Articles by: Letizia Airos soria

  • Op-Eds

    Why Hold a Book Presentation in Italian in New York?

    Next week, Emma D’Aquino’s book will be presented in two different locations. 

    At St. John’s University, which together with Your Italian Hub is launching a new series of Italian language conversations, and in a characteristically Manhattan-style Union Square Loft, another initiative, also organized by Your Italian Hub, this time with i-Italy and the language school SpeakItaly.

    But the question remains: why would an English language communication agency targeting Americans decide to organize two Italian language initiatives?

    The answer is simple, though with underlying complexities. 

    Perhaps few people are aware that Italian surpassed French and became the fourth most studied language in the world. This is good news, but I’m not here to talk statistics, positive or negative. This is not the time and place.

    Sure, the decision, denounced by Fred Gardaphe (Distinguished Professor, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute and Queens College) in a recently published letter, which sees Brooklyn College cancel its Italian Language Major and Minor programs is extremely worrying, and should be fought, but let’s get to the point.

    Why an Italian language book presentation? How is this useful to an Italian communication company in America?

    I believe that, to promote Italy, we have to introduce people to our culture (in English of course) but without neglecting those who do know the language, who want to practice reading and speaking it.

    There are many such people. The renowned American writer Jhumpa Lahiri is not the only one who loves our language so much she decided to write in Italian. Sure, her writing abilities are extraordinary but I believe there is a world of people who share her passion and whom we have to address.

    That’s what we’re trying to do. Little by little. Because I believe that the foreigners who speak Italian are among the best Ambassadors of the Italian way of life. They love Italy, they live “all’italiana,” as the slogan created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs puts it, and they speak its beautiful language.

    Will there be few Americans present? Since this is the first time, there is that risk, but I would like to put this initiative out there, to have it spread by word of mouth. 

    It’s a project in which I deeply believe and I would like to thank Katia Passerini, Dean of the Collins College of Professional Studies at St. John’s University and her team for participating in this project. I would also like to thank Raffaella Galliani, the founder of SpeakItaly for supporting us with genuine enthusiasm.

    So, we are waiting for you. Nino Marano’s story deserves to be known and reflected upon. “Behind bars my hands were tainted with blood,” Nino Marano declares. And that’s something to ponder.

    His criminal career begins with the theft of peppers and eggplants. Prison was supposed to reeducate him but inside he kills someone and never gets out. He’s detained in several penitentiary institutions: from Catania to Pianosa, Termini Imerese, then again Pianosa and again Catania. 49 years spent behind bars.

    And on this occasion, you will also discover the exquisite prose of the talented Emma D’Aquino, who is not only one of the most famous faces of Italian news, but also an incredible author.


    S. John University 
    Next Thursday, November 21 at 12:15pm 
    8000 Utopia Pkwy
    Queens, New York|
    2nd floor of St. Augustine Hall.


    Union Square Loft
    Next Friday, November 22
    [email protected]
    Limited Spots - Reply by November 18UNION SQUARE LOFT
    873 Broadway, NY 10003



  • Art & Culture

    Mauro Porcini: Advice on Building and Promoting the “Italy Brand” Worldwide

    Mauro Porcini joined PepsiCo in 2012 as the company’s first Chief Design Officer. Through innovative design, Porcini has revitalized PepsiCo’s image in pop culture with new products, packaging, advertising, and social media communication. He has provided this top company with a fresh new approach that extends to brands such as Gatorade, Tropicana, Doritos, amongst hundreds of others.

    With Mauro Porcini I have a conversation that ranges from his personal history, his work as a designer in America to some important considerations about  "Italy Brand".


     We could say you brought Italian design to Pepsi ...

     I brought design with an Italian approach. 

    Let’s start from the beginning, where does your passion for design come from?

     I have two passions: the humanities and visual art. 

    They come from my parents, my father was an architect and loved drawing, he painted all his life. My mother had a passion for literature, she was always writing.  

    Just as I was getting ready to sign up for architecture, a schoolmate told me they just opened a new program inside the architecture department called Industrial Design. I took the test, got in and found the program of my dreams. I didn’t think there was a school for this. And so I began this fascinating, amazing journey. 

    When did you become aware that it’s important to combine passion and creativity with the market?

    You figure that out quickly when you enter the professional world. But maybe the strongest revelation was when I began working for multinational companies. When you start to deal with global business volumes - I worked for a 30 billion dollar company. That’s what made me understand that I had to use design to create value for the company. 

     So what did you learn from Stefano Marzano?

    Stefano Marzano was head of design at Philips. I met him when I had just entered university. I elected him as my mentor. I began to write to him, letters, about design. 

    Every time he came to Italy, I went to see his conferences. 

    Then he made a small gesture, he sent me two of his books in English because he said I really had to learn English if I wanted to do something in life. And this changed my life. I had been admitted to go study in Paris but waited a year and went to Dublin instead.

    He also had a very humanistic, philosophical approach to design, he did it “all’Italiana”. 

    He brought a much more sophisticated approach. He inspired me. Then I began working in international companies and found out that everywhere else the approach was much more basic and business oriented. It was very different. 

    I started from his approach but eventually I also learned a lot from the Anglo-American culture.

    In 2010 you came to America, to Minneapolis.

     I moved to America while working for 3M. I had been working there since 2002. In 2005 I started leading my own American teams and in 2010 I finally moved there.

    At first they didn’t want me to go to America. They thought that I had to remain in a place that was design-driven, like Italy. But in truth there’s no bigger mistake. If you want to change the culture of a business you have to start from its headquarters. 

    It was an interesting time. In that period in America, there was starting to be more awareness of the importance of design within businesses. 

    The media played an important role in this, they began to speak to CEOs and business leaders about design. Something that for example we don’t do in Italy. Which is absurd because it’s the country of design and the business media don’t talk about design, which is an important player in our economy. 

    But going back to 2010, yes, some were understanding the importance of design in business but few were choosing to invest in design internally. And even if they did they made classic mistakes, they didn’t set up the right structure. 

     I wanted to make a perhaps bold but fitting comparison between the mistakes that those companies were making then, like not investing in design and to letting their promotion get dealt with externally. Do you think that our country is doing the same now, in terms of nation branding and of creating an image of Italy in the world?

    I think that our biggest difficulty right now comes from our cultural background. We are resting on the glory of the past in many different areas. The post-war era was very successful, not only in our country but internationally, in terms of branding.

    Now we live in very different times, we have to learn how to dialog with all the other players and realities.

    We have to understand what we have that others don’t have but with less arrogance and more respect for other countries. And we have to understand what’s important, what’s relevant to other cultures so that we can promote our wealth our resources in a way that is aimed specifically at them.

     We need to work on cultural mediation. Where would you start in order to build the Italy brand?

     There is little cultural contamination and little dialog with other countries. It’s important that we have this dialog in order to understand each other in a deeper way.

    Just like in business, you have to understand what motivates the actors, to communicate.

     How important is it for the promotion, in this case the promotion of Italy, to be integrated, not divided?

    Very important. If you don’t have a unique, coherent story as a brand, you can easily become schizophrenic. You behave differently every time and you lose authenticity. So it’s very important to have one story and to show how this story can be applied to different contexts and situations.

    We also have to consider our weaknesses, starting from the fact that we have the reputation of being very creative but also chaotic, not capable of working on process, strategy.

    This creates mistrust towards our country that oftentimes leaders have to overcome. Another weakness is our incapacity to work together. We are jealous. 

    The third weakness is our difficulty in scaling up. This is tied to our incapacity to delegate, organize and strategize.

    If we have an idea that’s born in Italy, but then we have to produce in China and sell around the world and we have a marketing team that’s only in America, then we have a problem.

    Because such a global approach requires a structured system.

    How did you get to PepsiCo? What were the most important steps?

     It was a good time for the company. PepsiCo was in a moment of great change. I met with Indra, our CEO, during the interview process and I understood that she would have given me the opportunity to express myself. I had never worked in the food and beverage industry, it was a challenge and a risk. But I like to push myself out of my comfort zone.

     What was the first thing you did in Pepsi?

     When you start in a new company, you have to create value to gain credibility.

    So one of the first projects with which we brought value was the redesigning of PepsiCo. 

    Pepsi had many different images in different countries. We brought them together and created one unique coordinated image, which had great success both in terms of brand engagement but also in terms of productivity.

    And from there it all started. Indra, our CEO, gave me the possibility to create my own team. I hired a few people in New York, I created the physical design space here in Manhattan. From there we began to build demand within businesses. 


    Fast-forward to now, 6 years later, we have 220 people, we are hiring, we keep growing, we have more locations around the world. And now design is stronger than ever.


    What I like a lot about American businesses, is the total meritocracy and the mobility of the market so you can attract the best talent, and even if they’re not the right fit, they move, reposition themselves. It’s something we don’t have in Italy.

    Tell me about the famous Pink Lion.

    I was in Minneapolis and I saw this fiberglass lion in the street. I liked it and picked it up. I put it in front of my house and painted it pink. Part of it was to celebrate my “Italianita’” (lion of San Marco). Part of it was to celebrate my creativity and not taking myself seriously. It was a symbol and it became famous, people started coming to photograph it. A reporter from Fast Company came to do an interview and took a photo of me and my wife in front of the pink lion. 

     Let’s talk about Italy. You told me about the steps you took in Pepsi, now can you tell me about the steps you would like to take for Italy?

    I would identify who the target audience is. Entrepreneurs, people who want to visit Italy, or maybe people who want to invest in Italy. Or maybe we’re trying to create a “sistema paese” that we want to export abroad. 

    So we identify the different types of target audiences and we find out who are the influencers for each one. Then we decide which are the values that we want to sell to these target audiences. In each country, we have to find Italians who live there and can help us create the right message for that context. 

    And another great resource, here for example, are the Americans who love Italy and are very competent. 

    Exactly, mixed with Americans who understand Italy. 

    A concrete example is Milan’s Design Week. 

    It’s the most important business event in Italy, it attracts 500 thousand people each year. 

    During Design Week, Milan promotes all types of sectors, automobile, fashion, food and beverage, etc. 

    When delegations come here in New York to promote Milan Design week, all the communication is focused on interior design. So they lose huge investment opportunities. 

    If we talked about Design Week as an occasion to be exposed to innovation in all sectors, or even where to propose your ideas to an international and varied audience, it would bring incredible investments to Italy. And this is just one example. 


    This interview is part of a series of Letizia Airos Soria's lectures at the Master of Internationalization and communication of the 'Sistema Paese" at Link Campus University in Rome.
    She is also a member of the Scientific Committee of this Master.


    St. John's University in collaboration with Your Italian Hub presents A Night of Design with Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo Mauro Porcini, an event dedicated to discussing the social and economic impact of design thinking and human-centered design with one of its major and most successful exponents.

    Click here for more info and rsvp >>>

  • Fatti e Storie

    Negli occhi di Massimo Ferragamo e Giovanni Colavita


    Occhi che si guardano intorno, sotto il sole della Quinta Avenue di Manhattan. 

    Sfilano su macchine italiane, due Maserati, che elegantemente sembrano accarezzare la strada. Ai lati decine di persone e tante bandierine tricolore. 

    Occhi di due italiani, due italiani alla parata del Columbus Day del 2019: sono  il grand Marshall e un honoree scelto dalla Columbus Citizen Foundation.

    Sono Massimo Ferragamo, Presidente di Ferragamo Usa,  e Giovanni Colavita, Presidente di Colavita Usa. Impossibile non intercettare nei loro sguardi fermezza ma anche  emozione, orgoglio ma anche stupore.

    Sono pochi gli occhi che possono raccontare una storia così intensa tra Italia ed America. Una storia che raccoglie una passato, un presente ed un futuro sempre più importante. Questi due italiani in comune hanno certo l’America, ma anche una lunga tradizione familiare che avvolge il reciproco successo.  Un successo, con tanti segreti, primo fra tutti quello di una famiglia che culla il proprio marchio, di generazione in generazione. E l’azienda-famiglia, segreto di successo tutto italiano, in questo caso ha anche un racconto italo-americano. 

    Massimo Ferragamo, è il figlio di Salvatore un artigiano di origini avellinesi. Suo padre  iniziò aprendo un negozio negli anni 20 a Santa Barbara in California. Diventò il “calzolaio delle star”. Attori e attrici ordinavano scarpe su misura da lui. Un vero successo.

    Erano gli anni in cui si strutturava l’industria cinematografica ad Hollywood, ma Salvatore torna in Italia e a Firenze, nel 1927, costituisce il “Calzaturificio Ferragamo”. 

    Affida la sua prima campagna pubblicitaria all’artista futurista Lucio Venna. Si tratta di  una delle infinite scelte cruciali che l’azienda Ferragamo farà. Scelte creative, spesso geniali,  al passo con i tempi, ma sempre rispettose della tradizione. Oggi Ferragamo è il brand fiorentino del lusso forse più conosciuto in tutto il mondo con una rete distributiva di 672 negozi. Il gruppo è presente in borsa e la sua offerta  si contraddistingue nel coniugare la cura dello stile con l’alta qualità e artigianalità tipiche del “Made in Italy. Ogni donna desidera un indumento firmato Ferragamo!

    Giovanni Colavita, la storia della sua azienda risale al  al 1938, quando Giovanni e Felice Colavita creano un piccolo frantoio a conduzione familiare, a Sant’Elia a Pianisi, un paesino del Molise.  Oggi possiamo parlare di una lunga tradizione familiare che tocca la quarta generazione.  

    Con visionario sguardo all’internazionalizzazione  Enrico Colavita e Leonardo Colavita, rispettivamente Zio e padre di Giovanni,  creano una fitta rete commerciale negli USA con un partner locale. Si trattava di un’altra azienda familiare, questa volta italo-americana, quella di John Profaci. 

    Era il 1978. Non si conosceva ancora la dieta mediterranea e l’importanza dell’olio extravergine d’oliva. Fu la Colavita a diffondere non solo un prodotto, ma anche  uno stile alimentare. Lo fecero cominciando dalle famiglie degli emigrati italiani per arrivare agli americani. Oggi la Colavita è un’azienda presente in oltre 70 paesi nel mondo e non solo per l’olio d’oliva.  E’ anche tra i leader nell’importazione di prodotti alimentari del Made in Italy negli USA. 

    Premiando Massimo Ferragamo e Giovanni Colavita la Columbus Foundation ha portato all’attenzione anche un modo di fare impresa tutto italiano. C’è un filo rosso che lega sempre di più molte aziende italiane, anche meno importanti di Colavita e Ferragamo. Fare impresa partendo dalla famiglia,   con piccole e medie aziende che si affacciano al mercato estero.


  • Facts & Stories

    In the Eyes of Massimo Ferragamo and Giovanni Colavita


    Their eyes look around, under the Fifth Avenue sun. They ride on Italian cars, two Maseratis, elengantly caressing the road, surrounded by dozens of people and countless Italian flags.


    The eyes of two Italians. Two Italians at the 2019 Columbus Day Parade: those of this year’s Grand Marshall and Honoree chosen by the Columbus Citizen Foundation.


    The eyes of Massimo Ferragamo, President of Ferragamo USA, seated next to his wife and followed by his family, and of Giovanni Colavita, President of Colavita USA, in the car with his son, while the whole family follows. Their gazes are unmistakably filled with conviction as well as emotion, pride as well as surprise. 


    Few eyes can tell such an intense tale bewteen Italy and America. A tale with an increasingly important past, present, and future. These two Italians share ties to America of course, but also long-standing family traditions, which characterize both their success. A success with many secrets, above all the one of a family who cradles its brand, from one generation to the next. In this case, the family business, the Italian secret to success, also has an Italian American story.


    Massimo Ferragamo, is the son of Salvatore, an artisan from Avellino. His father began by opening a store in the 1920s in Santa Barbara, California. He became the “shoemaker of the stars.” Actors and actresses ordered custum-made shoes from him. A great success for a leather artisan. 


    Those were the years when Hollywood’s film industry was taking shape, but Salvatore went back to Italy and in 1927 he opened the “Calzaturificio Ferragamo” in Florence.

    He entrusted Futurist artist Lucio Venna with the realization of his first ad campaign. This is one of the infinite key choices that Ferragamo will make. Creative, often genius choices, up with the times but always respectful of tradition. 


    Today, Ferragamo is perhaps the most well-known Florentine luxury brand, with a distribution network of 672. The group is present on the stock market and its offer combines attention to style with the high quality and artisanality typically associated with Italian products. Every woman wants a Ferragamo!


    The story of Giovanni Colavita’s business runs all the way back to 1938, when Giovanni and Felice Colavita created a small family-run oil mill in Sant’Elia a Pianisi, a town in Molise. Today it constitutes a long-standing family tradition now in its fourth generation.

    With a visionary look towards internationalization, Enrico and Leonardo Colavita, respectively Giovanni’s uncle and his father, built a sturdy commercial network in the US with a local partner, another family business, this time an Italian American one, that of John Profaci.


    It was 1978. Nobody knew about the Meditteranean Diet and the importance of extra virgin olive oil. It was Colavita who disseminated not just a product, but also a culinary lifestyle. They did so starting with the families of Italian immigrants and arrived to Americans. Today, Colavita is present in over 70 countries worldwide, and not just their olive oil. It is also a leader in the importation of Italian food products in the US.


    I believe that by awarding Massimo Ferragamo and Giovanni Colavita, the Columbus Foundation has also brought attention to an Italian way of conducting business. There’s a red thread that connects many Italian companies, including ones smaller than Colavita and Ferragamo. It’s that way of doing business shared by small, medium, and large companies alike, starting with family.


  • Mulberry Street in the early 20th century, a central street in Manhattan's Little Italy

    What's Behind a Plate of Meatballs


    I wasn’t able to get through the whole thing. Others probably won’t feel the same way. Especially in Italy. All things considered, New York - and anything concerning it - still draws attention. But the 25 years I’ve spent in the United States push back, they ask for justice, they take offence.


    I’m talking about that Italian TV program where a restaurateur turned TV host, professes himself the ‘guru of Italian taste’ and thus of Italian culinary culture. 


    The format is by no means innovative. It’s one of those competitions that nowadays are insistantly being presented to audiences. The official scope is to assign the title of best Italian restaurant outside of Italy. The true scope however, seems to be to simply follow the trend of communicating by shouting, provoking, using social media, without expending too much energy. Just open Youtube and you can see the vulgarities thrown at contestant Rossella Rago for bringing attention to an Italian American dish.


    That’s the format. Three locally-based contestant-judges compete in each episode bringing the host to their favorite restaurant. They eat, comment, and vote on the dishes. 


    The episode I want to discuss is the first one (but I imagine it won’t be the last) shot in New York. Outside Manhattan, making it impossible to avoid discussing the subject of Italian American cuisine. I mean discussing it without using it for self-interest, as happens in the program.


    Right from the start, the host’s superior, condescending, yet highly unprofessional and therefore unconvincing tone doesn’t sound very promising. He isn’t exactly friendly. And certainly not authoritative. 


    The restaurateur and self-proclaimed guru tries and fails to somewhat mimic the attitude of Masterchef chefs. He is the spokesperson and representative of the dishes’ authenticity, of Italianness. He does it assuming uninspired airs of superiority.


    So everything revolves around ranking the italianness of the restaurants but also of the judges. A ranking of what the host-guru has decided qualifies as real Italian cuisine. “Parmigiana, a classic. But you can’t put eggplant on a plate next to pasta!” “You chose chicken marsala as your favorite dish?” he scolds Rossella Rago, a young Italian American. “I chose it because it tells the Italian American story,” she answers whole-hartedly. 


    It’s certainly wrong to blame the host. There clearly are a lot of problems behind the show’s writing if the questions asked to determine if someone is a real Italian are: “Who hosts the program Amici? You don’t know? She’s a very famous Italian star! So you’re not Italian enough!” The general tone is therefore contemptuous and, in a way, racist. It’s superficial to say the least, but really I should say it's ignorant.


    I know, not everyone has lived in New York for 25 years, not everyone has had a long-standing collaboration with the John D Calandra Italian American Institute. I have had the chance to approach Italian American culture, even from the inside. For this I have to thank the Dean, Anthony Tamburri, the popular traditions scholar Joseph Sciorra, and many more. I still have a lot to learn. It takes humility to enter a world that isn’t our own. I have often been surprised and enriched by it.


    The Italian diaspora is a delicate subject, it has to do with identity and a complex relationship with one’s roots, which many have had to hide in the name of a sort of forced integration. The cuisine often carried the subconcious desire to remain tied to those roots. I believe it would therefore be appropriate for TV stations who let their writers tackle delicate topics to try and seek out consultations, if not study the subjects themselves.


    There exists an ethic of communication, even though I realize that television has long-since blurred the line between honest information and spectacle. These remain delicate topics. They’re not just about a plate of fettucine Alfredo, they speak to all of Italian culture outside of Italy. Indirectly, I would say, to all cultures.


    The image of Italy abroad has now become schizophrenic. Often manipulated, misunderstood, filled with stereotypes. Whether we are talking about today’s so-called expats, about Italian Americans from many generations back, about young people of Italian origin, now American.


    This isn’t the article that debates and explains the history, the value of American cuisine, and it isn’t the one that looks for differences from what would today be considered haute Italian cuisine. It isn’t where you have to pick a side, as if you were choosing between two football teams.  


    The Italian American culinary tradition - studied in depth by American and Italian scholars alike - shouldn’t be the only one asking for justice. Italian popular cooking traditions, which are undeniably the source of Italian American cuisine, should also be asking for justice. It was an extremely poor cuisine, since authentic Italian ingredients were not available in America. It was the cuisine of the women of the time, who often only spoke dialects and who adapted to a new world. They had to feed the family, trying to recall the dishes of home, as they ate together, perhaps in a basement. It certainly was filled with italianness, that sense of belonging that many in Italy no longer understand. An italianness that reached and continues to reach its peak on Christmas, which is richly celebrated, with 7 fishes. A rite which surprises many Italians.


    And I remember fondly the sparkle in my Sicilian mother’s eyes. She stopped, deeply moved, in front of a window display in Boston during a trip to visit me. In a pastry shop, she recognized sweets packaged in the very same way as they were in Caltanisetta when she was a child…


    Italian American cuisine, born of memory and adaptation to local cuisine, then went its own way, a more than dignified way. 


    From this side of the Atlantic, after having worked for years as a journalist on the concept of cultural mediation and having recently founded a new communication agency (Your Italian Hub) which takes cultural mediation as its key focus, I will try to conclude with a couple of personal reflections.


    The paternalistic and auto-referential tone of this program is perhaps the key to figuring out where and how it goes wrong. It’s a mistake that anyone can make. Not just Italians, but anyone who hides behind certainties without studying. The world changes constantly, young people can’t even touch the present, not to mention the past! The answer to such a program is in my opinion an open approach, which looks at the reasons for others’ mistakes. Such an episode can be much more than an ‘attack’ on Italian American cuisine.


    It’s a reflection that has to be done carefully, a sort of cultural exchange that brings the two different Italies to meet and understand each other.


    And I leave you with two considerations.


    One taken from an article on La Voce di New York by the very Italian Director of Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò (NYU) Stefano Albertini, who writes:


    “The devious idea that the program seems to be sending is that Italians who emigrate become in a way less Italian, second-rate Italians to whom ‘real’ Italians have to constantly teach what it means to be Italian, starting with eliminating spaghetti with meatballs. And I purposefully eat them, and I enjoy them, because other emigrating Italians, like me and before me, conbined the base element of their diet with meat that here in America they could find at accessible prices. Paisà, don’t worry: we are just as Italian as those fancy people who eat salt-crusted branzino.”


    And one from an interview I had with Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo, also extremely Italian. I had asked him about the mistakes that according to him Italians usually make when approaching American culture:


    “We live in very complex times, we have to learn to dialog with other realities. We have to understand that we don’t have something that others lack, something that’s necessarily better. We need less arrogance and more respect.” 


    Because starting from a plate of meatballs, you can talk about much more…


    This article is written by someone who is well-aware of what ‘Made in Italy’ is and how important it is to introduce and explain it to people around the world. But I would never think that Italian American, or any other type of cuisine, could pollute. Pollute what?

  • Mulberry Street agli inizi del Novecento, strada centrale nella Little Italy di Manhattan

    Cosa c'è dietro un piatto di meatballs


    Non sono riuscita a guardarlo tutto. Probabilmente non capiterà la stessa cosa ad altri. Soprattutto in Italia. Tutto sommato New York tira ancora, qualsiasi cosa si racconti di lei. Ma i miei 25 anni negli Stati Uniti si ribellano, chiedono giustizia, si indignano. 

    Parlo di quel programma italiano dove un ristoratore, diventa il conduttore,  si auto proclama ‘guru del gusto italiano’ e quindi della cultura culinaria italiana. 

    Il format non ha niente di nuovo. Si tratta di una di quelle gare, ormai trite e ritrite, che vengono proposte in maniera insistente negli ultimi anni. Lo scopo apparente è quello di assegnare il premio/titolo al miglior ristorante italiano nel mondo fuori dall’Italia. Lo scopo vero, forse, è semplicemente quello di seguire quel filone che comunica urlando, provocando, usando male i social, senza troppa fatica. Basta andare su YouTube e vedere con che volgarità viene poi commentata una concorrente,  Rossella Rago,- Questo solo perchè colpevole di aver portato all'attenzione un piatto italo-americano.

    Questo il format. Tre concorrenti e anche giudici, scelti sul luogo,  si sfidano in ogni puntata, accompagnando il conduttore nel ristorante preferito. Così mangiando commentano, si raccontano, votano i piatti. 

    La puntata di cui vi voglio parlare è la prima (ma immagino non sarà l’ultima) girata a New York. Sono fuori Manhattan. Impossibile quindi non affrontare il tema della cucina italo-americana. Dico affrontare e non usarlo per i propri scopi, come accade nel programma di cui vi parlo.

    Il tono di superiorità, paternalistico, da grande sapiente ma neanche tanto professionale e quindi non convincente, del conduttore, non promette bene fin dalle prime battute della puntata. Non è proprio simpatico. Tanto meno autorevole.

    Il ristoratore e ‘guru autoeletto’ cerca, in qualche modo, di copiare l’atteggiamento degli chef di Masterchef, ma proprio non lo sa indossare.  E’ lui il portavoce e il rappresentante di una sorta di autenticità dei piatti,dunque, secondo lui, di italianità. Lo fa con atteggiamento di superiorità incalzante e banale. 

    Dunque tutto gira intorno al voto sull’italianità che viene dato ai ristoranti, ma anche agli stessi giudici. Voto su quella che il guru-conduttore del programma ha deciso essere la vera cucina italiana. “La parmigiana, un grande classico. Ma non si possono mettere la melanzane nel piatto vicino alla pasta!” .  “Hai scelto come piatto preferito il pollo al marsala? Dirà rimproverando Rossella Rago,  giovane italo americana. Lei risponde con la grinta di chi sa cosa vuol dire vivere le proprie radici lontana dall'Italia, riponde con il cuore: “L’ho scelto perché racconta la storia italo-americana ”.

    Prendersela solo con il conduttore certo è sbagliato. Nella scrittura di questo programma ci sono veramente dei problemi se le domande che si fanno per giudicare se si è veramente italiani sono del tipo: “Chi conduce la trasmissione Amici?”.“Non lo sai ma è una famosissima star italiana! Dunque non sei abbastanza italiana!" Il tono generale dunque  è quasi sprezzante e, in un certo senso razzista.  C'è grande superficialità, per esprimermi in maniera gentile, ma andrebbe detto grande ignoranza.

    Lo so, non tutti hanno vissuto 25 anni a New York, non tutti hanno al proprio attivo un periodo di collaborazione intensa all'interno del John D, Calandra Italian American Institute. Ho avuto la fortuna di approcciare la cultura italo-americana. Per questo devo ringraziare il Dean Anthony Tamburri, lo studioso di tradizioni popolari, Joseph Sciorra e molti altri. Ho ancora tanto da imparare, tantissimo. Ci vuole umiltà quando si entra in un mondo non nostro. Mi sono stupita tante volte, ho riflettutto sulla mia stessa italianità, e per questo arricchita.

    La diaspora italiana è qualcosa di molto delicato, sempre così poco conosciuta, ha a che fare con l’identità ed un rapporto molto complesso con le proprie radici che molti, per una sorta di integrazione forzata, hanno dovuto nascondere. Nella cucina, spesso era celato il desiderio inconscio di essere ancora legati a quelle radici. Sarebbe dunque, secondo me, opportuno che le TV che, mettono in mano ai loro scrittori tematiche delicate, provassero a chiedere consulenze, se non studiare direttamente. In ogni caso facessero un semplice esercizio di umiltà.

    Esiste poi un’etica nella comunicazione, anche se mi rendo conto che il confine tra onesta  informazione, poi comunicazione e spettacolo, ormai la televisione, non solo italiana, lo ha confuso da tempo. Sono comunque tematiche delicate. Non riguardano solo un piatto di meatballs o di fettuccine Alfredo,  ma tutta la cultura della nostra Italia fuori dall’Italia. Indirettamente direi tutte le culture.

    L’immagine dell’italianità all’estero ormai è schizofrenica. Usata quando serve, fraintesa, piena di stereotipi. Che si tratti dei così detti expat di oggi, che si tratti degli italo-americani di diverse generazioni fa, che si tratti dei giovanissimi di origine italiana, dunque oggi americani. 

    Non è questo l'articolo dove argomentare e spiegare la storia, il valore della cucina americana, e neanche per cercare le differenze con quella che oggi sarebbe l’alta cucina italiana. Non è neanche il luogo per schierarsi da una parte o dall’altra, come se si trattasse di due squadre di calcio.

    A chiedere giustizia dovrebbe invece essere non solo la cultura culinaria italo-americana, studiata a fondo, anche da accademici italiani e non solo americani.  A chiedere giustizia dovrebbe essere la stessa cucina popolare italiana, inconfutabilmente all’origine della cucina italo-americana. Era una cucina non povera, poverissima visto che gli autentici ingredienti italiani non esistevano in America. La cucina delle donne di allora che si adattavano, parlando spesso solo il dialetto, ad un mondo nuovo. Si doveva sfamare una famiglia, cercando di ricordare i piatti di origine, mangiando insieme, magari in un basement. Conteneva sicuramente tanta italianità, quel senso di appartenenza che molti in Italia non sanno cosa sia. Un'italianità che raggiungeva e raggiunge il suo culmine a Natale, quando si festeggia in ricchiezza,  mettendo in tavola ben 7 pesci. Un rito che stupisce molto noi italiani che vivono in Italia.

    E ricordo con tenerezza poi, gli occhi illuminati di mia madre, di origine siciliana.  Era emozionata, ferma davanti ad una vetrina di Boston, nel corso di un viaggio per venirmi a trovare. In una pasticceria, i dolci erano confezionati nello stesso modo in cui, lei ricordava, veniva fatto a Caltanissetta, quando era bambina!

    Dunque la cucina italo-americana, nata da un esercizio di memoria ed adattamento alla cucina locale,  ha poi cercato certo la sua strada, una strada più che dignitosa. Oggi raccoglie un vero patrimonio culturale da preservare. 

    Da questo lato dell’oceano, dopo aver lavorato da anni come giornalista sul concetto di mediazione culturale, con i-Italy, e  fondato una società di comunicazione (Your Italian Hub) che nella mediazione culturale ha il suo punto di forza, provo a concludere con delle mie mie riflessioni.

    Il tono paternalistico e autoreferenziale di questo programma è forse la chiave per capire dove e come si sbaglia. E’ un errore che possono fare tutti. Non solo gli italiani, ma tutti quando si trincerano dietro certezze, senza studiare. Il mondo cambia ogni microsecondo, i giovani non riescono neanche a toccarlo il presente, figurati il passato! La risposta ad un programma così credo sia in un atteggiamento aperto, anche se con un certo scandalo,  che guardi alle ragioni degli errori degli altri. C’è molto di più di un ‘attacco’ alla cucina italo-americana in una puntata così. 

    E' una riflessione che deve essere fatta con attenzione, in una sorta di ping pong culturale che aiuti le diverse Italie a conoscersi.

    E vi lascio con due considerazioni non mie.

    Da un articolo sulla Voce di New York del professor Stefano Albertini, italianissimo come me, direttore della Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò. (NUY) Scrive:

    “L’idea subdola che sembra far passare il programma è che gli italiani che emigrano, diventano in qualche misura, meno italiani, italiani di serie B a cui gli italiani-italiani devono costantemente insegnare cosa vuol dire essere italiani, cominciando con l’eliminare gli spaghetti con le polpettine. E io, apposta, me li mangio e me li godo,perché altri emigrati italiani, come me e prima di me, hanno combinato l’elemento base della loro dieta con la carne che qui in America si trovava a prezzi accessibili. Paisà, non preoccupatevi: siamo italiani almeno quanto i fighetti che mangiano il branzino al sale.”

    Da una mia intervista a Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer di PepsiCo, anche lui italianissimo. Gli avevo chiesto  gli errori, che secondo lui, di solito fanno gli italiani nell’approcciare la cultura americana.

    "Viviamo in tempi molto complessi, dobbiamo imparare a dialogare con tutte le altre realtà. Dobbiamo capire che noi non abbiamo qualcosa che gli altri non hanno, che è necessariamente migliore. Occorre meno arroganza e maggiore rispetto"

    Perchè partendo da un piatto di meatballs si può parlare di molto altro... 

    Un chiarimento finale. Questo articolo è stato scritto da una persona che sa perfettamente cosa sia il 'Made in Italy 'e quanto sia importante farlo conoscere nel mondo. Però lontano da me il pensare che la cucina italo-americana, ma anche altre,  possano inquinare. Inquinare cosa? 

  • Op-Eds

    ‘Your Italian Hub’ And What of i-Italy?


    Last week at the Italian Trade Commission in New York, we presented i-Italy’s new journey. Now, I will do the same for the readers of i-Italy.


    This publication, which you have been following for 10 years, has gone through many changes. We have provided, mostly in English and always keeping up with the times, information, analysis, and multimedial entratainment using various platforms: online, print, TV, social media. In doing so we’ve encountered many difficulties, made some enemies but also many friends and friendly partnerships. Among them I want to thank New York University’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò for its constant support. 


    Now we are undertaking a new challenge.


    i-Italy in fact becomes part of a new communication agency called ‘Your Italian Hub.’ One of the shareholders is Colavita International.


    Throughout the years we have become increasingly aware of the strategic value of integrating information and communication. It was somewhat of a non-choice, because part of a process that is affecting the publishing world at large, “traditional” but also televised and online news headings. However, I believe that, taken intentionally, it can become a great and meaningful opportunity. In other words, the future. 


    From informing through a unidirectional process, which sees the passage of data from top to bottom, from the media to the public, we are now moving towards a multidirectional approach, in which contents and meanings are negotiated with the public. Communication is transforming information into an increasingly social activity, an ongoing conversation, which goes beyond writing articles for passive readers to generate opportunities for encounters, exchanges, both online and offline.


    It is therefore no longer possible to inform without communicating, exchanging, conversing with readers, listeners, followers, and especially without listening to them. In a way they become your main collaborators. Articles, press releases, so-called ‘pure’ forms of communication are no longer sufficient. 


    Readers want more, and so do sponsors (I have no problem mentioning them since i-Italy doesn’t receive any funding.) The world is changing, moving faster, it wants more. People want to be told a story, to live an experience. The Italian experience in our case. That’s why our publication is also transforming, putting itself out there, looking for new sustainable paths for innovation.

    It is with this awareness - matured through years of experience in recounting Italy in the United States - that we decided to embark on a new journey together with Colavita, itself a company that has changed over the years, going from leader in the sale of extra virgin olive oil on the American market to a platform dedicated to the internationalization of many Italian products, importing and distributing them in this country. 


    We remain jouranlists of course, fueled by courage in this new phase. Besides me, another journalist, Francesca Di Matteo will be part of the agency, along with her story and her experience at Mediaset and other international platforms.


    To those who turn up their noses thinking we will only promote products tied to Colavita, I answer now that our shared vision and strategy seek to do the exact opposite. The goal is to outgrow a certain way of doing things, to overcome the traditionally self-centered approach that deeply stains the image of Italy, in clear contrast with the general interests of our country and of its millions of small, medium, and large businesses.


    I had anticipated the path that brought us to this decision two years ago, in an editorial titled “Message in a Bottle.”


    What was the message? I wrote: “Stronger Together? So why is so little being done in the field of communication? The most common answer is that there is no shared vision. Italians almost never play in teams. Fragmentation is an Italian character trait. We aren’t able (and often aren’t willing) to collaborate. Italian individualism - a great wellspring for creativity, but also a huge barrier for gaining competitiveness and success in today’s global world!”


    I continued to work on, think (maybe even dream) about this concept. Today we are creating a comunication hub, open to all companies willing to put the communication of Italian products first. This thanks also to the brave vision we share with a family of entrepreneurs, from Enrico Colavita to everyone, sons, nieces, and nephews.


    Still today, communication is often pushed in the background. Your Italian Hub wants to present Italy by communicating differently. “Tell knowing, know to tell.” That’ll be one of our slogans.


    Our experience shows us that too often the role of communicating is assigned to American professionals, often big names, who know the market well but don’t really know the object, what they are communicating. Other times, communication is handled by Italian professionals, who are well-intentioned and full of creativity but don’t know the target, its segments, its niches. They don’t know who to communicate to.


    But in order to communicate well, it is essential to fully understand WHAT to communicate, WHO to communicate it to, and HOW to communicate it. Especially when operating abroad. Because you cannot accurately communicate Italy abroad (whether it be a commercial or cultural product, a vacation package, or the country’s overall image) if you aren’t aware of the importance of cultural mediation and of the need to integrate the informative value of the message, the seductive quality of storytelling, and an innovative use of language into a virtuous cycle. 


    This is the experience and the awareness that we bring to YOUR ITALIAN HUB, which will become the editor of i-Italy but will go beyond i-Italy, opening up to everyone interested in communicating all things Italian, and striving to do so always better.  


    Looping back now to conclude: why a HUB, your Italian Hub in America? Because we want to involve all those who share our view, even external professionals whose competences we will require to reach the goal, in a truly collaborative approach.


    This includes other publications, PR agencies, creatives, and professional communicators. We will choose our partners based on two factors: their propention for teamwork, for creating synergies, coordinating efforts towards obtaining a common goal; and their interest in prioritizing communication, that is “good communication.” Effective but elegant, proud but honest, capable of influencing the hearts and minds of Americans without resorting to cheesy rhetoric. 


    I leave you with a quote from the Director of the Italian Trade Agency in New York, Maurizio Forte’s introduction to our presentation: “In the traditional model, most companies, and sometimes also Italian institutions, go from production to distribution, and only later think about communication. Today, it can no longer be that way. Communication has to be put at the center. Communication should come right after production.”


    It’s for this reason that there will be a new i-Italy inside YOUR ITALIAN HUB, with a larger mission and open to all those who will wish to contribute in any way.



  • Opinioni

    ‘Your Italian Hub’. E i-Italy?


    La scorsa settimana, presso la sede dell’Italian Trade Commission, abbiamo raccontato e presentato il nuovo corso i-Italy. Ora voglio farlo anche per i lettori di i-Italy.

    Questa testata, che seguite da dieci anni, ha visto diversi cambiamenti. Abbiamo realizzato, prevalentemente in lingua inglese e cercando di essere sempre al passo con i tempi, informazione, approfondimento, intrattenimento multimediale su più piattaforme: on line, in carta, in tv, sui social. Lo abbiamo fatto incontrando diverse difficoltà, facendoci certo qualche nemico, ma anche tanti amici e amici-partner. Tra questi sento il dovere-piacere di ricordare, in particolare, la Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò della New York University a cui rinnovo la mia gratitudine per esserci stata affianco con costanza.

    Ora affrontiamo una nuova sfida.

    La testata i-Italy viene infatti incorporata in una nuova società di comunicazione che si chiama ‘Your Italian Hub.' Uno degli azionisti è Colavita International.

    In questi anni siamo diventati sempre più consapevoli di come sia oggi strategico integrare informazione e comunicazione. E’ stata una scelta-non scelta, perché è un processo che attraversa l’editoria in tutto il mondo, condiviso da tutte le testate giornalistiche “tradizionali”, in carta, in video e online.  Credo però che questo passaggio, preso con consapevolezza, possa diventare una bellissima ed interessante sfida. In due parole: il futuro.

    Da quell’informazione come processo unidirezionale, che vede i dati fluire dall’alto verso il basso, dal medium al pubblico,  si passa oggi a un approccio multidirezionale, in cui si “negoziano” con il pubblico contenuti e significati. La comunicazione trasforma l’informazione in un’attività sempre più social, in una conversazione ininterrotta, che non si riduce a scrivere articoli per dei passivi lettori, ma genera occasioni di incontro e di scambio, sia online che offline.

    Non è più  dunque possibile informare senza comunicare, incontrare, conversare e soprattutto ascoltare i tuoi lettori, spettatori, followers che in un certo senso divengono anche i tuoi principali collaboratori. Non bastano gli articoli, i comunicati, non basta un’informazione per così dire ‘pura’. 

    Il lettore cerca qualcosa di più. E anche lo sponsor, sia detto senza timore (visto che i-Italy non riceve alcun finanziamento) vuole qualcosa di più.  Il mondo che cambia, sempre più velocemente, chiede qualcosa di più. Si chiede il racconto di un’esperienza. Di far vivere un’esperienza. Nel nostro specifico caso: l’esperienza italiana.  Così anche la nostra testata si trasforma e cerca nuove strade sostenibili per rinnovarsi, si mette in gioco.

    E’ con questa consapevolezza - dovuta ormai ad anni di lavoro sul racconto italiano negli Stati Uniti - che abbiamo deciso di cominciare in un nuovo percorso  insieme alla Colavita, essa stessa un’azienda che si è trasformata negli anni, da leader del mercato statunitense dell’olio extravergine d’oliva a piattaforma di internazionalizzazione per i tanti prodotti Made in Italy, che importa e distribuisce in questo Paese.

    Rimaniamo certo giornalisti, ma con il coraggio di una nuova fase. Insieme a me, nella società, un’altra giornalista, Francesca Di Matteo che porterà dentro tutta la sua storia ed esperienza maturata in alcune testate, da Mediaset ad altre testate internazionali.

    A chi storce il naso, sospettando che faremo semplicemente  a “pubblicità” per i prodotti legati a Colavita, rispondo subito che la visione e la strategia che condividiamo è esattamente opposta. Intende svecchiare un certo modo di lavorare. Superare quel classico approccio personalistico e chiuso, non collaborativo che tanto fa male all’immagine dell’Italia,  in contrasto evidente con gli interessi più generali del nostro Paese e dei milioni di imprese piccole, medie e grandi che lo abitano.

    Il percorso che ci ha portato a questa scelta lo avevo anticipato due anni fa. In un editoriale che avevo intitolato il “Messaggio in una bottiglia”

    Quale era il messaggio? Scrivevo: “Più forti insieme? Perchè si fa ancora tanto poco e tanto male sul piano della comunicazione? La risposta più diffusa è che manca una visione comune. Gli italiani non fanno squadra quasi mai. La frammentazione è una costante del carattere italiano, che non sa (e spesso non vuole) collaborare. L’individualismo italiano—grande ricchezza di creatività, ma grande limite all’affermazione competitiva nel mondo globale di oggi!” 

    Ho continuato a pensare, lavorare (forse sognare) su questo concetto. Oggi nasce un Hub di comunicazione aperto a tutte le aziende, disposte a mettere in primo piano la comunicazione del prodotto italiano. E questo grazie anche alla coraggiosa visione condivisa con una famiglia di imprenditori di successo, da Enrico Colavita, ai suoi figli e nipoti.

    Ancora oggi la comunicazione viene spesso messa in secondo piano. Your Italian Hub vuole presentare l'Italia comunicando in maniera diversa. “Raccontare conoscendo, conoscere per raccontare”. Uno dei nostri slogan sarà proprio questo.

    La nostra esperienza ci dice che troppo spesso la comunicazione viene affidata a professionisti americani, anche con nomi altisonanti,  che conoscono bene il loro mercato ma non conoscono a fondo l’oggetto, cosa comunicare. O a professionisti italiani, pieni di buona volontà e di creatività che però non conoscono il target, i suoi segmenti, le sue nicchie. Non sanno a chi comunicare.

    Ma per fare buona comunicazione è essenziale conoscere bene COSA si comunica e A CHI si comunica e anche COME si comunica.  Soprattutto se si approccia l’estero. Perchè non si può comunicare correttamente l’Italia all’estero (che si tratti di un prodotto commerciale o culturale, di un pacchetto turistico o dell’intera “immagine” del Paese) se non si è consapevoli della necessità di una mediazione culturale e della necessità di integrare in  un circolo virtuoso il valore informativo del messaggio, la qualità seduttiva dello storytelling e l’innovatività del linguaggio.

    E' questa esperienza e consapevolezza che noi portiamo oggi dentro YOUR ITALIAN HUB, che diventa l'editore di i-Italy, ma va molto oltre i-Italy e si apre a tutti coloro interessati a comunicare bene e sempre meglio il “Sistema Italia” nel suo complesso.

    Ritorniamoci in chiusura: perché un HUB? Il tuo Hub italiano in America? Perchè vogliamo coinvolgere tutti coloro che condividono il nostro approccio,  le professionalità e le competenze anche esterne necessarie per raggiungere lo scopo, in un'ottica integrata, collaborativa, "di sistema". 

    Dunque anche altre testate, società di pubbliche relazioni, creativi e comunicatori professionisti. E sceglieremo i nostri partner in base a due criteri. La disponibilità a fare squadra, a creare sinergie, a integrare gli sforzi per un obiettivo comune. E l’interesse a dare la priorità necessaria alla comunicazione, anzi alla “buona comunicazione”. Efficace ma con stile, orgogliosa ma onesta, capace di influenzare i cuori e le menti degli americani, ma senza stucchevole retorica.

    Chiudo con una citazione dall’intervento alla nostra presentazione di Maurizio Forte Direttore dell’Italian Trade Agency di New York: “Nell’impostazione tradizionale con cui operano molte imprese e a volte anche le istituzioni italiane, si parte dalla produzione, poi si passa alla distribuzione e infine si giunge alla comunicazione. Oggi non può essere più così. La comunicazione va messa al centro. Subito dopo la produzione bisogna pensare alla comunicazione.”

    E per questo ci sarà una nuova i-Italy con una missione allargata all’interno di YOUR ITALIAN HUB e aperta a tutti coloro che vorranno contribuire in diversi modi. 



  • Facts & Stories

    Mantuan Mostarda Conquers The World


    We are at the Fancy Food Show, one of the most important food fairs in the world, which takes place each year in New York’s Javits Center. Here, as you can imagine, Italy is always present, actually it’s one of the most represented nations. But we didn’t come here to talk about our most important brands, our intention was to unearth hidden gems, little-known excellencies that have yet to be discovered, find new stories to tell. And we did. We found stories of past traditions that are being rediscovered and reappropriated today.  


    One of these is the story of Paola Calciolari and her ‘mantuan mostarda.’


    “I was a pharmacist. I studied food chemistry, Parmigiano Reggiano production because my family produced it,” explains Paola, the founder of Le Tamerici, a preserves company specialized in the production of mostarda. “And I began to make mostarda. It’s a typical product of the area but there were no companies making it in Mantua.”


    At her table, are exhibited a variety of delicate glass jars, filled with different flavors of mostarda, jams, and wine jellies. We’d like to start sampling them right away but, first of all, we ask her to tell us exactly mantuan mostarda is. 


    “Mantuan mostarda is candied fruit with mustard essence,” Paola answers promptly. Small slices of fruit are mixed with sugar and water and left to candy for several days until “an osmotic process occurs during which the fruit absorbs the sugar and releases the water.” Then the natural mustard essence is added, giving the product its distinctive spicy taste. 


    “This is the mostarda that they served at court banquets during the time of the Gonzaga. (an important Italian princely family that ruled Mantua for centuries, ed.) So it’s a product of the Renaissance, a product of history, it was used to make tortelli,” the expert explains.


    On that note, we ask her how mostarda is used.


    “Cheese is the simplest pairing, but it was actually born as an accompaniment to bollito.” (a way of cooking meat, similar to stews, ed.)


    Now it’s no longer bollito, she tells us, but all meats. Paola cites various examples, from duck breast, to grilled steak, to sausage, so other types of meat but especially other cooking methods. “Porchetta would pair wonderfully with the prune one, for example.”


    And here in the United States, you can very well serve it with your Thanksgiving turkey. “I would put the green tomato mostarda or this pear and rosemary jam, it’s marvelous on white meat. I even put this one on gourmet pizza.”


    It isn’t bad by itself either. 


    As for deserts, Paola recommends pairing it with semifreddi “because the spiciness is softened by the cold, but the taste remains. I like the pear mostarda with chocolate gelato.”


    Le Tamerici carries different lines of products: one consisting of only mostarde, one of wine jellies (lambrusco, prosecco, vino passito from Sicily), one of balsamic vinegar jams which can be cherry, amarena, or strawberry flavored. Then there are various pectine-free jams, such as the blood orange one. “It’s a product that we work one month per year, when this type of orange is in season.” Paola tells us as she offers us a sample. 


    “Our philosophy is to look for whoever specializes in making the specific products of their territory.” For example, for their apple jam, they rely on a producer who only deals in campanine apples, a variety of small wild apples from Mantua. For other products, such as their red onion jam, they look for a producer in the area that specializes in making them, in this case in Tropea, Calabria.  


    The former pharmacist dived into this field because, despite it being a historical product typical of the area, nobody was producing mostarda in Mantova, if not at home. “My grandmother made mostarda. I loved cheese and I immediately thought of pairing mostarda with cheese, which was a novelty then.”


    In 1991, she created le Tamerici, which was born as a cultural association and cooking school, to then become an artisanal scale production lab and finally a company. In 1996, she attends her first Salone del Gusto in Turin (an important international food fair, ed.) bringing with her five products with five cheese pairings. This immediately caught the attention of journalists: “They wanted to understand why.” Now it seems natural, but at the time people were surprised by it, she explains.


    “When I first started coming to the United States, 20 years ago,” she recalls, “nobody was doing it.” Now, the US are an important market for the company, as are Spain, Germany, and even Australia. A perfect example of how quality Italian products, even those that are niche, or maybe precisely thanks to their specificity and uniqueness, manage to pave their way and carve out their space in the global market. 


  • Fatti e Storie

    La mostarda mantovana conquista il mondo



    Siamo sempre al Fancy Food Show, una delle più importanti fiere agroalimentari al mondo che si svolge ogni anno allo Javits Center di New York. Qui ovviamente l’Italia non manca mai, anzi è tra le nazioni più rappresentate. E noi, anche questa volta, non siamo accontentati della conferma dei nostri brand più importanti, siamo andati alla ricerca di novità, eccellenze poco conosciute da scoprire, di storie da raccontare. E ne abbiamo trovate. Storie che riscoprono e rendono spesso attuale un passato di grande tradizione.


    Una di queste è la storia di Paola Calciolari e delle sue mostarde mantovane. 


    “Facevo la farmacista. Ho preso una laurea in chimica degli alimenti, produzione del Parmigiano Reggiano perché la mia famiglia lo produceva”, ci spiega Paola, fondatrice di Le Tamerici, un’azienda di conserve alimentari di qualità in provincia di Mantova, specializzata nelle produzione di mostarde. “E mi sono messa a fare mostarda, è un prodotto tipico del territorio, ma non esistevano a Mantova aziende strutturate che lo producevano.”


    Davanti a lei, sul suo banco, sono esposti diversi barattoli pieni delle sue mostarde ai vari gusti. Verrebbe voglia di iniziare a provarle tutte ma, innanzitutto, ci facciamo dire esattemente cos’e la mostarda.


    “La mostarda mantovana è frutta candita con essenza di senape.” risponde prontamente Paola. Fettine di frutta vengono messe in una zuppa di acqua e zucchero, dopodiché avviene “un processo osmotico in cui la frutta si arricchisce di zucchero e rilascia l’acqua.” Poi, a fine canditura, viene aggiunta l’essenza di senape naturale che da il piccante a questo prodotto.


    “Di questa mostarda se ne parlava gia nei banchetti di corte al tempo dei Gonzaga. Quindi è un prodotto del Rinascimento, della storia, un prodotto che si usava per fare i tortelli.” Ci racconta l’esperta.


    A proposito, le domandiamo, come si usa la mostarda? 


    “Il formaggio è l’abbinamento più semplice, ma in realtà nasce come prodotto che viene usato con il bollito.”


    Ora non è piu bollito, ci spiega, ma tutto quello che è carne. Paola cita vari esempi, dal petto d’anatra, alla carne alla brace, fino alla salsiccia, quindi anche altre carni ma soprattutto altri tipi di cotture. “Una porchetta con la prugna ci sta benissimo, ad esempio.”


    E qui negli Stati Uniti si può usare benissimo insieme al tacchino di Thanksgiving. “Io ci metterei o il pomodoro verde o questa confettura di pere con rosmarino, con le carni bianche è meravigliosa. Poi questa l’ho messa anche su delle pizze gourmet.” 


    Anche da sola non è niente male.


    Per quanto riguarda i dolci, Paola consiglia di abbinarle ai semifreddi “perché il piccante viene smorzato dal freddo, ma rimane ne rimane il gusto. A me piace la mostarda di pera con il gelato al cioccolato.”


    Le Tamerici propone diverse linee di prodotti: una di solo mostarde, una di gelatine di vino (lambrusco, prosecco, vino passito di sicilia), una di confetture con aceto balsamico, che possono essere di ciliegia, amarena o fragola. Poi ci sono le varie confetture senza pectina, ad esempio, quella di arance rosse. “È un prodotto che lavoriamo un mese all’anno quando è disponibile questa tipologia di arancia.” ci spiega Paola mentro l’assaggiamo. 


    “La nostra filosofia è cercare chi è specializzato nel fare specifici prodotti nel territorio.” Ad esempio, per la confettura di mele, vanno da un produttore che fa solo mele campanine, piccole mele selvatiche di Mantova. Per altri prodotti, come la confettura alle cipolle rosse, vanno a cercare un produttore dove c’e la specialità, in questo caso, a Tropea.


    L’ex-farmacista si è lanciata in questo campo perché, nonostante si tratti di un prodotto storico, tipico della zona, a Mantova nessuno produceva mostarde, se non in casa. “Mia nonna preparava mostarde. Io ero appassionata di formaggi e ho pensato subito di fare l’abbinamento della mostarda col formaggio, cosa che era una novità.”


    Nel 1991 fonda le Tamerici, che nasce come associazione culturale e scuola di cucina e diventa in seguito un laboratorio di produzione in scala artigianale ed in fine un’azienda agricola. Nel 1996, partecipa al suo primo Salone del Gusto di Torino portando cinque prodotti con cinque abbinamenti di formaggio e suscitando l’attenzione di vari giornalisti. “Volevano capire il perché di questa cosa.” Adesso sembra naturale, ma all’epoca questo abbinamento stupiva, spiega.


    “Quando sono arrivata negli Stati Uniti 20 anni fa”, ricorda Paola “nessuno qui faceva questo.” Ora gli Stati Uniti sono un mercato importante per l’azienda, cosi come la Spagna, la Germania ed anche l’Australia. Un esempio di come le eccellenze italiane, anche se di nicchia, o forse proprio grazie alla loro specificita; e particolarità, riescono a farsi strada e a trovare il loro posto sul mercato internazionale.