info 02.27.06

Italian Dossier

Torino was a perfect host: attentive but not intrusive, had some good stories, a whiz in the kitchen. More Italy? Never enough:

The James Beard House and NYU are sponsoring a conference on the The Mediterranean Diet at the Villa La Pietra in Florence from May 21-26. Food writers, producers, historians, and nutritionists will present panels, tastings, tours, and classes. $525 (if you register before March 10), exclusive of hotel and dinners.

Michelangelo Antonioni, director of L'Avventura, Blow-Up, The Passenger, and The Night, gets a mini-festival of six screenings (there'll be a speaker for each) at Columbia's Italian Academy from March 27-April 11. $5 donation suggested.

Italian for Toddlers is an adorable place for the bambini to learn Italian. Spring session starts April 3rd, the school is at 385 WEA [78th/79th] 212.501.8524, $495 for 12 classes. (It's pricey in part because they limit class size to five.)

Some Italian standards, Neapolitan faves, and a dip into the American songbook from pop-jazz chanteuse Giada Valenti, born in Venice, now a New Yorker. She performs an encore evening called "La Dolce Vita Swings" at the DiCapo, 184 E. 76th [Lex/3rd] (last month's was a sell-out) on March 6, 8pm, $35.

Gaja Barbaresco would be near the top of our desert island wine picks. Learn about the noble Nebbiolo grape and the rest of the Italian varietals at Italian Wine Merchants, 108 E. 16th [Union Sq./Irving] 212.473.2323, Bar Veloce, 175 2nd [11th/12th] 212.260.3200 and 176 7th [20th/21st] 212.629.5300, i Trulli Enoteca, 122 E. 27th [Park/Lex] 212.481.7372 and their shop Vino, 212.725.6516, across the street. One lesser known source is up by Arthur Avenue: Mt. Carmel Wines, 612 E. 187th [Arthur/Hughes] Bx 718.367.7833.

The Met has agreed to return antiquities that Italy says were stolen from that country. You can get a little insider background here. Meanwhile, on exhibit at the Met through March 5 is Antonello Da Messina, Sicily's Renaissance Master.

Our single favorite book on Italian food is Burton Anderson's Treasures of the Italian Table from 1994, published by Morrow. It's out of print, but worth searching out. In it, Mr. Anderson writes terrific essays on Italy's star foods, including white truffles from Alba, the Latini family pastificio (pasta maker), Parmigiano Reggiano, culatello, and balsamic vinegar.

More Italy
Robert Sietsema's 100 Best Italian Restaurants, published in the Village Voice (2004), is a good list, fun to argue. (A note of condolence to VV staffers who are suffering under yet another new owner, this one the least enlightened of all. Sad to see a once-great institution get the stuffing pulled out of it)…At Lincoln Center, Italy is the it-country: there's La Traviata at the Met, the sublime musical at the Beaumont The Light in the Piazza set in Florence, and NYC Opera's production of The Most Happy Fella, starting March 4, which stars Paul Sorvino as the older Italian vineyard owner in the Napa Valley…Finally, NY Mag has The Sopranos on the brain (and on the cover). The series returns to HBO on March 12.

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