Articles by: Angela Manzolillo

  • Facts & Stories

    Revisiting Nonna's Kitchen

    As generations pass, traditions in the Italian home could sometimes get lost. Not many in the young generation take a moment to learn and practice certain traditions that were either done by their grandparents or parents. For the few who take interest with curiosity and passion, traditions are not only picked up but also passed on. On this occasion, the region of Campania, Italy, organized an event titled "La Cucina della Nonna", where local social clubs of the region came together and re-introduced typical dishes from their city of origin, made the way that their grandmother did. In Italy, food dishes not only change by region by also by one neighboring town to another. One plate of homemade pasta is made in one way while another technique is done just a few miles away. It's a fascinating realization where in which Italian neighbors could still teach each other today.

    Held on November 24th at the San Cono Association of Teggiano in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, guests were treated to a variety of traditional dishes coming from cities in the provinces of Salerno and Avellino. Associations from the cities of Quaglietta, Sassano, Caggiano, and Sacco were on display to present their dishes, all who respectively have an actively large community of theirs present in New York. Each association had a participant demonstrating how certain homemade pastas were made. For example, the Teggiano style of Cavatelli, Fusilli by the Association of Sacco in America, ravioli made with a zenzifero herb by the Società Gioventù Quagliettana. Over 15 pounds of homemade pasta was prepared for the event. "This is just the first event of many more", says project director, Annalisa Masullo. She adds, "It's amazing how the ladies easily demonstrate how to make fusilli, cavatelli, and sausages. It reminded of my grandma when she used to cook for me during the summer time. It's amazing how Italians still keep their tradition in cooking like they did 50 or 30 years ago. And all together with the music, it was like being in Italy back in time ."

    As these towns originate from mountainous parts of the Campania region, their cuisine is characterized as La Cucina Povera, meaning "peasant cooking". Traditionally, peasants would cook the things that they had on the land which they worked on. Whether it be vegetables, legumes, or livestock which they've raised, they made do with simple foods to create full meals. Even when it comes to cow or sheep milk to make either ricotta and typical cheeses like "caciocavallo" and "scamorza". Following the pasta, the second course served tasty examples of "la cucina povera" from "nonna". Keeping with the theme of tradition, the foods were labeled in its dialect:
    Savuzicchia cu' pipajuoli - Sausage roasted with peppers
    Cunigliu mbuttanatu - Rabbit with stuffed herbs
    Coria - Rolled and stuffed pork skin
    Trippa cu' patanj - Tripe with potatoes

    From food demonstrations to food tastings, guests were entertained throughout the evening by an accordion player, dancing "la tarantella" in traditional folk clothing. Cheeses and roasted chestnuts were later passed around for more savory tastings. It was an evening for sharing food and laughter which was then impeccably concluded with homemade desserts. Zeppole, which are typically styled as a knot for this community rather than the usual large piece of fried dough seen from street festivals. Chiacchere is a long strip of dough either rung around into a circle or cut into strips, fried, and drizzled with honey or covered in powdered sugar. And finally, struffoli, the most well recognized dessert found in Italian bakeries. Struffoli are small balls of fried dough mixed together with honey and touched with sprinkles.

    Nothing more than appreciating food that was made from the heart of a grandmother. Here's to hoping traditions like these are continued for all Italian regions, keeping Italy's rich food culture alive and not lost.

  • Art & Culture

    Two Cultures with One Passion for Dance

    received the IIDF - Lifetime Achievement Award and was one of the few honorees presented with awards at the two-day festival event. Internationally renowned ballerina, Alessandra Ferri, was awarded the IIDF - A Heart for Art Extraordinary Dancer Award during a reception of the festival’s first night at the Ailey School on March 21st.

    Born from Italian parents in Ohio, Luigi became infamously known for creating his own Jazz dancing technique and coining the term “5, 6, 7, 8” as a means to initiate dancing. His innovative technique was developed through overcoming paralyzing injuries in a car accident when he was a young adult. At 88 years of age, he still remains an inspiration to many dancers and choreographers, where in which his presence at the festival was notably appreciated.

    The Italian International Dance Festival, presented for the first time in New York by Executive Director Gianluca Blandi, Artisic Director Antonio Fini, and Creative Director Tabata Caldironi, introduced to the American public what Italy could also offer in the art of dancing. With 2013 being the Year of Italian Culture in the US, a bridge of Italian and American choreographers and dancers was connected at Talent Unlimited’s Julie Richmond Theatre on March 22nd. The evening kicked off with Talent Unlimited High School students’ performance of a “tarantella”, choreographed by Calabria native Nicola Iervasi, Artistic Director of Mare Nostrum Elements.

    The evening’s host, Tabata Caldironi, introduced ten more creative works from Italy and New York based dance companies such as: Michael Mao Dance which performed "Kyrie" to the music of Verdi to commemorate his 200th Anniversary, Caliince Dance of Pauline Legras, Mare Nostrum Elements, Staten Island Ballet, Alex Atzewi Dance Company from Modena, and Aconcoli Dance from Milan. In dedication to Luigi, two of his solos were peformed. The first entitled “Solitude”, danced by Jessica Black along with music from Duke Ellington. The second solo and final performance of the festival was “New York New York”, danced by Erika Black to the song's version by former Luigi student, Liza Minelli.

    Choreographer Elena Albano from Aconocoli Dance was presented the IIDF A Heart for Art Bridge Award by Martha Graham Center Director, Virginie Mecénè. Elena Albano is accredited in her career teaching modern dance at the Centro Studi Coreografici Carcano Theater in Milan. Upon accepting her award, she dedicated it to her students. Neapolitan choreographer and television dancer Sasa` Di Donna was awarded the IIDF Ambassador Award for bringing the technique of American Jazz Dance to Italy. New York’s Caliince Dance Company also welcomed the winner of Calabria’s dell’Alto Jonio Dance Festival, Antonella Perazzo, to choreograph her piece “Tripudium” from Italy to the company’s dancers.

    One special inspirational piece was a performance by composer Noa Guy and Antonio Pio Fini, IIDF Art Director. Having been told she'd never be able to walk or compose music again after sustaining a brain injury from a car accident, Noa Guy refused to stay in a wheelchair and learned to move again. As Luigi would notably say, “Never stop moving”. Her graceful performance with Antonio Pio Fini touched the audience as they watched her on her feet onstage.

    Overall, every performance demonstrated its own range of elegance and endurance. From Atzewi Dance Company's effortless looking strength in "La Pelle Sotto L'Abito" to the Staten Island Ballet's homage to the Italian Vespers, the night summarized the Italian International Dance Festival's theme of "L'Abbraccio dell'Art", The Embrace of Art.