, and paintings by Rubens, Botticelli, and Brueghel. "

    This initiative is part of a wider project conceived to enhance the image of Florence all over the world. How are you working on this goal?

    "The image of Florence we are currently focusing on aims to connect the past with the future. Our city is renowned for its palaces, churches, paintings, and museums. The ability to create beautiful things is still with us, and it comes into being in many ways: in design, in fashion, in craftsmanship, and in the modern visual arts. We want Florence to be seen as a city that combines the past with the future, under the sign of style and beauty."

    Do you think that Internet and social media such as Facebook and YouTube could be efficient marketing tools in the tourism sector?

    "We are discovering Facebook and YouTube as we learn to use them. I have found out that they are a dramatic means of communicating with people, and a way to verify ideas immediately as soon as they come to mind. As of yet, there isn’t a standard for the use of these new instruments, and all the possibilities of digital marketing in the field of culture have not yet been explored. Our tourism promotion site has already been transformed with videos, photos, and the direct participation of our guests. These instruments will become stronger and stronger in the tourism industry as well; this is for sure."

    Why did you decide to hold the first presentation of the exhibit in New York?

    "New York is the center of all that is going on in the U.S. The city has a global dimension that can be found nowhere else in the world. We are here because we believe that if New Yorkers find this exhibit interesting, other U.S. citizens are bound to follow. Moreover, New York is the most important tourist market in the U.S. And, we must not forget the tremendously important connection between New England and Florence, a connection which we are extremely proud of and hope to develop further."


    Florence is also twinned with Philadelphia, which is hosting a corresponding exhibit with the one organized in Florence. Do you intend to work on other projects together? What does this ‘special bond’ mean to you?

     "We have to admit that twinnings between cities used to be a question of diplomacy, a vestige of the past that for the most part is over. Today, these partnerships have to remain relevant in order to survive, and they need to express something about the present and, more importantly, the future. By twinning Florence and Philadelphia we intend to develop, enhance and enrich our relationship. 
    We have not yet outlined a program, but as the celebrations for Amerigo Vespucci’s anniversary draw near, we will explore new ways to cooperate that are in the best interest for both cities."

    You are the mayoral candidate for the city of Florence in the 2009 elections. If you eventually become elected, what you will you do to encourage further development of the tourism industry there?
    "Tourism is one of the city’s fundamental economic sectors. We want to re-launch Florence’s global image and the U.S. is our biggest market. During 2008, Florence welcomed over 500,000 American visitors. We want to reach as many as 1 million in the next few years, if the world’s economic situation allows it. Worldwide, we want to develop family tourism, a target which is crucial for us, and as far as the U.S. is concerned, we want to explore the “new prairie” states such as Texas, California, and Washington, which we think represent a great potential for Florence. Vespucci, who gave his name to America, is our best ally today."

    A personal message to our American and Italian-American friends who are planning to visit Florence…

    Culture and science, together in one city. Discover in Florence the roots of the Renaissance, the best and most prolific age of humanity.

    (Edited by Giulia Prestia)

  • Facts & Stories

    Human Rights in Italian Foreign Policy. Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata at Montclair State University

     The auditorium was crowded. There was a continuous whisper, a soft hush of excitement. They were all there to attend the Lectio Magistralis that the Italian Ambassador to the United Nations Giulio Terzi di Sant’ Agata was scheduled to deliver.

    The students were not the only ones interested. The lecture, organized and promoted by the Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America, was held in the LeBoffe Lecture Hall at Montclair State University in New Jersey and welcomed many respected Italian and American officials.
    The Consul General of Italy in New York, Francesco Maria Talò, and the Consul in Newark, Andrea Barbaria, were in attendance. Cav. Joseph Coccia and his wife Elda sat in the second row of the spacious auditorium while waiting for the lecture to begin.
    The institute’s Director Dr. Mary Ann Re, and Willard P. Gingerich, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Montclair State University, welcomed Terzi di Sant’ Agata at 3:00 p.m. The lecture, “Responsibility to Protect – Toward a more compassionate international action: Italy’s past, present and future role,” was the first he had ever given in the United States.
    He had a singular and precise message to convey: Italy’s foreign policy is strictly guided by the ideal – or rather, the value – to protect and enforce the respect of human rights throughout the world. “Italy is primarily viewed as the country of Machiavelli, who believed that political affairs must be looked at from an “amoral” point of view. This is not correct with regard to foreign policy. On this topic, Cesare Beccaria’s work Dei delitti e delle pene teaches the Italian government the greatest lesson: every commitment abroad must be driven by only one aim and purpose: the diffusion and protection of civil, social, and political human rights.

    The ambassador demonstrated this point through a long and exhaustive round up of Italy’s key military interventions during the last 15 years or so, analyzing the decisions behind the dispatch of the country’s troops to war zones. Discrimination, persecution, and the repression of civil and social rights such as the freedom of speech and of religion are all considered to be sufficient and important reasons to intervene. From this, the decision was made to support the U.N.’s military efforts in the Middle East, as well as maintain a presence in Lebanon in 2006 and in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
    In the past, continued the speaker, Italy has also played an outstanding role in the U.N. toward the abolition of the death penalty and the institution of the International War Crimes Tribunal.
    Finally, the ambassador reflected on the relationship between Italy and the United States, “a transatlantic bond that is growing stronger with the new president’s foreign policy, which is based on two pillars: the defense of human rights and the support of continuous dialogue.”
    The Lectio Magistralis lasted for about 40 minutes; the profound silence in the auditorium demonstrated the audience’s intense interest in the subject.

    After a brief Q&A session, those present were invited to join Ambassador Terzi di Sant’ Agata, Consuls Talò and Barbaria, and the Coccia family at a reception on the seventh floor of Montclair State’s University Hall, where the wall of windows allowed guests to enjoy a beautiful view of the campus. 
    There they sampled a Mediterranean buffet of typical Italian foods, from cold cuts and pickled peppers, to olive and nut breads and small pastries, along with Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus, pita bread, and baba ganoush.
    The ambassador was given several “souvenirs” of Montclair State University by Willard P. Gingerich, and had the chance to speak with students who were interested in the lecture and stayed until the very end.
    i-Italy was given the opportunity to exchange a few words with the ambassador, as well.  When we asked him what he wanted to communicate to the American students present at his lecture, he answered: “I want new generations to understand that Italy’s purpose in foreign policy is to safeguard international security through the wide and extensive protection of human rights. Today, Italy has a global responsibility. Historically, our country dominated the Mediterranean, but it is now time to reestablish the area’s influence and, thanks to the privileged relationship we have with the United States, support our neighbors in their struggle for human rights.”

    (Edited by Giulia Prestia)

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    The following people have contributed to the organization and the succeed of this event:

    Provost and Academic Vice President, Dr. Willard P. Gingerich

    Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Claire Taub

    Cav. Joseph Coccia, Jr.; Elda Coccia; Elisa Coccia; Genevieve Nicastro

    Rudy Valli, Chair of the Coccia Institute's Board of Advisors

    Senator Anthony Bucco, NJ State Legislature--NJ Italian American Legislative Caucus

    Jacky Grindrod:  District Director for Congressman Bill Pascrell  

    Commissioners of the NJ Italian & Italian American Heritage Commission:

       Cav. Gilda Rorro Baldassari

       Dr. Nancy Carnevale

       Carmelo Corallo

       Catherine Vignale (also President of ITANJ)

       Mario Marano

    Tom Pecora, President-Italian American Heritage Foundation

    Joseph Agresti, Immediate Past National President UNICO

    Frank Tidona, Past President UNICO

    Sam Fumosa, Past President NJ OSIA

    Commendatore Peter Caruso

    Cav. Angelo Bianchi 

    Dr. Anthony Tamburri, Dean of the Calandra Institute/CUNY

    Dr. Gabriella Romani--Director Alberto Italian Studies Institute at Seton Hall University

    Dr. Elizabeth Defeis--Seton Hall Law School

    Dr. Andrea Baldi--Rutgers University

  • Life & People

    Triangle Factory Fire Centennial: What to Do to Keep Memory Alive?

     When you live in a European country or in America, where democracy was first conceived and institutionalized, you take the rights you have and enjoy for granted. But if you look back and investigate the history of your country you find out that there were MANY men and women who fought for these rights. Perhaps, who knows, you might also find out that these modern-time heroes were part of your own family. They won a lot of battles, giving disabled, injured, elderly people, children, and handicapped persons the rights they deserve as human beings. They did the same for women too.

    American women conquered the right to be treated the same way as men, with the same opportunities, duties and possibilities they have in the year 1911, when on the March 25th the 'Triangle Factory Fire" killed 146 mainly Italian and Jewish female garment workers. Considered to be one of the largest industrial disasters in the history of the city of New York, the tragedy hit the business and the public image of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, that at that time employed more than 600

    women, mostly young Jewish or Italian immigrants. The circumstances in which they were called to work were, according to modern standards, at the very least "inhumane": fourteen-hour shifts led to 60-72 hour workweeks, with an average yearly income of 338$ (which corresponded to about half of the salary earned by their colleagues working for other companies). The conditions were so awful that in 1909 the Factory had already been at the center of many strikes, including the so-called "Uprising of 20,000" - that actually began with a spontaneous walkout at the Triangle Company. The fire in 1911 finally led to the institutionalization of Women’s Day and, more important, to the recognition of several civil and social rights and comprehensive safety and workers' compensation laws.

    So, this really should be considered one of the pillars of United States' modern history. How many people, especially young students and citizens, know of these occurrences? Are we sure it is not becoming just a torn page in our infinite book of memories?
    With the need and hopes of being able to answer this difficult and tricky question, on March 24 the Triangle Factory Fire coalition organized an event to commemorate the victims of the fire and to plan for the centennial (25 March 2011). The event was held at the Judson Memorial Church, Washington Square, Manhattan, and featured the presence of several members and active representatives of the coalition, including artists, actors, educators, descendents of the victims, historians and musicians. They endorsed it together with several institutions and organizations, mainly Italian. Among them,

    Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo' at NYU, the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute/Queens College, the City Reliquary Museum and Civic Organization, the Department of Romance Languages at Hunter College (CUNY), theEast Village History Project, the Education & Labor Collaborative (Adelphi), Franklin Furnace, the Gotham Center for New York City History, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, theMALIA Collective of Italian American Women, the Street Cry Productions and the Women and the Gender Studies Program at Hunter College (CUNY).
    On that evening NYC citizens of all ages and social extractions demonstrated great interest in the initiatives of the social groups participating. Each one of them had a small booth where they exposed materials about their mission and their own proposals for the centennial. Those present that evening were also freely invited to join them and contribute to the cause, and they could do it in many varied ways.
    A commemorative ribbon was also donated to each person present, who knotted it around their arms, head and wrist. They also enjoyed Italian and American food, wine and beer as a refreshment while musicians and singers performed Italian, Neapolitan and American music. 

    Among the most inventive exhibitions was a long carpet on which 146 large round buttons represented the victims of the fire. Organizations and social groups were all invited to "adopt" one of them and represent the victims on the 2011 commemoration.
    "Ruth Sergel, the founder of the coalition,  had this idea that 146 organizations will each honor one fire victim.  So that by 2011, we can create memorial events where every victim is honored.  We needed a visual way to get people involved. I came up with the idea of "sewing buttons onto a giant shirtwaist"

    as a way for organizations to sign up.  Rose painted the shirtwaist.  I made the buttons.  My Mom Rachel helped.  I had read that the victims were layed in a row at the morgue and that family members had to walk up and down looking at the bodies layed out in coffins on the floor, to try to make identifications.  So, in an ephemeral ritual, I layed the buttons which were made out of paper plates, ribbons, and wool, in the same head to head pattern.  When we called the names of the deceased, participants walked up and down and around, in the same way at the morgue.  We called the names together, holding lace, sprinkling ribbons, reading the names in unison.  It was very moving", said Annie Lanzillotto, a member of the planning committee of the Coalition. She was supported in her initiative by the before-mentioned Ruth Sergel, the promoter of CHALK, an annual community-wide commemoration of the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire, involving dozens of participants who fan out across the city to inscribe in chalk the names & ages of the victims in front of their former home.
    When we asked Annie why this initiative is so important to her, she answered: "The Triangle Fire is one story of where our Italian ancestors’ American Dream ended in disaster with teenage lives cut short.  The Triangle Fire is also a clear example where labor and lives were undervalued in the name of capital and this story never ends.  For me, it is important to be a rememberer.  I am fascinating by New York history and New York ancestors.  These streets have always been mean.  I want to represent the Italian lives lost."
     Last week's event was just the first of several which will take place from now until 2011: the next one is scheduled for 2010, when the participating groups will gather again to further discuss the different proposals suggested and the program to be scheduled.  
    To join the Triangle of Fire Remembrance Coalition, support it, or participate in the organization of the 2011 Centennial, visit its official website.

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  • Life & People

    In the Mood for Amatriciana? Try Sora Lella!

    It is a beautiful warm evening, a light wind accompanies your wanderings and thoughts while your eyes look around in search of something to be surprised or charmed by. You meet with a couple of
    friends, your best pals, and continue walking around with no destination ‘til you start feeling a little hungry. You must make up your mind and decide where and what to eat. After all, you are in New York, the options are infinite, choosing is almost impossible. Japanese? Chinese? Indian or Moroccan? Or perhaps that Tex-Mex restaurant you heard about on the radio…
    No, nothing like this. You feel like Italian. Who knows, maybe some pasta with Genovese

    or pesto sauce or some well-seasoned lamb or pork. Or even a cup of minestrone prepared with fresh, seasonal veggies, accompanied by a filet of lake fish and a goblet of white wine. Manhattan is packed with Italian eateries, but the variety and originality of the menus they offer is not going to be what will make you prefer one place to another. You need an additional guarantee; you must make sure that these Italian delicacies are prepared the “Italian way”. No alterations, no substitutions of ingredients, no alternative cooking methods. You want the original recipe. So, the first issue is: where will I find a place like this? The second is: what kind of Italian cooking do I feel like tonight?
    Neapolitan, Sicilian, Tuscan, Roman? In other words, do I want pasta with ragù sauce and babà, penne with fresh eggplant and cannoli, ribollita and cantucci with vin santo or bucatini all’amatriciana and maritozzi? One of your friends walking with you is from Rome, he moved to the United States just a couple of years ago. So he still has the carbonara sauce aftertaste in his mouth, he still remembers how his grandma used to season the puntarelle, he knows better then the rest of you. He is going to be your guide, there is no question about it. “Come with me, I’ll take you to a place I have known forever, but that was inaugurated just a week ago”. In no time you get to Soho, one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in Manhattan. Situated at the north end of Greenwich Village and just less than two miles from Times Square, the area is vibrant and romantic at the same time. Mazes of narrow, cobblestoned streets plunge into the large, noisy avenues where the hurry of the taxi cubs overwhelm the soft talks of lovers walking hand in hand.

    You get to Spring Street, you are looking for number 300. There it is: a small door and a huge window, you found Sora Lella Restaurant. Wait a minute… you know this name, you read it somewhere, didn’t you? Yes, of course! Your Roman friend, Mario, told you about it already. He had told you of that date when he took his wife-to-be out for a dinner on the “Isola Tiberina” in Rome, in the Quattro Campi neighborhood. He had told you that Sora Lella is one of the most famous and popular restaurants of the capital, the place where tourists from all over the world-and fellow Romans go as well- go to taste real, authentic local cuisine. Carbonara, amatriciana, abbacchio and carciofi alla giudia, are some of the delicious recipes they serve.
    When you enter the eatery, a ray of light knocks you down: the pale yellow and orange walls give the room a bright look while the light wood of the shelves surrounding the dining room give the whole environment a modern yet at the same time cozy, rustic atmosphere. From the ceiling, branches of wrought iron become original chandeliers that illuminate the numerous tables covered with pastel tablecloths. The hundreds of bottles of wine surrounding you and your friends make it difficult to choose which brand, type of grape, aroma should accompany your dinner.
    The menu is rich, a collection of recipes coming from Rome, the Lazio region and also some other areas of Italy. Among the appetizers, shish kebabs of mozzarella cheeseand cherry tomatoes with the addition of basil leaves give the composition the look of the Italian flag:: it is a specialty that originates in Naples and generally takes the name of Caprese salad. You will also find rolls of eggplants stuffed with smoked ham and Italian cheese, typically Sicilian. Your eyes scroll down the menu and skip other delicacies to dwell on Roman specialties. You really can't choose, you ask the waiter about the chef’s specialty.

     So, this is going to be your dinner: suppli alla romana (fried balls of rice with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, a variation of the Sicialian arancino); then a good helping of Paccheri Pasta with Amatriciana sauce (a soft blend of smashed pealed and cooked tomatoes and small cubes of pancetta (bacon) or guanciale) topped with savory Roman cheese; some fresh puntarelle to "refresh" your mouth and then coffee (espresso, of course) and dessert (salame di cioccolata, sbriciolata, ice cream, everything you might desire is there to make you happy).
    The whole dinner is seasoned with long laughs and soft chats, the atmosphere is perfect for an evening with friends. However, seated at the tables surrounding you, are old and young couples and families too. This place is appreciated by all kinds of people! At the end, the big surprise comes with the bill. In dozens of other Italian restaurants in New York City a dinner like that would have cost you a real fortune – making a dinner into a present you can afford to give yourself only every once in a while. This is not so at Sora Lella's , where the prices mirror the spirit on which the business is built: every client is a guest to be treated as a member of the family. So, lots of domestic warmth and small charges make smiling faces multiply.
    You leave the restaurant and start walking back home. From now on your wanderings in the streets of Manhattan will be accompanied by a new awareness: whenever you are in the mood for Roman cuisine, you can just go towards Soho. There you will find your corner of the Italian capital, the place that for at least one evening will make you feel as if you are living your own, perfectly-tailored “Vacanze Romane”


    Antipasti / Starters
    Insalata di Arancia e Olive con Olio, Sale e Pepe

    Fresh Orange Salad with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Black Olives, Salt and Pepper $8.00
    Frittata alla Paesana con Mozzarella di Bufala
    “Roman Country-Style” Omelette with Seasonal Mixed Vegetables
    Served with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella $13.00
    Polpettine della “Nonna”
    “Grandma’s Style” Meat Balls with Fresh Tomato Sauce $9.00
    Misto di Salumi Caserecci
    Selection of Traditional Italian Sliced Cured Meats $14.00
    Prosciutto di Parma(Stagionato 24 Mesi) e Mozzarella di Bufala
    24 Months Aged Parma Prosciutto with Buffalo Mozzarella $16.00
    Terrina Fredda di Melanzane e Gamberi al Timo
    Cold Eggplants Terrine with Shrimp and Tyme $15.00
    Le Minestre / Soups
    Pasta e Broccoli al Brodo di Arzilla
    Home Made Fresh Pasta, Broccoli, Skate Fish Broth,
    Garlic, Tomato,Roman Pecorino Cheese and Chile Pepper $11.00
    Pasta e Ceci con Vongole Veraci
    Home Made Fresh pasta, Chick Peas, Clams,Garlic, Rosemary, Tomato and Chile Pepper $13.00

    Primi Asciutti / Pasta Dishes
    Tonnarelli alla Cuccagna (since 1961)
    con Salsiccia, Pancetta e Noci
    Home Made Squared-off Egg Pasta
    Served With Sausage, Cured Pork Belly and Walnuts
    And a Touch of Heavy Cream $18.00
    Ravioli Ricotta e Spinaci al “Sugo di Nonna”
    Home Made Square Pasta Shape Filled with Ricotta Cheese and Spinach
    Served with “Grandma’s Style” Sauce (Veal, Fresh and Dry Porcini Mushroom, Fresh Tomato Sauce) $20.00
    Fettuccine Casarecce al Ragù Bianco di Animelle di Vitello
    Home Made Long Flat Pasta
    Served With a White Veal Sweetbread Sauce and Parmesan Cheese $18.00

    Paccheri “all’Amatriciana”
    Traditional Roman Recipe “Paccheri” Dry Pasta “Amatriciana Style“
    Fresh Tomato and Cured Pig Cheek Sauce and Roman Pecorino Cheese $16.00
    Rigatoni al Sugo di “Coda alla Vaccinara”
    Traditional Roman Recipe Ribbed Dry Pasta “Butcher Style Sauce”
    With Oxtail, Fresh Tomato, Pine Nuts, Raisins and Roman Pecorino Cheese $16.00
    “Bavette” Con Pesto di Vongole, zucchine, Aglio, olio, peperoncino
    Traditional Roman Recipe “Bavette” Dry Pasta with clam Pesto , zucchini, garlic , olive oil, chilli pepper

    Secondi di Carne / Main Course

    Pollo Ruspante “alla Romana” in Umido con Peperoni
    Free-Range Farm Chicken “Roman Style” Slow Cooked in Tomato Sauce and Red Bell
    Pepper $17.00
    Coda di Manzo alla Vaccinara
    Traditional Roman Recipe “Butcher Style” Oxtail Stew
    Braised with White Wine, Tomato, Pine Nuts, Raisins and a Side of sautéed Baby Carrots $.22.00
    Ossobuco di Vitello con Cipolline in Agrodolce
    Veal Shank Braised with a Rich White Wine Onion Sauce Served with Sweet and Sour small white Onions $31.00
    Abbacchio Disossato al Forno Farcito con Carciofi e Erbe Aromatiche
    Boneless Roasted Milk-Fed Baby Lamb Stuffed with Artichokes and Aromatic Herbs
    Served with a Rosemary Potato Pie $28.00

    Parmigiana di Melanzane con Ricotta, Miele e Noci
    Eggplants “Parmigiana Style” with Ricotta Cheese, Honey and Walnuts $19.00

    Piatti di pesce / Fish dishes

    Baccalà in Guazzetto “alla Romana”
    “Roman Style” Dried Salt Cod Fish
    Served with Onion and Fresh Basil Tomato Sauce Garnished with Pine Nuts and Raisins $22.00
    Coda di Rospo al “Cannellino di Frascati”
    Con Brunoise di Pomodorini e Mandorle Croccanti
    Pan Seared Monk Fish Slow cooked in “Cannellino di Frascati” Sweet Wine Served with Cherry Tomato and Crunchy Toasted Almonds $25.00
    Saltimbocca di Tonno “alla Romana” con Broccoli Affogati
    “Roman Style” Pan Seared Tuna Fish with Parma Prosciutto and Sage Served with a Side of Withe Wine Sautéed Broccoli
    Contorni / Side dishes

    Misticanza con Frutta Fresca a Pezzi
    Mix Green Salad, Seasonal Fresh Fruit, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper $8.00
    Broccoli o Cicoria in Padella con Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino
    American Broccoli or Chicory Sautéed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic and Hot Chile Pepper $8.00
    Puntarelle “alla Romana” con Salsa di Alici
    Traditional Roman Recipe Wild Chicory Spears “Roman Style”
    Served Raw and Dressed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vinegar, Garlic and Anchovies $13.00

    Carciofo “alla Giudia”
    Fried Whole Artichokes “Jewish Style” $11.00

    Carciofo “alla Romana”
    Steamed Whole Artichokes “Roman-style” Stuffed with Anchovy Paste, Garlic and Mint $11.00
    Patate Fritte
    Home Style French Fries $6.00
    Dolci Fatti in Casa / Home Made Dessert

    Torta di Ricotta con Marmellata di Visciole
    Ricotta Cheese Tart with Bitter Cherry Jam $10.00

    Sbriciolata con Pasta di Mandorle e Arancia Amara
    Crumbly Butter Almond Cake with Bitter Orange Jam $10.00
    Sformatino di Ricotta con Cioccolato Fondente e Pistacchi di “Bronte’
    Ricotta Cheese Flan with Dark Chocolate and “Bronte Pistachios” $10.00
    Salame di Cioccolato Guarnito con Mandorle Croccanti,Salsa al Caramello e il suo Sorbetto
    Chocolate “Salami Roll with Crunchy Almonds, Dry Cookies and Caramel Sauce Served with Chocolate Sorbet $10.00

    Gelati Fatti in Casa / Home Made Ice Cream

    Gelato di Zabaione con Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena Invecchiato 12 Anni
    Marsala Wine and Whipped Egg Yolks Ice Cream With a Drizzle of 12-Year Old Balsamic Vinegar from Modena $13.00
    Gelato di Torroncino “Affogato allo Strega”
    A Nougat Candy Ice Cream Poached in Strega, a Saffron Flavoured Italian Liqueur $12.00

    Gelato di Cannella con Miele allo Zenzero
    Cinnamon Ice Cream Served with Ginger Honey $10.00

    Sorbetto di Cioccolato con Scorza d’Arancia e Nocciole
    Chocolate Sorbet with Hazelnuts and Orange Zest $10.00

    Panini “d’Autore” / Signature Sandwiches
    Salmone Affumicato e Provolone Piccante
    Smoked salmon, Hot Provolone Cheese, Radicchio Salad
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper $12.00
    Gamberi e Groviera
    Shrimp, Swiss Cheese
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper $12.00
    Puntarelle e Pecorino Romano
    Chicory Spears and Roman Pecorino Cheese
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vinegar, Garlic and Anchovies $12.00
    Broccoli e Salsiccia
    Sautéed Broccoli and Sweet Sausage
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic, Chile Pepper $12.00
    All Sandwiches are Made with Italian “Ciabatta Bread”
    Served with a Side of Green Salad or French Fries

  • The Consul General of Philadelphia Luigi Scotto
    Life & People

    Grazie dei fiori… And for everything else

     Grazie dei fiori (Thank you for the flowers) was a song written and sung several years ago by the popular Italian singer Nilla Pizzi. Now we feel it is almost our duty to dedicate it to the city of Philadelphia or, more precisely, to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society: they are the main promoters of the Philadelphia Flower Show which has been named “Bella Italia” this year. More than 45.000 square feet of gardens, floral compositions and reproductions of Italian monuments, houses and small and fascinating neighborhoods delighted visitors coming from all parts of the United States (and not only) from the 1st to the 8th of March.

    Rather than being a faithful representation of Italy, the Show could be identified as a concretization of the Italian Dream, the sparkling image Americans have of Italy, the country where the magic of “Vacanze Romane” comes to life. 
    Guests were taken on a guided tour of the lush hills of the Tuscan countryside, the romantic waters of Venice, the artful flora of Florence, and many other distinctive landscapes of Italy. The reproduction of the majestic gardens of ancient Rome was one of the most outstanding exhibits including stately fountains and statuary, boxwood garden walls, cypress and olive trees. 

    Among the hundreds of companies participating in the show, the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) offered an original representation of Italian fashion: a 2,400-square-foot walk-through boutique set to the backdrop of stylized, hand-drawn architecture. Reminiscent of a high-end shop in Milan, it evoked the Italian way of life with handbags, shoes, dresses, hats, perfume, jewelry and art interpreted in floral designs.
    The entry-way tothe Show also deserves to be mentioned: visitors walked through Roman arches adorned with roses, delphinium, geraniums and petunias overflowing from urns and columns. From there they could enjoy a complete overview of the display, including   entire corridors of porches, balconies and windows. They had that rustic and plain style that Americans associate with Italy. Maybe most of them seemed to be more similar to those you would find in little towns in the center and south of the United States, perhaps in Texas or in Alabama. However, at the end of the day, does it really matter?
    The Americans were not the only ones who organized their representation of Italy at the Pennsylvania Convention Center: Italian institutions and businessmen had their own Piazza where they showed and honored the “excellence of Italian production and manufacture”. A symbol of Italian life style, the piazza (square) is viewed in the Belpaese as a place where people of all social classes and ages meet and exchange ideas, experiences, opinions.
    This has also been created in Philadelphia, where the regions of Lazio (Sviluppo Lazio Agency), Campania (Eurosportello-Special Agency of Naples Chamber of Commerce for International Activities) and Calabria came together to present some of the most exclusive Italian products. Among them, Piaggio’s Vespa, Colavita, Pomo d’Oro (jewelry creations by Gianluca Moschi), Calabrese (a Naples based company specialized in the manufacture of ties and travel bags) and F.lli Fiorino Gloves. Architect Rosa Agliata Abruzzese managed the arrangements of the stands and the Piazza itself. She told us that “in Italy, the Piazza is the heart of the community. It is where commerce takes place, young lovers steal a kiss, a family shares gelato and grandparents discuss politics. The Piazza is Italy in every possible way; it is like a microcosm where you can find the unimaginable”. This was actually our first impression: between the gloves and the ties you could find a small stand where the “best pasta from Gragnano (Naples) was sold”. Or, again, a Vespa was parked just beside an elegant leather sofa and a booth for focaccia lovers offering samples. Maybe -  why not ? - this really was the best possible representation of an Italian Piazza.
    And what kind of American representation of Italy would it be without some good wine and cheeses to accompany it? This year for the first time the Philadelphia Flower Show also hosted a Wine and Spirits Shop where visitors were offered more than 100 different kinds and brands of wine, from red and white to the sparkling ones. While tasting them, the hungry lunch hour guests could also participate in a “Totally Italian” culinary lesson and demo presented by chef Joseph Chilling assisted by the students of the International Culinary School of the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
    From what we were able to see, our fellow Americans loved everything about the show. As a matter of fact, during the press conference PHS President Jane Pepper stated that traditionally the Philadelphia Flower Show significantly enhances the flux of tourists directed to the country to which the exhibition is dedicated. This happened two years ago in the case of Ireland, which witnessed a huge increase of the volume of tourists coming from the district of Philadelphia. Very probably, Italy will have the same luck: “Many of my friends came to visit the show”, said Mrs. Pepper. “Some of them have not visited Italy yet but told me that after these beautiful representations the trip has bounced to the top of their lists”.
    The show, obviously, is also a panacea for Philadelphia’s local economy: an average of 250,000 visitors, 700 busses and tour groups come every year from as far away as Canada. About 20% of them stay overnight in a Philadelphia area hotel and more than 60 % dine in a Philadelphia restaurant during their visit.  The result is an overall impact of $30 million that benefits small and big businesses situated in the capital of Pennsylvania 
    The Italian Flower Show thus seems to be the right initiative in the right place and at the right time. The new Consul of Philadelphia Luigi Scotto was nominated just two months ago and was impressed by the friendship and admiration American people demonstrate towards the Italians living in the area and Italy itself. The city’s ties to Italy are not new: the district hosts the second largest Italian community of the country, after the one in New York. Mr. Scotto, who was present at the press conference that inaugurated the Show, also told us: “More than 200 Italian companies are settled in this district, contributing enormously to the economic life of the area. I feel proud to represent my country in Philadelphia, a city that welcomed me in the warmest way possible. There are several projects that I want to carry on during my mandate, among which there surely is the mission to build a new “Sistema Italia”, just like the one they have in New York: together with other Italian institutions, we will promote our country’s economy and culture and assistant our citizens in every possible way”.
    The Show is actually the first step towards the fulfillment of this goal, since it is in part the result of a close partnership among ENIT, the Consulate and the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Great Philadelphia. It couldn’t be more appreciated by the American public and it surely enhances Italy’s image here in this country.
    So, again, Grazie dei Fiori….

  • Life & People

    Afua Preston: A Proud African-Italian-American...

    The auditorium at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò was crowded with young students from New York University. They were all there to participate to an open debate with the Italian singer Lorenzo Cherubini Jovanotti. The conversation was funny and interesting and we were all having a relaxing time. People were very active: several took the microphone, asked their questions and kept the enjoyment flowing. There was one person, however, that really grabbed my attention. She was sitting in the back rows, I hadn’t noticed her before. She stood up and introduced her question exclaiming “I am a proud African-Italian-American!”. I never imagined that an Italian-American could also be African…or that an African-American could have Italian roots. To my eyes, she was a living, marvelous melting pot.

    How could I let her go without getting to know her?
    Afua immediately accepted to share her story with i-Italy and also selected for us some pictures from her family albums: the people you see below, although absolutely different in color, physical features and every other possible way, are all her relatives!
    She is a single, young woman in her mid 30s who works as Assistant Director for Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting Programs at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
    The rest is to be read…
    You said you are an African-Italian-American. Tell me something more about your origins…
     I was born in Ghana, West Africa, to an Akan mother from Ghana and African-American father from New York City.  I came to America when I was less than 1 year old and my Father re-married my Mother who is an Italian-American. Her family is abruzzese  from Sulmona and Roccacasale. I call my stepmother my Mother because I was raised by her since I was a baby. But I now also keep in contact with my birth Mother’s family as well.
    What is the “most” Italian side of your personality?
    My cooking, sense of style, love of art and devotion to my family.  I’m fiercely protective.  People say that I have a sort of casual reserve called “cool” or sprezzatura -- depending on which side of my family is speaking.  
    Do these three very different origins collide sometimes?
     When I cook, I’m always mixing some of my paternal Grandmother’s recipes and adding some more garlic or taking an Italian dish and making more a Southern American dish. The music in my life also has cultural collisions. I am a big fan of Jovanotti who mixes sounds of Italy, black America and Africa.
    The other day you told me that “you are proud to be an African-American and Italian”. What is that makes you feel so proud?
     I’m proud to be different and blessed with so many different cultures in my family. There’s also more than just Africans and Italian in my family. To say I’m American means I’m a mixture of many different cultures – Catawba Native American on my father’s side, for example, French on my mother’s side, for another example. Then my brother is part Jewish and my sister-in-law is Filipina. I’m blessed because both sides of my family, including the Italian side, taught me not to be prejudiced and welcome everyone into myself.
    Recount me an episode in which you really felt as an Italian girl…
     Spending Christmas at Mamma Dina’s and setting the presepio (Nativitly Scene) . Also going to a latteria (dairy) in the East Village of Manhattan where I grew up. Every week my Mother would take me there and I challenged the Di Bellos to give me the most stinky and exotic cheeses they had, which they loved to do because they couldn’t believe this tiny black girl loved Italian cheeses.  They would tell the other customers: “See, she’s really Italian!”
    Do you speak Italian? Do you think language is an important factor of the Italian culture?
     Yes. But I need more practice. Mom would speak very little when I was child but it was when my Great-Grandmother Mamma` Adele would speak to my Grandmother Mamma` Dina (in our family, the maternal nonnas are called “Mamma” plus their names) that made me want to learn Italian, and I eventually got a B.A. in Italian Language and Culture. I studied in Florence many years ago and spoke Italian very well back then. That was over 15 years ago. I still understand a lot but need to practice more. Yes. The language is an important factor. The sounds of the language are beautiful.  (Not to mention, it helps to know Italian when ordering Italian food.)

    How do you cultivate your Italianity?
     Through food, art and music. I’m a good cook. I cook Italian food often. My Nonna has blessed me stating that I am the best pizzelle maker in the family.
    I read Cucina Italiana all the time.  Both my parents are art historians, so I was always a lover of art.  But it was especially after my semester in Firenze, that I came back to New York and had a new appreciation of the beautiful architecture and the stone and marble work in buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights.  My great-grandmother was a huge fan of opera, but  I also still listen to Italian music like Jovanotti, Eros Ramazzotti, Luca Carboni, Zucchero and Nek.
    Does your family follow Italian traditions?
    Yes. Every year my mother has the "Italian Seven-Fishes Christmas Eve dinner."  I also wear a medallion of the Black Madonna of Loreto – ironically worshipped by the women in the family in Italy for generations.
    As an Italian, African, American which is the value you would really want your children to learn?
    When I do have children, I mainly want them to be an American first and appreciate the freedom in this country to be anyone, worship anything – or not, date anyone and say (almost) anything you want to. And to be kind and caring to all people of  all ethnic groups and all socio-economic classes.
    You are part of two different minority groups, the Italian-American and the African American. How do you feel the new Administration will represent their needs?
    Remember Obama, like me, comes from many cultures: African from his father, Middle American from his mother, but also Indonesian from his stepfather!  Obama will definitely give young black children hope of striving for more, that being a president is in their grasp. Young Italian American children who want to embrace other cultures (even if they didn’t grow up in inclusive families like mine) are being inspired by Obama.  Maybe they will go back to their own Italian families with a new message.
    I was lucky as I grew up with two well-educated parents and two grandmothers who worked very hard in life to raise themselves up from poor origins with education. My paternal Grandmother Millie especially raised me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be.  I never looked at color as an obstacle for me to do what I wanted in life. But many children of color do have real obstacles and therefore feel that they could “never” be what they want to be. Finally for them there is hope. Maybe more will want to be doctors, lawyers, politicians etc…
    How important is for you to preserve your origins? Do you think it will be possible in the new global context?
    I’m kind of a zuppa mista. I don’t identify with any one group. Although my skin is black, I can’t really define myself totally. I would like to explore my African roots more though. My face and name are Ghanaian, my voice is very NY American and my soul is black-Italian American.
    A message you would like to send to all Italian Americans.
    Yes. I could never live without olive oil or garlic. African Americans and Italian Americans are more alike than you realize. Mix!

  • Life & People

    Authentic Italian Cuisine in the US? Mr. May’s Possible Mission

     Interview with Tony May, the owner of some of the most exclusive Italian restaurants and eateries in New York City. His legendary San Domenico Restaurant at Central Park closed just one year ago to be replaced by the bigger and more youthful SD26.

    He is the founder and president of GRI-Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani (Group of Italian Restaurateurs), whose aim is to elevate the standards and understating of authentic Italian cuisine in this country. GRI is based in New York and implements Italian culinary programs throughout the United States, by which American and Italian-American students and cooks learn about the main ingredients and recipes of Italian culinary tradition.

    We met him at the Wedding Café (16 East 38th Street), one of his restaurants.

     First of all, I would like you to tell me about your first experiences in this country. You came here 40 years ago and Italians here suffered great discrimination…

    When I came here in the USA in 1963 Italian culture was not strong at all. People spoke a language I did not understand and ate food I never had before. It was very different from today. Today we are enjoying a much better understanding of Italian cuisine by Americans thanks to the efforts of many experts in the field who came to America in the last 40 years: while the early Italian immigrants were very poor, and sometimes illiterate and uneducated, today more and more graduate and middle and high-class people are coming here. The cultural input now is entirely different, so things are getting better.

    However, after a tough beginning I had a fast and ascending career. During my first twenty years in America, I worked in international cuisine restaurants. Among them, the Rainbow Room. I started working there a few months after I arrived in America: in 1964 I was the captain; in 1965 the Maitre de Maison; in 1968 the manager; in 1973 I bought it. The truth is that if you knew what you were doing, you could make a career. There were very few Italian restaurateurs in New York, so I found a perfect environment for my business plans. I had a mission: educate American people about authentic Italian cuisine.

    How did you fulfill this goal?

    In 1979 I founded the GRI-Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani together with the Italian- American Chamber of Commerce. Our mission is to improve the image of Italian cuisine through education. We do this in two different ways: at the institutional level we established scholarships while at the practical level every year we take our colleagues to Italy.

    I know that you come from Torre del Greco, a town near Naples, in Campania. That territory has a strong culinary tradition. Is it present at all in the menus of your restaurants?

    I propose only Italian cuisine, the national one. Territorial traditions would keep us at the “trattoria” level while we have to “graduate” and let people understand that our food can also be served in elegant surroundings. China plates and silver dinnerware in our restaurants must substitute the rustic tablecloths of the trattorias: while the latter maintain the traditions, the former make them evolve.

    How distant is the Italian food served in American restaurants from the authentic tradition? 

     The early Italian immigrants created a new kind of cuisine, the Italian-American one. This is because they had to work with the ingredients they found here, so they had to substitute and transform some of the recipes according to what they had and didn’t have at their disposal. Although they had good intentions, they bastardized Italian cuisine. If they had had the possibility to import the necessary ingredients and products, they would not have done it. Today, instead, we have the assortment of ingredients we need, thus it is our duty to spread the real Italian culinary culture. The products denote the kind of cooking that we serve: the better they are, the better is the result.

    How did the American public react to this wave of authenticity? Did people appreciate it right from the beginning?

    It took a while. You cannot change the perception of Italian cuisine all of a sudden! This is why the fulfillment of the GRI’s mission passes through education: I think that it is the only way to win this battle. We must teach the students our traditions, we must educate them about the quality of our products and the culture of the Italian table. Today there is a deep ignorance about Italian ingredients: as an example, there still are people who do not understand the difference between grana padano and parmigiano and can not discern among different kinds of vinegar. We must give them the instruments to do so: this is fundamental if we want people to appreciate real Italian cuisine. 

    How do you feel the economic crisis is going to affect its popularity?

    I do not think this is going to happen. The quality of our products will remain the same, so people will still love eating Italian. Maybe the quantity of imported goods will diminish and the prices on the menus too. But that’s all: I don’t foresee great consequences on the long run. Eating out will always remain an option for American people: it is part of their lifestyle. And we all know that they prefer Italian   

    Last year you closed the legendary San Domenico Restaurant in Central Park, but shortly you will start a new business, the SD26…
    Yes, the new restaurant will open in September. We planned it to respond to the needs of the new generations. Nowadays when people go out they want to eat in a relaxing and informal environment. Even older people want to look young; they wear jeans and sneakers and look for modernity. The new restaurant will answer this growing demand by offering the consumers a “younger” environment.
    The idea of the  meal itself has changed: now the public prefers to order smaller portions and taste a little bit of everything and give up the big traditional meal composed of different courses.
    So it will involve a different approach to Italian cuisine, won’t it?
    The quality of our food will not be affected. We will still produce our own pasta, pastries and crèmes. We will just serve them in a different way, that’s all.  
    We will give our clients the possibility to eat at both the bar and the dining room. Every recipe will evolve around a product, such as capperi from Pantelleria, oregano from Puglia, olive oil from Tuscany, chocolate from Modica, speck from Alto Adige, so as to highlight how important the quality of the products is for the final result.
    Isn’t this approach very similar to the slow food idea?
    Carlo Petrini came up with a very good idea a number of years ago. The concept was welcomed and I respect it too. It is a tribute to good quality and genuine products. Actually I have been supporting these two elements as fundamental for Italian cuisine for a much longer time. I made  them the mission of the GRI, while the slow food idea is really a business, a very remunerative one. My mission has no lucrative purposes, it is just an initiative promoted to benefit my “madre patria”, my homeland.  

  • Life & People

    New York: Jovanotti’s Dream Comes True

    The recent visit of the famous Italian singer revealed to be a rich and fulfilling experience both for him and his traditional public. It was also a great occasion to introduce his music to Americans. Here the main stops of his “New York Tour”.

    Two concerts and two public debates: Jovanotti had a full calendar for his American debut tour. Actually it took place in one single city, the place that induced him to become a singer, the streets that saw him wondering with no direction but still feeling at home, the stages that saw many of his favorite singers perform for a public he had never known but always felt part of. This city is New York, his own “ombelico del mondo” (the world’s bellybutton), from which “all energies origin, where rules which do not exist give room to exceptions”.  

    Throughout his more than 20 year career, Jovanotti travelled all around the world to write and record his songs and produce his videos. This gave him the opportunity to meet people of all ethnicities and cultures that contributed in both direct and indirect ways to the enrichment of his sounds and music. His mixture of melody, hip-hop and funky made (and still makes) of him the first and only representative of the genre in Italy. His recent visit to New York is thus a sort of return to the origins, to the homeland of hip-hop, a dream come true for him (as he confessed us). However, he still remains a “Mediterranean singer”, as he defines himself.  His public is mainly Italian, but his recent exhibitions and public appearances in New York promise to become a launching pad for a new career in the United States.


    Lorenzo  Cherubini Jovanotti @ Casa Itaiana Zerilli Marimò (NYU) with Stefano Albertini and Antonio Monda (February 20, 2009)
     New York: His City, His Comet
     Lorenzo Has the Saturday Night Fever!
     His Life-Changing Movies

     Music: a Bridge Between Past and Future
     Projects For the Future? Transforming a Castle into a Workshop!

     Religious Thoughts and Believes
     Fellini's Amarcord: an Ever-Ending Classic
     Fango: the Video and Ben Harper

    Jovanotti, as mentioned before, gave two concerts in the City, the first at the Highline Ballroom (Feb.18) and the second at the Poisson Rouge (Feb.19). Actually, the second date was added after the first one sold out quickly, which is already something exceptional for an Italian singer playing abroad!

     The two exhibitions had two peculiar characteristics that make of this singer a true exception in the contemporary music panorama. The first consists in the fact that the public was made up of people of all ages and visibly different social classes: grandparents and grandchildren, young professionals, parents, couples and teenagers were all singing along by heart. Thus, although the great majority of the public was Italian or Italian American, Lorenzo demonstrated to be able to cross generational borders, embracing in his rhythms a completely heterogeneous public in terms of music tastes: a fundamental premise to reach the goal of popularity in the USA.

    The second peculiarity lies on the musical choices he made for the two exhibitions. Although he played the same songs, the arrangements were completely different. At the Highline Ballroom he seemed to be wanting a more harmonious, “classical” sound for most of the pop songs: the atmosphere became almost muffled when songs such as ‘Mi fido di te’ and ‘A te’ involved the whole audience in a soft, collective whisper. The venue was ideal for an evening with friends: most of the people were sitting at tables where they could also enjoy a fast dinner and quietly chat while waiting for the concert to start.

    Among them, the director of the Italian Cultural Institute Renato Miracco, the son of the late Italian writer Tiziano Terzani, Folco, and also Joe Sciorra, one of the most preeminent experts of Italian-American hip-hop  in the United States.

    The repertory spaced from some of his first songs such as “Penso Positivo” (I think Positive), Ragazzo Fortunato (Lucky Guy) and Gente della Notte (Night People) to the most recent ones from his latest album “Safari”, passing through great successes like “Tanto(3)” (A lot), “Una tribu’ che balla” (A Dancing Tribe) and “Una storia d’amore” (A Love Story).

    The second evening was somewhat different. As I said, it might have depended on the very different kind of venue: more a disco than a pub, more a dancing floor than an eatery. Dancing was almost mandatory and Jovanotti knew it: two hours of concert spaced out by duets with his musicians and pictures with the public, two hours in which he alternatively transformed himself into a DJ, an entertainer and a showman.

    Among the teenagers who were there for him that evening, was Danilo Gallinari, the famous Italian basketball player who was recently signed up by the Knicks. He is a fan of his from his early childhood: when he was just four, he attended one of Jovanotti’s  concerts sitting on his father’s shoulders. That evening the tribute was reciprocal: Lorenzo wore Danilo’s playing shirt while singing “L’Ombelico del Mondo”, his greatest hit ever.

    Several moments of both concerts deserve to be  mentioned. However, maybe the greatest one occurred when, on the notes of “Una tribu’ che balla”, Jovanotti pointed to a good quarter of the public standing near the stage telling to each one “You are unique in the world”. It really made them feel as they were  each custodians of an untouchable secret.

    The two concerts, in any case, were not the only occasions Jovanotti had to communicate with his public. On February 19, a meeting at the Italian Cultural Institute preceded the second performance. Director Renato Miracco introduced him as the symbol of “positive life philosophy”.

    The Consul General of Italy in New York Francesco Maria Talo’ sat in the front row with Consul Giovanni Favilli, basketball player Danilo Gallinari and actress Pamela Villoresi, who was also in New York to organize and participate in the Divinamente New York Festival.
    Jovanotti, interviewed by journalist Piero Negri, talked about his relationship with the city of New York. His first “encounter” with the city goes back to his early childhood, when his father showed him shots he took in the city after a one-month sojourn.

    The United States became for him a sort of mythology, a personal dream to reach. When he was just a teenager he fell in love with rap music -New York’s genre par excellence - and decided to become a DJ and then a song-writer and singer, a job that in a few years would open him the gates of the largest Italian stadiums and arenas. Although his success came quickly and was considerable, he never forgot his first source of inspiration: New York, “the reason why I chose this path, or this path chose me… I really don’t know”.

    The following day, Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo’ at New York University hosted his last public appearance. Director Stefano Albertini and Italian Cinema Professor Antonio Monda introduced him to the audience, which was mostly composed by American students who study Italian language and culture. Lorenzo was open to all sorts of questions, ranging from his relationship with Italian and International music and cinema to his projects for the future. We definitely discovered the “normal man” behind the singer, the one who likes movies such as “Saturday Night Fever” and Fellini’s “Amarcord”; the one that loves spending afternoons reading in cafeterias or libraries in continuous search of answers.

    Finally, he revealed two important projects for the upcoming future to us. The first one concerns the restoration of an ancient castle in his hometown, Cortona, Tuscany. It will become a sort of laboratory for debuting actors where they will find a temporary place to live, write and play. It will also host an orchestra composed of more than 60 children and teenagers that will play a contemporary Opera about Mozart’s life, of which Lorenzo himself wrote the libretto: “I feel like an old-time craftsman that opens a boutique to teach young fellows the secrets and ‘tricks of the trade’. In my case, however, I see my workshop as a continuous exchange of experiences and thoughts. I think young artists can teach me a lot”.

    The second one regards the American public much more closely: Jovanotti will most probably come back to New York this coming summer. He will remain here for a couple of months and perform at least once a week in a small and “cozy” venue in Manhattan.

    Just can’t wait.


  •   Angelo Bisconti  with his helper Andrea at the "Brio" Restaurant in Manhattan
    Life & People

    "Pasticciotto A Obama”: an Italian Delicacy from Campi Salentina to NYC

    Many foreigners might not know that in Italy there is a territory called “Salento” that can boast some of the most beautiful landscapes and seashores of the country. It constitutes the south-eastern extremity of the Puglia region and is sometimes described as the "heel" of the Italian "boot". Along its rocky coasts and the sides of its low mountains and hills there are dozens of small towns where people live a simple and quiet life. Their daily, ordinary activities change only in summer time, when waves of tourists come to spend their holidays there and enjoy the crystal clear waters of the Ionian and Adriatic seas.

    But there has been something in the last few months that added a hint, a sprinkle of zest and energy to these people’s lives. It was Obama’s election as the new President of the United States. The echoes of his speeches, his appearances on public television reached as far as the people living in Salento, to the point of really conquering them.

    Angelo Bisconti is one of his greatest supporters. In 1995 he opened Patisserie Chèri in Campi Salentina, a town of 11.000 inhabitants, where he lives with his wife and two children. In his laboratory he produces all kinds of goodies together with his 8 helpers. Among his specialties, the pasticciotto stands out. It is a typical pastry of the Salento area that consists in a shell of short crust filled with lemon cream.

     It was during last autumn that he decided to “twist” the recipe a little bit and make a chocolate version of it. “This pastry is the fruit of many experiments. Many of my colleagues simply add cocoa to the recipe, altering the natural equilibrium of the ingredients this way. I, on the other hand, wanted to offer something new to my fellow citizens but I didn’t want to spoil the original delightfulness of this treat. So it took me a lot of patience and efforts to find the perfect combination of cocoa, sugar, flour, butter and milk. When I finally achieved my goal I was so glad… During those days Obama was elected as the new President of the United States. The first thing I thought was that my pasticciotto was as good and original as Obama is. So I decided to offer it to him as a sort of tribute, calling my creation “Pasticciotto A (to) Obama”.

    And he really meant it! Angelo is now in the United States together with one of his collaborators, Andrea. They are offering their creation to the patrons and clients of a famous and renowned Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Brio. Its owners also come from Salento and welcomed the undersigned and her colleagues from i-Italy in their elegant and modern location. The pastry chef offered us a taste of the delicious treat accompanied by an espresso coffee, as the best Italian tradition asks.

    Angelo told us that the pasticciotto has become a symbol of Obama’s rising in his town and both children and adults just fell in love with it (and the President). “I would like to meet the President and tell him how much my people love him and are proud of him. For us, he is going to be the person who will help save the world from the huge crisis and problems we are going through. I wanted him to know that everybody in Salento supports him. That is why I came here: I would like to meet Obama and present him with my creation”.

    Angelo considers his visit to this country as a mission: although he does not speak English and never came to the United States before, he wants it to become an opportunity to introduce foreigners the beauties and opportunities of the Salento area: “I am not an self-centered person. I feel I owe a lot to Campi Salentina, the town that welcomed me and my family with so much kindness. This is why I also prepared the classic version of the pasticciotto tonight: I did not come here to promote my pastries but to give New York a taste of our exquisite products”, he told us.

    The mayor of the town, Massimo Como, encouraged Angelo to carry out the mission and come here for “the benefit of the whole town”. The centre-right politician was so enthusiastic about this initiative that he conferred honorary citizenship to the pasticciotto and made of it a Denominazione Comunale di Origine -De.Co.- (Comunal Denomination of Origin) product

    Angelo is proud of his creation: he made registered its trademark and dedicated to the Pasticciotto A Obama a very cute website and an account on Facebook and YouTube: “Some of my friends that often come to my laboratory suggested that I do it. The account on Facebook has also become a way to keep in touch for all the people who emigrated from Salento. The website, on the other hand, has been a great success: eight hundred people already signed in, many more than we expected! When we will reach the 1.000-members-goal I will organize a great party, the Obama Night at Campi Salentina”:

    Angelo will remain in New York until Wednesday. While looking for a way to meet the President, he is delighting Brio Restaurant’s clients and owners with his Pasticciotti A Obama. To thank them for their hospitality, he also donated his personal recipe to the latter. Thus this famous Italian restaurant, already a preferred location for many high-ranking Italian officials and gourmets living in the city, will become the only eatery in the whole country to offer its customers this unique and exquisite Italian goodie.

    Brio Restaurant is located at 786 Lexington Ave Frnt 1 New York, NY. Phone: 212-980-2300.

  • Life & People

    Fini Donates Pelosi Precious “Michelangelo. La Dotta Mano”

     Last December the book Michelangelo. La Dotta Mano was presented for the first time at the New York Public Library. Published by the Marilena Ferrari Foundation, it has been printed in only 33 copies, to be sold worldwide at the price of 100.000 euro (approximately 13.000 USD)

    Until today, the Public Library was one of only three foundations and institutions that received it in donation, the other two being the City Council of Bologna - the city that hosts the Foundation headquarters – and the Prado Museum of Madrid, Spain.
    U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now the fourth to have this privilege. The Italian American politician, in Italy for an official visit, received it in homage by the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Mr. Gianfranco Fini. The two had a private meeting this morning at the Montecitorio Palace in Rome, before a reunion that involved delegations of the Italian Parliament and the American Congress.
    The book in question is inspired by Michelangelo's sculptures but is itself a true work of art. Its cover is a marble bas-relief stand reproducing the Madonna della Scala (Madonna of Steps) by Michelangelo. The stone comes from the quarries of Polvaccio, the same place where the Renaissance artist chose the marble for his statues. The book also features silk velvet materials and prints, details that make it a piece of rare value.
    All its details, from the artistic approach to the texts selected, the very techniques and the materials used, are of exceptional quality and meet the very highest standards and levels of perfection. With it, the Marilena Ferrari fine art publishing house – a branch of the eponymous Foundation - launched the Bookwonderful series, with the aim of reproducing in book form the beauty of original art works.
    Receiving the homage, Nancy Pelosi confessed: “I am moved by your kindness, and I thank you on behalf of the American people."
    This, however, was not the only gift she received on that occasion. Shortly afterward, Mr. Fini handed her the birth certificates of her grandfather and great-grandmother. "I am proud to be of Italian descent. There are three qualities that I attribute to the people of this country: courage, determination and optimism. They led Italians to America, giving them the chance to contribute enormously to the development of the United States."
    Nancy Pelosi’s trip in Italy is consequential to the election of the new US President Barack Obama. The aim is to strengthen the alliance between the two countries during this period of transition. As an Italian American, Nancy Pelosi was the best candidate to achieve this goal.
    Her visit in Italy is favorably viewed by a majority of Italian political representatives, although the Center-Right government was very close to the Bush Administration. For instance, Hon. Amato Berardi (a member of Prime Minister Berlusconi’s coalition) declared: “U.S. Speaker Pelosi’s visit here in Italy is certainly significant for our country. We look at Obama’s America as a traditional and new ally at the same time. We wish the new President the best of luck in the fulfillment of his goals, especially in this period of deep economic recession. I consider his delegate Pelosi a sort of Ambassador of Friendship."
    Indeed the speech “Strong Allies for a Secure Future” that Mrs. Pelosi gave at Montecitorio was focused on the strong, special relationship between Italy and the US: “The United States of America find in Italy their best ally within NATO. On Saturday I visited the Aviano Air Base and there I saw the tangible expression of this cooperation (..). I would also like to thank Italian troops for their incredible work in Afghanistan on behalf of President Obama, who hopes that this will be a long-lasting cooperation. However, there is no way that he will establish a policy that then imposes upon others obligations for which they have no consultation.  He will be a change also in this regard.”