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Articles by: Letizia Airos soria

  • Facts & Stories

    “Stronger together”: The Secret of Promoting the Made in Italy Brand.

    ARTICOLO IN ITALIANO >>

    In the past decades the “Made in Italy” brand has conquered America, from food to fashion. What is in your opinion on the status of 'Made in Italy' in today’s market, particularly within the food industry?

     

    “Let’s start by prefacing that Italian products have always added great value to foreign markets and that’s a fact, a chance that others don’t have. To be clear, we didn’t create this valuevout of thin air, we found it thanks to our identity, which stems from an incredible reality made up of ancient municipalities, each with their own traditions. 

    We have been less capable than others to make good use of this immense heritage and today we understand that in order to remain attractive we have to elevate our competitiveness by focusing on things such as technological investments on infrastructure and increasing the level of the workforce involved in the production. We have to do more.

    To remain relevant we have to keep up with the times, interpret the evolution of the consumer and continue to propose a product imbued with the values unique to our tradition. We are no longer able to remain attractive with the 'Made in Italy' label alone.”

     

    In your experience, what do Americans expect from Italian products?

     

    “The American consumer - but in general any evolved consumer - requires a product that is not only ‘physical’ but also ‘emotional.’ When someone purchases an Italian product today, they are also purchasing a part of culture, our culture, our way of life, because all of this takes place in a specific environment, Italy, which is considered unique and irreplicable. 

     

    I’m thinking of the fashion world and our great interpreters who are constantly presenting masterpieces with each of their collections, or of the food coming from the different regions of our incredible country: from parmigiano reggiano to mozzarella di bufala from Campania, from prosciutto crudo to Calabrese soppressata, from spaghetti to orecchiette; products that speak to the expert skills and traditions of small businesses or to the advanced technology of our great manufacturing companies. Between its DOP and IGP products, Italy has over 200 specialties, unique for their flavors but also for the traditions they represent. When consumers purchase an Italian product, they ultimately want to live a bit of our tradition, to make it their own.”

     

    Italy’s success is largely due to the creativity and entrepreneurship of our small and medium businesses. What should we do to help them position themselves on the American market and manage their presence here?

     

    “Creativity and entrepreneurship alone are not enough, there should be an integrated system to support our businesses and allow them to present themselves in a more ‘institutional’ manner in the market. I’m thinking of France, which has made its embassies the institutional promoters of its businesses. We, on the other hand, have a network of delegations, with undefined roles, just think of embassies and trade agencies, in addition to the many difficulties that the government with its choices is not helping to resolve.” 

     

    In other countries, companies work together, and as we know, we are stronger together and today size is a critical factor when it comes to entering a new market. 

     

    “Our production chains should organize themselves better and dedicate more resources to trademark protection, because if we look at the data on fake ‘Made in Italy’ products (known as “Italian sounding,” ed.) we notice that it amounts to a value of up to 100 billion dollars. Low-cost imitations have increased by almost 70% in the last 10 years and this means that our production chains as well as our politicians haven’t been doing enough.

     

    Specifically in the American market, we find mozzarella, parmesan, provolone produced in Wisconsin, California, or in the very state of New York in open violation of the property rights of the original brands. We even find Pecorino Romano (in those same areas) with no trace of sheep’s milk!”

     

    And then there’s the issue of tarifs and commercial policy. Here too, they should intervene.

     

    “Certainly. In 2019, the US commercial strategy was to protect internal production to the detriment of those of the European Comunity by imposing new trade tarifs amounting to 7.5 billion dollars. And the country to suffer the most from this in the food sector was Italy. The Italian Trade Agency estimates a burden of about 120 million dollars on a selection of about 500 million dollar’s wortg of products such as cheese, liquor, meat, preserves, and fruit. The essence is that it's not just the companies making the products but also the final consumers who are being penalized by these difficult relations. Central governments should initiate negotiations with the US government in order to find mutually beneficial solutions.”

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    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

    Please RSVP  team@youritalianhub

    NEW YORK
    SVA - School of Visual Art - SVA  - Theatre
    333 W 23rd St
    New York, New York

     

  • Fatti e Storie

    Promuovere il Made in Italy. L'importanza di "fare sistema"

    ENGLISH  VERSION >>

    Nei passati decenni il “brand” del Made in Italy ha conquistato l’America, dalla moda al cibo. Come valuta la situazione del Made in Italy oggi su questo mercato, in particolare per il settore dell’agroalimentare?

    "Partiamo da un assunto: Il Made in Italy è da sempre un grandissimo valore aggiunto per i mercati esteri e questo è un dato di fatto, una fortuna che altri non hanno; sia chiaro non lo abbiamo studiato o creato noi a tavolino, ce lo siamo in qualche modo trovato grazie alla nostra identità che parte dall’incredibile realtà dei comuni che nascono oltre mille anni fa e che vivono ognuno delle proprie tradizioni.

    Di questo grandissimo patrimonio siamo stati meno abili di altri a farne buon uso e oggi abbiamo compreso che per poter continuare ad essere attraenti dobbiamo elevare il livello di competitività facendo dell’altro, come investimenti tecnologici sulle strutture ed elevare il livello del personale coinvolto nel processo produttivo, insomma fare di più.

    Per continuare ad essere presenti bisogna riuscire a stare al passo con i tempi, interpretare l’evoluzione del consumatore e continuare a proporgli un prodotto arricchito di quei valori che solo la nostra tradizione riesce a dare. Unicamente con il nostro 'Made in' non siamo più in grado di rimanere attraenti."

    Secondo la sua esperienza, cosa si aspettano gli americani dai prodotti italiani?

    "Il consumatore americano, ma generalmente ogni consumatore evoluto, richiede un prodotto che sia non solo 'fisico' ma anche 'emozionale'. Quando oggi viene acquistato un prodotto italiano si acquista anche una parte di cultura, la nostra cultura, il nostro essere e il nostro vivere, perché tutto questo viene svolto in un ambiente, l’Italia, che ci viene riconosciuto come unico e irripetibile.

    Penso alla moda con i nostri grandi interpreti che costantemente propongono opere ad ogni loro collezione o al cibo proveniente dalle diverse zone del nostro incredibile paese: dal parmigiano reggiano alla mozzarella di bufala campana, dal prosciutto crudo alla soppressata calabrese, dallo spaghetto all’orecchietta; prodotti espressione dell’esperta manualità e tradizione delle piccole imprese o dell’alta tecnologia delle grandi industrie. Insomma, l’Italia tra prodotti DOP e IGP ha oltre 200 specialità uniche per la loro bontà ma anche per le tradizioni che rappresentano. Il consumatore, quando compra un prodotto italiano, in definitiva vorrebbe vivere un po’ della nostra tradizione, farla un po’ sua."

    Il successo dell’Italia dipende largamente dalla creatività e dall’imprenditorialità delle nostre piccole e medie imprese. Cosa si dovrebbe fare per aiutarle ad entrare sul mercato americano e a gestire la propria presenza qui?

    Creatività e imprenditorialità da sole non bastano, ci vorrebbe un sistema integrato che supporti le nostre aziende e permetta alle stesse di presentarsi in modo più “istituzionale” nel mercato. Il mio pensiero va verso la Francia che ha fatto delle sue Ambasciate il primo istituto di promozione delle aziende del suo paese. Noi invece abbiamo una rete con deleghe, funzioni e ruoli non ben chiariti, si pensi ad esempio alle Ambasciate ai presidi dell’ICE oltre alle molteplici difficoltà che il governo con le sue scelte non aiuta a risolvere."

    Negli altri paesi le aziende fanno sistema e uniti, si sa, si diventa più grandi e oggi la dimensionalità è un fattore critico di successo per penetrare i mercati.

    "Le nostre Filiere dovrebbero organizzarsi meglio e dedicare più risorse alla tutela dei marchi perché, se andiamo ad analizzare i dati sul falso Made in Italy [il cosiddetto “Italian sounding” n.d.r.] vediamo che nel mondo possiamo riprendere valori che potenzialmente si aggirano intorno ai 100 miliardi di dollari. Le false imitazioni 'low cost' sono aumentate negli ultimi 10 anni di quasi un 70% e questo significa che le nostre Filiere insieme alla nostra politica non hanno fatto abbastanza.

    Nello specifico mercato americano troviamo mozzarella, parmesan, provolone che vengono prodotti tra Wisconsin, California e lo stesso stato di New York in palese violazione della proprietà dei marchi di origine. Troviamo persino del Pecorino Romano (sempre prodotto in queste aree) che non ha minima traccia di latte di pecora!"

    E poi c’è la questione dei dazi e della politica commerciale. Anche qui si dovrebbe intervenire.

    "Certo. Nel 2019 la strategia commerciale americana è stata quella di proteggere le produzioni interne a danno di quelle dell’area della Comunità Europea e parliamo dell’introduzione di nuovi dazi su un valore di import verso gli USA pari a 7,5 miliardi di dollari dove il soggetto più penalizzato nell’agroalimentare risulta essere la nostra realtà italiana. Le stime dell’ICE parlano di un aggravio di prezzo di circa 120 milioni di dollari su un paniere di prodotti come i formaggi, liquori, carni, conserve, frutta che vale circa 500 milioni di dollari. Di tutto quanto detto si potrebbe fare una sintesi affermando che c’è una sola verità e cioè che oltre alle aziende produttrici è il consumatore finale ad eseere penalizzato da questi difficili rapporti. I governi centrali dovrebbero promuovere tavoli negoziali con il governo statunitense al fine di trovare una linea condivisa nell’interesse di entrambe le parti."

     

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    Attendance to the "Italian Export Forum" is free-of-charge 

    January 27th  2020
    from 4.00 pm to 6.15 pm

    Please RSVP  team@youritalianhub

    NEW YORK
    SVA - School of Visual Art - SVA  - Theatre
    333 W 23rd St
    New York, New York

     

  • Op-Eds

    Another Turn of the Key. Nino Marano. 49 Years in Prison

    >> IN ITALIANO

     

    A crude story, but also one filled with humanity, that of Nino Marano, who spent almost 50 years behind bars. Years marked by many turned keys. A life of ups and downs. Characterized by brutal crimes that take place behind bars, but also by the love for his wife and children. 

     

    Nino Marano spends the first years of his sentence going in and out of the penitentiary. At the time he was in fact being investigated in various trials. “<< Marano, go get a job and don’t ever come back,>> Corporal Vasta told me as he handed me a suit, blue pants and a jacket of almost the same color. Who knows where he got them, but they were exactly my size and they were exactly what I needed to concretely feel like I was stepping into a different life.”

     

    “I spent eight wonderful months with my Sarina. I felt like I was finally breathing. I had taken my life back into my hands, I looked for a job,” Nino Marano remembers. But then he is told that he still has to pay his due with justice. “I had to spend 16 months in jail to permanently close with the past...Such news would have sent anyone into despair, but not me...I wanted to pay my debt to justice in full. I willingly walked into the closest police station.”

     

    From here, it gets hard to follow the unbelievable succession of events in which he is involved. Pages of criminal life, involving trials, escape attempts, sentences, prison transfers…

     

    Alongside his personal story, the book traces decades of Italian history. Events that make their way into prison. Marano encounters the brigades, the ‘carceo duro’ measures known as ‘41 bis,’ all these societal changes as seen and experienced on the inside.

     

    An almost unbelievable story, the one told by Emma D’Aquino, but true stories are often hard to believe. It all begins with a couple of stolen vegetables, following a childhood marked by hunger and poverty. The son of a sicilian worker, Marano had four brothers and grew up in a home that “smelled of hunger.”

     

    His recollections give the novel a verist quality. “In the poor man’s house, everyone is right” … “the fork is for the wretched man” … so Giovanni Verga wrote in “I Malavoglia” (The House by the Medlar Tree) 

     

    In “Ancora un giro di chiave. Nino Marano. Una vita fra le sbarre” (Another turn of the key. Nino Marano. A life behind bars) (Baldini Castoldi editions) - TG1 prime time news anchor, with an important reporting career -  takes on a delicate theme. 

     

    The citicalities tied to life in prison are still numerous. According to Italian law, sentences should have an educational purpose with the goal - also through contact with the external world - of re-integrating convicts into society.

     

    I would therefore like to continue here, with my pen, an open reflection that is incredibly difficult and vast, born during the double presentation of the book organized by Your Italian Hub in New York: the first one at St. John’s University with Professor Katia Passerini and her wonderful students; the second at Union Square Loft, where I conversed with Emma along with my colleague Francesca Di Matteo. Consul General Francesco Genuardi was there to introduce the event, while Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, and the new Director of the Italian Trade Agency Antonino Laspina sat in the audience, speaking to the topic’s appeal. 

     

    I would like to clarify that I do not intend to justify Nino Marano in any way: he is undoubtedly a multiple murderer. A killer. But, to be clear, what initially landed him in jail was the theft of a few peppers and eggplants. 

     

    When we decided to present this book with Emma D’Aquino, I knew that it would be a hard one to explain. I had read it all in one breath last summer, and then returned to it several times, gone through its pages to review some passages. His story, though unique, leads to broader reflections.

     

    The first one is: Emma D’Aquino - through the words of Nino Marano - recounts life in prison as it was decades ago, how much has changed in Italian penitentiaries since then? And the second one, since we are in New York: Is it true that the US prison system is even harsher? Also: how should we view the “re-educational function of sentences” when life in prison can actually push people towards violence? And finally: do we all agree that prison should have such a function rather than simply a form of payback?

     

    Emma D’Aquino’s is an accurate, detached, controlled, careful tale by a deeply sensitive reporter.

     

    She investigated, scrutinized, observed Nino Marano. A criminal with no affiliations to mafia clans, proud, a “one man show” of sorts, who from one penitentiary to another becomes time and again a murderer.

     

    There are several aspects that stand out about him. In his words, we make out a sort of moral code, his “immoral morals.” Something primordial, ancestral, that comes from his humble and misfortunate origins, a clear lack of civic culture.

     

    Based on a sort of “necessary evil,” which Nino considers a weapon of legitimate defense against the injustices he and others face. And for Nino legitimate defense justifies violence.

     

    “From my encounters with Nino, I learned that he acts based on a specific personal ethical code, founded on the respect of the innocent, who as such shouldn’t be harmed but protected (and prison guards belonged to this category)” writes Emma D’Aquino. She continues: “I believe he has been the victim of his inability to distinguish clearly between good and evil, without nuance or contamination. A victim of the role of censor he tried to take on within a world deprived of moral rules.”

     

    And next to this man, far away but intimately close, is a woman: his wife. Sarina never abandoned him and his words spell out his love for her. The pages dedicated to this couple, to their children, are very intense. So, he’s a ruthless man, but also deep and attentive towards his wife Sarina, whom he loves and who loves him back.

     

    I can’t help but wonder: did he become violent in prison or was he already violent? Had he been born in a different social context would he have become the same man? Could his life have taken a different path?

     

    It’s clear that we are all the same to begin with. It’s clear that prison did not help Marano to “redeem” himself, as the Italian law and international resolutions to respect human dignity would have it. Instead, detainees are left to fend for themselves "in the wild."

     

    His sentence seems to lead to new deviations. Is there no hope then for Nino Marano? That’s not the case, he too had his chances, especially in the last years. As Italian prisons slowly changed, some people offered him a hand.

     

    At the end of the book there are two chapters. One is titled “The Metamorphosis” and the other “Professor Gioia.”

     

    “My rebirth is derived of a long process, and for it I have to thank those who in these years in prison have helped me to understand, to look inside, to become the man I am today. The teachers, the volunteers, the directors. At the same time, I don’t believe that what happened to me was all my fault, and I can’t say that I have really repented for all that I’ve done in prison.” These words paint the portrait of a man full of contradictions, proud but “tormented by memories,” as the author writes.

     

    However, the book leaves us with a sense of hope, beyond the tragic story it tells. It traces a path towards “redemption.” Many questions about how to live and build a life behind bars today remain.

    I want to conclude by inviting you to read Emma D’Aquino’s beautiful book. To reflect on these deeply human nuances.

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    Ancora un giro di chiave: Nino Marano. Una vita tra le sbarre
    by Emma D’Aquino 

    on Amazon

     

  • Opinioni

    Ancora un giro di chiave. Nino Marano. 49 anni in carcere

    >> IN ENGLISH

    Una storia cruda, ma anche piena di umanità quella di Nino Marano, quasi 50 anni dietro le sbarre. Anni scanditi da tanti “giri di chiave”. Una vita tra cadute e riprese. Delitti efferati che avvengono dentro il carcere. Ma anche l’amore per sua moglie e i figli.

    Nino Marano i primi anni entra ed esce dal penitenziario. Nel frattempo era infatti imputato in diversi processi. “«Marano, se ne vada a lavorare e non si faccia più vedere.» L’appuntato Vasta me lo disse porgendomi un vestito, pantaloni blu con giacca quasi dello stesso colore. Chissà dove li aveva presi, ma erano esattamente della mia taglia ed erano esattamente quello che mi serviva per avere la sensazione tangibile di cambiare vita”

    “Passai otto mesi bellissimi con la mia Sarina. Finalmente mi sembrava di respirare. Avevo ripreso in mano la mia vita, avevo cercato e trovato un lavoro”.  Ricorda Nino Marano. Ma poi viene informato che ha ancora un conto aperto con la giustizia. “Dovevo scontare sedici mesi di carcere per chiudere definitivamente col passato…. Quella notizia avrebbe gettato nello sconforto chiunque, ma non me… volevo pagare fino in fondo il mio debito con la giustizia. Mi presentai spontaneamente nella caserma vicino a casa”. 

    Da qui diventa difficile seguire l'incredibile successione di avvenimenti in cui è coinvolto. Pagine di vita criminale, con processi, tentativi di fuga,  condanne, trasferimenti in diversi carceri ...

    Accanto alla vicenda personale, la narrazione di decenni di storia italiana che entrano in carcere, l'incontro con dei detenuti brigatisti, i "neri", il carcere duro del cosiddetto “41 bis”, i cambiamenti della società italiana visti e vissuti da dentro le mura.

    Una storia che ha dell’incredibile, quella che racconta Emma D’Aquino, ma le vere storie sono spesso incredibili.  Tutto comincia con un furto di peperoni e melanzane, dopo un’infanzia e adolescenza marchiata dalla povertà e dalla fame.  Marano, figlio di un bracciante siciliano, ha quattro fratelli e viene da una casa che "puzzava di fame".

    I suoi racconti sembrano portare in atmosfere da romanzo verista. “Alla casa del povero ognuno ha ragione”... “la forca è fatta per il disgraziato”... così scriveva Giovanni Verga nei “Malavoglia”.

    Con "Ancora un giro di chiave. Nino Marano. Una vita fra le sbarre" (Baldini Castoldi editore) Emma D’Aquino  - conduttrice del TG1 in prima serata, con una carriera importante da cronista - affronta un tema molto delicato. 

    Le criticità legate alla vita nel carcere sono infatti ancora tantissime. Secondo la legge italiana la pena deve avere una funzione rieducativa che tenda, anche attraverso contatti con l'ambiente esterno, al reinserimento sociale. 

    Continuo quindi qui,  con la mia penna, una riflessione aperta perché incredibilmente difficile e vasta, nata nel corso della doppia  presentazione del libro che come Your Italian Hub abbiamo organizzato a New York: la prima alla St. John’s University, con la professoressa Katia Passerini e i suoi splendidi allievi; la seconda in un loft di Union Square, dove a intervistare Emma c’era insieme a me la collega Francesca Di Matteo, preceduta da un’introduzione del Console Generale Francesco Genuardi. Nel pubblico, a dimostrazione dell’interesse del tema, l’Ambasciatrice Mariangela Zappia, rappresentante permanente dell’Italia presso le Nazioni Unite e il nuovo direttore dell’ICE di New York, Antonino Laspina.

    Una premessa importante. Non intendo in nessun modo giustificare Nino Marano: è un pluriassassino, non ci sono dubbi. Un assassino che uccide, ma la prima volta entra in carcere per un furto di peperoni e melanzane. Anche qui non ci sono dubbi.

    Quando abbiamo deciso di presentare questo libro con Emma D’Aquino, sapevo che sarebbe stato difficile raccontarlo. L’avevo letto tutto d’un fiato la scorsa estate, per poi ritornare, più volte, indietro tra le pagine per rivedere alcuni passi.  La sua vicenda, per quanto unica, stimola riflessioni di carattere generale.

    La prima è: Emma D’Aquino - attraverso le parole di Marano -  racconta la vita in carcere di decenni fa; quanto è cambiato nei penitenziari italiani, da allora? E la seconda è, visto che ci troviamo a New York, è vero che negli Stati Uniti il sistema carcerario è ancora più duro? E ancora: cosa dobbiamo pensare della “funzione rieducativa della pena” quando la vita in carcere, in realtà , può perfino spingerti alla violenza? E infine: siamo tutti d’accordo che la pena debba avere questa funzione, e non semplicemente quella “retributiva” della legge del taglione: a tale dolore arrecato, tale dolore comminato?

    Quello di Emma D’Aquino è un racconto accurato, distaccato, controllato nei dettagli, cesellato, da cronista, realizzato con grande sensibilità.

    Ha indagato, scrutato, osservato Nino Marano.  Un delinquente senza affiliazioni a clan mafiosi, orgoglioso, una sorta di “one man show”, che tra un penitenziario all'altro diventa più volte assassino. 

    Ci sono diversi aspetti che colpiscono di lui. Nelle sue parole si evince una sorta di morale, la sua “morale senza morale”. Qualcosa di primordiale, atavico che origina nelle sue umili e sfortunate origini, in un evidente ’assenza di cultura civica.

    Alla base una sorta di "male necessario," che Nino considera come un'arma di  legittima difesa contro le ingiustizie che toccano lui, ma anche altri. E per Nino la legittima difesa ammette la violenza.
     

    “Dalle frequentazioni con Nino ho imparato che agisce in base ad un codice etico particolare e personalissimo, fatto di rispetto per gli innocenti, che proprio in quanto tali non vanno toccati ma salvaguardati (e le guardie carcerarie appartenevano a questa categoria).” scrive Emma D’Aquino. E continua: “Credo che sia stato vittima della sua incapacità di distinguere in modo nette il bene dal male, senza sfumature, senza contaminazioni. Vittima del suo ruolo di censore che ha creduto di assumere , all’interno di un mondo privo di regole morali”.

    E accanto a quest’uomo, lontana ma intimamente vicina, una donna: la moglie. Sarina non lo abbandonerà mai e le parole di Nino per lei ricamano amore. Le pagine su questa coppia, sui loro figli, sono molto intense. Dunque  un uomo spietato, ma anche profondo e attento verso la moglie Sarina che lo ama, riamata.

    Viene spontaneo chiedersi: ma è diventato violento in carcere, o lo era già prima? E se fosse nato in un altro contesto sociale sarebbe stato lo stesso uomo? Poteva la sua vita prendere una strada diversa?

    Ed è  evidente che non siamo tutti uguali nelle condizioni di partenza e questo si dimentica troppo spesso. E’ evidente che quel carcere non ha certo aiutato Marano a “redimersi”, come vorrebbe la legge italiana e in linea con le risoluzioni internazionali, nel rispetto della dignità umana. Invece il detenuto viene lasciato solo in una sorta di giungla.

    La pena per lui sembra diventare lo stimolo per nuovi scempi.  Non esiste quindi alcuna speranza per Nino Marano? Non è così, anche lui ha avuto le sue possibilità, soprattutto negli ultimi anni, mentre il carcere italiano piano piano cambiava, alcune persone lo hanno aiutato.

    Alla fine del libro due capitoli. Uno intitolato “La Metamorfosi”, l’altro la “La Professoressa Gioia. 

    “La mia rinascita è frutto di un lavoro lento, e per questo devo ringraziare chi in questi anni di carcere mi ha aiutato a capire, a guardarmi dentro, a essere l’uomo che sono oggi. Gli insegnanti, i volontari, i direttori. Allo stesso tempo, non credo davvero che quanto mi è accaduto sia tutta colpa mia, e per gran parte di quello che ho fatto in carcere, nelle carceri di quegli anni, non posso davvero dirmi pentito”. In queste parole il ritratto di un un uomo pieno di contraddizioni, orgoglioso, ma in un “inferno di ricordi” come scrive l’autrice. 

    Il libro ci lascia però con un senso di speranza, al di là della tragica vicenda che racconta. Si può fare un percorso di ‘redenzione’. Le domande, su come si vive e si costruisce la vita  dietro le sbarre oggi, rimangono però tante.

    Concludo con un invito,  quello di leggere il bel libro di Emma D’Aquino. Per riflettere su tante sfumature intrise di umanità..

     

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    Ancora un giro di chiave: Nino Marano. Una vita tra le sbarre
    di Emma D’Aquino 

    su Amazon

     
  • 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
    RSVP
    Team@YourItalianHub.com
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    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

    ENGLISH VERSION >>

    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

    IN ITALIANO >>

    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
    Op-Eds

    What's Behind a Plate of Meatballs

    IN ITALIANO >>

    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
    Opinioni

    Cosa c'è dietro un piatto di meatballs

    ENGLISH VERSION >>

    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? 

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