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Articles by: Kayla Pantano

  • Facts & Stories

    Connecting Italian Studies to Italian Companies

    On March 21, Montclair State University hosted a meeting with NJ/NY-based Italian companies entitled Synergies Between Business and Education. Sponsored by the Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, the event was co-organized with the Department of Spanish and Italian and the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship under the patronage of the Italian Trade Commission and in collaboration with Choose New Jersey. In her greeting, Inserra Chair Teresa Fiore jokingly said that planning the afternoon itself was a synergy: “Just organizing this meeting has been an incredible pleasure because we are sharing information, ideas, data, and we feel that this can be a very good start.”

    The meeting was aimed at fostering synergies between Italian companies in the New Jersey and New York areas and the Italian Program at Montclair, as well as other related disciplines, in order to create opportunities for students in the rich Italian economy of the area. Following this discussion was another one of equal importance on food and sustainability, featuring Andrea Illy, Chairman of illycaffé and Altagamma, in conversation with scholar and journalist Daniele Balicco.

    Expanding the Bridge Between Italian and Business

    Fiore expressed that the Italian Program at Montclair has been particularly lucky in their “efforts in looking for innovative ways of bringing students to the study of the Italian language and making them into professionals.” However, she still believes that the bridge between the US and Italy can be expanded and this evening was one step in the right direction. After her introduction, she handed the floor over to two representatives of MSU: Keith Barrack (Chief of Staff, Office of the President) and Robert Friedman (Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences).

    Barrack vowed his assistance in her endeavor saying, “We want to be part of your success.” In addressing the companies present at the meeting, he promised, “The University will help you with the environment-sensitive projects, with the packaging, with the design, with business and public infrastructure.” Friedman then thanked the Inserra Chair and the Italian Program's faculty members for their work and their re-visioning of what Italian Studies can be. He also explained that he is co-leading the plan of combining Italian Studies and business in tangible ways through a shared B.A. in partnership with the Feliciano School of Business. He concluded, “Our hope is that we will be able to produce for you your next workforce. And we are very interested in having any opportunity to bring more students to your business system."

    Margie Piliere (Chief Economic Development Office, Choose New Jersey) is one of many business professionals that shares the same goal as the Inserra Chair and the Italian Program. “Choose NJ is a privately founded non-profit and we are focused very much on attracting new business to the state of NJ and we do this both domestically and internationally. We have been spending quite a bit of time on encouraging businesses from Italy to move here to NJ.” Fiore commented that educating students about Choose NJ and the other companies in attendance would be one of the first steps to take. She explained, “We are developing these new BA in Italian and Business. It’s a bit of a tabula rasa, so we can definitely come up with new ideas that certainly serve the needs of the companies that are here, and possibly launch new research projects.”

    “La Bella Lingua” as a Useful Tool in Business

    The message at the core of the conversation was that Italian is not just “la bella lingua” but also a useful language. MSU faculty members are advocates of this idea, including Enza Antenos (Deputy Chair, Italian), who teaches a business Italian course with the premise of “why study Italian in the current market.” The program “allows students to see what they can do with the language.” She continued, “It gives immediacy of delivery mode and wide online dissemination. Students publish articles through publishers in New York and within a month the articles had over 40,000 views. The business course has an impact beyond the university.” In Fall 2018, when the proposed joint Italian/Business BA is to commence, there will be an international experience, which could be local in an international company or alternatively an experience abroad. Choose NJ will be an important partner of the Italian Program in this direction.

    Fiore explained that translation is also an important aspect, not just in terms of literature but also in the business world. She said, “Italian is a hot language for business translation and for a very simple reason: our country continues to be quite monolingual. And you need to know Italian to know Italy.” Marisa Trubiano (Associate Professor, Italian), who has supervised a large number of surtitling and subtitling projects involving students in the past couple of years, illustrated how MSU teaches translation as an important tool. “Our translation projects within the context of the courses, of special projects, and internships basically render Italian cultural products accessible to a global English-speaking or non-Italian speaking public.” For example, the students who work on projects with partners of their choosing—like Piccolo Teatro di Milano, Sferisterio di Macerata, Arena di Verona, and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with the support of the Inserra Chair, Prescott Studio, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—learn a new skill set “that gives them access to a new world both culturally and professionally speaking.”

    MSU Internship Experiences with Italian Companies

    Maurizio Forte (ITA NY, Director) was one of the many important participants and began by describing the agency's main goal. “At the Italian Trade Commission our mission is to support Italian companies in the process of going international. More exports, investments, and also foreign investments in Italy, these are becoming more and more important to be part of the global world.” He then announced that he would like to arrange an internship program with MSU students at the Italian Trade Commission, as part of an agreement with other local universities. As he explained, this would be “a nice window onto the many things that Italy is doing in our area.”

    Vincenzo Ciancio (Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Vice President) offered only the kindest words for his experience with MSU interns. “We found it to be an incredible opportunity and we are amazed at how they’ve been able to actually fit into our organization, a lot of that comes from the fact that is cultural.” This is where Italian comes in to play. “We like speaking in Italian. We like being able to converse with many of our customers that actually want that, that still need that.” He then enthusiastically shared that he would love any MSU student to work with them and encouraged other companies to do the same. Fiore added, “We know that with Monte dei Paschi di Siena there could not be a better dialogue, thanks to the successful shared supervision between their managers and MSU faculty members such as in this case, Enza Antenos. It’s very constructive and results in very concrete offers."

    Likewise, Giovanni Colavita (Colavita USA) expressed optimistic sentiments about internships. He began by explaining that he gives his ten summer interns from Italian universities job rotation opportunities despite their field of study in order to give them a feel of the company. “I don’t care that much what you teach them in terms of business. I care more about the culture, the language, because if they are smart people I will find them or create a job.” He concluded, “Internships have been a huge opportunity for the students and the company. We have an Italian company and American company, and we need the two to talk and to be closer. So we send Americans to Italy and Italians to America.”

    Lastly, Lidia Autuori (Safilo, HR Vice President) practices similar internship strategies. “We relate very much and connect with Giovanni Colavita’s thoughts. At Safilo to promote the problem-solving attitude we have established that we don’t have job descriptions, but we have role profiles.” She finished, “We strongly believe in Italians, and we have Italian people here in the US, but we also have American people in the top management in Italy.”

    The Inserra Chair and the Italian Program at Montclair University are successfully creating opportunities for their students and proving that pursing Italian studies is an effective tool for entering the "real world." This meeting alone saw the continuation and creation of several internships at reputable companies, including Choose New Jersey, the Italian Trade Commission, and Monte dei Paschi di Siena. This event is just one of many initiatives aimed at linking Italian studies with businesses and is a microcosm in the universal push for Italian culture and language as engines for success in terms of both finding jobs and advancing careers.

  • Art & Culture

    Global Leaders in Ethical Fashion at Casa Italiana

    As part of the New York University School of Professional Studies (NYUSPS) Division of Language and Humanities’ new initiative called Dialogues in Languages and Humanities, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò hosted a panel on sustainable fashion as the second in the series. Tuscan-born Simone Cipriani, founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, moderated the discussion entitled Sustainability of Ethical Fashion in our Brave New World. Along with six global leaders of ethical fashion, the audience was exposed to unique brands that like Cipriani encourage the building of a more responsible industry.

    Each panelist has made it a central part of their business models to produce in an ethical way that takes both people and the environment into consideration. Between poor working conditions, child labor, long hours, and low wages, the social ramifications of conventional manufacturing are more than problematic. Pair these with environmental issues, including pollution, contaminated drinking water, and the vast amount of dangerous chemicals and pesticides, and you’ll find that the fashion industry is traveling down a slippery slope towards disaster. In fact, it’s currently the second-largest global polluter behind oil.

    Fortunately, many brands and industry workers, such as the panelists, are making a difference by being more conscious about production processes and using fashion as a vehicle for development for local artisans. The participants included the likes of: Oskar Metsavaht, artist, fashion designer, and founder of Osklen; Molly Yestadt, fashion designer and founder of Yestadt Millinery; Valeriya Safronova, fashion columnist for The New York Times; Andrew Ondrejcak, creative director, theater director, and artist; Leonardo Amerigo Bonanni, founder & CEO of Sourcemap; and Zolaykha Sherzad, humanitarian artist and founder/director of Kabul-based Zarif Designs.

    Casa Italiana Director Stefano Albertini opened the evening, welcoming the crowd and thanking the panelists for their work and attendance. He emphasized Casa Italiana’s dedication to the fashion industry before handing the stage to Director of the Center for Applied Liberal Arts at the NYUSPS, Jenny McPhee. She gave Cipriani a warm introduction saying, “I can go on about Simone’s many significant and fascinating initiatives and projects, but we have a wonderful panel here and limited time.”

    Cipriani, dressed in a dashing bright blue suit accessorized with his staple beard and exuberant personality, took over the microphone and expressed, “This panel was put together with purpose.” He continued, “It’s really a new world with new challenges, insecurity, inequality, climate change, new huge challenges for the human kind. So much so that every sphere of society is called to act on that, even business, even the industry of fashion. We speak today in this sense about the engagement of business about conscious capitalism. This is to say a form of capitalism that embeds social issues in its business model. It’s capitalism with a higher purpose in which the purpose is people and the profit is the happy outcome of doing good business.” He also reassured that the ethical fashion movement is happening and wiped out any misconceptions surrounding holistic approaches to sustainability.

    The calm and collective Oskar Metsavaht in an all black outfit was the first to explain his company. He prefaced his presentation with his definition of luxury. “When you dedicate yourself to others to design, to use knowledge, to use your talent, to use the best materials, to do everything that you do, you are being noble. You are trying to do something that is the best for others. When you’re doing that this service or product becomes sophisticated. If it’s sophisticated it’s luxury. So noble values, human values are equal to luxury.” Therefore, Oskelen is luxury. His Brazilian fashion brand is based on harmonization of contrasts, in which urban and nature, organic and technological live together. His creative process begins with a scene, a story, a style, or a concept that he creates or from something that he lived. For example, one of his collections was inspired from a tribe in the Amazon, who later received royalties from the sale of his clothes.

    Molly Yestadt was the second panelist to take the spotlight. Dazzling in a fedora straight from her collection, she explained with soul the company she created on artisanal business. Her Yestadt Millinery specializes in women’s and men’s hats and accessories based in New York and is 100% women run and operated. She launched her company “under the premise of creating a collection that would take hats and this very specific niche artisan craft to the center of the accessories market.” She works with artisans internationally for raw materials, as well as in the New York area for highly skilled craftsmanship. By collaborating with Cipriani’s Ethical Fashion Initiative, she connected with a community in Haiti to weave straw hats, bags, and so forth as a means of poverty reduction. She highlighted that for her it’s all about the product. “The quality has to be 100%. That starts from the base up. It starts from the raw materials, from the concept, all the way through each production step to the retail store. I find myself uncompromising on the design end quality aspects of all of our product.” She concluded, “The product really has to speak for itself and really tell the story in a cohesive way.”

    Different from the rest of the panel, Valeriya Safronova offered a unique perspective as reporter who has witnessed the engagement of the fashion industry in today’s social issues. She talked about the different versions of fashion activism that she has seen through her work, including designers involved in helping the protestors of Standing Rock. She began with Kerby Jean-Raymond, a Haitian American native New York fashion designer and founder of the menswear label Pyer Moss, who brought supplies to those protecting their land. She also explained the efforts of two Native American designers, including Louie Gong of Eighth Generation, who sent blankets to keep protestors warm, and Bethany Yellowtail, who created what she dubbed Protector Gear, the proceeds of which went toward the Standing Rock Sioux's legal fund.

    Next up: Brooklyn-based artist Andrew Ondrejcak, who mainly works in live performance, was by chance one day asked to direct fashion shows. Fast-forward to Paris, he met Vivienne Westwood and was introduced to the Ethical Fashion Initiative. He collaborated with the initiative to create costumes and was asked to meet the artisans who are making the materials they’re working with. He went to Haiti and on his first visit he met women who were doing hand embroidery. The first thing he saw was a woman working on different bird patterns and asked her to make him an apron, though he did not have a use for it yet. He explained, “This is usually how my process works. Meet an artisan, place an order, and rely on the authority of the artisan to create the design.” He finished with a few breathtaking pictures—taken at the Park Avenue Armory during his time as artist in residency—of his original designs from unique materials either crafted by artisans or that he purchased on his travels.

    The only person involved in software, Leonardo Amerigo Bonanni connects consumers and businesses through traceability. Sourcemap, a supply chain mapping software company, helps manufacturers and brands trace products from raw materials to end consumers, and in the process save money, reduce risk, and improve social and environmental compliance. “People have a right to know where products come from. If we don’t know where things come from, we can’t know how they were made. If we don’t know how they were made, we can’t ensure anything about them: the quality, whether the price was fair, let alone any social or environmental impact.” He continued, “If you think about your cell phone, there were probably about a quarter million people who brought it to you.” He ended, “If you are on the site, just browse around and learn. If you are a company or in a brand, get them on there. This is the new standard for transparency.”

    Last but not least, Zolaykha Sherzad told the story of her Kabul-based Zarif Designs. She works with women in Afghanistan, where she lived until she was 10, to produce beautiful fashion products that come from the culture of the country. “I felt a calling to contribute to this place where I grew up.” She continued, “I went back to Afghanistan with the hope that there was something more beyond war. There’s humanity within the concept of war. There is hope. There is future. There is a light. There is divinity that needs to be given back.” So why fashion? “Fashion was such a strong statement, especially during the Taliban. If you look at women, identity was totally reduced to nothing with head-to-toe burqas. After the fall of the Taliban, you saw women trying to assert themselves, like the men cutting their beards, to really rejoice who they are.” There was this search of, ‘What do we do? What do we wear?’” Today, her company employs 52 local Afghan artisans, practicing the art of "slow production." She makes an effort to source traditional fabrics from Afghanistan and Central Asia, fostering fair-trade practices and the use of natural dyes. All of the tailors, seamstresses, embroiderers, and weavers are given a place in which they can preserve their cultural traditions that are in danger of being replaced by mass produced commercial goods. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Colavita and Italian Brands Support Cycling in the US

    For the past 15 years, Colavita—a family operated company that produces extra virgin olive oil and quality Italian food products headquartered in New Jersey—has been supporting the Italian tradition of cycling in the United States. The sport is a national pastime of Italy and has grown to be very popular on the professional level. Committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle, Colavita dedicates a great deal of time advocating for the sport here on home base.

    Reaching 20 states, Colavita supports more than 15 regional club teams with over 600 members. In fact, Colavita is the longest running sponsor of a women’s professional cycling team. Just earlier this year, they announced a partnership with the Killington Mountain School to form the Colavita/KSM Women’s Development Program, a stepping-stone for highly competitive junior cyclists who will be mentored by the pro team on and off the bike. 

    To kick off the 2017 professional women’s cycling season, it has once again partnered with other brands that are deeply rooted in Italian tradition. Bianchi—the world's oldest bicycle manufacturer who recently celebrated its 130-year history—for one is proud to be a title sponsor alongside Colavita. Two more Italian sponsors share the same sentiment, including Vittoria Industries Ltd.—a leading tire manufacturer with an annual production of more than 7 million tires—and Bolla Wines

    “Bolla is ecstatic to sponsor the Colavita women’s racing team for the next 2 seasons. From Prosecco and Sparkling Rose to the full-bodied Amarone, there is a Bolla wine for any occasion or event. We raise a glass in support of their efforts and wish them a successful campaign,” said Charles DellaVecchia, European Portfolio Director for Banfi Vintners. 

    “Getting the opportunity to direct this program is something I don’t take lightly,” said Mary Zider, returning Director Sportif for Pro Team Colavita/Bianchi. “It’s an honor to lead such an incredible group of riders and human beings. As a rider, it’s an honor to wear the Colavita jersey. This program has had Olympians, World Champions, and a National Champion within the 15 years of sponsoring cycling. That speaks volumes about Colavita and what this program stands for. It’s a legendary program that will forever be known in the sport and it’s a jersey we all wear with pride and continue to hold the rope for.”

    Marisa Colavita recently joined the Pro Team Colavita/Bianchi’s 2017 team in Scottsdale, Arizona, for pre-season training camp and echoed Zider's enthusiasm: “I enjoyed getting to know the riders and am truly inspired by their dedication. It’s an honor for our family to continue to support cycling not only on a professional level but with regional club teams as well.” 

    For more information, visit TeamColavita.com or follow the team on Facebook.com/TeamColavita, Twitter @TeamColavita, and Instagram @teamcolavita.

  • Facts & Stories

    CPB Head Defends Threatened Funding Request to Congress

    CEO and President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Patricia de Stacy Harrison, spoke before a House subcommittee on March 28 to make a case for her company’s 2020 budget request. Her appearance marked the first time in ten years that the head of the public-private agency was called before Congress.

    CPB receives both private and federal funding. The majority of its federal spending goes toward direct grants and programming grants. The former is for qualifying radio and television stations, including NPR and PBS, and the latter is to produce educational and public interest content for television with programs like “Sesame Street” and “Frontline.”

    For the last seven years, CPB has received federal funding of $445 million and is requesting the same for fiscal year 2018. However, the Trump administration’s budget blueprint will defund the corporation.

    In the overall cordial two-hour session, Harrison defended CPB’s funding request for FY20, as well as both the request of $30 million for the Ready To Learn early literacy initiative and $55 million for public broadcasting’s interconnection upgrade for FY18.

    She stressed that zeroing out CPB would “mean the collapse of public media.” She explained that CPB grants make up around 20 percent of the budgets for stations in big cities, but in rural areas the percentage is as high as half. “The problem with rural stations is they don’t have this in-depth donor base. They just don’t have what some of the other stations, the bigger stations, have, and they really depend upon the federal investment.” She warned of the demise starting with rural areas: “So what would happen if the federal investment, if the appropriation would go away, there would be this domino effect and it would start first with rural stations.”

    While by and large, subcommittee members indicated support for the CPB’s work, she faced some criticism. Representative Andy Harris of Maryland accused CPB of pushing an “agenda” with films like The New Black, a documentary that examines the African-American community’s debate over gay marriage. He admitted that he did not watch the film, but knew it was biased from the description, which used the phrase “marriage equality.”

    As a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, she responded, “We are tasked with two things: to provide a firewall of independence for our content providers and also to ensure balance and objectivity. And these are sometimes two clashing objectives. I think, overall, we’ve done pretty well.”

    She added, “I’d like to come and sit down with you to talk about how we serve all the people. The reason that I know we deserve the appropriation is because we can prove that we make a difference in the lives of Americans who can’t afford a cable bill or so-called market solutions.”

    Before closing, Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, a longtime public broadcasting champion, asked Harrison what she’d do if CPB’s appropriation were doubled. Harrison explained that she would plan to expand American Graduate, launch a 24/7 history channel for local content, increase funding for the Ready To Learn early literacy initiative, bolster work focusing on veterans and programming from the National Minority Consortia, fund more international reporting for NPR, and create a leadership channel “for kids to learn about courage, commitment, perseverance and grit.”

    Trump is expected to release his full budget as early as May. Then it will go to the House and Senate for their changes and approval.

    Click here to read Harrison's full testimony. Click here to watch the whole hearing for CPB's budget.

  • Facts & Stories

    La Scuola d’Italia Celebrates 40th Anniversary

    On the 40th Anniversary of the founding of La Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi in 1977 by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, guests attended a gala at the breathtaking Cipriani 42nd Street to benefit the outstanding students and faculty. Under the auspices of the Ambassador of Italy to the United States and Mrs. Armando Varricchio; the Consul General of Italy in New York and Mrs. Francesco Genuardi; the Board of Trustees; and the Head of School, Maria Palandra, Ph.D., the event honored Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s first Chief Design Officer, and George A. Hirsch, the founding publisher of New York Magazine.

    For the last four decades, La Scuola has been the only school in North America to offer its entire academic curriculum in both English and Italian. Palandra explained why this anniversary is of so much significance: “It’s an important anniversary because the school is changing and becoming a more international school. Obviously it’s a bilingual and bicultural school, but it’s a school that’s committed to preparing students for a global world, a different world than the one we saw 40 years ago. We want to prepare students well and give them the ability to express themselves in different languages, as well as an international outlook.”

    Alessandra Cortese de Bosis, daughter of the Consul General at the time La Scuola was born, was in attendance and shared how her father strongly and successfully pushed for the school. She explained, “As soon as he stepped foot on American soil as the Consul General, he realized that there was no Italian school in the city home to the largest Italian-American population. So right away he began, as he says, ‘to annoy the Italian government.’” Soon enough twelve teachers were brought to his attention, a committee was created, and they started the school in the Marymount school building.

    The affair commenced with an elaborate cocktail reception and the bidding portion of the silent auction. In addition to the auction, there was also a raffle for three grand prizes. Tickets were drawn after dinner, with the third place winner receiving Persol and Marc Jacobs his and her sunglasses. The second place winner won a magenta Fendi “Mini By the Way” handbag made of calf leather valued at $1,450. And the lucky first place winner was gifted with two economy class tickets to Naples and Palermo via Meridiana airlines.

    Once guests moved into the principal hall, Italian tenor Francesco Pavesi, accompanied by La Scuola d’Italia ensemble, performed beautiful renditions of the national anthems of both countries. With guests on their feet, Consul Genuardi took the stage to offer his opening remarks, welcoming with great pleasure and thanking the members of the Board, the parents, and, of course, the students.

    He communicated, “La Scuola represents a pillar of Italian culture and history that is told with the splendor and beauty of the past but also with the challenges of and optimism for the future.” He added in regards to their planned move from the Upper East Side: “I am certain that the future and long awaited transfer of La Scuola into the new prestigious headquarters of Columbus Circle will transmit a new drive and energy that La Scuola will know to spend the best to always assert itself better in the panorama of the New York schools.”

    He then introduced the guest of honor, George A. Hirsch, who was humbled to take the podium. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, in addition to founding New York Magazine in 1968, he founded the New York Marathon and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the New York Road Runners. In addition, he published the U.S. edition of La Cucina Italiana—Italy’s oldest and largest food and cooking magazine, is a longtime worldwide publisher of Runner’s World, started publishing Men’s Health in Italy, and helped launch Panorama—a weekly magazine based in Milan. With many experiences in the sphere of Italian publishing, he has advanced Italian and American ties and serves as an inspiration to all.

    He shared, “It really means a lot to be here tonight because I love Italy.” He continued, “I lived in Italy when I was very young. I was in the Navy aboard a ship that was stationed in Naples. It was fantastic. Also my daughter-in-law, who is here, is Italian. My son, who is also here, is an architect and worked in Milan for six years with a very great studio. Now he does projects in New York. Right now he’s doing one for B&B Italia on Madison Avenue. So my family has a lot of Italian connections.”

    Another successful businessman to grace the gala, Charles Adams was next to speak to the crowd. A Partner Expatriate at Clifford Chance, a leading global law firm, he has recently relocated to NY and is widely recognized as one of Italy’s leading banking and restructuring lawyers. He and his wife are proud parents of a La Scuola student and was unanimously elected to serve a Board Chair. As Chairman, he mirrored Palandra’s earlier remarks when we said, “It’s a very important year for the school, not only because of its the 40 year anniversary but also because it’s a year of transition.” He continued, “We are beginning the International Baccalaureate program. We’re undergoing the process of accreditation, and this is a very important step for us. We’ll be perhaps the first Italian high school abroad that we hope will offer both high school courses and the International Baccalaureate.”

    He then switched the attention to the night’s honoree. “Tonight, we come together as a community of Italians, Italian-Americans, and Italophiles to celebrate Italian excellence as currently best expressed in our honoree, Mauro Porcini. As the Chief Design Officer for PepsiCo, one of the world’s best-known brands, he has epitomized the innate design talent of Italians.”

    After Adams’s warm welcome, Porcini was presented an award by his coworker, CEO Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, on behalf of La Scuola d’Italia. Since 2012, Porcini has been infusing design thinking into Pepsi’s culture and is leading a new approach to innovation by design that impacts the company’s product platforms and brands. He explained, “I’m trying to mix Italian culture with the American approach to business. That has become something very magical for me—an asset that I’ve been leveraging all of these years. It’s really about blending the visceral, intuitive passion and the holistic, problem-solving dream and approach typical of Italians with a more structured, organized, strategic approach of the American cultural. When these two worlds meet each other in this hyper connected global market we live in, magic can happen.”

    For dinner, guests were treated to herb-crusted shrimp with avocado before divulging into the main course of Branzino al Forno served with asparagus tied with leaks and stuffed baby eggplant. As no meal is complete without vino, Cipriani offered their house wines of Cancello Del Sole Cabernet Sauvignon for the red and Cancello Della Luna Chardonnay for the white. And for dessert, diners had the option of a three chocolate parfait or a vanilla crème meringue cake. Naturally, everyone also enjoyed his or her choice of coffee or tea.

    La Scuola d’Italia is an independent Italian-English bilingual Pre-K—12 school that provides an exceptional educational experience in the heart of Manhattan. Rooted in the best features of Italian and American instruction systems, it is committed to providing a multicultural education to foster international understanding and openness in order to prepare students to become citizens of the world. Visit lascuoladitalia.org to learn more or to schedule a tour.

  • Claudio Del Vecchio (center) with Maria Teresa Cometto and IIC Director Giorgio van Straten
    Life & People

    A Conversation with CEO of Brooks Brothers Claudio Del Vecchio

    As part of the ongoing series at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York entitled Managers: From Italy to Top Global Businesses, journalist and author Maria Teresa Cometto sat down with Claudio Del Vecchio, Italian businessman and leader of iconic American brand Brooks Brothers. Together they revealed why US Presidents—40 since 1918 to be exact—have historically chosen its coats for inaugurations, how manufacturing could be brought back to the US, and much more.

    The Story of an Italian at the Helm of America’s Oldest Men’s Clothier

    Claudio first learned about Brooks Brothers when he was just a young boy in Italy reading an article about Gianni Agnelli, the chairman of Fiat at the time. Agnelli was well respected for his stylish ensembles and frequently wore Brooke Brothers dress shirts. The fact that he opted for the US men’s retailer when he had access to all of the fashion in Italy sparked Claudio’s curiosity. Naturally, the first store Claudio visited when he came to the States at 25 was Brooks Brothers. Fast forward to 2001, he transformed from a loyal customer to CEO.

    Of course, he achieved his success on his own accord, but his chosen industry is no surprise considering his father’s background. Leonardo Del Vecchio just happens to own the world’s largest eyewear company, Luxottica, based in Milan. In regards to his father, Claudio once said, “My father instilled a love for beautiful things and believed that quality is the best investment one can make. To go to work every day with passion and to share that passion is something he values greatly. He taught me to think long-term and not to be influenced by trends, which is important at a company like Brooks Brothers.”

    Three Interesting Takeaways

    Speaking of his father, the day before Claudio made his way to the Upper East Side for the evening’s discussion, Forbes World’s Billionaires list revealed that Leonardo moved up in the rankings. Claudio shared a text from his 14-year-old daughter to the crowd that read, “Nonno is the second richest person in Italy and the 50th in the world. That’s insane!” Can you imagine getting a text like that?! When it’s true that is...

    Another shocking tidbit Claudio shared was that while Trump and Obama are nearly polar opposites politically, they have something in common when it comes to style. That’s right, President Trump wore the same type of Brooks Brothers coat to his Inauguration that Obama had at both of his. If this proves anything at all, it’s that they both know how to dress when the occasion calls it.

    Going back even further in time to the tragic events of 9/11, the deadline for the auction to buy Brooks Brothers was just two days following. The offer had been sent to Morgan Stanley, but their offices were in the Twin Towers. Amidst the hardship and chaos of the country’s worst terrorist attack, all of the interested companies withdrew their offers. Claudio del Vecchio was the exception. He shared, “I knew that New York and America would overcome that terrible moment, and that Brooks Brothers could be relaunched as well.” And he achieved just that. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, he successfully turned the company around.

    Food, Fashion, and Manufacturing

    Though Brooks Brothers is grounded in tradition and avoids being influenced by short-fashion, it evolves with the times nonetheless. As the market continues to drastically change, which Claudio credits to online shopping, he is looking to revolutionize the store experience. How? By combining food and fashion—the Italian way. The strategy entails attracting customers into physical stores with the fusion of Italian recipes and equally irresistible apparel.

    He is also looking to bring more manufacturing jobs into the US. He explained. “We can do manufacturing in the US and in Italy, too. What makes competitive manufacturing in China or other places is not cheap labor—in fact labor is not cheap there anymore—but technology. They have better machinery than most companies in so called ‘advanced countries.’ Companies who have invested in new equipment are doing well, both in the US and in Italy. The challenge here in the US is immigration. We don’t have enough workers trained to use the new technology, and if we don’t attract specialized workers from abroad and keep foreign students who have learned here the skills we need, that would be a big problem. The challenge in Italy is to be less arrogant: we Italians ‘know everything and are better,’ but we should listen more to other people.”

    Finally: in January 2018 Brooks Brothers will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its establishment. Festivities will take place at the illustrious Pitti Uomo menswear event in Florence.

  • Events

    NIAF New York Gala: An Extravagant Evening

    On March 22, the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) hosted its annual New York Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. The event honored its mission of preserving and celebrating Italian heritage and culture, as well as promoting a positive image and legacy of Italian Americans. Throughout the evening guests had the opportunity to bid on silent auction items, enjoyed a three-course dinner, and took part in the Awards Program by listening to the inspirational words of the 2017 honorees.

    The locale itself was enough to make it an affair for the books. Located in the heart of Manhattan, the Italian Renaissance inspired venue boasts elaborate inlaid floors, marble columns, high ceilings, red velvet drapery, and arresting chandeliers. Since bringing the event back to the beautiful Cipriani 42nd Street five years ago, it has consistently sold out and grown to be an anticipated staple of New York City’s Italian community’s social scene.

    During the cocktail reception, guests were served Bellini, a mixture of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach purée, originally crafted in Venice. However, the open bar provided endless amounts of alternative drink concoctions. Of course, there was also a plethora of irresistible passed canapés. Before moving to the principal hall for dinner, attendees were able to view the sports memorabilia, fine jewelry, and glitzy women’s designer purses that were among the many items being auctioned off.

    Comedian Joe Piscopo emceed the evening with a mix of humor, charm, and sincerity. After his warm welcome, Christina Carlucci took the stage for a beautiful rendition of the Italian national anthem, followed by the exuberant Jenna Esposito, who received equal praise for her singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

    And the music didn’t stop there. The prized Sicilian Tenors brought down the house, as their soaring voices floated through the space throughout their exciting performance. Later on, Alfio, an Italian singer-songwriter by way of Australia, failed to disappoint with the classics, working the stage and interacting with the audience. Listeners particularly enjoyed his take on the Sicilian folk song “Mi Voglio Maritare,” clapping and singing along in unison.

    While guests dined on baked taglioni with ham, Consul General Francesco Genuardi of Italy in New York addressed the crowd. He spoke with gratitude for the love and support Italy has received from Italian Americans and thanked NIAF for supporting Italy in earthquake relief. For the main entrée, attendees were treated to prime roast filet with herb mélange sauce served with potato tortino and a bundle of asparagus tied with leeks.

    The 2017 Honorees

    Each year, NIAF sets out to commemorate the best and brightest in business, sports, entertainment, and politics, and this occasion was no exception. The 2017 honorees demonstrate the diverse impact Italian Americans have here in the US and included the likes of: Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, Anthony Cammarata Jr.; Shirley and Vernon Hill, founders of InterArch and Metro Bank respectively; Jackson Lewis P.C., Vincent A. Cino; Founder and Co-Managing Partner, SkyBridge Capital, Anthony Scaramucci; and Cooking with Nonna host, Rosella Rago.

    Cammarata is also a member of the Corporate Services and Real Estate global management team, responsible for overseeing the strategy, budget, and execution of a range of real estate operations and services for Goldman. He received the Special Achievement Award in Business & Real Estate.

    The Hills, who graced the NIAF red carpet with their beloved canine companion, Duffy, were recognized with the One America Award. Vernon is also the Founder of Commerce Bank and is often credited with reinventing American banking. His wife, Shirley, does all of the architecture, design, branding and advertising for both of his banks.

    As the Chairman of Jackson Lewis P.C., Cino is responsible for the entire firm's day-to-day administration and management. Naturally, he received the Special Achievement Award in Law.

    Scaramucci, an entrepreneur, financier, political figure, and author, who founded his own global alternative investment firm, expressed his thanks for his ancestry after receiving the Special Achievement Award in Business & Financial Services. "It has been the luckiest thing in my life to be born Italian, to grow up Italian, to have Italian grandparents, to eat Italian food, and to have the pride we all have."

    Last but not least, Rago was honored with her Special Achievement Award in Community Leadership for her work in preserving Italian cooking. This award came one day after the release of her cookbook, Cooking with Nonna. She put it beautifully when she said, "If there is one thing I've learned on this journey, it's this: we need our nonna’s love and guidance now, more than ever, because as the world changes so rapidly around us, the values they teach us are timeless. Unlike the ingredients they cook with, these ladies have no expiration date."

    Matilda Cuomo, wife of the late Mario Cuomo, was also in attendance. She was delighted to confer the third annual Mario M. Cuomo Award in Public Service to Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services. In her introduction, Cuomo stressed the importance of passing on Italian traditions to the younger generations. She said, “Tell your younger daughters and sons, nephews, and nieces, to push the Italian culture and Italian language. It is so beautiful.”

    In addition to the honorees, other notbale guests included Maria Bartiromo of FOX Business Network and author of three books and Kimberly Guilfoyle, one of the co-hosts of The Five on Fox News Channel.

    The day after the gala, the NIAF’s Board of Directors met one last time under the chairmanship of Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq., partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP. Patricia de Stacy Harrison, President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and Gabriel A. Battista, former CEO of Talk America Holdings Inc., were elected as Co-Chairs. All three have dedicated a great deal of their time and energy to the Italian American community, and the NIAF team looks forward to continued success in their service to Italian people everywhere.

    NIAF is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian Americans. All proceeds from the evening will benefit the Foundation’s philanthropic and educational programs.

  • Life & People

    Remembering ‘Italian Baker’ Carol Field

    Prolific cookbook author Carol Field, who famously introduced ciabatta and focaccia to Americans and helped popularize regional Italian cooking, died of a stroke on Friday at 76. Her death came less than three weeks after losing her husband of 56 years to cancer.

    Fields learned how to cook at 21 years old after marrying her beloved husband, John. Ten years later, when living in Liguria for his work as an architect, she was exposed to the Italian kitchen and never looked back.

    In awe of the bond Italians experience when eating together, she identified with the idea that family sharing lies behind every meal. Her curiosity of regional flavors grew and she eventually turned her passion for Italy into a celebration of its cuisine and culture.

    After spending more than two years traveling across the country to capture local specialties and subsequently modify them, she published her first cookbook in 1985, The Italian Baker. And so knocking on bakery doors late at night to observe the making of traditional breads and desserts paid off. In a groundbreaking fashion, she introduced artisanal doughs and techniques to a wider American audience, featuring recipes like Altamura bread from Puglia, chewy porous loaves from Como, and Sicilian loaves topped with sesame seeds. Once a world unknown, these breads are now commonplace. There are a plethora of tarts, cakes, and pastries for the sweet-toothed, too.

    Winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for best baking book, The Italian Baker was also named to the James Beard “Baker’s Dozen” list of thirteen indispensable baking books of all time. In 2011, it was republished and updated for the modern kitchen, as it continues to inspire countless professionals and home cooks to this day. Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Corby Kummer, once said, “Every bread baker, home or pro, has been influenced, knowingly or unknowingly, by Carol Field’s Italian Baker.”

    Ms. Field’s other books include Celebrating Italy (1990), In Nonna’s Kitchen (1997), and Focaccia: Simple Breads from the Italian Oven (2003). She also received many honors in Italy, including being awarded the Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2004. 

    Before she became an expert in Italian cuisine, Field spent most of her time in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, born in Oakland and raised in Berkeley. She received a bachelor’s degree in English at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and went on to work as a journalist and editor. She wrote for publications such as Gourmet and Bon Appétit and her style of journalistic writing is apparent in her cookbooks. While she explains how to prepare the food, she also emphasizes its cultural and historical context. In 1991, she told the New York Times, “I'm not interested in just writing recipes. I think of myself as a writer first.”

    Mrs. Field and her husband had homes in San Francisco and the Tuscan town of Pedona. As sad as her death is so soon after her husband’s, a friend said, “She couldn’t make it without him. They were always together, really good friends, partners in food and wine and intellectual issues. They were a blessed couple.”

    Her fierce love for her husband was mirrored in her love of Italy and its food. She will long be remembered for the legacy she leaves behind in her books and by her family. She is survived by her brother Peter Hart, son Matt Field, daughter Alison Field, and three grandchildren. 

  • Facts & Stories

    Yellow Lights Up the Season’s Looks

    Clothes and accessories have the power to brighten up the dreariest of days and there’s no easier way to pull off a joyful look than by playing with color. From the runway to the red carpet to streetwear, yellow is making stunning appearances in all its shades, like punchy lemon, mimosa, and soft canary.

    Look no further than at the 74th Annual Golden Globes, where Reese Witherspoon donned what she coined a “classic Hollywood look,” a strapless pale yellow Versace gown with a thigh-high frontal slit paired with a gold jeweled choker necklace. Viola Davis also dazzled in yellow, albeit a much brighter hue, wearing a paillette-embroidered stretch-tulle one-shoulder Michael Kors design. Then there was Natalie Portman, glowing in a midi-sleeved Prada maternity gown with sequined detailing at the hemlines. Not to mention Emily Ratajkowski’s sultry Reem Acra look.

    If that doesn’t have you sold, the Oscars saw Leslie Mann in a Zac Posen saffron-toned ball gown and Sarah Paulson in a Ronald van der Kemp velvet yellow and black dress.

    The latter color combo of yellow-black is featured in the sporty Versace Fall 2017 ready-to-wear collection, while Gucci’s offers up elegant yellow florals.

    Just last week Amal Clooney was a ray of sunshine in cold New York City, channeling Jackie Kennedy in a daffodil yellow Bottega Veneta coat and shift dress for a day at the UN. Office chic, her outfit is major inspo to swap out neutrals for bolder work ensembles.

    Yellow can be risky with head-to-toe looks, but when it works it works. However, you don’t need to go full monochrome anyway. Whether that means rocking a mustard suede jacket or easing yourself in with accessories, like belts or a handbag, don’t be afraid to give the color a shot. For example, style icon Bella Hadid rocks aviator sunglasses with yellow lenses on the regular, including for the duration of Paris Fashion Week. Sweet shoes or jazzy socks are more versatile options. While bright ballet flats or loafers will do the trick, strappy sandals with a stiletto heel will ooze an added flirtatious feel.

    Yellow is the symbol of light and energy. It stands for freshness, happiness, and positivity. And in terms of fashion, it’s lively, carefree, and ultimately freeing. So find the right shade for your skin tone and flaunt it.

  • A scene from "The Challenge"
    Events

    New Directors/New Films: Italy on the Lineup

    Celebrating its 46th edition, the New Directors/New Films 2017 festival has been introducing New York audiences to the work of emerging filmmakers from around the world for nearly half a century. It’s an annual rite of early spring in NYC and is known for bringing previously little-known talents, like Christopher Nolan, Spike Lee, and Kelly Reichardt, into the limelight. Presented by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, this year’s festival will screen 29 features and nine short films from March 15-26.

    The Istituto Luce Cinecittà announced that the lineup features two Italian films, The Challenge, directed by Yuri Ancarani, and Happy Times Will Come Soon, directed by Alessandro Comodin. Both directors will be in attendance and available for interviews.

    The Challenge, directed by Yuri Ancarani
    2016, France/Italy - Arabic with English subtitles - 70 minutes

    Italian director Yuri Ancarani's visually striking documentary enters the surreal world of wealthy Qatari sheikhs who moonlight as amateur falconers, with no expenses spared along the way. The Challenge follows these men through the rituals that define their lives: perilously racing blacked-out SUVs up and down sand dunes; sharing communal meals; taking their Ferraris out for a spin with their pet cheetahs riding shotgun, and much more. Ancarani's film is a sly meditation on the collective pursuit of idiosyncratic desires.

    Screenings:

    When: March 16, 6:30 pm
    Where: MOMA Titus 2 - 11 West 53 Street (btwn 5th and 6th Aves) 

    When: March 19, 1:30 pm
    Where: Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street

    Happy Times Will Come Soon (I Tempi Felici Verranno Presto), directed by Alessandro Comodin
    2016, Italy/France - Italian with English subtitles - 102 minutes

    Tommaso and Arturo are on the run in a remote forest. They hunt for food, trying to survive and find their way through the lush nature. It's quiet, almost peaceful, until the sound of gunshots. Many years later, this forest has a wolf problem. It’s here where Ariane discovers a strange hole in the ground. Could she be the woman referred to in the valley's legends? The reason Ariane ventured into that hole remains a mystery. Nothing more was ever discovered, and everyone tells the story in a different way. But all agree that Ariane surely met the wolf often talked about that few have seen. This beautiful and haunting meditation on the relationships between imagination, desire, and violence is a dreamlike fable with the weight of documentary reality.

    Screenings:

    When: March 22, 9:30 pm
    Where: Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street

    When: March 23, 8:45 pm
    Where: MOMA Titus 2 - 11 West 53 Street (btwn 5th and 6th Aves)

    To purchase tickets to individual films click here

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