Chefs from across Europe create original flavors in hopes of winning top honors.

 September 19 at 5:16 PM

Massimiliano Scotti of Vigevano, Italy, serves up a sample of his gelato at the 2017 European Gelato Festival last week in Florence, Italy. He won first prize for his original flavor, a blend of milk, rice and honey. (Gelato Festival)

Some people say “gelato” is the Italian word for “ice cream.” Don’t believe them, cautions Gabriele Poli, founder of the Gelato Festival, a yummy competition that named its 2017 European champion last weekend in Florence, Italy — and is about to come to the United States for the first time.

There are technical differences between the two treats: Gelato typically has about half the fat of ice cream and is made with less air, a process that intensifies the flavor, Poli explains. But more important than such details is gelato’s historical significance: It brought together ice, dairy and sugar for a treat that would become world famous.

It dates back to the Renaissance, an important period in European history when there were many advances in art, architecture, science . . . and dessert.

As legend has it, says historian Zeffiro Ciuffoletti (pronounced choo-fo-LET-ti), the inventor was a smart guy named Bernardo Buontalenti (bwohn-tah-LEN-ti, a name that means “good talents”). He worked for the powerful Medici family, and in 1559, he

The festival took place outside Florence, Italy, after several earlier rounds in other European cities. (Gelato Festival)

was put in charge of throwing a big party for important visitors from Spain. To wow them, he unveiled a recipe unlike anything they had tasted. Rich people couldn’t get enough of the stuff, Ciuffoletti says. When sugar and ice become widely affordable a few hundred years later, gelato became a food everybody could enjoy.

That includes Poli, a self-described “gelato addict,” whose mission since launching the festival in 2010 has been to help people get to know gelato. In addition to tasting different flavors and talking to chefs, attendees are invited to stare through the windows of the Buontalenti Lab, a truck equipped with blast freezers, turbo­mixers and other machines that help create something lickable.

All the gelato in the competition is made on site in a large truck with several freezers and mixers. (Gelato Festival)

“The coolest thing is this: All of the gelato you can taste at the festival is made in the truck,” Poli says.

And all of it is something you’ve never tried before.

“The flavor needs to make people dream,” adds Poli, who believes each cone at the festival should contain a story.

These tasty tales were on display a few days ago as 16 competing chefs — each a winner from a series of preliminary competitions held across Europe — served up their creations on a hilltop overlooking central Florence.

“This is a fusion of two cultures, the best of Italy and the Middle East. Tell me what you think,” was Akash Vaghela’s (va-GEH-lah) pitch for Creme dela Baklava, topped with pieces of flaky pastry and a dash of crushed pistachios.

Before handing over a cone, Carmelo Pannocchietti (pahn-o-KEE-eh-ti) gave his ricotta cheese concoction a citrusy spritz from a perfume bottle. Why? It’s his expression of gelato as a woman, he explained.

Leaning over the counter, David Equi shared that he had handpicked the raspberries for his sorbet in Scotland. (Sorbet counts because it’s made like gelato, only with water instead of dairy.)

Massimiliano Scotti of Vigevano, Italy, who won first place, locked eyes with each person who approached him, and promised his simple blend of milk, honey and rice was how gelato is meant to be.

Washington, D.C., resident Jacqueline Poliscastro, one of some 50,000 people attending the festival, was gobbling it all up.

“Having the world’s best in the place where it started is bucket list for me,” she said between licks of a lemon-curd flavor. She and her husband, Mike McCarthy, planned their entire Italian vacation around the festival.

Gelato flavors at the competition included a red pepper-strawberry creation, center. (Gelato Festival)

With fans like that, no wonder Gelato Festival America kicks off in Boulder, Colorado, on September 29, before bouncing to three other Western cities. Next year, Poli says, the plan is to bring competitions to eight more spots, including one near Washington.

“There is a big need for this,” he adds, noting that Americans consume more frozen desserts than anyone else in the world and insisting that more of it should be gelato.

Poliscastro’s tip for first-time festivalgoers: Pace yourself.

“It’s harder than I thought to finish all of these,” she said. And then she lined up for another cone.

How to judge gelato

Victoria Jordan Rodriguez of the James Beard Foundation, who served on the expert panel in Florence, suggests swirling your spoon around the cup to check consistency. “It shouldn’t be too hard, or too stretchy,” she says. And chunks of ice are a no-no. As for flavor, her advice is to consider the balance and freshness of the ingredients.

If you go

Gelato Festival America’s first stop is in Boulder, Colorado, September 29 to October 1. Ticket pricing and other details are available at

Washingtonians can root for Gianluigi Dellaccio (jon-lu-EE-gee dell-AH-cho) — an experienced gelato competitor — whose Dolci Gelati has cafes in Shaw, Takoma Park and Old Town Alexandria.

Another local is Thomas Marinucci, of Fairfax, Virginia, who recently completed his studies at Carpigiani Gelato University. (He attended in Bologna, Italy, but the school also has a new American campus near Chicago, Illinois.) He hasn’t established a location yet, so the festival is the only place to try his Strawberry Cheesecake Crunch.

Just as in Europe, judging for the festival will be divided 50/50 between a panel of experts and the public. What’s new in Boulder is the introduction of an all-kids jury, which will award a prize to its favorite.

After Colorado, the Gelato Festival will head to Santa Barbara, California, October 20-22. The final two competitions will be in Arizona: in Scottsdale, October 27-29, and Tucson, November 3-5.

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5-Star’s young, popular Di Maio charts course to be Italy PM

FILE PHOTO: 5-Stars movement Luigi Di Maio looks on as he arrives for a news conference in Rome, Italy, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement looks poised to name Luigi Di Maio as its candidate for prime minister in elections early next year and, if opinion polls are to be believed, the earnest 31-year-old has a good chance of winning.

Di Maio’s critics scoff at his modest curriculum vitae, but his youth and acknowledged communication skills are key to his success.

His rapid rise has mirrored that of 5-Star. Five years ago he was living in a small town in Italy’s poor south and struggling to make ends meet as a designer and maintainer of websites, while studying law at Naples University.

He had previously worked as a steward at Naples football club, a building labourer and a waiter, according to the video he presented to 5-Star supporters to ask them to back him as a candidate for parliament in 2013.

Detractors say his inexperience means he cannot be taken seriously as a potential prime minister. Yet opinion polls show he is by far 5-Star’s most popular politician and among the two or three most popular in Italy.

“5-Star is a young, innovative movement, so having someone very young in the front line helps to get that message across,” said fellow deputy Alfonso Bonafede, a close Di Maio ally.

Boyish looking and immaculately turned out in suit and tie, he presents a moderate image in striking contrast to the movement’s founder, 69-year-old comedian Beppe Grillo who is famous for his raucous tirades against Italy’s ruling elite.

“Di Maio comes across as calm and responsible, which reassures voters who might not be naturally drawn to 5-Star,” said Giovanni Orsina, politics professor at Rome’s Luiss University.

Politically Di Maio, who has taken tough stances on law-and-order and immigration, is seen on the right of the maverick party which says traditional left-right labels have no meaning.

Its policies include the introduction of universal income support for the poor, phasing out fossil fuels and boosting public investment.

Grillo, 5-Star’s de facto chief since he founded the movement in 2009, effectively abdicated last week, saying whoever is elected as its candidate for prime minister will also be its leader.

In line with 5-Star’s credo of internet-based direct democracy, Di Maio will be picked in an online vote of the party’s members this week.

The date of the ballot has not yet been set but the result, to be announced on Saturday, is virtually a foregone conclusion. The only people with any hope of beating him decided not to run.


When 5-Star shook up Italian politics by winning a quarter of the vote in 2013, electing 162 young, inexperienced lawmakers to parliament for the first time, Di Maio was one of the youngest and most inexperienced of all.

However he quickly made an impression on both colleagues and opponents. At 26, he was elected as the youngest ever deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, where he won plaudits for his ability to control the often unruly chamber.

Since then he has often had a rocky ride. In his role as national coordinator of 5-Star’s growing band of mayors, he has been a lightning rod for crises in numerous city halls, especially the capital Rome.

As his prominence increased so did the attacks of his opponents. He made their job easier with some grammatical and historical blunders on social media, including once referring to the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as being from Venezuela.

Some party colleagues also do little to hide their resentment of his success, but 5-Star insiders say that, crucially, he has always kept the trust of Grillo, who spotted him as a potential leader several years ago.

“He has the most energy, he performs best under pressure and he has the broadest appeal to voters, including older ones where we are weakest,” said one 5-Star strategist who asked not to be named.

Luca Ricolfi, sociology professor at Turin University, said Di Maio was “a good communicator and today that is all that people want from politicians”.

But Orsina said there was more to Di Maio than his ability on television.

“In these five years he has shown he also has political talent,” he said. “He has been at the centre of the political battle and has always kept a cool head.”

Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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Italian Americans and The Truth about The Columbus in Columbus Circle

Progressives want to tear down the Christopher Columbus statue in New York’s Columbus Circle. But do they even know what it means?

The largest mass lynching in United States history took place in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 14, 1891. That night eleven Italian Americans were all tied up side by side and hung for the alleged murder of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy. The lynching occurred the day after trial for 9 of the 19 men who had be indicted for the murder. Six defendants were acquitted of any charges and a mistrial was declared for the other 3 because the jury failed to reach any agreement on a verdict. The word got around that the jury had allegedly been bribed by a local mafia family, but no evidence of that happening was ever found.

That night thousands of citizens gathered outside the jail and broke in where 11 of the defendants were being held. Among the rioters were some of New Orleans’ most prominent citizens, singers and musicians mixed with the rest of the local thugs. This caused Italy to cut off any diplomacy with the United States and actual talks of war had started brewing. This mob vengeance that was taken on men who stood trial and were supposed to be provided their constitutional rights as citizens was actually widely praised in the American media. The call for cutting of immigration from Italy was widespread across the country. None of the citizens who took part in rioting or breaking into the prison and hanging the 11 Italian men were ever charged with a crime. The part of the story that’s never told is on that night of October 15, 1890 when police chief Hennessy was shot he never saw his shooters nor could he identify any of the perpetrators when other policemen went to the hospital to visit him. The next day Chief Hennessy had complications with the gun shot wounds and died. His death sent New Orleans Mayor Joseph Shakespeare into a rage, telling officers to ” scour the whole neighborhood. Arrest every Italian you come across, if necessary….” In less then 24 hours 45 Italian Americans were arrested. Mayor Shakespeare had convicted these men by a speech he gave before the trial saying “We must teach these people a lesson they will not forget for all times.” Clearly the rights of Italian American immigrants weren’t protected but exploited.

This injustice of a mob murder was felt in the hearts of all Italian Americans, especially in New York where their greatest population was concentrated. Italian Americans of NYC formed a very tight bond during this time and were looking for a way to honor those who were unjustly murdered. They took to the streets and formed what we would call a modern day go fund me. Each one of them decided to start raising money to erect the statue of Christopher Columbus with the help of Il Progresso an Italian American newspaper. In 1892 the statue was erected with pride by its creator Gaetano Russo.

So wouldn’t it be racist to tear down the Christopher Columbus statue that represents the memory of the unjust mass murder of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans 126 years ago? We might not agree with what Christopher Columbus did, but this statue of him represents everything the left is outraged about and trying to fight against which is racism. Liberals proclaim to be the social justice warriors of our country. Why would they desecrate a memorial statue to men who were murdered because of their race ? So while Columbus may have done things we all disagree and condemn, can we agree that the memory of those Italian American men in that vile act of mass murder should be protected?

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Chiara Civello: a “nomadic” Italian in Eclipse

On March 31st the new cd by Chiara Civello, “Eclipse” was published. It was recorded between Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro and Bari, and sees the collaboration of extraordinary musicians such as Kevin Seddiki, Thibaut Barbillon and Pedro Sà on guitars, Cyrus Hordè on organ and keyboard, Mauro Refosco on percussion, Gael Rakotondrabe on piano and wurlitzer, Laurent Vernerey and Alberto Continentino on bass and Moog, Regis Ceccarelli and Domenico Lancellotti on drums, Alfonso Deidda on saxophone flute, organ and piano.

You’ll be immediately captured by the listening of the opening song “Come vanno le cose” (C. Civello – D. Mancino) with its bossa nova that sounds full of delicacy thanks to the French touch of Nouvelle Vague (Marc Collin produced the album) and has been greatly carried on an Italian text. It is the perfect song to represent the mix of cultures which characterizes Chiara’s path. “Um dia” composed in Portuguese with Pedro Sa and the cheerful “Sambarilove” written with Rubinho Jacobina – a sambalanço with a title that is a play of words – both bring you to Brazil.

Just 18 years old, Chiara Civello left the Capital to study at Boston Berklee College of Music, becoming the first Italian artist in history to debut with an album, Last Quarter Moon, recordered for the prestigious label Verve Records.

What made you choose right USA? What did you expect to find there? Since I was very young I started to cultivate the passion for music studying at Saint Louis in Rome and there I was suggested to support the Berklee audition: it was the prestige of the school to attract me and I won a scholarship. I found out a country that really offers the opportunity to express oneself if one has something to say! I have been facing the challenges of a young artist, making my own drumming to promote the first live, get acquainted and appreciate. I had the opportunity to meet the legends of American music and I’ve learned a lot from their humility: as big as they can, they never get to the fame they’ve earned in the past.

What music did you listen to when you were 18? Blues and jazz, which I discovered first and foremost through an encyclopedia my father had at home.

In 2008 Chiara went to Rio to find her friend Daniel Jobim and was “dragged” to a party in a studio, a music meeting of great Brazilian artists called the Sarao, where the guitar is turned around and in turn everyone sings a song. This is where she started her collaboration with Ana Carolina.

Which sounds influenced you in a deeper way, those assimilated in the United States, the Brazilian or the French ones? I always try to seek the matches, combines, encounters, and I don’t think there is something predominating in my music. Referring to my new album, in fact, I can say that I have focused heavily on Italian traditional music and poetic.

Do you prefer to compose in Italian, English or Portuguese? Have you ever tried to write in French? I like to write the same way in all the languages I speak fluently: I am also learning French and I would like, someday, to compose something in this language. In the latter period, I focused on production in Italian but I do not rule out writing a whole English album again.

In your description of “Amore Amore Amore” you refer to yourself as “an Italian in America” explaining that you found perfect in your situation, to reinterpret this song by Piero Piccioni and Alberto Sordi, written for the movie Un Italiano in America: do you still strongly feel your origins or you think you are in some way “contaminated” by different cultures such as your musical production? No, I am still strongly Italian: even in my music I always keep in touch with our Italian melodic tradition.

How much did you change living and traveling abroad? America has given me above all a vital force, an approach to the artistic life that I won’t lose.

The choice of the other songs reinterpreted in “Eclipse” has a distinct movie flavor: “Eclisse Twist” (M. Antonioni – G. Fusco), “Parole Parole” (G.Ferrio – L. Chiosso – G. Del Re), chosen because she was looking for a “bridge song” between Italy and France (it had a great success in both countries); “Quello che conta” (E. Morricone – L. Salce) whose Tenco interpretation – Chiara Civello’s idol – is one the most famous and whose essential arrangement creates a rarefied and enthralling atmosphere.

In “Eclipse” you chose to sing songs of the past Italian music tradition: what do you think about the current Italian musical production? Is there any contemporary songwriter you listen to with most interest? I like to listen to the Baustelle, Dimartino, Paolo Conte, Vinicio.

In 2012 Chiara competed in the 62nd season of the Sanremo Festival in the BIG category with the song “Al posto del mondo”, written with Diana Tejera.

The album’s new songs are: “Cuore in tasca”, simple and sweet as the spontaneous way in which it was born: «With Antonio Dimartino we met for the first time in Milan and while cooking a pasta at home I was playing the keyboards and we exchanged a few words… before we started to eat the fusilli we already had the melody of “Cuore in tasca”. Then, while we were walking around the city, we told each other about ourselves and the text came out of it»; “Qualuno come te” (C. Civello – D. Mancino – M. Buzzanca), lasting over 6 minutes is sad and romantic; “New York City Boy” (C. Civello – F. Bianconi – P. Rinaldi) is characterized by the seductive sound of blues and the singer’s voice becomes more sensual; “To Be Wild” was written together with Cristina Donà by correspondence and through some phone calls.

by Candy Valentino

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