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Articles by: Joelle Grosso

  • The glass facade of Renzo Piano's latest work
    Art & Culture

    Renzo Piano Designs Manhattanville Campus at Columbia University

    At more than seventeen acres in size, this ambitious project has been in the making for approximately fifteen years and it also happens to be the largest expansion for Columbia in over 100 years. The hope is that the brand new Manhattanville Campus will not only provide a much-needed, modernized counterpart to the buildings in Morningside Heights but also serve as a community partner for the neighborhood. Renzo Piano, the brilliant Italian architect who led the project said, “the suburbs are meant to be lived and visited in a continuous dialogue with the city so I wanted to make two buildings that held onto the DNA of West Harlem, the place where “street culture” lives, an area where it’s important that buildings are open to the public.”

    Renzo Piano - The Italian Architect

    Piano is an internationally renowned architect who is known for his innovative and sometimes controversial designs. Some of his most famous structures include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London, and Aurora Place in Sydney. However, much of his work can be found right here in New York City such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, The New York Times Building, Morgan Library & Museum, and now the Manhattanville Campus in West Harlem. The prolific artist has proved over and over again to be a master in the balancing of art and engineering over the years.

    “Openness, transparency, and accessibility are the characteristics of the campus,” is how Piano describes this new project. He adds, “away with the walls, a space with light and airiness instead. West Harlem with its diversity and vibrant street art will give wonderful energy to the university.”

    Inside the Manhattanville Campus

    The fabulous yet functional new buildings feature huge windows instead of walls, resulting in a striking facade made predominantly of glass. It features beams that cool the building down, motorized shades controlled by sensors on the roof, a light system that responds to daylight conditions, and two layers of glass that keep out most of the city noise while providing thermal insulation at the same time.

    Piano says, “to make a campus from nothing is no easy task. In Columbia’s case, we chose to put all the structures together in a way that the professors and students from different departments can mix and learn from one another. After all, the ultimate goal of a campus is to give life to a common space where people meet and share different approaches to life.”

    The building will be open to students on April 22nd but New Yorkers and tourists alike can admire its beauty any time of the year! 

  • Facts & Stories

    Manzo: The Reopening of the Eataly Restaurant

    At the press preview of Manzo, some of the most influential Italians and Italian Americans came out to celebrate the new and improved restaurant that will reopen on March 31st after four weeks of being closed. According to Eataly’s website, Manzo will now be “a true butcher’s restaurant, complete with a redesigned menu celebrating all things meat, a different layout, and an edgy new cocktail menu with a focus on Vermouth.” 


    The Marketing of Truth

    Nicola Farinetti, the CEO of Eataly, spoke about all the changes that were made from the innovative menu itself to the gorgeous interior design. He comments, “it’s this beautiful curse for people that do our job, you have to always be new so we took this occasion to connect our restaurants even closer to our butcher.” Farinetti says meat is the main focus of the renovated location but more importantly, he wants his customers to have a better understanding of the quality of the food they eat and a deeper connection with the products they purchase. He is firm and determined when he tells i-Italy that the goal of his company is “to keep pursuing the marketing of the truth.” In other words, you get to see firsthand how meat travels from the butcher to the kitchen so there’s absolutely no question about what you are putting into your body at Manzo.

    Special Guests Explain the Concept Behind Manzo

    The Italian-born American celebrity chef and television host, Lidia Bastianich, was excited for the restoration. She said, “we’ve been here for six years and Manzo has been doing great as a restaurant but we actually needed more space so we enlarged it a little bit and we really accented the meat element which people love.” She hopes this renovation shows customers that Eataly is there for them and is always willing to make the changes they desire. 

    Joe Bastianich, the son of Lidia who also happens to be a restaurateur, spoke about the connection between Manzo and Eataly. As with Eataly, there is a retail aspect at Manzo where you can buy high quality products and cook them at home or you can choose to eat the restaurant instead. At the new Manzo, Bastianich says there are, “new items, new cooking techniques, rotisserie, grill, more things in the open where people can see the food being prepared, it’s more accessible, interactive, and easy going.”


    Popular Italian American chef, Mario Batali, talked about how Manzo transformed from a formal environment to something that’s more youthful and vibrant. The new specialities include Torino Vermouth cocktails, an entirely different menu placed at a lower price, and a giant showroom of meat where butchers show the public the specific cuts they can eat at Manzo. He added, “Eataly has always been about the interaction between the staff and the customer, the more intelligent our customers become, the better we all are because they demand more from us and give us more interaction and more juice to play with. We’re investing in our customers in a very different way.”


    Manzo will officially open on March 31st in the heart of New York for those who want to experience this new way of smart dining. More information can be found at: >>>


  • “La pazza gioia” by Paolo Virzì is nominated for best film
    Art & Culture

    The 2017 David di Donatello Awards

    2017 marks the 61st edition of the David di Donatello, a glamorous award show organized by the esteemed Academy of Italian Cinema. The award is named after the famous bronze sculpture made by one of Italy’s most important early Renaissance artists, Donatello. The annual show celebrates the best of cinematic performances, production, and talent in the Italian film industry. This year’s festivities were hosted by television personality, Alessandro Cattelan, and featured a special musical performance by Manuel Agnelli, a singer whose successful career has spanned over the past 30 years.

    A Star-Studded Evening

    Aside from this special performance, there were some surprise guests and tributes as well as appearances from Italy’s biggest stars. The most popular personalities of Italian cinema took stage to present each category, announce the winners, and deliver the coveted statuette to only the most deserving artists. Some of the celebrities that were in attendance include Claudio Amendola, Valerio Aprea, Gabriella Pescucci, Luca Argentero, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Jasmine Trinca, Eva Riccobono, Giuseppe Tornatore, and Kasia Smutniak

    Roberto Benigni, best known outside Italy for the Oscar-winning Holocaust comedy Life Is Beautiful, received a lifetime achievement Donatello award which he dedicated to his wife, actress Nicoletta Braschi. He also got a standing ovation and hailed Italian cinema to be the greatest in the world in his acceptance speech. 

    The Nominees

    Everyone was most excited to find out who won the best film category, the nominees included Indivisibili by Edoardo De Angelis, a movie about conjoined twin sisters who face a moral dilemma; Veloce come il vento by Matteo Rovere that is loosely based on the true story of rally racing driver, Carlo Capone; Fai bei sogni directed by Marco Bellocchio which is based on the novel Sweet Dreams, Little One by Massimo Gramellini; Fiore by Claudio Giovannesi, a love story that takes place in jail; and finally, La pazza gioia by Paolo Virzì which tells the story of two women with different backgrounds who become friends while being treated at a mental institution. Amongst the most anticipated categories was the battle for Best Actress, as both protagonists in the Virzì film, Micaela Ramazzotti and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, were nominated for the title.

    La pazza gioia ended up being the biggest champion of the night, winning the awards for best film, best director, best set design, best hairstyling, and best actress, which went to Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Stefano Accorsi took the award for the best actor for his performance in Veloce come il vento.

    Best foreign film award went to Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, which also took home the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion for best director last fall.

    For those who are interested in seeing the award show, it can be found via online streaming on various websites. 


  • Claudio Del Vecchio (center) with Maria Teresa Cometto and IIC Director Giorgio van Straten
    Life & People

    A Conversation with CEO of Brooks Brothers Claudio Del Vecchio

    As part of the ongoing series at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York entitled Managers: From Italy to Top Global Businesses, journalist and author Maria Teresa Cometto sat down with Claudio Del Vecchio, Italian businessman and leader of iconic American brand Brooks Brothers. Together they revealed why US Presidents—40 since 1918 to be exact—have historically chosen its coats for inaugurations, how manufacturing could be brought back to the US, and much more.

    The Story of an Italian at the Helm of America’s Oldest Men’s Clothier

    Claudio first learned about Brooks Brothers when he was just a young boy in Italy reading an article about Gianni Agnelli, the chairman of Fiat at the time. Agnelli was well respected for his stylish ensembles and frequently wore Brooke Brothers dress shirts. The fact that he opted for the US men’s retailer when he had access to all of the fashion in Italy sparked Claudio’s curiosity. Naturally, the first store Claudio visited when he came to the States at 25 was Brooks Brothers. Fast forward to 2001, he transformed from a loyal customer to CEO.

    Of course, he achieved his success on his own accord, but his chosen industry is no surprise considering his father’s background. Leonardo Del Vecchio just happens to own the world’s largest eyewear company, Luxottica, based in Milan. In regards to his father, Claudio once said, “My father instilled a love for beautiful things and believed that quality is the best investment one can make. To go to work every day with passion and to share that passion is something he values greatly. He taught me to think long-term and not to be influenced by trends, which is important at a company like Brooks Brothers.”

    Three Interesting Takeaways

    Speaking of his father, the day before Claudio made his way to the Upper East Side for the evening’s discussion, Forbes World’s Billionaires list revealed that Leonardo moved up in the rankings. Claudio shared a text from his 14-year-old daughter to the crowd that read, “Nonno is the second richest person in Italy and the 50th in the world. That’s insane!” Can you imagine getting a text like that?! When it’s true that is...

    Another shocking tidbit Claudio shared was that while Trump and Obama are nearly polar opposites politically, they have something in common when it comes to style. That’s right, President Trump wore the same type of Brooks Brothers coat to his Inauguration that Obama had at both of his. If this proves anything at all, it’s that they both know how to dress when the occasion calls it.

    Going back even further in time to the tragic events of 9/11, the deadline for the auction to buy Brooks Brothers was just two days following. The offer had been sent to Morgan Stanley, but their offices were in the Twin Towers. Amidst the hardship and chaos of the country’s worst terrorist attack, all of the interested companies withdrew their offers. Claudio del Vecchio was the exception. He shared, “I knew that New York and America would overcome that terrible moment, and that Brooks Brothers could be relaunched as well.” And he achieved just that. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, he successfully turned the company around.

    Food, Fashion, and Manufacturing

    Though Brooks Brothers is grounded in tradition and avoids being influenced by short-fashion, it evolves with the times nonetheless. As the market continues to drastically change, which Claudio credits to online shopping, he is looking to revolutionize the store experience. How? By combining food and fashion—the Italian way. The strategy entails attracting customers into physical stores with the fusion of Italian recipes and equally irresistible apparel.

    He is also looking to bring more manufacturing jobs into the US. He explained. “We can do manufacturing in the US and in Italy, too. What makes competitive manufacturing in China or other places is not cheap labor—in fact labor is not cheap there anymore—but technology. They have better machinery than most companies in so called ‘advanced countries.’ Companies who have invested in new equipment are doing well, both in the US and in Italy. The challenge here in the US is immigration. We don’t have enough workers trained to use the new technology, and if we don’t attract specialized workers from abroad and keep foreign students who have learned here the skills we need, that would be a big problem. The challenge in Italy is to be less arrogant: we Italians ‘know everything and are better,’ but we should listen more to other people.”

    Finally: in January 2018 Brooks Brothers will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its establishment. Festivities will take place at the illustrious Pitti Uomo menswear event in Florence.

  • Facts & Stories

    Unique McDonald’s Atop Ancient Roman Road Opens

    The new McDonald’s burger joint that has recently opened its doors in Frattocchie, a neighborhood located in the south of Rome, is unlike any other. It is the first one in Italy to feature an extraordinary piece of history: an exceptionally well-preserved stretch of paved road that was once connected to the Appian Way.

    A Museum Restaurant

    Back in 2014 amidst the construction of a new McDonald’s, workers surprisingly came across this incredible road that once formed part of the Appian Way. When the fast food chain realized they were building atop this impressive piece of history, they decided to contribute to the cause instead of grieving over lost time and money. They put a halt to the construction of their new location until the road could be completely excavated. McDonald’s even donated 300,000 Euros to the three-year restoration of the site and thought it would be a great idea to actually incorporate the historic structure into the restaurant.  “This is our first museum-restaurant,” said Mario Federico, the head of McDonald’s Italia.

    Take a Glimpse into the Past

    The Appian Way, or Via Appia, was one of the earliest and most significant Roman roads that proved to be the framework for the glorious ancient republic. Linking the center of the empire in Rome to the city of Brindisi in southeastern Italy which lies on the coast of the Adriatic sea, this enormous path played an imperative role in transportation, trade, and culture. At approximately 350 miles long, the road was successful in helping the Roman army move military supplies quickly and efficiently, resulting in several victories. It is known for being so well built that historians say it was nearly impossible to stick a knife between the stones since they fit so perfectly together.

    Even if you’re not grabbing a bite at the McDonald’s restaurant, the road is accessible from the parking lot so that visitors can still explore the newly-opened historical site. Signs in both English and Italian are available which explain the fascinating history behind the road as well as the incredible discovery of it thousands of years later. 

  • An exhibition at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College highlights the work of Carlo Dolci
    Art & Culture

    Carlo Dolci: The Painter of the Medici

    Get lost in the lustrous and meticulously rendered paintings and drawings of 17th-century Italian artist, Carlo Dolci, which are now on display for the first time ever in the States at the Davis Museum in Massachusetts. The artist was famous for his painstaking technique which resulted in highly sophisticated work that took ages to complete. The curator Eve Straussman-Pflanzer says “the exhibition will consider Dolci’s art in depth as well as consider art as a critical diplomatic, political, and cultural tool from the early modern period to the present.” 

    The Painter of the Medici Family

    The House of Medici was an extremely wealthy Italian banking family and political dynasty in Florence during the lifetime of Carlo Dolci but they are best known for their incredible sponsorship of art and architecture during the height of the Renaissance. The Medici family hired Dolci, a painter who concentrated mostly on religious figures as subjects in the typical Baroque style. His pieces are easily recognizable by their enamel-like finish, strong coloring, and subtle lighting, each one is considered to be a manifestation of prayer. However, this exhibition hopes to move beyond the notion of Dolci as an exclusively devotional painter and return to an appreciation of the aesthetic merits, naturalistic underpinnings, and cultural context of his incredible work. 

    Inside the Exhibition

    “The Medici’s Painter: Carlo Dolci and 17th-Century Florence” provides the first opportunity in the United States to study the life and oeuvre of the most important artist during the 1600s. The exhibition includes more than 50 paintings and drawings on loan from the most distinguished public collections in the world such as the Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, Louvre Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Special pieces from private collections will also be on display that would have otherwise been inaccessible to the masses. Some of Dolci’s masterpieces that will be featured include The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Penitent Magdalene and The Virgin and Child.

    For those who are interested in visiting this exhibition, “The Medici’s Painter: Carlo Dolci and 17th-Century Florence” will run through July 9th. Please visit https://www.wellesley.edu/davismuseum/ for more information.

  • John Gennari
    Art & Culture

    Flavor and Soul: John Gennari Discusses His New Book

    As part of the Philip V. Cannistraro Seminar Series in Italian American Studies, Anthony J. Tamburri, the Dean of the Calandra Institute, and Rosangela Briscese, the organizer of this special event, welcomed Professor John Gennari to speak about his latest publication. The book entitled Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge was published by the University of Chicago Press and depicts the intertwining of African American and Italian American cultures for more than a hundred years. 

    Flavor and Soul

    In this book, John Gennari spotlights the affinity between African American and Italian American cultures calling it “the edge.” Through studies of music and sound, film and media, sports and foodways, he shows how an Afro-Italian sensibility has nourished and vitalized American culture writ large, even as Italian Americans and African Americans have fought each other for urban space, recognition of overlapping histories of suffering and exclusion, and political and personal rispetto. It is only at such cultural edges, Gennari argues, that the nation can come to truly understand its racial and ethnic dynamics.

    Gennari comments, “we all know that we live our lives in ways that defy the breaking up of people and culture so we need to get a deeper understanding of Italian Americans and their history in relation to our own families but we also need to understand the connections that we’ve had with other groups.” 

    A Very Personal Book 

    John Gennari is a Professor at the University of Vermont and an American Studies-trained U.S. cultural historian and nonfiction writer with specializations in jazz and popular music studies, Italian American cultural studies, food studies, race and ethnic studies, and cultural criticism. He is the author of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics which won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Music Criticism as well as the John Cawelti Award for the Best Book in American Culture. 

    Despite all the praise his work has received in the past, Gennari’s claims that Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge is his most personal book to date. 

    He elaborates, “this is a very personal book owing to my own Italian American background, my interest is in African American music, and my training in the history of jazz, that’s really a big part of my identity. I’m married to an African American woman who grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, we adopted our twin daughters from Ethiopia 10 years ago, in other words I live in a Black-Italian family.”

    “I think more of us have to put ourselves into these stories and create a record of this cross cultural experience. It’s a book that’s largely about cultural representation and performance but it’s also my story so it means a lot to me on that level and I hope that comes across on the page.” 


    John Gennari is an American Studies-trained U.S. cultural historian and nonfiction writer with specializations in jazz and popular music studies, Italian American cultural studies, food studies, race and ethnic studies, and cultural criticism. For those who are interested in purchasing Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge, the book is now available in bookstores everywhere. Click here for more information.

  • Life & People

    Community of Unity's SONG Celebration Honors Colavita

    The Community of Unity recently hosted their 15th Annual Song Celebration and Fundraiser where Marisa and Giovanni Colavita were awarded as the SONG Winners of the year. All the guests enjoyed a night filled with good music, good food, and good company all while supporting the dynamic programming that Community of Unity provides which empowers young people to find their unique purpose and potential. i-Italy had the special opportunity to speak with the founder of this special organization, Eric Komoroff, and one of the winners of the night, Marisa Colavita.

    The History of Community of Unity

    Eric Komoroff, Founder and Executive Director of Community of Unity, had been a New York educator since 1988 before starting his own nonprofit organization 17 years ago. He told i-Italy that he “always felt like too many young people don’t embrace the idea of having a unique potential, something that is special about them that they need to pursue in their lives that makes life worth living so we created this organization to hopefully awaken in them a sense that there is a future, that everyone has a song and we have to learn our song and then we have to share our song.”

    Komoroff went on to explain the meaning behind the concept: "the song to us is that thing inside of you that you’re born with, that makes you, you. It’s your best self, it’s your potential, it’s your purpose, it’s your vibration, your essence and we all have it and a life is really about learning our song and then sharing our song."

    The Community of Unity strongly believes that humans beings do the best work when the work is done together. The founder continued to say that, "as a community we share our feelings, we work hard, we share our challenges and through that experience, we grow. For many of our kids, they feel very alone in life and our programs create communities which are kind of like families in which they feel safe, in which they can take risks and hopefully make the decision that they want to work hard and grow and have a good life.”

    Partnership with Colavita

    Marisa Colavita, from America’s most trusted family brand for fine Italian gourmet products, told i-Italy about how her and her husband’s partnership with Community of Unity began. After visiting the school and meeting the children, she said that “it was a beautiful moment but also a very difficult one because I realized that these kids in front of me had problems much bigger than themselves and much bigger than me. I realized I didn’t have the proper skills or preparation it takes to work with children who have serious problems at home. However, I still wanted to support the organization and so it came quite naturally for Giovanni and I to provide financially in order to help them.”

    She added, “the thing that struck me most about this organization is the immediate and direct impact it has on the lives of children. The main reason we accepted this SONG award is because we want to sensitize others to the cause.” 

    When asked about his relationship with Colavita, Komoroff responded that “it’s the 15th year we’ve had this event and we always honor people who have shared their song with us so this year Marisa and Giovanni Colavita have shared so much with us, they’ve really been incredibly generous in providing all of our programs with food, they pay for all of the food that we serve out kids which means all of our kids get to eat healthy food and high quality food and it’s been just the greatest experience working with them.”

    For more information on how you can donate to the wonderful Community of Unity, visit their website at: http://communityofunity.org/

  • Elena Ferrante's beloved series "The Neapolitan Novels" will soon come to television
    Art & Culture

    Ferrante Novels Come Alive on Television

    Casting calls have officially begun for a new 32-part Italian television series with English subtitles entitled The Neapolitan Novels which will tell the tale of two female protagonists based on four books by Italian writer, Elena Ferrante. It is an original series for HBO and RAI, Italy's national public broadcasting company, produced by Italian production companies Wildside and Fandango. The critically acclaimed tetralogy includes My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. For those who don’t know, these intriguing novels trace the interwoven stories of two friends from their childhood in Naples at the end of World War II up to the turn of the millennium.

    The Mystery Behind Ferrante

    There is a lot of mystery behind the author of these novels because “Elena Ferrante” is just the pseudonym of the Italian novelist. People assume the author to be a woman but no one is exactly sure of her true identity. Ferrante has kept her identity secret since the publication of her first novel in 1992 but that hasn’t stopped the success of her wildly popular books. She was even named one of the 100 most influential people on the planet by Time magazine last year.

    Director Saverio Costanzo

    Saverio Costanzo, the Roman film director who is working on bringing the famous series to life recently told The New York Times that he wasn’t interested in the author’s true identity and that “it’s her literary reality that counts.” For Costanzo, it doesn’t matter who she really is because his biggest preoccupation is figuring out a way “to convey the same emotions as the books in a cinematographic way.” He hopes to do so by communicating with Ferrante via email so that she will be able to directly contribute to the screenplay. The director is best know for the films Private and Hungry Hearts

    Locations have yet to be chosen but the Campania Film Commission hopes the whole series can be filmed in Naples, the Italian city where all of the novels take place. Casting director Laura Muccino is currently seeking actresses to play the leading roles of Elena and Lila, characters who have developed a cult international following throughout the years. For those who are eagerly anticipating the series premiere, the first season is expected to air in the fall of 2018. 


  • "Portrait of Nina de Callias" by Manet will be on view
    Art & Culture

    Manet Comes to Milan’s Palazzo Reale

    Palazzo Reale, the most important exhibition venue and cultural center in Milan, is currently honoring Édouard Manet and the other masters of impressionism and post-impressionism such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne. All of the works on display in “Manet and Modern Paris” are on loan from the Musée d’Orsay and include 17 masterpieces by Manet, the artist who is considered to be the father of impressionism. 

    The Father of Impressionism

    Manet is a French painter who revolutionized the art world during the 19th century with his innovative style characterized by loose brush strokes, simplification of details, and the suppression of transitional tones. He was one of the first artists to paint modern life recording scenes of bars, theaters, parks, and avenues as well as poverty, prostitution, and misery. Manet was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism and continues to serve as a major influence for future painters, even hundreds of years after his death in 1883. This particular exhibition will concentrate on Manet’s observations of Paris and his deep connection with the city he spent his entire life in.  

    Manet’s Contemporaries

    “Manet and Modern Paris” also includes paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, and prints created by other influential artists that lived during the same time period such as Giovanni Boldini, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Henri Fantin-Latour, Berthe Morisot, Paul Signac, and James Tissot. Manet is an artist that heavily inspired his contemporaries, so much so that the brilliant Renoir once said, “Manet is for us what Cimabue and Giotto were for the Italians of the Renaissance.” Danish-French Impressionist Camille Pissarro has said, “he is much more skillful than all of us, he transformed black into light.” 

    The “Manet and Modern Paris” exhibition at Palazzo Reale will take place from March 8th until July 2nd. Delve into the art world and get lost in the breathtaking paintings of the most famous artists of all time. For more information, visit: http://www.palazzorealemilano.it