Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mario Lanza - Arrivederci Roma

One of my favorite versions of this classical Italian song

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Geometry of Pasta

Most cookbooks are replete with photographs to whet the appetite. Sauces drip from pasta-laden forks, and you can feed a squad of hungry soldiers with a single spaghetti recipe.
"The Geometry of Pasta," by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy, is the antithesis of this. This unassuming book has no photographs. The cover design and black-and-white illustrations of pasta — from shells to spaghetti to egg noodles — are by Hildebrand, an award-winning British graphic designer.
Turns out the book doesn't need mouthwatering pictures and huge portions to be extremely tasty.
"People have been making pasta for thousands of years ... and they've had a long time to get it right. There have been a lot of learning and practice. Lots of people have done the legwork," Kenedy says in a phone interview. "There's a lot more value to be looking back before deciding how to step forward with cuisine than just trying to step ahead in the future."
Kenedy spent several years going through Italy, collecting pasta recipes from dozens of cooks, mastering them and now serving them at Bocca Di Lupo, a restaurant in London's Soho district where he is the owner and chef.
"Geometry" starts very basic - such as how to create three basic tomato sauces from scratch - then dives into more exotic recipes. While most of the ingredients can be found at the local grocery, Whole Foods or a gourmet market is your friend when you're searching out buffalo milk mozzarella for the Penne al Forno.
The recipes can appear unhealthy, but Kenedy points out "the quantities of butter, oil and cream can be halved to produce a healthier more domestic version of any of the dishes," and, he adds, that applies to the amount of salt as well.
The book stemmed from Hildebrand's fascination with different shapes and sizes of pasta and how they suited various sauces and recipes.
"What's so lovely about pasta is that a lot of the shapes do echo things that have influenced the pasta makers, whether they are shells or indeed crankshafts. They really are food imitating life," said Hildebrand, who has designed best-selling cookbooks. "What we found when we researched is that they really are products of their time. You can date their provenance to what was happening in industrial advances or natural things, which seems like a crazy thing to say about pasta."
For example, dischi volanti, or "flying saucers," was designed in 1947 after a reported UFO sighting in the U.S. skies.
Finally, if you want to learn Italian, this is a place to start. Bigoli, cappelletti, gramigne, canederli, lumache and orecchiette are names that might not come tripping off the tongue of a casual eater of pasta more used to spaghetti, lasagna and tortellini, but don't worry — "The Geometry of Pasta" covers them too.
Deliciously. ___
Capelli D'Angelo al Burro e Limone
{ pound capelli d'angelo (angel's hair) pasta 1/3 cup butter Grated zest of 1 lemon A grating of nutmeg A few drops of lemon juice A little grated Parmesan, to serve A few basil leaves (optional)
While the capelli d'angelo (angel hair pasta) is cooking, pour about 1 cup of the cooking water into a pan and boil, swirling in the butter. Add the lemon zest, nutmeg and a little pepper and salt if needed. Allow to reduce to the consistency of light cream (add water if it goes too far), then add the pasta (drained and, as ever, slightly on the undercooked side.) Stir in and add a very few drops of lemon juice to taste.
Serve with a little Parmesan. A few basil leaves, stirred in at the same time as the lemon juice, are a pleasant addition. Roughly four servings. (I recommend adding the basil.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vatican Bank faces Money-laundering Probe

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- Italian authorities are investigating the Vatican Bank over possible violations of money laundering regulations, the Bank of Italy told CNN Tuesday.

Another Italian bank alerted Bank of Italy investigators to two Vatican Bank transactions that did not appear to comply with anti-money laundering requirements, the Bank of Italy said.

When Bank of Italy investigators told legal authorities about the transactions, they were told that judicial authorities were already investigating the Vatican Bank, the Bank of Italy said.

The Vatican said Tuesday it is "perplexed and baffled" by the public prosecutor's actions, and the Holy See aims for "complete transparency" in its financial operations.

The Vatican said it has "full trust" in Ettore Tedeschi, the head of the bank -- which is officially known as the Istituto per le Opere di Religione.

The Bank of Italy investigation was prompted by two wire transfers which the Vatican Bank asked Credito Artigiano to carry out, the Bank of Italy said.

The Vatican Bank did not provide enough information about the transfers -- one for 20 million euros (about $26 million), and one for 3 million euros (about $4 million) -- to comply with the law, prompting the Bank of Italy to suspend them automatically, it said.

The Vatican Bank is subject to particularly stringent anti-money laundering regulations because Italian law does not consider it to operate within the European Union.

It must supply more detailed information about transactions than European Union banks have to give.

Source:  CNN
CNN's Hada Messia in Rome, Italy, contributed to this report.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mafia Arrests Reveal Mob was "Going Green"

Police in Italy have seized Mafia-linked assets worth $1.9 billion – the biggest mob haul ever – in an operation revealing that the crime group was trying to "go green" by laundering money through alternative energy companies.

Investigators said the assets included more than 40 companies, hundreds of parcels of land, buildings, factories, bank accounts, stocks, fast cars and luxury yachts.
Most of the seized assets were located in Sicily, home of the Cosa Nostra, and in southern Calabria, home of its sister crime organisation, the 'Ndrangheta.

At the centre of the investigation was Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, 54, a man known as the "Lord of the Wind" because of his vast holdings in alternative energy concerns, mostly wind farms.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni called the operation "the largest seizure ever made" against the Mafia.
General Antonio Girone, head of the national anti-Mafia agency DIA, said Nicastri was linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, believed to be Mafia's current "boss of bosses".
Investigators said Nicastri's companies ran numerous wind farms as well as factories that produced solar energy panels.
"It's no surprise that the Sicilian Mafia was infiltrating profitable areas like wind and solar energy," Palermo magistrate Francesco Messineo told a news conference.
Officials said the operation was based on a 2,400-page investigative report and followed the arrest of Nicastri last year.
Senator Costantino Garraffa, a member of the parliamentary anti-Mafia committee, said the Mafia was trying to break into the "new economy," of alternative energy as it sought out virgin ventures to launder money from drugs and other rackets.
In the past few years, Italian authorities have cracked down hard on the crime group that once terrified the country.

The cupola, or hierarchy, of the Sicilian Mafia has been in freefall since the mid-1990s, when police began arresting its most enigmatic and charismatic bosses.

Salvatore "The Beast" Riina, who had declared war on the state and ordered a string of killings, bombings and kidnappings, was arrested in 1993 after nearly a quarter of a century on the run.
His successor, Bernardo Provenzano, was captured in 2006 after 43 years on the run. Both Riina and Provenzano hailed from Corleone, the hill town near Palermo made famous by the Godfather movies.
Provenzano was succeeded by Salvatore "The Baron" Lo Piccolo, who was in turn arrested a year later in 2007.

Police say the circle is now closing in on Messina Denaro, who hails from the grim western Sicilian town of Castelvetrano and is known as the "Playboy Boss" because he likes fast cars, women and gold watches. He has been on the run since 1993.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Video of an Italian Mountain Collapsing

Here is a very interesting video that shows the collapse of an Italian mountain.   As far as we can tell this story did not appear in the news - nor could we find out exactly where this took place ... but from the video you can see clearly that this is an actual event.

Who knew mountains could just flow down hill like this?

Click here to see the video.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Forte dei Marmi turns against rich tourists

Glitzy Tuscan retreat is trying to stop locals being forced out by wealthy Russian visitors.

After years of welcoming well-heeled tourists from around the world with open arms, one of Tuscany's smartest, most discreet beach resorts is in revolt against outsiders, wealthy or not.

Forte dei Marmi – the traditional summer retreat for Italian captains of industry, writers and film stars – is changing the law to try to stop locals fleeing because of house prices driven out of control by incoming Russian millionaires. The town's combative mayor, Umberto Buratti, is reserving space next to luxury villas with sea views for new homes that will only be sold to locally-born buyers or long-term residents. Other Italian resorts with similar problems will monitor the experiment with interest.

"We want to safeguard the character of the town instead of seeing it turn into a place with no ties, as anonymous as a motorway service station," Buratti said.

"Not everyone here is rich or Russian," added local councillor Michele Molino. "You look at the designer shops round here and we could be in London."

Despite the economic crisis that has kept some smart Muscovites at home, local estate agents expect up to 500 Russian families to descend this summer, following in the footsteps of super-rich visitors such as Roman Abramovich and splashing out up to €100,000 at a time to rent villas for the season – albeit a snip compared with the €20m reportedly paid out to buy the biggest villas nestling behind bougainvilleas between the broad beaches and Apuan Alps.

"Five million is the norm now, but if you go just a few miles inland prices drop by two thirds, which is where the locals have disappeared to," said a local estate agent, Umberto Giannecchini.

On the seafront, Humvees and Ferraris descend on beach clubs like Twiga, where €1,000 will reserve a table in the VIP section and Russians spend up to €15,000 on a night out.

It is all a far cry from Forte dei Marmi's 16th-century origins, when Michelangelo built a road from quarries inland to load marble on to waiting ships. The artistic tradition continued into the 20th century with the arrival of Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley, Giacomo Puccini and Henry Moore, followed by industrial dynasties such as the Agnellis and the Morattis.

"Despite their wealth, the Italians here have always loved elegant simplicity and understatement," said hotelier Paolo Corchia, pointing to the tradition of CEOs and aristocrats shopping by bicycle at the town's family-run shops. Where those stores once proliferated, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Miu Miu – with a shop window full of coyote fur stoles – now draw in the Russians.

The Milanese agree with the locals' revolt. "I want to bring the local artisans back in the centre," said Milly Moratti, wife of Inter Milan chairman Massimo, "the fabulous tailors and focaccia bread sellers I remember as a child that have been almost completely replaced by designer stores."

Holding out on Forte dei Marmi's main square is Vale, the bakery which has turned out focaccia since 1924. "We are thinking of selling up since our traditional clientele is dying out and the Russians don't like focaccia," said the owner, Daniela Nardine, though the mayor's intervention may yet change her mind.

Born and bred in Forte dei Marmi and the son of a tailor, Mayor Buratti said he is seeking to preserve a local culture handed down from the fierce tribes who defied the Roman empire and the Roman slaves who later settled, leaving traces of their accent in the local dialect. But he is not getting too misty eyed. "The locals were the first to profit from the rising house prices by selling up and buying houses in the hinterland," he said. "That is why there will be a ban on selling the new houses for 20 years."

If he can defend local stock from extinction, Buratti is happy for some of the Russians to stay, generously conceding that the visitors from the east have become more refined over the years.

"They have come a long way from the early 90s, when they would order the most expensive Brunello red on the menu then dilute it with water," he said. Locals recount how one oligarch even bought a bicycle and hired an Italian cycling champ to teach him to ride it.

But at the Piero beach club, a family-run bastion of old-fashioned wooden huts and blue-blooded sunbathers, the Russians are still few and far between. "Visitors here must understand you don't need to show off," said manager Roberto Santini. "The Russians come in, look around, wonder why we are a landmark, then leave."

As lifeguard Lionello Sacchelli watched over bathers including a former Italian finance minister and a football star, he recalled his favourite bather, Florentine aristocrat Anna Corsini, who was taking dips until she died last year at 98. "She was exquisite," he said. "She didn't care about designer labels and always said 'please' and 'thank you'."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Amateur Unearths 52,000 Roman Coins worth $1M in the UK

London, England (CNN) -- An amateur treasure hunter armed with a metal detector has found over 52,000 Roman coins worth $1 million buried in field, one of the largest ever such finds in the UK, said the British Museum.

Dave Crisp, a hospital chef, came across the buried treasure while searching for "metal objects" in a field near Frome, Somerset in southwestern England.
Initially, Crisp found 21 coins, but when he unearthed the pot, he knew he needed archaeological help to excavate them.

The hoard contains 766 coins bearing an image of the Roman general Marcus Aurelius Carausius, who ruled Britain independently from AD 286 to AD 293 and was the first Roman emperor to strike coins in Britain.

Somerset County Council archaeologists excavated the pot -- a type of container normally used for storing food -- it weighed 160kg (350 pounds) and contained 52,500 coins.
The hoard was transferred to the British Museum in London where the coins were cleaned and recorded.

The coins date from AD 253 to 293 and most of them are made of debased silver or bronze.
Roger Bland, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, told CNN: "Dave [Crisp] did the right thing, he didn't try to dig it all out. This is the largest ever find in a single pot and the second largest ever [in the UK].

"We think that whoever buried it didn't intend to come back to recover it. We can only guess why people buried treasure, some buried savings, others because they feared an invasion, perhaps this was an offering to the Gods."

Bland said the coins were probably worth about $1 million.

Dave Crisp, from Devizes in Wiltshire, told CNN: "At the time when I actually found the pot I didn't know what size it was but when the archaeologists came and started to uncover it, I was gobsmacked, I thought 'hell, this is massive.'"

Crisp, who describes himself as a "metal detectorist," unearthed the pot in April, although the discovery was officially announced on Thursday. Crisp told CNN he would have to split the value of the find with the farmer who owns the field in which he discovered the treasure.
Somerset Coroner Tony Williams is scheduled to hold an inquest on July 22 to formally determine whether the find is subject to the Treasure Act 1996. This would help towards determining a value of the hoard should any individual or organization want to buy it.

Source:   BBC    click here to see photos and video