Thursday, April 10, 2014

Italian American Girl - Garden State Film Festival 2014

I'm on the board for the Garden State Film Festival and we had another great year this time in Atlantic City, NJ. The venues and parties were larger and lived up to the expectations.  Throughout the weekend there were over 184 films to see and Q & A sessions with industry leaders and actors from film. Overall, this year was amazing - looking forward to 2015. Here are some pictures with Laura Dern, Bebe Neuwirth and Ed Asner.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

ITALIAN SUPERSTAR ZUCCHERO RELEASES NEW ALBUM AND DVD — LA SESIÓN CUBANA — ON MANHATTAN RECORDS
































Hollywood, CA — Zucchero "Sugar" Fornaciari http://www.zucchero.it/eng/  the Grammy-nominated Italian blues-rock singer, and one of Europe's best-selling artists, will release his latest album, La Sesión Cubana,  via Manhattan Records. Known as a musical wanderer, Zucchero achieves a long-held dream of recording in Cuba with the best native musicians in Havana, and exploring the roots of American music along the way.

"My music comes from blues, from soul, and from gospel," Zucchero says. "This project is a trip from New Orleans to Cuba via Mexicali. Latin, Cuban, and Tex-Mex sounds and rhythms melt together dancing. Hasta l'asta siempre."

Produced by Zucchero and Don Was, and mixed by Michael Brauer, La Sesión Cubana features seven brand-new songs, as well as six newly arranged versions of Zucchero's European hits: "Baila," "Un Kilo," "Così Celeste," "Cuba Libre," "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime," and "L'Urlo." The new recordings consist "Guantanamera (Guajira), original compositions "Love Is All Around" and "Sabor a ti," and the covers "Never Is a Moment," "Nena," "Pana"(a duet with Spanish singer Bebe), and "Ave Maria No Morro" — a duet with Brazilian star Djavan. Each song was recorded virtually live in the studio to ensure the thrill of improvisation.

In addition to the studio album, Manhattan is releasing a deluxe CD/DVD version with the La Sesión Cubana studio CD with a two hour "Live in Havana DVD. A one hour version of The Live in Havana concert program will be featured in March, 2014 by Public Television stations as part of their pledge programs. The program is being presented by WLIW.

April 1st           San Francisco, CA       Great American Music Hall           
April 2nd           Los Angeles, CA         Club Nokia
April 4th           Phoenix, AZ             Wild Horse Pass Casino
April 5th           San Diego, CA           Balboa Theater
April 8th           Dallas, TX              House of Blues           
April 10th          Houston, TX             House of Blues
April 11th          Lafeyette, LA           Vermillionville PAC
April 12th          New Orleans, LA         HOB Parish
April 13th          Nashville, TN           Exit In
April 16th          Chicago, IL             Park West           
April 18th          Boston, MA              Berklee PAC           
April 22nd          New York, NY            The Theater at Madison Square Garden
April 26th          Atlantic City, NJ       Taj Mahal
April 27th          Ledyard, CT             Foxwoods Casino
May 1st             Atlanta, GA             Center Stage
May 3rd             Miami, FL               Gusman Center
May 4th             Tampa, FL               Capitol Theater

Catch Zucchero on tour in the U.S. and Canada this spring

For more about Zucchero:












Friday, March 7, 2014

The Italian-American's Guide to a First Visit Home

Everyone’s first trip to Italy is bound to be special. The land’s natural beauty, rich history and vibrant culture create an atmosphere that’s unlike any other in the world. Coming to Italy for the first time is even more special if you come from an Italian-American background. You may technically be a tourist, but you’re also a child of the land who’s coming home to the place where you can trace back your roots.

As a returnee to the motherland, you’ll want to see as much of it as you possibly can in the limited amount of time that you have. It’s your opportunity to reacquaint yourself with where your bloodline came from and to experience what Italy is all about.

If you’re an American of Italian descent, here’s a list of places that you’ll want to visit when you go to Italy. You may not be able to land on all of these locales in one trip, but you’ll want to hit as many of these targets when you do make the trip. Here are our suggested places along with useful info on food and language:


Do Your Research
 The first place to begin this exciting journey is to research the roots of your family in Italy. A great number of the Italian diaspora left the towns and villages near Rome, along the Amalfi Coast and the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Whether you know the exact ancestral village of your family or just the general region, a journey to Italy will greatly enrich your Italian pride.


Caput Mundi
 Start your journey in the Italian capital of Rome. The Eternal City was once the capital of the ancient world and is now a vibrant, chaotic mix of  modern comforts and relics of the past. You can stand in the Piazza Campidoglio which was designed by Michelangelo and just around the corner, visit the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland).
 Photo

Photo: Piazza Campidoglio in Rome

For those of you who have an interest in history, it’s important to understand how young Italy is.The country wasn’t the state that we know now until 1871. For centuries, Italy was a group of semi-autonomous territories ruled by monarchs, foreign leaders and popes. Rome was named the capitol of the Republic of Italy when the nation was put together, giving birth to the Italy that we know and love today.


Naples and the Amalfi Coast
 An easy distance from Rome is the ancient ruined city of Pompeii, the city of Naples and the enchanting Amalfi Coast.  Spend a day exploring Pompeii and learning about this once wealthy Roman town that was buried alive by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.Its fragments come alive with vibrant frescoes, houses, temples and shops all preserved in the volcanic ash that sealed the locale’s fate.

Head overto the city of Naples. It’s bordered by Vesuvius on one side and by the Bay of Naples on the other.  You can visit Bourbon castles, shop in lively markets and take long walks along the bay on newly pedestrianized lungomare.

Just under an hour from Naples is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The over 1,000 twists and turns along the SS163, also known as the Amalfi Coast Drive, affords views off dizzying precipices, sparkling seas and fragrant lemon groves. Spend a few days exploring the pastel villages that seem to precariously cling to the steep cliffs. Take the time to immerse yourself in the culture and observe how the residents of this area have preserved a lot of elements in the old Italian way of life.


Photo: Road going to the Amalfi Coast


Sicily
 A large portion of Italian-Americans can trace their roots back to Sicily – Italy’s largest island. If you’re Italian-American and you’re not sure where your family hails from, there’s a good chance that this is your ancestry’s motherland. When you visit Sicily, be sure to see Mount Etna, the dramatic and still active volcano near the ancient cites of Ragusa, Noto and Modica. Modica, with its soft, orange baroque architecture is best known for the delicious chocolate that it produces. Combine learning about your family history with ancient history in the town of Agrigento with a visit to the Valley of the Temples.  The 5th century BC ruins are set in an almond grove with beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea.


Photo: Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily

Food
 Food is as much a part of Italian culture as art, fashion and history are. Italians who migrated to the US in its early days brought along their great culinary practices which have evolved over time. The result is a separation of paths between authentic “Italian cuisine” and what we know in the mainstream to be Italian food.

For the record, there really is no such thing as Italian food. The culinary styles in Italy are diverse and regionalized. What you’ll see being served in Rome will be vastly different from what you’ll see in Venice. Also, a lot of dishes that you might recognize as Italian in the US do not actually exist in Italy. A lot of what Italian-Americans know as Italian food are actually creations of Italian migrants who established food businesses when they were in the US. The difference in the availability of ingredients and the tastes of customers in America have compelled Italian cooks to improvise and adjust their recipes according to local supply and demand.


For instance, you will not find spaghetti and meatballs served together in Italy. You may get a strange look from a waiter if you ask for chicken parmesan. You’ll definitely not want to ask for Caesar dressing on your salad even if it seems like the right thing to do. In Italy, olive oil and balsamic vinegar are the preferred flavorings for fresh vegetables.

Language
 I was recently chatting with a millennial 9th-generation Roman over a plate of amatricina and he said something interesting about Italian-Americans who visit Italy.  He explained to me that they often speak Italian with a vocabulary from 100 years ago. Using words that now in modern Italy only bis-nonna’s use and with a degree of formality seldom heard. Think of it as akin to someone speaking like one of our founding fathers. Also, know that sometimes the slang or dialect you may have learned at your grandfather’s and uncle’s knee may be infinitely more vulgar than you intend.

Your first trip to Italy will infinitely strengthen your Italian American identity and heritage.It’s a very special feeling that gives you a better sense of belongingness and perspective about yourself and the world around you, Pack your bags, board that plane and enjoy your trip to the land that gave rise to your family. Hopefully, your first trip to Italy is just one of many more to come. Ciao!


About the Author
 Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of  Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients. For more on Priscila and her work, connect with her on Google+.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cinema Made in Italy Presents 'HONEY' (MIELE) A film by Valeria Golino



HONEY
(MIELE)
A film by Valeria Golino
Starring Jasmine Trinca and Carlo Cecchi
Buena Onda Presents A Buena Onda and RAI Cinema Production
In Co-Production with Les Films Des Tournelles and CitéFilms


THE STORY 

Irene lives alone on the coastline outside Rome. To her father and her married lover, she’s a student. In reality, she often travels to Mexico where she can legally buy a powerful barbiturate. Working under the name of Miele ("Honey"), her clandestine job is to help terminally-ill people to die with dignity by giving them the drug. One day she supplies a new “client”with a fatal dose, only to find out he’s perfectly healthy but tired of life. Irene is determined not to be responsible for his suicide. From this point on, Irene and Grimaldi are unwillingly locked in an intense and moving relationship which will change Irene’s life forever.



Q & A WITH VALERIA GOLINO

How did you come across the novel?
Almost three years ago I read a very interesting review of the novel, the theme attracted me enormously. The writer was hiding under the pseudonym Angela del Fabbrowhich made me think that she might be shrouding her identity because she was the same character as Miele, and doing an illegal job. Also, the book was written in first person and was very detailed, which intrigued me even more. It made me feel that I was dealing with a very authentic story. It was only a year later, while we were already way deep into the script, that we found out that the author was Mauro Covachic, a well known novelist.

What was it about the novel that made you want to make it the subject of your first feature film as a director?   First of all, the subject of mercy killing is taboo in Italy, much more so than in any other European country, because of the Vatican influence and of our catholic imprint. But I feel that whereas the Italian people are ready to address this and other ethical issues, the politicians are not. Also, I wanted to make the film because the novel had a very cinematic material. Despite the gravity of the subject, the book had a lot of visual potential. The protagonist, Miele, has a powerful vitality, even more pronounced because of her dealing with pain and death. That contrast attracted me.

The subject of "mercy killing" is certainly a very current one. While the film is as much about a young woman's growth as an examination of the morals of "mercy killing", what are your thoughts on the subject?

I believe every human being should have the right to choose over their body, their life, and how to end it. Having said that, I don't mean the film to be a manifesto. In fact it doesn't give answers, it only poses questions. I would like to think that the film is about shifting convictions, prejudices and the fears that we all have.


Have you wanted to direct for a long time?
Vaguely so. I love cinema and photography, and having made so many movies as an actress I learned a lot of things without even realizing it. I never consciously thought to become a director until three years ago when I was asked to direct a short movie (Armandino e il madre). During the shoot I had my private epiphany: probably I had a calling I never knew was there...:-)
Does your experience as an actress make it easier to direct actors?
I suppose it does. I have a lot of empathy with actors, and gratitude.

Was casting a relatively straightforward process?
I did a lot of auditions, but actually the two main roles (Jasmine Trinca as Irene /Miele and Carlo Cecchi as Grimaldi) invaded my imagination and my co-writers’ since day one.

What did you look for when selecting the key crew?
I wanted to have a crew of friends, of people I had worked with, that knew me well and would be patient with a beginner. At the same time, people that were inspiring and inspired. The only new addition was GergelyPoharnok, an Hungarian DP, whose work I ran into by chance and immediately felt connected to.


Release Information 

New York City March 7-13
Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center
Tickets:   http://www.filmlinc.com/films/on-sale/honey-miele


Los Angeles, March 14-20
Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills, Laemmle.com
Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena, Laemmle.com

Miami, March 28-30, April 2-3
Miami Beach Cinematheque, Miami Beach, mbcinema.com

Miami, March 28-30
Cosford Cinema, Miami, cosfordcinema.com

Washington, DC, March 28 – April 3
West End Cinema, westendcinema.com

OFFICIAL SELECTION
Cannes Film Festival - Un Certain Regard
Venice Film Festival - Venice Days
Chicago International Film Festival

WINNER
Special Mention - Ecumenical Jury - Cannes Film Festival
Nominee - Discovery Award - European Film Awards



NY & LA PRESS CONTACT:
Ryan Werner
ryan@cineticmedia.com
Office:  212.627.9898
Mobile:  917.254.7653



ABOUT CINEMA MADE IN ITALY
Cinema Made in Italy is a major new initiative between Instituto Luce-Cinecittà, the Italian Trade Commission and Emerging Pictures that will provide distribution and marketing support to five major Italian films with the goal of broadening the audience for Italian cinema in the United States.  Instituto Luce-Cinecittà (with funds from the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Culture) and the Italian Trade Commission (Agenzia ICE) have created a fund that will provide marketing and distribution support for 5 films.  The first film to receive support was Paolo Sorrentino’s THE GREAT BEAUTY (distributed by Janus Films) which is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film as well as the Film Independent Spirit Award and the César.  It is the first Italian film to win the Golden Globe in 25 years and also won the Best Film at the European Film Awards and Best Foreign Film from BAFTA.  The remaining 4 films will be distributed by Emerging Pictures and include Valeria Golino’s HONEY, Bernardo Bertolucci’s ME AND YOU, Gianni Amelio’s L’INTREPIDO:  A SELF MADE HERO and Marco Bellochio’s DORMANT BEAUTY.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

GIGI D'ALESSIO Announces February North American Album Release and Tour

New York, NY — 2014 kicks off on a North American note for Gigi D'Alessio.  The Italian superstar will release his 18th studio set Ora via Sony Music on February 4th, followed by the kick off of his world tour.

One of Italy's most popular recording artists, the Naples-born D'Alessio has sold 12 million copies and achieved 100 platinum awards during a 20 year career.  Ora features D'Alessio in collaboration with Neopolitan musician Enzo Avitabile on the track Notte di lune storte.  Avitabile recently came to the attention of American audiences through a documentary by Jonathan Demme; D’Alessio and Avitalile were childhood conservatory classmates.   Serpente e sonagli features words penned by the legendary Italian lyricist Mogoland includes the voice of Anna Tatangelo, D'Alessio's life partner who will be joining him on stage in the US and Canada.

For more information: http://gigiworldtour.com

Monday, February 3, 2014

Have You Ever Had Pasta Chips? Italian Version of the American Potato Chip?

Here is the latest food product you have to try and no it's on the grown out of garden type, but it's pretty amazing.  So Superbowl Sunday just passed and we eat tons of party food and including chips.  Well,  about a week ago I received a package from the team over at Pasta Chips and they sent a few bags of their latest creation literally called Pasta Chips.  OK, so to an Italian American, I thought wow, they made pasta into a type of potato chip, but then when I tasted it I was so shocked at how light and crispy they were. 

I entertained with a bag of Alfredo, Marinara, and Garlic-Olive Oil flavors.    I served a side of spinach yogurt dip on the side, which was a-mazing.  The great thing about the chips, as you know I am a bit of a health aficionado, - the chips are actually baked, taking that guilt off right away. 


Pasta Chips are:


-all natural
-low in cholesterol 
-low in saturated fat 
-only 120 calories per serving 
-oven baked 


-60% less fat

       
Here's a bit of history from the creator of the Pasta Chips -- 


I would like to take you on a journey through Italy with our delicious Pasta Chips, an idea born in the hills of Tuscany at a small, authentic Osteria, where food comes alive with the passion associated with Italy. This Tuscan inspired chip is made with semolina flour and Italian herbs, married with different seasonings based on regional Italian favorites, is steeped in hundreds of years of Italian culture and living. Pasta Chips come in 5 flavor packed varieties: Spicy Tomato Herb, Sea Salt, Marinara, Alfredo and Garlic Olive Oil. 

The thing is it's not about being Italian, or Italian American, but rather the notion that this is a type of chip made from pasta and if you're a foodie, this type of variation on a pasta chip can be an interesting accent to your dishes.  The idea threw me off, but the taste and concept are amazing.  I would recommend and most likely buy these again for my next party.  It really allows for creativity if you want to accompany the chip with a side dish of either dips or antipasto.

Check out their site and you can actually buy Pasta Chips in most grocery stores.

                                                                 


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

New Lavazza Drip Coffee With Traditional Christmas Cookies & My Family Italian Cookie Recipe

Tis' the season for eating and baking, especially in any Italian American household. This year, I got together with my sister Maria, my niece and my mother for some holiday baking. Mostly, my sister is more the aficionado on baking, I like to document with photos and video and lastly decorate the cookies. We tend to make more  traditional Italian cookies, along with my mother's variations, where she usually bakes up a honey biscotto.  As you can see to the left. 

This year my sister incorporated her variation of the cookie which we worked on together and was actually not so time consuming, a great traditional Italian cookie. 





Here is the recipe :

Biscotti de Natale

1 lb butter
1 cup sugar
Six eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour

6 teaspoons of baking soda

-Bake at 375° 10–12 minutes until light golden
-Combine butter sugar vanilla and eggs. 

-Add flour and baking soda
-Should be fluffy and not stiff drop by rounded teaspoon onto nonstick cookie sheet bake and allow this thoroughly cool.


Icing
-One box of confectioners sugar
-2 1/2 teaspoons of lemon extract
-Combine and ice cookies for the traditional decorated look.



Lavazza Drip Coffee
To accompany a traditional holiday cookie, is a great coffee, as you know we are truly lovers of coffee from our traditional espresso to our cafe Americano, as you know Lavazza is our staple for espresso, so when I was introduced to the newly available concept of drip coffees for Lavazza I was so HAPPY!  My favorite coffee is now in drip varieties!  This is truly Christmas!  

I received a wonderful package from the Lavazza team, which included a variety of the new drip coffees and gift cards to make this wonderful batch of Italian Christmas cookies. 

My family enjoyed these amazing coffees this holiday and I will be using for the rest of the year to make my daily coffee.   I hope you enjoy the cookie recipe and Buon Natale! 

You can shop the new line of drip coffees here http://www.shoplavazza.com/  and it maybe available at your local grocery stores.  Don't forget to follow www.twitter.com/LavazzaUSA on Twitter for coffee inspiration, recipes and more.

~Buon Natale!

*This post was sponsored by Lavazza.





Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Columbus Day 2013 - Controversial Holiday for Italian Americans or Hype?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Italian American Girl Presentation at Rider University - Writing For the Media, Blogging

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Italian Consulate to Close in Newark, NJ - Italian Americans In New Jersey Get the Short End of Stick Once Again...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

End of Summer Recipe - Italian Organic Tomato Salad - Basil, Scallions, Olive Oil

HITWEEK 2013 North American Return FRANCO BATTIATO | CANZONIERE GRECANICO SALENTINO & NICOLA CONTE

Nicola Conte

Hit Week – the world's only music festival showcasing Italy's current scene on the global stage — returns to North America with it's strongest line up to date.  A greatly expanded edition of the annual event touches down in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto between September 7 and October 30th.  Headliners announced include iconoclastic Italian singer, songwriter and composer Franco Battiato and Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, Italy's top act on the international world music circuit.  Renowned DJ, producer and musician Nicola Conte will bring his DJ set Stateside.  Additionally, 2013 Sanremo Festival winner Marco Mengoni makes his US debut appearance and critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Erica Mou rejoins the Hit Week fold after headlining the festival's inaugural event in Brazil earlier this year.

The core of Hit Week's fifth tour of the North American continent is a coast to coast run of concerts taking place between October 4th – 12th.  Highlights include Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino and Nicola Conte at the Hollywood ArtsPark (Miami) on October 5th with a redux of the bill on October 8th at New York City's Highline Ballroom.  Franco Battiato takes over the Highline stage onOctober 9th for the first in a pair of rare Transatlantic performances before heading to Canada and Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre on October 10th.  Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino then offers a California concert double header on October 11th at UCLA and October 12th at Taste of Italy Los Angeles.

Here are upcoming show dates:


September 7         Los Angeles, CA (TBA)       Erica Mou at Hit Week Preview
October 4           Miami, FL (TBA)             Nicola Conte at Hit Week / Rhythm Foundation
October 5           Hollywood, FL               Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, Nicola Conte
October 8           New York, NY                Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino and Nicola
October 9           New York, NY                Franco Battiato at Highline Ballroom
October 10          Toronto, ON                 Franco Battiato at Phoenix Concert Theatre
October 11          Los Angeles, CA             Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino at UCLA
October 12          Los Angeles, CA             Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino at Taste of Italy
October 28-29       Los Angeles, CA             Marco Mengoni at The Billboard Hollywood Reporter Film and TV Music Conference


Franco Battiato

Wednesday | October 9, 2013  | Show 8:00pm (Doors 6:00pm):                      New York, NY     
FRANCO BATTIATO
Highline Ballroom
431 W 16th St (Bet. 9th & 10th Ave.)
(212) 414-5994
Tickets: $60-$100 in advance, $70-$100 day of show
http://highlineballroom.com/show/2013/10/09/franco-battiato/

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

Tuesday | October 8, 2013  | Show 8:00pm (Doors             New York, NY      

CANZONIERE GRECANICO SALENTINO + NICOLA CONTE DJ Set
Highline Ballroom
431 W 16th St (Bet. 9th & 10th Ave.)
(212) 414-5994
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 day of show
http://highlineballroom.com/show/2013/10/08/canzoniere-grecanico-salentino/




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nonno Giving Lessons on 'How To Pick a Ripe Fig' With the Grandkids




Sunday, August 18, 2013

Italian American Girl Recipe - Eggplant Polpettone - Meatless Version

There's nothing like meatballs to go with the traditional Italian American Sunday dinner, which includes pasta.  But one thing about summer, my mother always made an eggplant version of a traditional meatball. I shared this photo via Facebook and it literally went viral in minutes and I had many requests from our community to share my mother's recipe, so here it is:

Eggplant Polpettone -

  • 1 eggplant (light purple)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of bread crumbs
  • 5 spoons of grated cheese ( Romano preferred)
  • 1 tsp. of salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 7 leaves of basilica chopped
Boil the eggplant in cubes till tender, drain them and squeeze water out.  Combine the bread crumbs, eggplant, eggs and all other ingredients.  Mix until it's completely evenly combined.  Begin forming balls about 3 inches long and 2 inches thick.  Fry in vegetable oil till brown.  Si Mangia! Let us know how your versions turn out.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Eros Ramazzotti World Tour Comes to the USA!



Brace yourselves!  Eros Ramazzotti will be making his World Tour debut here in the states, which is sure to excite the droves of Italian Americans who love his music - including me!  He'll be performing in Brooklyn, New York, Atlantic City, NJ - Los Angeles, CA, then onto Miami, FL.  

Check his website for direct links to purchase tickets, see you there!  


*Photo from ErosRamazzotti.com -- Paolo Zambaldi 2012

Friday, May 31, 2013

What Happened to the American Dream?

You know that saying, you have to write about what you know.  I am very particular about what I post on my Italian American Girl site as you can tell.  I don't write and post just to have anything up here, I am truthful about what I write because I feel the authenticity is what makes this site successful.  I often ask myself about life, 'do other people go through what I am going through?'  We often compare ourselves to others when we are faced with challenges in our lives.  I have been blessed my whole life in many ways and when we work hard, have no time, have family obligations, dealing with other problems, etc. things can  become overwhelming at times.  

In many posts in the past, I always say 'family is everything.'  I believe this is true, who else is there for you or will hand you the truth when you need it? Yes, your family.  So, when I say I am blessed I know I am, regardless of all the challenges.  More recently, my family and I have been faced with having to figure out how to move forward financially with my parents as they are aging.  Thank God, they are both of health and mind, but financially things are becoming increasingly hard as they're both retired.  My father came to this country over 50 years ago and worked two to three jobs, he never stopped.  Granted we were not millionaires and we most definitely lived a modest life, they still do.  After raising four children, my mother went off to work as well, she was not shy of hard work and definitely brought home her half of the bacon.   I grew up in a household where working hard and having a good work ethic were major influences and requirements.  Nothing wrong with that.  Buy your own car, buy your own house, take pride in your hard work -- do and BE the American dream.  

Fast forward to today and now we're working harder than ever, taxes are rising, seniors are living on less than fixed incomes as I know first hand from handling many financial elements for my parents.  My father came to this country when they were telling him back in Calabria that if you come to America, you're set for life -- you have to work hard, but you will be able to retire and your kids will have a better life than in Italy.  He did it, he bought and sold many homes, he never complained, he paid his taxes, he gave to whoever needed help, he gave other people jobs, and now they're faced with how to keep their home, pay debt back, and just live.  Look, this isn't a political piece I'm writing here, I'm talking about the facts, the actions, the history of the American dream, which prompts me to ask, 'What happened to the American dream?'

I am American, I love my country, but I want my parents American Dream supported and not pulled out from under their feet. I'm a child of immigrant parents, they worked hard, I work hard -- Can we get the dream back?  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Italian American Mother Series - A Daughter's Letter to Her Mother.....


Happy Mother’s Day mom, as you celebrate 59 years of mothering and 37 years of grand-mothering. These are the raw numbers of age, but they don’t reflect the memories, stories, lessons, and wisdom that come to us with the fullness of a life lived with intensity, insight, love, and faith.



Mothers are angels sent from God. They are like snowflakes; each one is different and unique in their own way. Not until I had my son did I realize the sacrifices mother’s make. Madeline, my mom is the heart of our home. She is the one that gets everyone together for birthdays and holidays. She loves to cook meals for the family. Everyone in the family can attest to her strength, her honesty, and her warmth. My mom embodies what a mother should be and shares her wisdom with everyone she meets. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, cooking, spending time with my dad, family, and friends. I have so many memories of my childhood with my mom, but these thoughts are a special way to wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day!!!

One of my mother’s favorite hobbies is reading books. So mom, here is one of the best books you have ever read. Each of us has entered my mother’s book in a different chapter—some long ago, some more recently—but we are, nevertheless, all part of a story that began in Brooklyn, NY and to the present in St. James, Long Island where she and my dad resides.

My mom was a teacher by profession and as they say chief, cook, and bottle washer. She did it all. Took care of three children, ran a home, worked, and there was always a hot meal on the table at night for dinner. On Sundays, church was always the top priority as the whole family would go to Mass together. Sunday was not only for church but for family. We always had grandparents, friends, and relatives to share in our Sunday dinner. The table had to be set just so, with the proper placement of forks, spoons, and knives. A typical Italian Sunday meal was centered on pasta (macaroni or mac’s for short we would call it) and meatballs as a first dish and then came the entrée with all the trimmings. After every one was almost busting out of their clothes came the coffee, demitasse, (Italian black coffee) tea, fruit, nuts, figs, and all the decadent desserts. We of course do not eat like that anymore, thank goodness or we will have to be rolled out of the house. Things were different then. Both my parents are my heroes. They not only share their love of family and food but also their faith in God. No matter what life brings, they taught me to be strong and know that family and God are always there with love and support.


The end of this story is not yet written, so we will refrain from speculation, but suffice it to say that we will be eagerly awaiting the sequel on Mother’s Day next year. But as we reflect today upon the time we all have to give with our mother, however long or short, we are reminded that our connections with one another constitute our greatest blessing. To that end, let us celebrate times shared, advice given and sought, wisdom imparted, stories remembered, and the joy of life. Thank you mom, May there be many more chapters to come….

Love your daughter, Dottie :)

*Permission for photo by Dottie Balin

Italian American Mother Series - Making Nutella Cupcakes


In honor of Mother's Day, we invited the Italian American Girl readers to submit their favorite story about their Italian -Italian American mother.  Here are a few of the most touching stories. 


By Ann Minard

I love cupcakes and I think this goes back to my childhood and the horrible lack of cupcake goodness throughout most of  it. Growing up in a First Generation Italian home cupcakes were not really my Mom's forte: why make silly old cupcakes when you can make homemade Cannoli, Biscotti, and French Candies? But I always had a deep longing for those oh so simple yet oh so good  All-American cupcakes, and here's why: 1) The size, you get your very own cake! 2) They are portable each having their own carrying case. 3) They are so adorable! 4) Easy to serve, no cutting. 5)Fun to decorate making each and everyone unique if you desire to do so. I guess these All-American treats are a lot like us as Americans: Carefree, Individual, and quite Adorable!

I do have to confess though that my Mom did give in and made me chocolate cupcakes for my 10th birthday, as you can see in the photo below. Although I am sure the very idea of making cupcakes seemed rather silly to such an experienced baker and pastry maker, she could whip out 100 homemade cannoli shells in an afternoon and made 100's of homemade candies and cookies every Christmas, my Mom humbled herself and baked me regular old chocolate cupcakes.



And many years later I finally understood my mother's struggle to give in to such a simple request  when on my daughter's birthday I asked her what "special foods" I could make her for her birthday meal and she all too quickly responded, "Frozen tater-tots and pop-tarts!"

 Nutella Cupcakes Recipe

This recipe is a nod to my Italian American roots: Hershey Cupcakes with Nutella frosting!

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa powder (This is the recipe on the back of the box.)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil or 1 stick butter melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
Frosting: 1 small  jar Nutella

Directions
Line 2 cupcake trays with cupcake liners and spray each with some vegetable spray.
Heat oven to 350.
Mix all the dry ingredients together, including the sugar.
Add the milk, eggs, vanilla, and butter and mix for 2 minutes on low with a mixer.
Add the boiling water and stir just until combined.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or ice-cream scoop fill each cup 2/3 full with the batter.
Bake for 22-25 minutes. Cool trays on racks for 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges if any seem to be stuck to the pan.
Flip over on to rack, bang bottom and release onto tray, flip each cupcake over and cool completely.
Frost with Nutella!

Note: This recipe make about 30 cupcakes but I find that if you let the batter sit and wait for the first batch to bake and cool they do not bake as well so I usually just make 24 using my 2 (1 dozen) trays at once on the same oven rack and throw out the rest.
Leave these cupcakes out on a counter and covered as they do not refrigerate well.

*Permission to use photos by Ann Minard

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Walk on May 5 to Help Italian-Americans and Others with a Deadly Blood Disorder!




On May 5, the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation is holding Care Walk 2013, a series of walks designed to show support for all those living with the blood disorder thalassemia (often called Cooley’s anemia) and to raise funds for the Foundation’s programs on behalf of people with thalassemia.  Thalssemia is disproportionately found in people of specific heritages, including those of Italian descent.  

Here's how you can help--Care Walk is designed for maximum convenience: We ask people to set up a Walk at a time and place that works for them.  It can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood with a couple of friends or as involved as organizing a larger walk in a park or other area.

Our goal is to have at least one person walking for every person with thalassemia in the U.S.!

You can register for Care Walk or support someone who is Walking by going to http://tinyurl.com/CareWalk2013 or you can email n.perozo@cooleysanemia.org for more information.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Authentic Italian Organic Zucchini Soup - Calabrese Style


I shared this picture on Facebook and the response was overwhelming, this is my mother's zucchini soup that  she makes all year round. To stick to the authenticity of my blog, I post things about my everyday Italian American life, so this is the real deal.  The soup is a combination of the actual organic zucchini, crushed tomato, boiled potato, garlic,  and onion.  So simple, yet complex in flavor.  I have to say, I can't believe my mother was so willing to give me the ingredients, usually it's TOP SECRET.   Enjoy! 

Recipe:

Add 1 quart of water to pot to boil:
  • 1 pound of zucchini cubed (organic or regular- I prefer organic)  
  • 1 small onion cubed
  • 1 clove of garlic (the whole thing - don't be cheap) 
  • 2 medium cut tomato or San Marzano from the jar/can (whatever works for you ) 
  • 1 medium sized potato cubed
  • 3 leaves of basil 
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (don't use low grade- olive oil can make or break a meal) 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
Combine all ingredients in the boiling water, cook about 20 to 25 minutes to tender.   Serve and enjoy!

This is a regular meal I grew up on, ever wonder why Italians are so healthy?

8 Health Benefits of Zucchini


** As a side note, this ingredient list had to be deciphered from an ancient Calabrese coded recipe.. LOL**