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William John Castello And The Mastery Of Portraits’ Creation. An Exclusive Interview With The Artist.
by Milano52
Jul 31, 2019 | 5954 views | 0 0 comments | 688 688 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 | 6437 views | 0 0 comments | 986 986 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 | 9824 views | 0 0 comments | 2077 2077 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 | 7266 views | 0 0 comments | 1135 1135 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 | 7670 views | 0 0 comments | 1197 1197 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 | 12833 views | 0 0 comments | 1300 1300 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 | 12091 views | 0 0 comments | 1470 1470 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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The Italian Cookie Comes With A Smile. An Interview Of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition’s Winner Tina Zaccardi.
by Milano52
Mar 07, 2019 | 16811 views | 0 0 comments | 1820 1820 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The Italian Cookie comes with a smile. An exclusive interview of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition’s winner Tina Zaccardi.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

 For all the friends who had the fortune to taste Tina Zaccardi’s cookies, cakes, and pies, it was not such a big surprise that she had won “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition”: the heavenly experience of flavoring her desserts convinces you immediately that you are dealing with an artist and a winner. So much so that in the towns of Tuckahoe and Eastchester no TV was turned off the day she participated in the final episode. Call us fans, aficionados, devotees, followers, groupies or whatever else, only a person who tasted her sweets can understand the love for her baking products and for her (she is humble, soft-spoken, and always carries a wonderful smile, all qualities that add up to her charismatic presence). I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions regarding her recent experience.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You have a great passion for baking and cooking in general. When was this developed? Was there a turning point that made it so?

Tina Zaccardi:  I started baking when I was very young by watching my mother and grandmother.  I started to see that everyone enjoyed eating what I was baking and it gave me a great sense of satisfaction and confidence.  As I got older I found that baking was a way to set myself apart.  It was also a way to make my family and friends very happy by baking something that they love.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Was the participation The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition hard to obtain? What was the process for admission and? What prompted you to apply?

Tina Zaccardi:  The process started with a 75 question application.  The next step was an interview with a producer; I was then invited to a tasting interview where I have to bring a few of my bakes.  They must have liked what they tasted because I was sent through to a live baking audition. From there I was chosen as one of the 10 bakers to appear on the show.

The reason for me wanting to apply is a bit of a story.  I was sitting watching TV about 5 years ago and came across The British Baking Show on PBS.  I immediately fell in love with the format and said to myself if they ever do an American Baking Show I would definitely apply.

 

Photo Mark Bourdilloion_ABC

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You did stay 25 days in England to tape the show. Did you tape an episode per day? Were you always told what type of dessert you had to bake or did they leave it to your choice? How were the judges?

Tina Zaccardi:  I was in England for 25 days filming the show.  We did not film every day and had 1-2 days off in between filming.  Of the three bakes per episode, I knew what I would be baking for two of them.  The technical challenge was a total surprise.

The judges were great!  They gave constructive and honest feedback regarding our bakes and could not have been nicer!!!

 

Photo ABC/Mark Bourdillion

 

Photo ABC/Mark Bourdillion

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Could you tell our readers what were the most memorable moments of this unique experience?

Tina Zaccardi:  There were so many experiences but I’ll tell you a few.  I never expected to win, so moving forward in the competition every week was like a dream come true.  One of the most exciting experiences was when I got a handshake from Paul Hollywood for my Chocolate, Cherry, Pistachio Rugelach cookies.  For anyone one that has watched the British Baking Show getting a Hollywood Handshake is as good as it gets!!!

Definitely, winning Star Baker twice was a twice in a lifetime experience.  Also, the great times I had with my fellow bakers outside of the competition is something I will always treasure.

 

Photo ABC/Mark Bourdillion

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Was there a moment of distress in which you felt you had lost your chance to win?

Tina Zaccardi:  I had a few moments, but I think the most stress I felt was during the Showstopper Bake for Cake Week. I had a problem with my cake and I thought that if I served what I had to the judges I would definitely be going home.  I had to compose myself and bake a different cake all from memory.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What were some of the desserts you prepared for the contest?

Tina Zaccardi:  Some of my desserts were Chocolate mini cakes with an orange buttercream, a cranberry compote filling and a marzipan pumpkin for decoration.   There were a chocolate hazelnut praline and a key lime pie inspired eclair.  Classic cannoli siciliano, a gingerbread birdhouse and a goat cheese and balsamic glazed pot de creme.  Just to name a few…

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In 2013, you were the finalist of the “Joyful Cook-off” on the “Today Show.” Could you tell us more about that? Did it require a long time for you to go through the process, as it did for “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition?” What were the main differences?

Tina Zaccardi
:  The Joyful Cook-Off only required that I submit a single recipe and mine was chosen as one of the top three.  I got the opportunity to present my recipe on the Today Show.  My recipe was a Thai Inspired Chicken and Couscous.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In that same year, you also appeared on “The Chew.” What did you do on that show?

Tina Zaccardi:  The Chew had 3 viewers participate in a dessert cook-off. I won with my recipe for Peach Blueberry Crumb Pie with a Pecan Crust.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What about “Rachael Ray Show’s 10th Annual Burger Bash,” which you won in 2016? How exciting was the show and what did you win with?

Tina Zaccardi:   Rachael had three viewers compete in a burger bash.  My winning burger was a beef patty stuffed with roasted garlic and gorgonzola topped with arugula, bacon, homemade tomato jam and frizzled onions.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you expect to have more TV appearances in the near future? Are we going to see any “Tina Zaccardi Special” anytime soon?   

Tina Zaccardi:  You never know what the future brings.  Maybe there will be another TV appearance!!!

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: What about the possible commercialization of your products? Do you want to continue to bake for fun or are you looking into a possible partnership with some company for your products?

Tina Zaccardi:  Right now I’m taking one day at a time and have a few things in the works.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you believe your Italian roots influenced your baking and life choices?

Tina Zaccardi:  I do believe that my Italian roots have influenced my baking.  I tried to put some aspect into each of my bakes on the show.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW: HOLIDAY EDITION – Tina and her tricolor cake, inspired by the colors of the Italian flag.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you have a message for the aspiring bakers and chefs who read our magazine?

Tina Zaccardi:  Whatever you do, whether it’s baking or something else, don’t ever believe that your dream is too big.  If I believed that, I would never have auditioned for the show.  Never underestimate the benefits of hard work.  I’ve been practicing and researching and learning for a long time.  I believe that my hard work and preparation had prepared me for anything that I would have to bake on the show.  Even though I won, I still believe that I still have so much to learn.

 

Market Place at Fordham University

I would like to thank you and your magazine for giving me the opportunity to tell my story.

 

You can find Tina’s recipes and suggestions on these sites:

Web Site: TinaZaccardi.com                 Instagram: TheItalianCookie

 

Anginetti cookies (photo courtesy Tina Zaccardi)

A wonderful video by Tina on how to shape Anginetti cookies…

 
 
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Leo Vadalà’s “Some Grief, Some Joy” Will Move The Reader...
by Milano52
Jan 19, 2019 | 37380 views | 0 0 comments | 1015 1015 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink


Leo Vadalà’s “Some Grief, Some Joy” will move the reader. A book review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. The term is commonly used as a synonym for the historical novel.

An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the period depicted. Based upon this definition, the recently published novel Some Grief, Some Joy by Leo Vadalà is a work of historical fiction.

But we also have fictional history, where we change the course of real history by changing a particular detail, and history becomes quite different or not, depending upon how relevant that detail is.

Some Grief, Some Joy follows a pattern that resembles the one of fictional history, and it is unusual that the final outcome, spoiler alert, is not any different from the real one.

So, the author is able to plug in an imaginary tragedy and all the immediate consequences that follow, and still obtain to reach the identical end of the game.

Imagine doing that to the story of your life. However simple it may seem at first, a life of straight choices: school, work, family, love, and whatever other variants you had; tragedies, for example, who doesn’t have one or more? But how big were they? Did they change the course of your life? Maybe. But if they didn’t and you were to narrate your life, what would a big tragedy add to the drama of your life?  Would your life be the same?

We are talking about the author’s life, of course, and this could be a magnificent memoir, but Mr.Vadalà felt that plugging in some mysterious diversion would make it more interesting, and so it is: it becomes a magnificent novel.

Through the difficulties and the enthusiastic discoveries that follow immigration at 16, we discover an attentive observer of our society of the time, with its vices and virtues. The narrative brings the protagonist eventually to a point where his real life and fantasy become a blurred, undistinguishable story.

This is where the author is at his best and we may forget that it’s a novel and not a memoir; regardless, we are going to be absorbed by the various ups and downs of his life and get so emotionally vested in the story that it doesn’t matter anymore: we want to know more!

Adding to that, the author chooses to use a direct, extroverted approach to the language, making it easy to read, if at times almost colloquial, intimate to the point of making you feel as if you are reading a secret diary and that may be too personal: we are peeking into someone’s life. Because of its frankness and the delicacy of the situations presented, the book is not suggested for young readers; let’s say we can assign it a PG13 rating.

All in all, this is a breathtaking story told in a marvelous, well-paced style, and it deserves to be read.

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Being Italian American Is In The DNA Of My Being And Of My Work… An Interview With Playwright And Director Charles Messina
by Milano52
Oct 12, 2018 | 26731 views | 0 0 comments | 786 786 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
Being Italian American is in the DNA of my being and of my work… An exclusive interview with playwright and director Charles Messina

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena (Courtesy L'Idea Magazine NY)

Charles Messina

Charles Messina is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. Born in Greenwich Village, of Italian-American descent, he attended Xavier High School and then later, New York University.

Known for his deconstructive take on biographical subjects, Messina’s most notable stage work as director includes the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway plays “Cirque Jacqueline,” about the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and “Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God,” a monodrama written by Messina about Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury.

In 1999, “Actor Found Dead,” a one-act play written and directed by Messina about actor James Hayden debuted at the John Houseman Studio Theatre in New York City.  In 2007 Messina directed “Two-Mur Humor,” which was an official entry in the 2007 Fringe Festival in NYC, and the big-budget musical Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story, written by Richard Vetere,

Also in 2007, Messina’s play Merging won BEST PLAY in The Players’ Theater’s Shortened Attention Span Theater Festival in Greenwich Village. Messina also directed the film version of Merging, which was released in 2009.

Messina’s play, “Homeland,” which premiered in 2008, starred Sopranos actors Dan Grimaldi, Jason Cerbone, Joe Lisi, as well as Gina Ferranti and Amir Darvish.

Messina’s play “A Room of My Own,” about an Italian-American family living in Greenwich Village in the late 1970s was performed in 2009. In May 2010, Messina directed and co-wrote (along with Vincent Gogliormella) the script “’Twas The Night Before a Brooklyn Christmas,” starring Mario Cantone, Michael Rispoli and Robert Cuccioli.

Messina has directed the off-Broadway shows “Rockaway Boulevard” by Richard Vetere, “The Accidental Pervert” by Andrew Goffman, and Art Metrano’s “Accidental Comedy,” as well as a staged reading of his own script “Younger,” starring Joe Piscopo.

For the big screen, Messina has written “They’re Just My Friends” and “Spy.”

Messina wrote the book “My Father, My Don,” about the life of Genovese Capo James “Jimmy Nap” Napoli and his son Tony Napoli, in collaboration with Tony Napoli.

 

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You wrote and directed many plays. One of them, “A Room of My Own,” is autobiographical and it depicts the story of a young man growing up in an Italian American family in a studio apartment in Greenwich Village. Could you tell us more about the play and the characters? Is the rumor that it may soon become a TV series true? 

Charles Messina:  “A Room of My Own” is a very special project to me.  It is my baby.  Deeply personal and extremely detailed and accurate in its portrayal of my family and my upbringing.  It was a unique family and situation to be raised in, to say the least.  Crazy, funny, energetic, it was constant motion in that small apartment.  Growing up in Greenwich Village at that time was such an experience.  You had the art scene, the gay world exploding, the jazz scene.  And here we were this little Italian enclave, this tribe, that had settled there around the turn of the century, holding on to its old ways, as the outside world moved in.  There were many influences on me growing up there.  But in our house it was so much about survival.  My parents were working class people just trying to stay afloat financially.  And sometimes in those situations, the best way to get through it is by having a sense of humor.

Mario Cantone and Ralph Macchio

There were a lot of laughs in that place, and in this play, too.  But in the show there is also a deep sense of melancholy as the main character, essentially the adult me, played by The Karate Kid himself Ralph Macchio, looks back on his life and as a writer, tries to change the things he didn’t like about it.  Only to realize, through his young self, that you cannot change the past.  Acceptance is healing.  Such a wonderful cast.  I must acknowledge their brilliance.  Mario Cantone, Joli Tribuzio, Johnny Tammaro, Nico Bustamante, Kendra Jain, and Liza Vann.  I bow to them. They brought my childhood back to life so vividly and accurately.  We had a wonderful sold out, limited run-off Bway and have been developing it for television since, it’s true.  We are talking to a major network and are very hopeful that the Morelli family will be coming to the small screen very soon.

a scene from “A Room of My Own”



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In writing your plays, are you always inspired by true events or people you met or are 
some of them a complete work of fiction?

Charles Messina: Well, there’s true and there’s truth and those two things aren’t always exactly the same.  But I like stories that are based on real people.  The key word being real.  If something is real, you just know it, it cannot be denied.  We know real when we see it.  The way real people talk and walk and behave.  That fascinates me.  I love behavior.   Capturing the specifics of behavior or speech patterns and rhythms, those things excite me.  When I was a kid, and still now, I will watch something and I have this internal barometer that tells me, “Hmmm, that doesn’t seem real, that doesn’t feel right.”  So that’s very important to me.  I enjoy true stories and finding the truth in them and depicting that truth in a way that feels specific and real to me.  I think audiences are smart and can sense when something is false.  It’s vague.  It’s general.  It’s disconnected.  Real is specific.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your play “Merging” won the Best Play Award at the Players’ Theater’s Shortened Attention Span Theater Festival. What is this play about? Is the film version an accurate interpretation of the theatrical one?


Charles Messina:  Merging is a very strange and scary piece about loss and consumption.  About loving something so much that you want to consume it thoroughly for fear of losing it.  I had never written anything with a horror theme, so I wanted to give it a try.  Although I’m not sure it truly is horror, but it’s definitely a psychological thriller.  It examines the lives of a couple whose infant has suddenly and inexplicably gone missing and how things in their life begin to unravel quickly and horribly from there.  It’s tense.  It has a shock ending.  But for me, it was really about this theme of loss.  Humans do not handle loss, abandonment or separation very well and I wanted to explore those issues with Merging.  Audiences seemed to like and respond to it very well.  The film is certainly well done and closely reflects the play, practically word for word.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also wrote numerous movies’ screenplays. In your experience, how different is the process of writing them from the one of writing theatrical plays? Which one do you feel more rewarding? Are your screenplays original or are they based on pre-existing stories, novels or plays?


Charles Messina: There are several differences between writing for screen and writing for stage.  One of the most basic is setting.  Plays tend to take place in one or two locations.  Films can and often do have many varied locations, interior and exterior.  So that usually means discerning which stories will work best in which medium.   Also, there’s a difference in scene length.  That’s a big one.  In a stage play it’s all dialogue driven, so you can have a scene between characters that goes on for 10, 15, 20 pages if you like.  Film is governed by the cut, so scenes are much shorter generally, as you move from moment to moment, place to place.  There’s an economy of words.  Film is also much more the director’s medium.  Theater is the writer’s domain.  They can both be very rewarding creatively but in film as a writer you tend to step back and let the director do his or her thing.  Show up at the screening and say, Oh, they cut that line or they cut that scene, okay.  In theater the writer is usually much more involved day to day and that allows for more creative input and control.  I tend to work on stories based on real-life people or events, so for me the key is in the research and then deciding the best way to tell the story.  Whether it’s stage or screen, I tend toward character-driven pieces.  Connecting myself and then the audience to these characters is my first priority.  I’ve just always had a curiosity about people, what makes them tick, why they do what they do.  I can remember being in 6th grade and we had an anthology of short stories to read and before each story there was a brief passage of description about the writers of each story.  A biography about them.  This fascinated me.  I found the people behind the story just as, if not more, interesting than the stories themselves.  How and where they were raised, where they went to school, what influenced them.  For me, the people behind the story WERE the story!



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Charles, your experience with directing, both plays and musicals, is quite ample. Do you find directing your works any easier than directing other authors’ work? Are you able to write even in the period in which you direct? It’s obvious that directing is a major activity for you; any new play or musical in the works that you want to talk about?


Charles Messina:  I have directed a lot of my own work.  I think singular vision is very important.  A writer can get inside their own work in a way that another director may not be able to.  Especially if a piece is autobiographical. There’s a shorthand that a writer can bring to their own work that I think can make the piece very specific and unique.  Of course I’ve directed other people’s work and have had some wonderful directors take on my writing.  It’s all about understanding and trust.  I am working on a show now called The Storm.  It’s a musical based on the true story of composer Jeremy Long’s grandparents who were these marvelous show business personalities, who lived an incredibly successful and sometimes turbulent life.  Jeremy asked me to come onto the project because he knows I understand the value or personal storytelling.   I’m co-producing the project and may end up contributing as a writer or director,  we haven’t decided that yet.  But the key is being connected to the material and to your co-creators so that the creative process can be open.  Trust and openness is the key to any collaboration.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your musical “The Wanderer” about the life and music of Dion is having a great success after its 
recent workshop in NYC. Can we expect to see s full production of it any time soon?  Is it Broadway bound? Can you tell us something about it?  What prompted you to write this musical and direct it? 

Charles Messina:  The Wanderer is truly a great show.  I’m very proud of it.  We recently had our workshop presentations at The Baryshnikov Theater in NYC and the response was overwhelming.  We have such a wonderful catalog of music in it.  All Dion’s hits, from Teenager in Love to Runaround Sue to Abraham Martin & John.  And of course the title track.  It’s just great music.  In addition, we tell the compelling story of Dion’s life, including his struggles with heroin addiction and how his life was saved by a renewed faith in God.  It’s very powerful.  It’s going to surprise a lot of people.  We’ll be taking it on the road next year and then,  God willing, to Broadway soon after that.   I was excited to work on the book for this show.  It was a great fit for me as a NY kid who knew Dion’s music.  We were introduced through a mutual friend and we really hit it off.  I think there was a fast connection, two NYC guys, Italian American.  We knew each other’s culture and upbringing because it was the same.  He was from the Bronx, I was from Greenwich Village.  But we shared that Italian thing that you have to be inside of to fully comprehend.  I immediately saw his life as a Broadway musical.   But we both wanted it to be real and authentic.  Not fluffy or glossy.  We want edgy, dark, honest.  This is about addiction. But with all that great music throughout.  I think it’s a very special show and I can’t wait until the world sees it.  People ask if it’s a jukebox musical and we say, no, it’s REAL LIFE musical.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena Freddy Mercury was the icon star for a few generations, even after his death. You wrote “Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God.” Is that a play?


Charles Messina:  Mercury was a monodrama I wrote about Freddie’s life.  I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish with that piece.  To just strip away the rock star glam and glitter and show the man.  That was most important to me.  He hid so much of his true self from the world for fear of exposure – his sexuality, his ethnicity.   And this was long before the upcoming biopic that they’re releasing.  We were light years ahead of the curve on that one.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Although you are known for your deconstructive take on biographical subjects, I found only one book written under these premises. Is this going to be the exception or do you project to write more books like this one? What made you decide to co-write “My Father, My Don” with Tony Napoli? I previously reviewed the book, which I found very well written and emotionally captivating, and at that time I had extended my compliments to you for your ability to retain Tony’s informal, almost intimate language. How difficult was it to abstain from rewriting the story with your voice? Did you enjoy working with Tony? Is the filming of the movie based on the book still going on? Are you involved with it?



Charles Messina
:  Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint.  It takes time.  Research.  It’s an arduous process.  I found working on My Father, My Don an to be a learning experience.  To tell a story from the first person point of view and capture the rhythm and tonality of another person’s voice, and to keep it genuine and truthful, that was a wonderful challenge.  As a playwright, I’m used to writing dialogue, so staying committed to the first person narrative was comfortable for me.  Sustaining it over 300 pages, that was the harder part.  My Father, My Don should make a fine film.  I’m not currently involved with any adaptation of it.  I have been asked about writing other books.  I think there’s a little Mob fatigue out there.  So Mob subjects don’t particularly interest me at this point.  Maybe if it were the right one.  I have some ideas.  I will write another book one day.  The timing just has to be right for it.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: How much did your being Italian American influence your life choices and your behavior in general?

Charles Messina:  Anyone who knows me knows just how much being a NY Italian American means to me.  That is my world.  Those are my people.  I was raised in it.  It’s in my blood.   It was and will always be a part of me.  I know their ways, their food, their hopes and dreams, their phrases!  To me when I talk about what’s real, I’m talking to a great extent about Italian Americans and their culture.  Their manners and rhythms and the particulars of their language, that’s what real sounds like to me. That’s what real is.  Brash, funny, but always to the point, always alive, connected and energetic, that’s what influences my writing.  That’s what my ear picks up.  That sound is the sound of someone telling it like it is.  I have often said that ethnic authenticity is the most important thing to my work.  It’s hard to teach what being a real Italian American looks and feels like.  You know it when you see it.  It comes out of the pores.  It’s in the DNA of my being and of my work.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you had the opportunity to meet and talk with a person from the past, anyone you wished, who would it be and what would your conversation with them be about?

Charles Messina:  My mother.  She passed away in 2009.  She saw some of my work but not all of it, of course.  Although a part of her is in all of it.  The lead in A Room of My Own is based on her.  She will always be my greatest influence.  I owe everything that I am to her.  I owe my active language as a writer to her.  My sense of humor is hers.  She had no filter.  She said it just as she saw it.  Funniest, toughest, boldest person I have ever known.  When I’m stuck for a line as I’m writing I will often ask, What would my mother say here?  She had the funniest and most particular turns of phrase!  She could do with one sentence and a look what it takes writers whole novels to convey.  She was hyper-aware and sharp.  Sometimes biting and cruel.  But a true original.  Her mind was ten steps ahead of everybody else.  Fiercely supportive of me.   Funny thing is, she was stricken with throat cancer and lived the last 14 years of her life without her voice.  Yet, she was more articulate and more expressive than ever!  She really gave me the confidence to believe that I could do anything, that I had as much right to be what I wanted to be as anybody else did.  She was defiant about that.  She worked the counter in a bakery and my father was a truck driver, a teamster.  Worked their asses off.  Put me through Catholic schools and then college.   When I said I wanted to go to NYU to become a writer and a director, they didn’t flinch.  They said, “Become whatever you want to become.”   So if I could meet one person, it would definitely be my mother.   What would I tell her?  I think I would show her something.  I’d roll up my left sleeve and show her the MOM tattoo I have on my forearm.  She never saw it.  I had it done after she passed away.  It’s designed with steel beams to symbolize her strength and when I put my arm down she’s always there, by my side.  I could see her being proud of it, smiling and saying, “My son-my son, you did that for me.”  And I’d say,  are you kiddin’, Ma, after all you gave to me, it’s the least I could do.

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