To “blame” were two books—I Segreti della Cucina dell’ Emilia Romagna and I Segreti della Cucina Toscana, which reveal the secrets of their respective regional cuisines. The Italian Cultural Institute San Francisco, under the direction of Paolo Barlera, hosted the unique event designed by the journalist Stefano Andrini, and presented the books to the public. From the beginning of the event’s journey Andrini benefitted from collaboration with Bologna Connect, in particular with the association’s founders, Laura Bizzari and Antonella Orlandi, whose experience organizing and promoting cultural initiatives extends to the United States and elsewhere. The event, which also received sponsorship from the region of Emilia-Romagna, was an extraordinary success. A large audience filled the gallery of the Italian Cultural Institute for the conversation between Mary Tolaro-Noyes, Ambassador of Bologna Connect, and Mr. Andrini.
Surprises were not lacking. Original entertaining videos directed by Federico Formigoni interrupted the discussion, which included English subtitles written by Enrica Nicoli Aldini, a young Bolognese now living in the United States. Audience members were left astonished and amused. The Tagliatelle Band first challenged them with a remake of a famous Hawaiian Christmas song. Next Alessandro Di Leva, performing in the attire of a Roman legionary, shared the ancestry of the Roman piadina in Rimini. The video ended like a classic American film when the actor leaves the screen and pops up in the audience – this time though accompanied by Francesca Pivi dressed as a Roman matron. The room burst into applause with a standing ovation. The hilarious monologue of the highly regarded comedian Paolo Cevoli attempted to explain to Americans why Romagna is devoted to the pig. Then an anecdote told by Claudio Di Bernardo, the chef of the Grand Hotel Rimini, recounted the time when Sharon Stone preferred to eat a plate of spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, and pepperoncino instead of a plate of oysters. Lastly, the the Soda Sisters made a lively splash with their agro-folk and very Tuscan musical finale.
Many themes dominated the evening’s discussion. For instance, does spaghetti Bolognese exist or not, and why it is that every respectable tortellino is destined to end up in broth and not cream? Also the fabled priest’s housekeeper, who from peering out the window of the Sala della Musica of San Petronio, watched as the ceremonies down at the basicalla’s altar progressed. She would then know the perfect moment to toss the pasta in the boiling water and be ready to serve the priest’s lunch. Blogger David Scott Allen’s story in the Tuscan book recounts his interview of Sting and his wife Trudie Styler and their Tuscan farm.
Then on to the food! The guests watched Bianca and Anna of the Hotel Villa Svizzera at home in Vidiciatico, who were followed by a candid camera as they prepared their crescentine fried breads and zuccherini cookies. The chefs, who were present, then offered the visitors a tasting of their stuffed tigelle and zuccherini. Babbi Specialty Desserts and the insurmountable wines from Tre Monti di Imola completed the tasting.
The success of the event means that the troop is ready to take off again in new directions—its goal to familiarize the world with important hidden (and not so hidden) culinary secrets!