` International Day of Italian Cuisines Celebrates Spaghetti al Pomodoro - Olive Oil Times

International Day of Italian Cuisines Celebrates Spaghetti al Pomodoro

Jan. 20, 2014
Michael Goodwin

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The International Culinary Center and its dean of Italian Studies, Chef Cesare Casella, wel­comed an audi­ence of restau­ra­teurs, food indus­try pro­fes­sion­als, and jour­nal­ists for the 7th edi­tion of the International Day of Italian Cuisines. The annual event held on January 17, the day of the Feast of Saint Anthony the Abbott, the patron saint of butch­ers. January 17 also marks the begin­ning of Italian car­ni­val, and as wine writer and food expert Alessandra Rotondi stated, a period of time in which food and drink are cel­e­brated, and trans­gres­sions allowed.“

International Culinary Center founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton began the day’s pro­gram by wel­com­ing guests to the ICC, an insti­tu­tion that embraces and loves authen­tic Italian cui­sine.” Hamilton announced the begin­ning of an ICC legacy schol­ar­ship in honor of the late Marcella Hazan, one of the most cel­e­brated author­i­ties on Italian cui­sine. The schol­ar­ship is designed to send a culi­nary stu­dent to Hazan’s home province of Emilia-Romagna. Hamilton also pub­li­cized the ICC’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in pro­gram­ming and man­ag­ing the American pavil­ion at the 2015 Expo Milan, along­side the James Beard Foundation. Demonstrating her com­mit­ment to Italian stud­ies and cui­sine, Hamilton will serve as the pres­i­dent of the pavil­ion.

Chef Casella spoke about the dish at the cen­ter of this year’s cel­e­bra­tion, spaghetti al pomodoro. Detailing his pref­er­ences in sourc­ing ingre­di­ents for the iconic dish, he com­mented on the sim­plic­ity of the Italian sta­ple, which speaks to a knowl­edge of ingre­di­ents that is the base for Italian cui­sine.” Casella intro­duced Rosario Scarpato, food critic and cre­ator of the International Day of Italian Cuisines. Scarpato explained the many events through­out the world to honor Italian cuisines, but cred­ited New York as the world’s most vibrant, call­ing New York the ideal cap­i­tal of Italian cui­sine abroad.”

Scarpato’s remarks were fol­lowed by brief work­shops detail­ing three crit­i­cal ingre­di­ents in spaghetti al pomodoro. The first talk con­cerned olive oil, and heard from Lidia Rinaldi, a con­sul­tant for Consorzio Nazionale Degli Olivicoltori (the Italian Consortium of Olive Growers), one of Italy’s largest orga­ni­za­tions in the olive oil sec­tor.

In her lec­ture titled Traceability and High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” Rinaldi addressed her organization’s efforts to pro­vide Italian grow­ers with assis­tance and ser­vices to ensure bet­ter trans­parency in the oil mar­ket, pro­tect con­sumer health, and pro­mote trade of the high­est qual­ity Italian oils. Praising olive oil as a fruit juice” that stands as the king of ingre­di­ents of Italian cui­sine,” Rinaldi spoke of the consortium’s efforts to cre­ate a new mar­ket seg­ment for guar­an­teed high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.” Her pre­sen­ta­tion cul­mi­nated in a tast­ing of three Terre del Sole oils, a small sam­ple of Italy’s many diverse vari­etals and regional fla­vors.

Moving from an ingre­di­ent at the base of spaghetti al pomodoro to an ingre­di­ent that is often a fin­ish­ing touch on the dish, the next work­shop was led by Elisabetta Serraiotto, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Consorzio Grana Padano (Consortium for the Protection of Grana Padano Cheese). Serraiotto detailed the vibrant his­tory of Grana Padano, Italy’s best-sell­ing hard cheese, and the most pop­u­lar PDO (pro­tected des­ig­na­tion of ori­gin) cheese in the world. The con­sor­tium rep­re­sents 130 dairies and 156 aging facil­i­ties in the Padano val­ley, help­ing pro­duc­ers secure PDO sta­tus and safe­guard the geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tion from abuse, unfair com­pe­ti­tion, and imi­ta­tion. Although all cheeses that rep­re­sent Grana Padano are reg­u­larly tested for imper­fec­tions, the many pro­duc­ers who rep­re­sent the PDO cre­ate cheeses with slightly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics. Covering a large area of north­ern Italy, the sec­tor that pro­duces this par­tic­u­lar cheese employs 50,000 peo­ple, pro­duc­ing over 4 mil­lion wheels each year with a retail export value of over $3 bil­lion.

Alessandra Rotondi returned for the final ingre­di­ent work­shop: toma­toes. Describing the vibrant and col­or­ful his­tory of the tomato in Italy and the Americas, Rotondi spoke of early Italian mis­con­cep­tions of the mys­te­ri­ous fruit and the role of the cook­book in edu­cat­ing pop­u­la­tions on the tomato’s uses. Detailing the tomato’s his­tory in the US, from Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Campbell, Rotondi gave great atten­tion to the his­tory of the mar­riage of toma­toes and pasta,” both in Italy and abroad.

As in the two pre­vi­ous work­shops, Rotondi stressed the impor­tance of PDOs (specif­i­cally the San Marzano vari­ety of toma­toes) in Italy’s con­tem­po­rary gas­tro­nomic cul­ture. The pres­ence of place-based label­ing and geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions in the olive oil, cheese, and tomato indus­tries helps rec­og­nize Italy’s con­nec­tion to culi­nary tra­di­tion. Such des­ig­na­tions pro­tect regional diver­sity from imi­ta­tion and ensure qual­ity and dis­tinc­tion.

Throughout the day’s events, speak­ers were joined by video-con­fer­ences with two Italian restau­rants. Live con­nec­tions with the President restau­rant in Pompeii and Hotel Villa Torreta in Milan fea­tured con­ver­sa­tions with chefs, and demon­stra­tions in regional cui­sine.

The cel­e­bra­tion at the International Culinary Center also fea­tured the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Italian Cuisine in the USA Awards.” Recipients included spe­cialty foods mer­chant Lou di Palo, for a life long com­mit­ment to the pro­mo­tion of Italian cui­sine, its ingre­di­ents, and the food and wine cul­ture of Italy.” Two chefs and restau­ra­teurs were rec­og­nized for their life­long com­mit­ment to the pro­mo­tion of qual­ity, authen­tic Italian cui­sine in the United States”: Dallas-based Francesco Farris, and Walter Potenza, who works and teaches in Providence, Rhode Island. The great­est honor, the prize for Best Emerging Chef of Italian Cuisine in the USA,” was pre­sented to Justin Smillie, of Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria in New York.

The day’s events cul­mi­nated in the spaghetti demon­stra­tion. Milan-based, Michelin-starred chef Enrico Bartolini served as Guest Master Chef,” accom­pa­nied by New York chef Matteo Bergamini and Dubai-based Luca Signoretti. All three demon­strated prepa­ra­tions of spaghetti al pomodoro with indi­vid­ual tech­nique and dis­tinct flair, using the same ingre­di­ents. The three spaghetti expo­si­tions con­cluded with tast­ings and an oppor­tu­nity for ques­tion-and-answer with the chefs.

What began in 2008 with a cel­e­bra­tion of spaghetti alla car­bonara has now seen seven years of pro­mot­ing authen­tic Italian dishes widely known in the United States, from osso buco to tiramisù. Scarpato stated that, though the day’s goal of cel­e­brat­ing and ele­vat­ing the authen­tic­ity of sim­ple ingre­di­ents and Italy’s diverse regions has been a resound­ing suc­cess, its mis­sion is far from over. Forthcoming events will likely com­mem­o­rate lesser-known Italian dishes to encour­age inter­est in wide-rang­ing Italian culi­nary tra­di­tions abroad.

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