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Tuscany In The Blood. An Exclusive Interview With Author Paul Salsini
by Milano52
Nov 04, 2020 | 2936 views | 0 0 comments | 181 181 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Paul Salsini is a multi-talented Italian American author who is a contributor to the upcoming second volume of A Feast of Narrative, an Anthology of Italian American Writers, which I edit. I thought that our readers would appreciate to know more about his wonderful books and very interesting life…

Tiziano Thomas DossenaPaul, you spent 37 years as a journalist and 48 years as a college professor teaching Journalism and Musical Theater. Which one do you miss the most and why?

Paul Salsini: This may sound corny, but I knew in eighth grade that I wanted to be a journalist. I don’t know why, something about being on the scene but not being part of the scene, and also being able to write, which I loved to do. Not only that, but I wanted to work at The Milwaukee Journal. We lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and got the paper and I read it religiously. So I was thrilled when I was hired by The Journal after I graduated in journalism from Marquette University in Milwaukee. Those were the glory days of the paper, big circulation, excellent staff, ground-breaking stories. I started as a suburban reporter, then joined the State Desk, became State Editor, responsible for coverage of the state and state government, and then my best job, Staff Development Director. I handled applications, did recruiting, worked with the staff, ran the intern program and, best of all, was the writing coach. I think I was one of the first writing coaches in the country. I worked with some of the best writers on the paper and it was a very satisfying job. Like other positions on newspapers, it no longer exists.

In 1970, I thought I’d like to teach and I landed an adjunct position at Marquette. Over the years, I think I taught almost every journalism course it offered. The best was the last, Narrative Nonfiction Journalism, which I invented. Students got to delve deep into subjects and write real stories.

I’ve had a long interest in musical theater so when the instructor of History of the Musical Theater retired, I volunteered for that course. I developed a broad range, from vaudeville to “Hamilton.” It was a “core” course, which meant that all university students had to pick a course from a list. I guess mine looked like a “blow-off” course because it quickly filled to the room’s capacity – 60 students from all over campus. They soon discovered that there was work involved, but they loved it and I think they learned that art in any form should be a part of everyone’s life.

I don’t miss The Journal because journalism has changed so much and I know the staff is now depleted and has to do so much more than when I was there. I do miss my students from both departments and am still in contact with some of them. But I wouldn’t want to teach online; I’d miss the face-to-face relationships.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: But you are still teaching, aren’t you?

Paul Salsini: I’m not teaching anymore. The core curriculum was revised and, for unknown reasons, the course was dropped. But I still have a relationship with Marquette journalism. The college runs an online Neighborhood News Service that covers largely neglected areas of the city, and I do some editing of stories.

As I said, I’d long been interested in musical theater and enjoyed going to shows and reading about it. I have two favorite composers, Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim. In 1984, I thought, I’m a journalist and I like Sondheim, why not put out a publication devoted to his works? So I found a guy who would do the business side and I did the editorial side and we put out this quarterly magazine, The Sondheim Review/Devoted to the Work of the Foremost Musical Theater Composer/Lyricist. I did a lot of the writing. I traveled around the country (and even London) to write about shows and I interviewed many people, including Sondheim (who celebrated his 90th birthday in March 2020). But after ten years I needed to get a life so I gave it over to an assistant editor. It died a few years later. Over the years I had accumulated a large Sondheim collection of books, DVDs, CDs, tapes, articles, programs and other things. When my wife and I moved to a smaller apartment ten years ago I donated it all to the Marquette library, which established the Stephen Sondheim Collection, open to anyone.

I still teach, sort of. I give programs about musical theater, largely through videos, at retirement homes here. The people love them.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Although you were born in the USA, you seem to consider yourself somewhat a full-blood Tuscan, Why is it so?

Paul Salsini: My father was born in the small village of San Martino in Fredanna near Lucca in Tuscany. He came to the U.S. at 20, went to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and became a copper miner. Other people from San Martino had arrived there earlier, and he boarded with a family that had five sons and a daughter. Yes, he and the daughter fell in love and married, my father and mother. So both sides of my family are from that same village in Tuscany and when I go to the cemetery there I see the Salsinis and the Consanis all together.

 

Paul Salsini’s cousin Fosca

My mother made a lot of good Italian meals and my father and mother spoke Italian to each other, but not to us. I was always interested, though, and in 1985 The Journal sent me with a photographer to Italy for two weeks to write stories. That’s when I fell in love with Italy, and especially Tuscany. I think I wrote about 25 stories about the people, the issues, the history. The best part, though, was visiting my cousin Fosca, my father’s niece, who lived in the house where she was born in San Martino in Fredanna. She was just wonderful. She’s 95 now and still a hoot. Since her husband died two years ago she lives alone, does her own fabulous cooking and is beloved in the village. All of her siblings and all of mine have died, so we’re the last.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You wrote your first novel, “The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany,” basing it on your cousin’s wartime experiences. Could you tell us more about that?

Paul Salsini: I have visited Fosca often, taking my wife and kids (we have three, and four grandchildren). One time, Fosca told us about living through World War II. She said she and neighbors from San Martino in Fredanna fled to the hills, literally, when the Nazis occupied the village. Some people stayed in barns, some in the woods and some in old farmhouses. She and her friends stayed in an abandoned farmhouse called the Celli, high in the hills that had been in the family for centuries. They remained there for three months, sometimes hearing nearby fighting between the Nazis and the partisans, until the Allied forces liberated the area.

Anyway, I was fascinated by her story and as a journalist I wanted to write it. But there were problems: I can’t speak or read Italian well, which was essential. I was working, so couldn’t spend months there. And many of the sources would be dead. So I decided to write it as fiction. I know, I know, journalists are often accused, falsely, of writing fiction, but this was different. So I spent months researching the war, the area, the partisans, the Nazis, etc. etc. It would be the story of how people were forced to live together while fighting was going on all around them. During the research I discovered that on August 12, 1944, Germans had invaded a nearby village, Sant’Anna di Stazzema, and slaughtered 560 people in four hours. It was the second-worst massacre by the Germans in Italy during the war. So that became part of the story, with a partisan assuming a major role, and the book becoming even more historical fiction.

So I finished the first novel I’d ever written and called it “The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany.” I named the farmhouse Cielo, which means ‘heaven’ or ‘sky,’ but I also liked the way it was similar to the real farmhouse’s name, Celli. To my surprise, the book was well received and even won awards: First Place from the Council for Wisconsin Writers and First Place from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: From one novel about Tuscany, you end up with a series of six novels about that region. How did that happen and why are these novels all about the beautiful region of Tuscany?

Paul Salsini: Something strange happened after writing that book, and I’ve since learned that it happens to much more experienced writers as well. I couldn’t get those characters I’d created out of my head. They were real. I thought about them at night, wondering what they were doing. So I wrote a sequel, “Sparrow’s Revenge: A Novel of Postwar Tuscany.” It was about how that partisan, filled with guilt because he didn’t save his lover in Sant’Anna, sought revenge.

After that, yes, those people were still in my head and I couldn’t get rid of them. So I wrote “Dino’s Story: A Novel of 1960s Tuscany.” It was sort of a coming-of-age story about a boy who was born at the end of the first book and ten years old in the second and who goes to Florence to study art in the third. He’s there during the devastating flood of Florence in 1966. More historical fiction.

I called those three books “A Tuscan Trilogy,” but that was a mistake because those people were, yes, still in my head and I realized I was writing about them from decade to decade.

So I continued writing about these people in interrelated short stories. The first was “The Temptation of Father Lorenzo: Ten Stories of 1970s Tuscany” and then “A Piazza for Sant’Antonio: Five Novellas of 1980s Tuscany” and finally “The Fearless Flag Thrower of Lucca: Nine Stories of 1990s Tuscany.” All of the stories are set in the fictional Sant’Antonio, not unlike San Martino in Fredanna, and in Florence. The original characters age (some die) and some new ones arrive.

I decided that was the last of the series. Ezio the partisan and other original characters were now in their 80s and another book would have been very sad. I had to move on.  But, yes, sometimes they’re still in my head. I wonder how Ezio and Donna, who live in the Cielo in the hills, are doing; I imagine that Dino’s adopted son from Albania must be in college by now, and I can only speculate on what’s going on between the handsome television priest Father Giancarlo and the former nun Anna.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: I stand corrected: you wrote seven books about Tuscany, including The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany.” What’s different about this book from the others?

Paul Salsini: After I’d completed the series, I thought about what to write next. I’d been fascinated by the Garfagnana area of Tuscany ever since, researching “Sparrow’s Revenge,” my driver/translator showed me the “Devil’s Bridge” near Borgo e Mozzano and told me the story of how the devil built the bridge in the Middle Ages. Surely, I thought, if a region can foster such a legend it must have lots of other good stories, too. (I’ve since learned that there are nine devil’s bridges in Italy alone and maybe up to two dozen in Europe.)

The Garfagnana, which is north of Lucca, is unlike any other area I’ve seen in Italy, not that I’ve seen all of Italy. It’s very rugged, with high snow-capped mountains, tiny villages, lots of green stretches. Just the kind of territory where witches and ghosts and strange traditions would occur.

So I fashioned a collection of short stories, interrelated again, about the people and places, and all with supernatural connections. It was fun.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also wrote a nonfiction book, “Second Start.” What is this book about?

Paul Salsini: When I was at The Milwaukee Journal I wrote an article for the paper’s Sunday magazine about “second-career” priests. These were men who had gone through a seminary near Milwaukee that specialized in training and ordaining men who had had other careers. As far as I knew, this hadn’t been written about, so I expanded the piece into a book and included priests from other areas of the country, including New York.

Their stories were inspiring and the book was well received. I wish I knew what happened to the priests. I know a few have died, and I’ve heard bad things about one of them. That’s to be expected, I guess.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are the author of “Stefano and the Christmas Miracles” and “Stefano and the Tuscan Piazza,” two children’s books. What inspired you to write for children? What kind of message these two books are trying to convey to the readers?

Paul Salsini: I have a presepio that I bring out every Christmas. It started with a few pieces I bought in Florence and I’ve been adding one every year so there are now more than forty figures around the stable—and no more room! They’re made by Fontanini. I’d always wondered about those “other people” who are in it – a woman with geese, a man sharpening a knife, a boy asleep, an old man guided by a boy. Why are they in the Nativity scene?

So I wrote a story about a grandfather, “Nonno,” telling the boy Stefano stories of some of them. In each case, the person goes to Bethlehem and there is a miracle at the manger. For example, a boy who is a terrible bugler but is part of a “boy band” goes to the stable and suddenly is able to play beautifully.

The second book, sort of a sequel, also resulted from a collection begun in Florence. Arranged on a bookshelf in our living room are miniature ceramic pieces that form a Tuscan piazza, a tower, a church, a palace, houses, etc. They were made by “J Carlton by Dominique Gault.” It’s a French company that makes other miniatures but it has now discontinued the Tuscan line. So I used the same format, Nonno telling Stefano stories about some of the buildings, but also going into such medieval things as flag throwing, ghosts and devils, battles, the contrade of Siena, the calico storico of Florence, etc.

In both books, I hope I stressed the bond that can exist between a grandfather and a grandson. My mother’s father lived with us for years before he died. I have a photo of him and me in the back of the book.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What other literary project are you working on at the moment?

Paul Salsini: I’m deep into a story that’s unlike anything I’ve ever written. It’s contemporary and it deals with a contemporary subject. In fact, it’s so contemporary that I’m not sure how it’s going to end. That’s about all I’ll say.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you had the opportunity to meet and talk to anyone in history, who would it be and why?

 Paul Salsini: Probably Leonardo da Vinci. What an incredible, but also inscrutable, person! Was anyone ever so multi-talented?

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In a critical moment for our nation and the world as it is the one we are living, what do you think writers like us could contribute to the society around them to alleviate the stress?

Paul Salsini: When I’m writing, I seem to enter into another world, a world that I may have created but which takes on a life of its own. I let the characters tell their stories in their own way. I’m hardly one to suggest what writers could do in these perilous times, but I think they are desperately needed now. They can take readers into universes where they can explore new ideas, discover new characters, visit new places, enjoy different stories. For myself, I find that I’m reading a lot more now, more fiction than I ever have, so I’m finding more new worlds.

L’Idea: Do you have a message for our readers?

Paul Salsini: Read, read, read.

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Creating Art As A Chef. An Exclusive Interview With International Pastry Chef And Artist Antonio Argentieri.
by Milano52
Nov 04, 2020 | 3425 views | 0 0 comments | 159 159 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Creating art as a chef. An exclusive interview with International Pastry Chef and artist Antonio Argentieri.

Interview By Tiziano Thomas Dossena

An artist, a chef, a businessman, a philanthropist, a bulwark of Italian culture in the world…who is really Antonio Argentieri? Let’s discover a little more about him…

Tiziano Thomas DossenaOur readers, who reside in Italy may know you from your Italian TV program on RAI Television, but I see from the flood of information online that you live in Ireland and you have strong connections to Australia and Italy. Could you tell our readers how you arrived from Vasto, in Abruzzo, to Dublin, and what are your past experiences in Australia?

Antonio Argentieri: Yes, in Italy I am also known for television programs, such as la “Prova del Cuoco” e “Cuochi e D’intorni”, Alice TV and others.

I am originally from an Abruzzese town, Vasto (ch), from where I left many years ago with my suitcase full of dreams and experiences.  I was strongly convinced of bringing my Italian excellence and my corner of Abruzzo with me to the world.  Quality, culture, and history seen through my art as a pastry chef.

On my return from one of my trips, I was invited to a meeting at a school, in which an Italian entrepreneur and other companies operating abroad took part. And that’s where they suggested that I move to Ireland, at the invitation of one of them.  I found myself so well in Dublin that I decided to stay and establish a working platform for my businesses around the world.

My relationship with Australia has been solid and strong for several years now, particularly with W. Australia and the city of Perth.  I started with my cooking show, up to returning even 3 times a year, for more and more numerous other shows in regional clubs, associations, and for events sponsored by the state. As a result of all this and for my love for the city of Perth W. A., I was honored by the “twins buttons” with the symbol of the city, and for the dissemination abroad of the Italian heritage in the world. Meanwhile, I became a guest and judge of the Perth Royal Show and the Association of Cake Decorators of W. A.

Also in Australia, for years now I have been the ambassador of the CLCRF based in Perth but operating internationally, collaborating and organizing large fundraising events for research against childhood cancer.  And it is from everything that I then created and patented my “Cake Kid’s Therapy” with a therapeutic approach to children who are going through a bad period, to artistic, Italian pastry.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou are an artist who also found a path in life being a chef. How did that occur? What triggered your interest in baking? How did your son Karoljosef get involved in your passion?

Antonio Argentieri: I have always loved our Italian culture, in all its vast and unique expressions. I remember from an early age, watching my mother and my grandmother, while they made desserts, fresh pasta, and more of our tradition, which fascinated me more and more, even behind their stories.  They talked to me about the art, history, and traditions that were behind those preparations.

Then growing up I lost this attention, even though it remained hidden in me.  I decided to take another path, always artistic, taking me to study interior design at the academy.

And it is in a particular and delicate moment of my life that, thanks to the intuition of my son Karoljozef, this passion of mine exploded again. He is the one that praised my baking and called me “Sweet Daddy.” And it is since then that I have begun to study and specialize in this “white art”, where I express my past studies to the fullest.

After a year, I founded “Sweet Daddy Pastries & Co Italy” and I immediately started traveling the world.  Today I reside in Ireland, where the “KJA FACTORY”, which absorbed Sweet Daddy Pastries & Co Italy, was born

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat about “KJA factory”?

Antonio Argentieri: The “KJA FACTORY” is a reality that collects all my experiences gained over the years.  In fact it bears the name of my son Karoljozef, and it is another way to thank him.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You founded “Sweet Daddy Pastry & Co Italy” sixteen years ago. How does your company operate?

Antonio Argentieri: My Factory brings the Italian qualities and excellence, art, culture, history of my country with me to the world.  I select and create culinary and non-culinary products with small Italian family businesses, which produce in an artisanal way, still following centuries-old traditions. Like the “Fratelli Costa” and the “Orma”. Sicilian, Abruzzese, Calabrian products.

Through my cooking shows, the whole of Italy is represented in a sensorial way.

I always say in my shows, “here you live and enter the heart of Italy for a couple of hours”.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat brought this success for “Sweet Daddy Pastry & Co Italy in countries like Kyrgystan and Russia? Do you also export to USA?

Antonio Argentieri: As I said earlier, with the passage of time with my shows, I have been invited to many other countries, always thanks to the contacts and friendships that developed through my good work. I have received many satisfactions both human and professional.  I built relationships that allowed me to serve many high ranking state representatives, like the Russian prime minister in Kyrgyzstan at a state banquet.  I have seen, with Italy in my art and in my heart, many countries, only America was missing and I was supposed to visit in September New York and Las Vegas to start some commercial ties, but unfortunately, Covid19 has blocked everything.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYour motto is “Learn, create, rejoice”. Do you carry that belief in everything you do?

Antonio Argentieri: Yes, my motto is “Learn, create, rejoice” and I carry it in everything I do.  I never forget my roots, and from Italy I can only learn, create, rejoice.  Presenting yourself with a smile is the key to everything.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:  Do you still operate as an artist aside from your baking world?

Antonio Argentieri: Yes, my artistic field is vast and it is always alive in my “white art”.

In my creations, in my cakes, there is art, sculpture, study.  I plan to organize an exhibition with my most representative pieces. I also have a second passion, singing.  I love opera madly.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou appeared on the Italian RAI TV program “La prova del cuoco”. How was that experience?

Antonio Argentieri: The experience in RAI TV was fantastic, educational, and led me to meet unique people and workers, and I still feel today its effects on me.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaOn the occasion of the 70th Festival di Sanremo, you created a sculpture made of sugar for the renowned soprano Katia Ricciarelli….

Antonio Argentieri: Yes, Sanremo was yet another recognition of my art and of my person.  Being called to create a dessert for the fiftieth anniversary of her career, the anniversary of soprano Katia Ricciarelli, was an unparalleled emotion.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Any new projects in the works?

Antonio Argentieri: Fortunately, there are many projects. Meanwhile, I continue in the best ways to spread our traditions abroad, then in the coming months, Covid19 permitting, there is the release of my album “Singing with the chef”.  I already have the confirmation of Sanremo D.O.C, a television program and finally to come to America.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you had the opportunity to meet anyone from the past or the present, who would he or she be and what would you ask them?

Antonio Argentieri: In the past, I had the privilege of meeting John Paul II, a great man, a vibrant soul for the whole of humanity, a strength, a cry, a hope, an example for the whole world. Yes, I would love to meet him again, and relive that experience, and ask him if there was still a man like him so that he can still give the man of today that strength and that light that are lost today.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: A message for our readers?

Antonio Argentieri: I am asked for a message for the reader; what to say? Times are not calm, this Covid19 has created human and social instability  It is precisely at this moment that you have to take your life back in hand, and go back to planning, delineating, dreaming, studying, not getting lost in the whirlwind of fear, for a peaceful future.  Never give up, never.

Always remembering that beyond the clouds, the darkest ones, there is a radiant and warm sun, which shines for everyone.

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“THE SECRET PRICE OF HISTORY, Searching For The Treasure Behind Alexander’s Medallion”
by Milano52
Apr 29, 2020 | 33162 views | 0 0 comments | 4403 4403 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
“THE SECRET PRICE OF HISTORY, Searching for the Treasure behind Alexander’s Medallion,” a book review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Reading “THE SECRET PRICE OF HISTORY, Searching for the Treasure behind Alexander’s Medallion” was a thrill for me in many ways. The book is a complex one, in the sense that it carries two historical lines of narratives contemporarily, one in the 19th century and one in the 21st century, and their developments are intertwined in such a matter that understanding one of them is necessary to comprehend the other one. How the authors, Gayle Ridinger and Paolo Pochettino, managed to give this effect of historical clips, almost cinematic, and not confuse the reader is a marvel and it attests to their literary and historical abilities.

I stated that it has two parallel stories, and it is so because the outcome of the older one, if presented only in chronological order with the new one, would spoil some of the surprises that our heroes and evil characters confront on their path throughout the book.

Said that, I will contradict myself by saying that the book’s start is in 1989 and not in those two centuries mentioned. This opening, though, it’s only a requirement, almost an indispensable prologue that introduces the slippery main evil character, the so-called White Devil, whose presence will effuse throughout the narrative concerning the 21st century. He is not only a wicked, depraved and soulless individual, but a corrupter and a manipulator, so that any other iniquity that is not performed by him occurring in this portion of the book is necessarily tied to him, whether because it’s a crime committed by someone following his orders or just inspired by him through their relationship, be it familial or business-induced.

The 19th century timeline narrative is a wonderful piece of historical fiction which could stand by itself and which is powerful and detailed in the description of the events. The heroes are many, considering that the story-line starts at the time of the Roman Republic in 1845. Through the vicissitudes of a Roman noblewoman, a patriotic cheese monger, and a deserter from the Austro-Hungarian army who become friends for life we can also follow the history of the making of Italy as a nation.

It is obvious that the authors spent a considerable amount of time in their historical research, since the outcome is flawless and seamless, even when interrupted by the alternating process of the book’s narrative. Through the delightful reconstruction of the focal points of their period of time that was swept by the wind of patriotism and freedom seeking, the readers not only encounter Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Hero of the Two Worlds, Antonio Meucci, the inventor of the telephone, the emperor Napoleon III, Pope Pius IX, and many other major and minor characters who left an imprint of a kind upon the pathway of history, but hear their voices and discover their thoughts, their fears, their desires, contradictions, and sometimes their obsessions.

Portrait by William Castello of Garibaldi and Meucci in exhibit at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum

These characters, though, are not just used as embellishment or backdrop decorations, but are essential to the progress of the story itself. Through keen observations and depictions, Ms. Ridinger and Mr. Pochettino present live reconstructions of feasible situations that allow the reader to enjoy the staging as much as the excitement that the events themselves may bring to surface. An example of that is the demonstration of the newly-invented telephone to one of our heroes, Eleonora, by Antonio Meucci:

She passed the letter to Sandor to re-study and took Meucci’s strange cylinder in hand again.

“Talk into this?” she said with a smile. “But I want to talk to Ester.”

“I know. Talk into the handle.”

“The handle’s not Ester.” She rattled the object and Meucci laughed.

“Do as I say,” Meucci gestured at her encouragingly and winked at Sandor. “The electricity will carry your voice…I call it a telettrofono. It’s what I’m working on now.”

“Ester? Ester?”

If it weren’t a miracle. She actually heard Ester’s voice come from the cylinder three times in answer to her own. Sandor raised his eyebrows at her in equal wonderment. Yes, it was lovely, Meucci was a genius, but her mind could not fathom where Ester was.

“You can see her in a moment. You can hear her this moment,” the old inventor insisted. “And she can hear you. Tell us about yourself.”

In this charming and imaginative paragraph you can feel the excitement of the characters and at the same time somewhat witness a plausible occurrence in the household of Meucci. It is with these credible, or should I say probable settings, almost reenacted anecdotes, that the tale is carried to fruition, and in Oh, such a convincing and thrilling manner!

Through the book one can discover the mechanics behind the formation of the Garibaldi Guard during American Civil War, the horrors of the battles, whether fought on Italian or American grounds in these years of turmoil, even the passionate gestures of painters such as Induno or Freeman, who did not shy away from danger and kept on creating their masterpieces, whether on the battlefields’ edges or in the Roman ruins. The story offers also an insight on the conflict between Christianity and Mithraism, the birth of the Casane Astigiane (Italian for “Houses of Asti”) , the major family banking houses of Asti, Italy in the middle ages, the crusades, and other historical events of the past, but it does so that there can be an understanding of the existence of the medallion that is connected to Alexander’s purported treasure.

The Cherasco Armistice

The authors, nonetheless, do not disdain to insert in the story some matter-of-fact statements, quips that can be humorous and allow for a breather in the breathtaking progression of the events. For example, in the conversation between a member of the Vatican’s IOR bank and an Italian Congressman, the ecclesiastic declares:

“…And you, who were elected by an overwhelming margin and voted even by Alzheimer sufferers, you should be the first to know that.”

Unquestionably the mysterious treasure and the people who are involved in that search through the centuries make this story a first-class thriller, but that the main story in itself is about the search for a treasure is somewhat deceiving, because this book is about passions and greed, selflessness and egoism, cruelty and love, and most of all about the people who believed strongly in an ideal, sometimes flawed or self-serving, but nevertheless always dictating their actions regardless of the outcomes.

The readers who expect to take a long time reading a 585 pages book will surprise themselves when they will discover that it isn’t so with THE SECRET PRICE OF HISTORY because this is definitely a book that is very hard to put down.

On a different note, in a moment as dramatic as the one we are living, with this newfound plague, this pandemic that has changed our way of life, to read this passage about yellow fever in this book is evermore enlightening and frightening:

The yellow fever had entered Memphis from the river; the George C. Wolf and the Bee, two supply ships from New Orleans, had arrived with two passengers sick with yellow fever and had been moored in quarantine for three weeks before Kate Bionda, a girl who worked at a riverfront stand, suddenly died, and the town knew that some sailor or passenger must have broken the quarantine to visit her and in doing so brought death to their doors. And after the flight of those thirty or forty thousand fortunate souls, a terrible calm and silence had settled over Memphis. No church bells. No mail. No news, because the telegrapher had been able to flee. There was only silence and the grief of those who had lost a loved one or their entire family.

A wonderful website, https://www.secretpriceofhistory.com/, is available to discover more about the book, the sites mentioned in it, the characters and the history events cited and so much more…

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William John Castello And The Mastery Of Portraits’ Creation. An Exclusive Interview With The Artist.
by Milano52
Jul 31, 2019 | 26189 views | 0 0 comments | 1558 1558 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

His portraits are not just beautiful images, but they capture the soul of the character represented and they are alive, something that only a few artists can claim for their art production. William John Castello has been drawing and painting portraits all his life and it shows. The artist kindly met with me and spoke about his art and his life… 

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: William, at what age did start having the ‘call’ to be an artist?

William John Castello: As a child I had a condition know as chronic bronchitis that threatened my life. Between the medications and my vulnerability to infections, I spent most of my childhood indoors. I had precious little exposure to others beyond my immediate family. To fill the many hours, I would take typewriter paper and try to reproduce the faces on the covers of LOOK, LIFE and TIME magazines. I became quite good at in time and, by the time I was free of the bronchitis, the skills I had developed became my signature characteristic when I found myself among my peers in grammar school. I was the “artist”. My first public exhibition was in the local Brooklyn Public Library. They displayed a dozen of my portraits with full name credit and story. The exhibit lasted a full six months at the librarian’s insistence and led the way to local public recognition of my abilities. The nuns from my grammar school, St. Jerome’s in Flatbush, Brooklyn, encouraged and displayed my work for years to follow. Fate turned a life-threatening illness into a life-long path.

Andrea Bocelli

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: So, you started early and follow your passion all through college, earning a B.F.A. in Fine Arts from St. John’s University. What happened after that? 

William John Castello: I had to fight for my undergraduate experience. Born of two second and third-generation Italian-American parents, their desire for me to succeed was the driving force behind their demand for excellence in my academic endeavors. My good grades were the result of my parents’ efforts and constant insistence. They wanted me to become a doctor or lawyer like so many of my cousins and my sister had. I volunteered in a city hospital for two summers during high school and gained nothing but revulsion of the medical professions. Law was tacitly interesting but resulted in putting me to sleep. I wanted to be an artist. My dad said, “The word ‘artist’ is usually preceded by the word ‘starving’.” I pleaded with him to send me to art school. He would under one condition; that if I had not found a lucrative job as an artist in the first six months, I would repay him for my tuition.

And so, following a wonderful three-and-a-half-year education in the fine arts by the European instructors in St. John’s, I obtained an internship in the art department of the MacNeil-Lehrer Report on PBS. After six-months, I graduated with a position as a graphic journalist at the Associated Press. I never had to pay my father back.

For the next 35 years, I produced graphics, stories, information packets, multi-media presentations and more from the newsroom in the world headquarters of the Associated Press in New York City. All that time, I remained a fine artist when off duty. My time at the AP proved to be worth the education of a thousand universities. The window to the world was opened to me every day and I had to learn and interact. Never easy, not without many sacrifices and yet, the best view of all humanity that anyone may ever have.

Portrait of Garibaldi and Meucci in exhibit at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum

When I saw retirement coming I obtained a master’s degree in global diplomacy from Norwich University to prepare for a second career, possibly in international affairs, which dominated my attention in my journalistic career.

Cesare Pavese

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Now you teach Professional Journalism at your alma mater. Why Journalism and not Art? 

William John Castello: Upon retirement, my St. John’s alumni association informed the university that there was a journalist on the loose. I was contacted and offered a job as an adjunct professor on the spot. When I had a second to comprehend such a career move the marriage was made. They needed a journalist and I am one. As far as the fine arts, art history etc. I was advised to obtain yet one more master’s degree and then reinvent myself again as a permanent professor of whatever I wished.

Connie Francis

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: I noticed that you mostly draw portraits. What is the reason for this choice?

William John Castello: I have a love of the human face. When I was a lonely child, the television set was my constant companion. With the sound on or off, there was always the faces of familiar people. They looked in on me with the luster of black and white. They provided entertainment, humor, drama, and thrills. The faces in the magazines were compelling. I learned to know (or imagine) their thoughts through their expressions. My portraits became my people, my friends and the path to having others recognize me in time. The human face is magical, expressive. It never lies.

I produce moments of emotion and thought rather than the image of flesh and bone. My portraits are encapsulations of a moment in time, a distinctive flash of thought or emotion, a signature characteristic of a distant life. I try to capture the energy of a person in each rendering.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you use only the pencil or also other media in creating your works?

William John Castello: I have experimented with almost every artistic medium available, from watercolor to cast bronze. I’ve produced many oil and acrylic paintings, sculpted wood, stone and clay and worked metal. My love of portraiture determined my favorite medium, a simple pad and something to draw with. My most recent set of over two hundred portraits on tan paper in pencil and graphite began with my desire to study the works of Da Vinci and attempt to recreate the look of line on colored paper.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: One of your recent major works is “Journey to Fiddler’s Green.” Could you talk a bit about that?

William John Castello: Upon retirement, I realized that I had not produced a canvas in many years due to time and space constraints. For the prior twenty-five years, I have shared much of my life with friends associated with the Ancient Order of Hibernians which is composed of the sons and daughters of Ireland. I was folded in as an associate member (having no blood or claim from Ireland) and as their artist. The twining of these two paradigms resulted in my search for a great project to produce on canvas.

Staten Island was the gateway to the new world during the potato famine in Ireland. Thousands of Irish men and women were forced onto “coffin ships” by their English overlords and sent across the Atlantic to fend for themselves. Upon reaching New York, many had died in transit. Many more had contracted a disease in the unkind confinement of these hellish ships. When they disembarked, the dead were anonymously buried in mass graves and the sickened arrivals were quarantined in hospital/death-houses on the Staten Island shore. Thousands died yet their final resting place remained a mystery until a local high school student researched historical documents and found the mass grave, located on the eighteenth hole of a local golf course.

Upon the revelation, the Hibernians contracted me to create a commemorative piece of art, and so, “Journey to Fiddler’s Green” was created: (below)

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You had recently a show at the Garibaldi Meucci Museum. What was the theme of the exhibit? Will something else develop from this particular experience? 

William John Castello: The year-long exhibit at the GMM is known as the Sons and Daughters of Italy which combines portraits with biographies written by Marianna Randazzo and regional clothing made by local seamstresses and organized by Mary Ann Prince. Originally the exhibit was organized to celebrate the 100thanniversary of Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Foundation’s ownership of the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum.

From the left: Mayanne Prince, Marianna Biazzo Randazzo, William John Castello and Tiziano Thomas Dossena.

We, the contributors, took the opportunity to bring awareness to the world-changing contributions made by those of Italian descent. We brought to light artists and film stars, scientists and philosophers, poets and astronauts, all coming from one of the twenty regions of Italy.

William John Castello with Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Currently Marianna Randazzo and myself are composing a book, which we hope will facilitate the children, grandchildren and the descendants of all Italians to gain a proud and rich identity. Too often Italy is associated with gangsters or movie stars, ancient artists or corrupt politicians. This problem gives credence to cruel stereotypes and misconceptions. We strive to expand the ranks of those associated with the country, bring awareness to its brilliant and hard-working people and bring understanding about the true Italy to the world.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you have any special projects in mind for the future? Any particular shows, maybe? 

William John Castello: We wish to create a series of books specializing in the Italian contribution to specific professions and to create similar books dealing with other ethnic groups. I will continue to find new inspirations and projects and explore new topics to inspire new creations.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Who is the artist that inspired you the most and why?

William John Castello: My mentor, Claude Ponsot was a student of Ferdinand Léger, a co-founder of Cubism and close friend of Pablo Picasso.  Ponsot taught painting at St. John’s and selected me as one of his students to carry on the tradition. I chose not to.

My greatest inspiration, however, is Vincent Van Gogh. I see only pure brilliance in what many consider his insanity. His mind translated reality and emotion together to produce their most complex and beautiful expression. He spoke with color and texture. He gave emotion to each stroke. His troubled mind was the confluence of all of man’s experiences. His hand translated vast complexity into recognizable form.

Van Gogh’s work embodies the meaning of each of my portraits. They are depictions of the human emotions and experiences in blazing colors and imbued with deep meanings. Our images can be interpreted as actual people or objects and yet they are abstract depictions of the human experience.

John Bergin

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you could meet and talk to any historical character, dead or alive today, who would he or she be? About what would you like to talk with him, or her?

William John Castello: I have always wanted to understand the mind of Da Vinci. His curiosity, observations, creations, and vision fascinate me. He never assumed to know what he had not proven to himself. He invented, wrote, sculpted and drew, in addition to his painting. His words found their way to the most powerful people of his time. His mind was the most precious driver of man’s artistic and technical evolution and I would love to know him.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: How much did being of Italian descent influence you in the Arts and in your private life? 

William John Castello: I was distant from my heritage as a child. My grandparents attempted to provide some instruction, but they had limited contact with me. My curiosity about my origin eventually led me to discover Italy and its pivotal role in history.

I grew up in a predominantly Irish German neighborhood in Brooklyn. I was subjected to derision for my heritage and kept it from the spotlight for much of my youth. I was upon meeting my future wife Maria and her family, that I began to understand my heritage and adapt it to my life. The rest is history.

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Regions of Italy seen through portraits, costumes and biographies at the Garibaldi Meucci Museum!
by Milano52
Jul 22, 2019 | 27045 views | 0 0 comments | 1854 1854 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Great innovative exhibit at the Garibaldi Meucci Museum thanks to artist William John Castello, writer Marianna Biazzo Randazzo, and OSDIA Trustee Maryanne Prince.This exhibit is the fourth installation in a series of six highlighting the regions, traditional dress, and people of Italy. Mr. Castello provided the portraits of some of the famous people from each region of Italy and Mrs. Randazzo wrote their biographies.Regional costumes were contributed thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Prince, who had the original idea of making them and obtained the goal though the generous participation of OSDIA and other sources, and the willingness of seamstresses who created the dresses just from images.

 

The exhibit is exciting and it’s offering a view of Italy as a puzzle of regions who amalgamated into a country but still retained their characteristics. To know how many important people each region has offered to the world certainly is rewarding and makes us all very proud. The beautifully compiled biographies are an excellent complement to the wonderful drawings by Mr. Castello.

It’s an exhibit not to miss!

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Tiziano Thomas Dossena Wins The 2019 OSIA LITERARY AWARD!
by Milano52
Jun 10, 2019 | 34764 views | 0 0 comments | 3548 3548 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

On June 1st, 2019, in front of the statewide delegates and dignitaries of the New York State Grand Lodge of the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America,  President Robert Ferrito presented Tiziano Thomas Dossena with the prestigious 2019 OSIA Literary Award “for his contribution to the Italian American Experience in America.”  The author also received a citation from New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

From the left, OSIA NY STATE President Robert Ferrito, Tiziano Thomas Dossena, Literary Award co-Chair Geraldine Iannello Graham.

Dossena, who is the Recording Secretary of Tuckahoe’s OSIA Giuseppe Garibaldi Lodge 2583, is the author of “Caro Fantozzi,” published by Scriptum Press in December 2008, “Doña Flor, An Opera by Niccolò van Westerhout,” published by Idea Publications in April 2010, “Sunny Days and Sleepless Nights,” published by Idea Press in December 2016 and of the upcoming three books “The Dance of Color,” “The Rebirth of an Opera,” andNew York City’s Italian Imprint, the Statues and Monuments of and by Italians in the Big Apple.”

His works have appeared in over 100 magazines and anthologies in Italy, France, Greece, Canada, Switzerland, and the United States. Dossena is the founder and Editor in Chief of two magazines, OperaMyLove and OperaAmorMio, and has been the Editorial Director of L’Idea Magazine since 1990.

NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Tiziano Thomas Dossena

In 2011, Tiziano Thomas Dossena was honored for both literary work and community service work at the New York State Assembly by New York State Assemblyman, Joseph Saladino. In 2012, the author received the International PREMIO GLOBO TRICOLORE award “for the outstanding efforts at keeping the Italian Image known in the world through his literary works”. In 2014, he was asked to read poems at the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony in Yonkers.

The whole staff of L’Idea magazine congratulates him for having earned such an important award and wishes him further accolades and honors.

 Please click here to view the award’s presentation.

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ViVi L’italiana. Exclusive Interview With Viola Manuela Ceccarini
by Milano52
May 29, 2019 | 29769 views | 0 0 comments | 1615 1615 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

 

ViVi l’italiana. Exclusive interview with Viola Manuela Ceccarini

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Milanese by birth, Viola Manuela Ceccarini is achieving an enviable success in the Latin television world in the USA, after having contributed to various international television channels in Italian. Recognized journalist (she is a correspondent for six magazines, including L’Idea Magazine, as well as various television and radio channels) Viola, aka ViVi, as his friends identify her, covers all international awards (Grammys, Emmy, Oscar, etc.) and presents the public with an entirely personal view of the events. She speaks excellent Spanish with a slight foreign accent that earned her the nickname of “l’italiana” (“the Italian”) by the large Latin television audience. ViVi is the winner of the “Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year” award in the international Stevie Awards for Women in Business competition. We met in the center of Manhattan and we had a nice chat.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: ViVi, could you tell our readers how and why you came to the USA? 

ViVi: Growing up in one of the most influential fashion capitals in the world: Milan inspired me to undertake a career in the fashion and entertainment industry. At the age of 17, after graduating from high school, my parents gave me a “postgraduate” gift by sending me three weeks to study English in New York. I still remember the moment when I arrived in Times Square … I was enchanted by the sight of the skyscrapers, the crowded streets, and the sparkling lights … for the first time I felt a feeling of infinite freedom … and inside myself I knew that in this city all my dreams could have been realized, so I made a promise to myself, that I would return to live in New York … one day … Three years later: After graduating from the University of Milan in “Visual and Multimedia Communication” I started working for a local Italian fashion magazine called “Zaffiro Magazine”, I was in charge of writing articles and interviewing fashion personalities at Milanese events of social life. Unfortunately, however, the opportunities in the sector were limited, which led me to reconsider the idea of ​​living in New York permanently. So in 2013, I left Milan and moved to New York alone and against the will of my parents, driven by passion and desire to grow professionally. Living in NY has always been my dream and a personal challenge! New York has a unique energy; it’s the capital of the world, where everyone is equal and respected, whether you’re picking daisies (which you are probably the only one to see) on a sidewalk or you’re Leonardo DiCaprio, people look at you the same way. Because those who are here have ambitions, a project! You find all the best in New York; it is a city that either encourages you to be humble and improve yourself, or crushes you; that’s why I love it!!”

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you think that America, and in particular New York, still offers great opportunities for those with talent? 

ViVi: Absolutely yes !!! In order to find and benefit from the opportunities available in New York, you have to come here with a certain kind of mentality that involves: ambition and perseverance, preceded by an action plan and a great desire to work and carry out a project without ever losing sight of the final goal. Although I firmly believe that New York is not a city for everyone, for its hectic and sometimes stressful lifestyle, you must love to work and you must have big dreams to realize…

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: For several years you have written and talked about fashion and High Society both in various magazines and in television programs. How did you come to this journalistic specialization? 

ViVi: I always knew that I wanted to work in the media and in the entertainment world. Since I was a child, my sister and I played with Dad’s camera; she filmed me and I presented, sang and danced. In 2011 I graduated in “Visual and Multimedia Communication” at the European Multimedia Academy ACME, specialized in visual arts and multimedia production, where I learned to do post-production with video editing programs like Final Cut Pro/Adobe Premiere. After graduating, I took my first steps as an interviewer-columnist for a printed and online Italian luxury magazine called “Zaffiro Magazine”, presenting events in Milan’s nightlife.The magazine was managed by a communication company called DBCommunication, for which I carried out work in the field of public relations, occupying a fundamental role for the company, covering important projects for their clients, including Italian artists and celebrities. I was also in charge of designing the company logo. This logo was then printed on t-shirts and worn by Italian VIPs, singers, reality stars and celebrities. My passion for the media started in Italy and then grew up in America; to write and present programs give me a voice and above all the opportunity to express myself. I am currently writing in three languages ​​(Italian, Spanish, and English) for various magazines and periodicals that talk about fashion and lifestyle. I cover fashion, entertainment, and events such as New York Fashion Week, Film Festivals, Grammys, Oscars … etc etc

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: But you are having a huge success with gossip no less than in a Spanish television program. Can you tell us a little about this new experience of yours? 

ViVi: The Hispanic community has always welcomed me with open arms. When I moved to New York I came to live directly in Washington Heights, a Latin neighborhood located in the upper part of Manhattan (Uptown). My first rented room was in the home of a Dominican family, where I lived for 2 years and where I learned to speak Spanish (and street slang), to love the culture, cuisine, and music. , I am currently working for a Hispanic channel called Super Canal, where I conduct a segment of entertainment, gossip, and fashion news. The name of the program is “Option New York” and is broadcast live from Monday to Friday (2-3 pm) anywhere in the United States via Cable on Spectrum Channel 870, Verizon Channel 1507, Comcast Channel 620 and Optimum Channel 1023. Also, the program is broadcast internationally live from 3-4 pm in the Dominican Republic on Channel 33 (one of their main channels), in Puerto Rico, in the Caribbean Islands, and in Spain.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: I admire your various photos in which you pose as a model. Do you plan to continue even in the fashion shows despite your many professional commitments? 

ViVi: Yes, I keep the doors open for any opportunity that comes to me $$$$!! In the past, I worked as a photo model, but for now, the only show I ever attended was that of my friend designer Pamela Quinzi. I usually collaborate with designers when I go to cover important events, I typically work and give the opportunity to Italian designers to present their collections, because there are many talented designers in Italy who need to be known.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: On what other projects you are working? 

ViVi: I have so many projects at stake that unfortunately, I cannot reveal yet; surely I can tell you that soon a music video of Messiah, Kapuchino, and Tali will be released, in which I took part recently. They are known urban artists; Messiah is the one who featured with Cardi B in the Bodak Yellow version in Spanish. I can’t wait to share it with you!

(This interview originally appeared in Italian on Christoper magazine in April 2019)

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International High Cuisine: From Orecchiette To Rasta Pasta. An Exclusive Interview With Chef Patrizio LaGioia.
by Milano52
May 29, 2019 | 27355 views | 0 0 comments | 1619 1619 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

 

International High Cuisine: from orecchiette to Rasta Pasta. An exclusive interview with Chef Patrizio LaGioia.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena.

I had met him a couple of times in the corridors of Madison Square Garden and noticed the name on his great Chef uniform. I had heard that he was a Chef of great reputation and that intimidated me a little. I dared to talk to him the day I entered his kitchen for technical reasons. We discovered the commonality of the language and immediately formed a pact of spontaneous and natural friendship between Italian emigrants abroad. A few days later he warned me of his intention to move to the Baccarat Hotel, a prestigious restaurant in central Manhattan. I explained to him that there was a magazine (Christopher) that spoke of the Italians who had been successful abroad and he promptly consented to this interview. This is a translation of that interview.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Patrizio, you started your culinary adventure back in 2000 in various trattorias and restaurants, in Puglia. How did your passion for cooking come about?

Patrizio La Gioia: I think my inspiration was my mom. I still remember when I played on the floor and saw the table moving like a ship on the waves; (Patrick laughs) I had a lot of imagination as a child, in reality, it was my mother who worked the dough for the pasta. Sunday was a ritual for my mother to make fresh pasta and start with the famous orecchiette. I remember I wanted to learn how to make them but it was really very difficult for me, I was fascinated by how my mom made it look so simple.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: From there you left  Italy in 2007, becoming Chef de Partie in Monte Carlo at the prestigious La Salier restaurant. How did this change happen? How difficult was the change from an Italian infrastructure to an international one? What did you learn there?

Patrizio La Gioia: Fortunately, the change was not so difficult after all, being an Italian restaurant with Italian staff, and then frankly, in Monte Carlo, Italian is also spoken. Workwise speaking it was quite difficult because I switched from restaurants to a five-star restaurant. I learned the five mother sauces, fresh pasta and much more.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: The next stop is America, and even Miami, Florida, at the end of that year. How did you get there? In that city you had two experiences as Chef de Partie at a high level; the first at the Hotel Cardozzo and the second at the renowned The Forge Restaurant. What difference did the two experiences have? 

Patrizio La Gioia: Through La Salier I managed to get myself transferred to the Cardozzo Hotel in Miami as part of the company. I remember as if it was yesterday the difficulty with the language, the units of measurement, and the culture. I felt completely in another world. After a year at Cardozzo my goal was to work in one of the best restaurants in Miami. I then started working on The Forge, a legend in Miami, under the guidance of the great chef Dewey LoSasso. I remember that year he won as the best chef in Florida on the Miami Times.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In Miami, there was another evolution and you worked as Sous Chef in two famous restaurants, one with French cuisine, La Gluttoneire, and one with Italian cuisine, Tiramesu. What different experiences did you have in these two locations?

Patrizio La Gioia: After the experience at The Forge, I started my first experience as a sous chef (second chef) at Tiramesu, a great Italian restaurant, where I learned how to manage the kitchen from a bureaucratic point of view. I learned about food cost, labor cost and how to make purchases. Always very keen on learning other cuisines, I left Tiramesu to embark on this new French experience at Gluttonerie (2012 best French restaurant in Miami).

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also studied under the Executive Chef Thomas Buckley in the Nobu restaurant, also in Miami. How would you define this episode of your life?

Patrizio La Gioia: Oh yes, as I said before I always had the passion to learn different cuisines; well, yes, it’s Japanese cuisine at the great Nobu Miami. I remember when Chef Thomas Buckley (corporate Chef Nobu America) made me the proposal to work with him; I was a bit scared of the difference between Italian and Japanese cuisine. He jokingly replied “it’s the same thing!!! You have carpaccio and we have sashimi, you have pasta we have noodles.” It made me understand that cooking is cooking, regardless of cultures.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In 2013 you moved to Aspen, Colorado, and worked at the FOOD & WINE Chefs Club. How does this club work? What functions did you have and what did you get from this practice?

Patrizio La Gioia: This was one of the best experiences of my career. Food and Wine Magazine is a New York haute cuisine magazine, which annually awards America’s best new chefs. The concept of the Chef Club is to invite every season 4 best new chef of Food & Wine, and create the menu with their best dishes, And we, as resident chefs, had to replicate them; an unforgettable experience.

At the Four Season teaching a cooking class…

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In 2014 we find you in New York, with the Patina Restaurant Group, In this corporation, you had various functions. What were they?

Patrizio La Gioia: My first role with Patina Restaurant Group was as Sous Chef in the restaurant Brasserie 8.5, French restaurant under the command of Franck Deletrain, a great chef, person, and friend. After 6 months with him, the company decided to promote me as Chef De Cuisine at the Naples45 restaurant, an authentic Neapolitan restaurant.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Being the Executive Sous Chef at a fabulous and famous restaurant like The Four Seasons Restaurant is the dream of many Chefs, and you would get it in 2015, holding the position until the restaurant closes, a sad episode that fortunately is was recently corrected with its reopening. What were your skills in that function?

Patrizio La Gioia: After some time spent in Naples45 I felt dissatisfied because I was in the big apple with the best restaurants in the world and I was there to make pizzas (not really, Tiziano, but you understand what I mean…). So I decided to go back to doing gastronomic cooking, and I started the adventure at the legendary Four Season Restaurant, knowing already that it had to close after two years. But it didn’t frighten me because I already knew that it would open new doors for me here in Manhattan. The Four Season Restaurant was very famous for the “Power Lunch” or Manhattan’s most powerful people came to lunch, and they often chose the special of the day. One of my tasks was to create three different special dishes every day.

At the FOOD & WINE Chefs Club

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: After The Four Seasons you had another extraordinary opportunity, working with the Illustrious Chef Thomas Keller. What did you learn from him?

Patrizio La Gioia: As I said before, the Four Seasons Restaurant opened its doors to the best restaurants in the world, so I started with 3 Michelin stars “Per Se”, one of America’s best restaurants, if not the best. For me, it was an honor to meet the great Chef and Mentor Thomas Keller. With him, I learned discipline, precision, and excellence.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: The penultimate stage of your American adventure is the Delta Club of Madison Square Garden, the most exclusive club in that venue, where I met you. What were your functions at the Delta Club?

Patrizio La Gioia: At Madison Square Garden it was a unique experience! Spectacular events, from basketball games, hockey, boxing matches, and of course concerts. I remember the time that Andrea Boccelli came to sing, I was in the kitchen and at a certain point, I recognized the song Nessun Dorma, one of my favorite songs. I went out of the kitchen with goosebumps. At the MSG I was the Chef of the Delta Club, which serves the 20 most important Suites, practically cooking for the VIPs, including the owner Jim Dolan.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Now that you’ve become one of the Chefs at the prestigious 5-star “Baccarat Hotel” what other goals do you set yourself?

Patrizio La Gioia: I honestly don’t know where it will take me in the future. Certainly, I know one thing: every choice I make will always be made with the heart, as I have always done. Obviously, like all chefs, my dream is to manage my own restaurant one day.

LaGioia con Massimo Bottura e la moglie

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In many years as a chef in prestigious locations you will have cooked for actors, singers, and high personalities. Do you have any particular anecdotes?

Patrizio La Gioia: Unfortunately, for privacy reasons I can’t say much, but the only thing I can say is that in my career I cooked for actors, singers, athletes, politicians, princes and princesses, but for me every guest is a VIP, regardless if he is a famous person or not. But I will never forget the time I was in the kitchen and a waiter came into the kitchen and said to me: chef, there is a certain Massimo Bottura who says he is an Italian chef and wants to talk to you. And I, with an irritated tone, shouted to the waiter: “A CERTAIN MASSIMO BOTTURA!!!?????? He is the best chef in the world!!! Ignorant!!”

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: During your career, you have created various specialties. Could you reveal one or two for our readers?

Patrizio La Gioia: As you well know, in Jamaica one of the typical dishes is the oxtail, almost like the coda alla vaccinara, a typical Roman dish, but prepared with different spices. My wife is Jamaican, so one day I was inspired and I created this dish “Pappardelle with rosemary, with oxtail ragout, black cabbage, and Tuscan pecorino”. A colleague of mine nicknamed it the “Rasta Pasta” plate. Since then, my famous Rasta Pasta was born.

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From Supermodel To Celebrity Chef And Successful Author. An Exclusive Interview With Maria Liberati
by Milano52
Apr 14, 2019 | 35641 views | 0 0 comments | 1735 1735 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
From supermodel to Celebrity Chef and successful author. An exclusive interview with Maria Liberati

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

As a former international supermodel, Maria Liberati never dreamed that she would go from being a fashion diva to a domestic diva. Ironically, while jet-setting off to modeling assignments around the world, Maria became closer to the simplicity of life and food in the country setting of her family’s vineyard in the mountains of central Italy. She began to experience the real tastes of food that she knew from her childhood.

An Award-Winning cookbook’s author and Celebrity Chef -her passion with food began at the early age of 4, when she would accompany ‘nonno’ (grandfather) on his early morning Saturday trips to the Italian Market in Philadelphia to pick out all the fresh ingredients for the Sunday family meal.

Portrait of Maria painted by famous Italian artist, Sergio Nerone

Years later, Maria was spotted by international artist Sergio Terzi (known as Nerone) and was asked to sit for a portrait at his studio in the Emilio-Romagna region of Italy. While sitting for this portrait, the months lingered on and Maria found herself spending more and more time at Nerone’s family farm nearby. During her time there, she studied the art of making the famed Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese. When the painting was finished, it was exhibited all throughout the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the painting and the artist were honored at a special ceremony for the contributions of Italians to the World.

Today, Maria is considered one of the foremost experts on Italian Cuisine and culture, and has been called the Italian ’Martha Stewart’ (Celebrity Society magazine 06/06). The Basic Art of Italian Cooking book series was awarded the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, France.

A  lover of the arts, Maria is also famous for intertwining  (in her own style ) food with art, travel, and life and a portion of her blog was selected to be part of the digital exhibit for the Kuntshistoriches Museum in Vienna, Austria for its cultural references of Mozart. A frequent guest on radio, TV and national media features. She serves as a spokesperson for many food and kitchen related companies, look for her on QVC. She also serves as food consultant for new products. Maria is frequently found cooking center stage at many consumer and trade show events as guest Celebrity Chef and designs corporate teambuilding programs for Fortune 500 companies. As a professional speaker, Maria is asked to speak at many events on her success. The rest, as they say, is history. She divides her time between her office and residence in the USA and Italy where she writes her books and hosts specialty culinary and wine programs and food/travel writing at some of Italy and Europe’s most magnificent castles and vineyards. (Courtesy of MariaLiberati.com)

Maria is the author of many books. Here’s a short list:

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays and Special Occasions-2nd edition (this one won the 2010 Gourmand Word Awards)

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style

The Basic Art of…Pasta

The Basic Art of…Pizza

The Basic Art of…Coffee

The Basic Art of…Cocktails

The Basic Art of…Creating a Tuscan Style Wedding

The Basic Art of…Experiencing Venice

The Basic Art of…Christmas Dinner




Tiziano Thomas Dossena
: Maria, when and why did your passion for cooking develop into a full-time enterprise?

Maria Liberati: After I wrote my first book- The Basic Art of Italian Cooking- this became a full-time enterprise. The popularity of the book just took off, I had to create a blog, and I was getting asked to do book signings and appearances throughout the USA and at some places in Italy. The blog quickly grew to over 300,000 worldwide followers. Once I began doing TV appearances I was asked to create a TV series based on my book series. I am now working on my second TV series.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Could you tell us more about the concept of your culinary travel books?

Maria Liberati: The concept for the book series was to create not just a book filled with recipes but a food experience. I always felt that food in Italy is not just about eating a meal but experiencing the meal Besides the awesome flavors, Italian food is so well loved because when you sit down to an Italian meal you are part of an experience that includes not only the food but the ambiance, the sentiment of eating together with good friends and/or family, and the history related to the ingredients and or the recipes. So the food evokes the senses in many ways. And I felt that a book of just Italian recipes did not really portray Italian food the way it should be; I wanted people to experience the recipes not just put a bunch of ingredients together. Therefore, I set out to create stories that related to the recipes and menus, so that people could experience Italian food. To truly enjoy Italian food, you should experience the food, not just eat it.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Is your Blog, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm at www.marialiberati.com, an integration to your books or is it something completely different?

Maria Liberati: The blog was mainly created to be a companion to my book series, so it is mainly related to the book series but I also post about some other topics that may not be in the books. Food is related to so many things- art, travel, home, garden, history, music, architecture and I also combine those topics with food.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: “Your Basic Art of…” books have a great success and are recognized as an important reference point as travel cooking books go, but you have now developed also other topics, such as Experiencing Venice, for example. What made you choose these new themes for these series of books?

Maria Liberati: My philosophy is that there is an art to almost everything, so I am pairing that with select topics that fit in. Yes, so coming up will be other singular topics in that series, The Basic Art of Coffee, Cocktails, Pizza, Pasta, Creating a Tuscan Wedding, Experiencing Venice and more to come.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: You have won many awards, among them the Gourmand World Award and the Culinary Travel Blog of the Year Award. Which one you felt was the most rewarding and why?

Maria Liberati: Both awards were equally regarding, but if I had to pick one, I would say that the Gourmand World Cookbook ward that I received in Paris in 2010 was exciting. I was up against so many professional international chefs, it was truly an honor to know that a book I had worked so hard on was selected as best Italian Culinary book in the USA.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Maria, you are developing your own TV series for PBS. What is it going to be about? When will it be aired?

Maria Liberati: I did do a PBS series a few years ago that was based on my book series and filmed in Italy. This new series that I may be developing will probably be done in a studio and will have guests cooking with me. That will air sometime in 2019.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Your Company, “The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati,” organizes, hosts and caters corporate training culinary-themed events for Fortune 100 and 500 companies. Could you tell us more about that?

Maria Liberati: Corporate training culinary events are events that bring together employees in a culinary environment. They get to spend time away from the office and connect with fellow employees by cooking and eating with them. So I may have a menu of five courses and then divide a group of 30 employees into teams of 6 and each team has to prepare one recipe and then eat the courses that have been prepared together; this creates a collaboration environment they can take back to the office with them. However, sometimes I am also asked to be the special guest at incentive meetings for salespeople, they receive a signed copy of my book and I may do a cooking presentation or other presentation on one of my books.

Click on the image to see a video of Maria Liberati

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Your Company now has a line of food products. What are they? What makes them different?

Maria Liberati: So far the products are a Pizza Sauce and a spice blend. Both products use all natural ingredients but they also include a blend of spice blends I developed that incorporate many of the flavors used in Tuscan cooking. I am working on developing blends of spices that highlight the flavors used in different regions of Italy. I am currently developing other food products.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Are there other new book titles on the way? What about new projects, other than the PBS program? 

Maria Liberati: Yes I am collaborating with my favorite culinary school in Italy- Chef Academy in Terni (the town of St Valentine) on a book that will include their recipes and my stories from my blog. And, as mentioned, a new TV series, and a podcast.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena:
: If you could meet a personality from the past or the present, who would he or she be? What would you like to tell them and to ask them?

Maria Liberati: If I had to choose one, it would most definitely be Leonardo DaVinci. One of his interests, and he had many talents and interests, was food. I researched DaVinci’s foodie life and wrote The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style- which is about the different cities in Italy he lived in and what he created in each city as well as recipes from those regions. But I would like to ask him what would be his favorite meal to eat and to paint.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Maria, do you have a message for our Italian American readers?

Maria Liberati: Yes, to keep your heritage alive and teach your children or grandchildren or nieces, nephews about it. We have such a rich heritage, and our ancestors made so many contributions to assisting in building the USA  and invented so many of the things we use today in our daily life. But it is also really important to understand where our families came from to appreciate what we have today. Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house always included stories and photos about their life in Italy. I didn’t truly understand anything about their life and where they came from until I had the opportunity to visit and then live in Italy and research so many things. I fell in love with my culture and history and that is why I created my book series. It afforded me the opportunity to work in and study the things I love the most. As Italian Americans, our life here in the USA is a result of so many years of hard work and drive and passion that our ancestors had. And if you can somehow teach that or convey that to your children it is truly a beautiful thing for them to understand and even aspire to keep their dreams alive.

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From Supermodel To Celebrity Chef And Successful Author. An Exclusive Interview With Maria Liberati
by Milano52
Apr 14, 2019 | 35828 views | 0 0 comments | 1880 1880 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
From supermodel to Celebrity Chef and successful author. An exclusive interview with Maria Liberati

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

As a former international supermodel, Maria Liberati never dreamed that she would go from being a fashion diva to a domestic diva. Ironically, while jet-setting off to modeling assignments around the world, Maria became closer to the simplicity of life and food in the country setting of her family’s vineyard in the mountains of central Italy. She began to experience the real tastes of food that she knew from her childhood.

An Award-Winning cookbook’s author and Celebrity Chef -her passion with food began at the early age of 4, when she would accompany ‘nonno’ (grandfather) on his early morning Saturday trips to the Italian Market in Philadelphia to pick out all the fresh ingredients for the Sunday family meal.

Portrait of Maria painted by famous Italian artist, Sergio Nerone

Years later, Maria was spotted by international artist Sergio Terzi (known as Nerone) and was asked to sit for a portrait at his studio in the Emilio-Romagna region of Italy. While sitting for this portrait, the months lingered on and Maria found herself spending more and more time at Nerone’s family farm nearby. During her time there, she studied the art of making the famed Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese. When the painting was finished, it was exhibited all throughout the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the painting and the artist were honored at a special ceremony for the contributions of Italians to the World.

Today, Maria is considered one of the foremost experts on Italian Cuisine and culture, and has been called the Italian ’Martha Stewart’ (Celebrity Society magazine 06/06). The Basic Art of Italian Cooking book series was awarded the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, France.

A  lover of the arts, Maria is also famous for intertwining  (in her own style ) food with art, travel, and life and a portion of her blog was selected to be part of the digital exhibit for the Kuntshistoriches Museum in Vienna, Austria for its cultural references of Mozart. A frequent guest on radio, TV and national media features. She serves as a spokesperson for many food and kitchen related companies, look for her on QVC. She also serves as food consultant for new products. Maria is frequently found cooking center stage at many consumer and trade show events as guest Celebrity Chef and designs corporate teambuilding programs for Fortune 500 companies. As a professional speaker, Maria is asked to speak at many events on her success. The rest, as they say, is history. She divides her time between her office and residence in the USA and Italy where she writes her books and hosts specialty culinary and wine programs and food/travel writing at some of Italy and Europe’s most magnificent castles and vineyards. (Courtesy of MariaLiberati.com)

Maria is the author of many books. Here’s a short list:

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays and Special Occasions-2nd edition (this one won the 2010 Gourmand Word Awards)

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style

The Basic Art of…Pasta

The Basic Art of…Pizza

The Basic Art of…Coffee

The Basic Art of…Cocktails

The Basic Art of…Creating a Tuscan Style Wedding

The Basic Art of…Experiencing Venice

The Basic Art of…Christmas Dinner




Tiziano Thomas Dossena
: Maria, when and why did your passion for cooking develop into a full-time enterprise?

Maria Liberati: After I wrote my first book- The Basic Art of Italian Cooking- this became a full-time enterprise. The popularity of the book just took off, I had to create a blog, and I was getting asked to do book signings and appearances throughout the USA and at some places in Italy. The blog quickly grew to over 300,000 worldwide followers. Once I began doing TV appearances I was asked to create a TV series based on my book series. I am now working on my second TV series.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Could you tell us more about the concept of your culinary travel books?

Maria Liberati: The concept for the book series was to create not just a book filled with recipes but a food experience. I always felt that food in Italy is not just about eating a meal but experiencing the meal Besides the awesome flavors, Italian food is so well loved because when you sit down to an Italian meal you are part of an experience that includes not only the food but the ambiance, the sentiment of eating together with good friends and/or family, and the history related to the ingredients and or the recipes. So the food evokes the senses in many ways. And I felt that a book of just Italian recipes did not really portray Italian food the way it should be; I wanted people to experience the recipes not just put a bunch of ingredients together. Therefore, I set out to create stories that related to the recipes and menus, so that people could experience Italian food. To truly enjoy Italian food, you should experience the food, not just eat it.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Is your Blog, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm at www.marialiberati.com, an integration to your books or is it something completely different?

Maria Liberati: The blog was mainly created to be a companion to my book series, so it is mainly related to the book series but I also post about some other topics that may not be in the books. Food is related to so many things- art, travel, home, garden, history, music, architecture and I also combine those topics with food.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: “Your Basic Art of…” books have a great success and are recognized as an important reference point as travel cooking books go, but you have now developed also other topics, such as Experiencing Venice, for example. What made you choose these new themes for these series of books?

Maria Liberati: My philosophy is that there is an art to almost everything, so I am pairing that with select topics that fit in. Yes, so coming up will be other singular topics in that series, The Basic Art of Coffee, Cocktails, Pizza, Pasta, Creating a Tuscan Wedding, Experiencing Venice and more to come.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: You have won many awards, among them the Gourmand World Award and the Culinary Travel Blog of the Year Award. Which one you felt was the most rewarding and why?

Maria Liberati: Both awards were equally regarding, but if I had to pick one, I would say that the Gourmand World Cookbook ward that I received in Paris in 2010 was exciting. I was up against so many professional international chefs, it was truly an honor to know that a book I had worked so hard on was selected as best Italian Culinary book in the USA.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Maria, you are developing your own TV series for PBS. What is it going to be about? When will it be aired?

Maria Liberati: I did do a PBS series a few years ago that was based on my book series and filmed in Italy. This new series that I may be developing will probably be done in a studio and will have guests cooking with me. That will air sometime in 2019.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Your Company, “The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati,” organizes, hosts and caters corporate training culinary-themed events for Fortune 100 and 500 companies. Could you tell us more about that?

Maria Liberati: Corporate training culinary events are events that bring together employees in a culinary environment. They get to spend time away from the office and connect with fellow employees by cooking and eating with them. So I may have a menu of five courses and then divide a group of 30 employees into teams of 6 and each team has to prepare one recipe and then eat the courses that have been prepared together; this creates a collaboration environment they can take back to the office with them. However, sometimes I am also asked to be the special guest at incentive meetings for salespeople, they receive a signed copy of my book and I may do a cooking presentation or other presentation on one of my books.

Click on the image to see a video of Maria Liberati

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Your Company now has a line of food products. What are they? What makes them different?

Maria Liberati: So far the products are a Pizza Sauce and a spice blend. Both products use all natural ingredients but they also include a blend of spice blends I developed that incorporate many of the flavors used in Tuscan cooking. I am working on developing blends of spices that highlight the flavors used in different regions of Italy. I am currently developing other food products.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Are there other new book titles on the way? What about new projects, other than the PBS program? 

Maria Liberati: Yes I am collaborating with my favorite culinary school in Italy- Chef Academy in Terni (the town of St Valentine) on a book that will include their recipes and my stories from my blog. And, as mentioned, a new TV series, and a podcast.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena:
: If you could meet a personality from the past or the present, who would he or she be? What would you like to tell them and to ask them?

Maria Liberati: If I had to choose one, it would most definitely be Leonardo DaVinci. One of his interests, and he had many talents and interests, was food. I researched DaVinci’s foodie life and wrote The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style- which is about the different cities in Italy he lived in and what he created in each city as well as recipes from those regions. But I would like to ask him what would be his favorite meal to eat and to paint.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena:: Maria, do you have a message for our Italian American readers?

Maria Liberati: Yes, to keep your heritage alive and teach your children or grandchildren or nieces, nephews about it. We have such a rich heritage, and our ancestors made so many contributions to assisting in building the USA  and invented so many of the things we use today in our daily life. But it is also really important to understand where our families came from to appreciate what we have today. Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house always included stories and photos about their life in Italy. I didn’t truly understand anything about their life and where they came from until I had the opportunity to visit and then live in Italy and research so many things. I fell in love with my culture and history and that is why I created my book series. It afforded me the opportunity to work in and study the things I love the most. As Italian Americans, our life here in the USA is a result of so many years of hard work and drive and passion that our ancestors had. And if you can somehow teach that or convey that to your children it is truly a beautiful thing for them to understand and even aspire to keep their dreams alive.

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