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From Supermodel To Celebrity Chef And Successful Author. An Exclusive Interview With Maria Liberati
by Milano52
Apr 14, 2019 | 6729 views | 0 0 comments | 300 300 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 | 5913 views | 0 0 comments | 235 235 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 | 9924 views | 0 0 comments | 371 371 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 | 23492 views | 0 0 comments | 822 822 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 | 20749 views | 0 0 comments | 588 588 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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How Paper And Color Can Make You Dream. Exclusive Interview With Artist Adele Rahte.
by Milano52
Sep 04, 2018 | 19469 views | 0 0 comments | 926 926 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

 

How paper and color can make you dream. Exclusive interview with artist Adele Rahte.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I met Adele Rahte at the beautiful Harlem house of a common friend, the soprano Lauren Flanigan. The conversation soon turned from music (we had just the fortune to have witnessed a unique performance of lyrics by Gabriele D’Annunzio put into music by various composers) to art and she promised to give me an interview so that our readers could learn more about her work. The time has come and here is the interview of this marvelous artist who can make you dream with paper and color.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: When did you realize you were going to be an artist?

Adele H Rahte: I was fortunate to have parents who valued my creative core. At the age of eight, I was being tutored in the different art mediums. I think I have always been an artist. For example, as a kid, if I did not have any paper to draw on, I would draw on the wall. I started with my current technique, which I call “painting with paper,” in 2001 using the mylar I had put up temporarily as a window treatment in my New York City apartment after Sept 11th.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: I detect a strong Impressionist influence in some of your work, and in particular in the seascapes and skyscapes. Do you feel your work has been influenced by various artists? Who? Who is (or are) the artist who you admire the most?

Adele H Rahte: Here in Manhattan I can drop into any of the museums, especially when I am having trouble conveying what I wish to depict. I must understand what I see before the viewer can understand it. The great masters in these museums are always available to teach me how to see and how to present. I find it crucial to my process to see as much art as possible.

The Masters who help me see clearly vary with the piece I am working on. For example, Van Gogh guided me in Do You See the Kite?. In Tribeca, Cézanne and Aboard the Uptown 6, it was Modigliani. My favorite art movements are Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dada, and Suprematism.

At Nauset Beach

Tiziano Thomas DossenaI also detected different stroke usage in various paintings of yours (seascapes/seascapes vs. portraits/flowers/urban landscapes). Could you elaborate on that?

Adele H Rahte: “Stroke usage” translates to direction and movement. It is a conscious manipulation, a trick of the eye. It provides the viewer with an understanding of what they are experiencing when they look at 2D art. Since I use paper and not paint, I achieve the “brush stroke concept” by taking advantage of the direction of the fibers or patterns in the paper. You can see examples of movement in my art in the following pieces: in the towel in At Nauset Beach, and in the people, water and clouds in Do You See the Kite?

Do you see the kite?

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDo you start with the concept of adding paper to a painting or is that something that arises in the creative process? (Some paintings seem to be 100% paint and some, instead, seem to be paint and some paper) Could you tell us what is the reason for using the paper in those paintings?

Adele H Rahte: My work is comprised of paper only, no paint. The fibers in the paper fragments meld together. Then the layering of paper fragments is how I control the subtle color differences or create a clear edge. I see the world comprised of blocks of colorful shapes. Using paper to create these shapes works for me because I can feel the paper and create the shapes by tearing or cutting the paper fragments into the exact shape my art requires – almost like a sculpture. The clear example of this is seen in Saturday at the Beach.

Laundry line

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou also create complex collages. Could you explain a bit the process involved and the artistic motivation behind this choice?

Adele H Rahte: There are endless moves when creating. Every single addition to the piece is living on the edge of life or death, failure or success. It is an amazing dance which is performed. When I am deep into the piece I am creating, I am removed from making art and the art piece itself takes over to the point where it feels to me that the piece is creating itself and I am simply applying the pre-chosen paper fragment. My hand selects the correct fragment from the growing pile of wonderfully colored and textured papers located on the shelf under the artwork I am working on. This scenario is repeated again and again until the piece feels finished. But when is it truly finished? I make a guess and say to myself “ok, now it is finished… well at least for the time being.” If time allows, I can put the piece away and then revisit it later with fresh eyes.

Saturday at the beach

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you feel that is the artist in you who influences your photography or is the photographer in you who influences your artwork?

Adele H Rahte: My art starts with reality. Somewhere in my minds’ eye, I ponder over a concept, getting preoccupied with it. I carry my camera with me and I then photograph what I need to have to reference. Then while creating the work perhaps years later I have the needed details to complete the piece. If the photograph happens to turn out to be special, then I share it. I did study photography in High School and then at University.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: How much and in what ways have your Italian roots influenced your art?

Adele H Rahte: I feel more connected to the Italian in me than the Alsacian. My relatives who came from Salerno taught me never to have idle hands. Instilled in me was the concept “there is always time to create, even if it exists in ten-minute segments.”

Aboard the Uptown 6

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Many writers, especially poets, find necessary to be in a particular mood, such as emotional distress, to create their work in an optimal manner. When you paint, how much does your mood influences the art piece’s outcome and in what emotional condition, if so, do you feel you are more creative?

Adele H Rahte: I know that creating my art wards off the cloud of depression I can fall prey to. I feel productive, artistic, unique and happy when I am creating. It is a special world of color, texture, and beauty. It is a vast and deep world — both solitary and educational.

Tribeca

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Are you planning any new exhibits in the near future? Any special project you working on?

Adele H Rahte: Now I am looking for exposure. My next step is to get the images of my art up onto sites to increase my exposure. My next art project is on Coney Island, Luna Park and the subway. Once completed, I will add them to my website for all to see. adelerahte.com

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Poet, Model, Figure Skater And Inspiration For Young People, Elizabeth Pipko Came To The International Book Expo in New York
by Milano52
Jun 02, 2018 | 3230 views | 0 0 comments | 489 489 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Exclusive interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Elizabeth Pipko, 22, was born and raised in New York City. At ten years old she discovered her love of figure skating and moved with her family to Florida in order to pursue her dream of becoming a competitive athlete. She competed for years in various competitions across the United States before suffering a devastating injury at 15, after which doctors told her that she would never skate again. During her long recovery, Elizabeth finished and published her first collection of poetry, “Sweet Sixteen” in 2013. She also began her modeling career, being featured in DT magazine, Maxim, Esquire and many more.  Elizabeth also starred in the Vizcaya Swimwear “Perfectly Imperfect” campaign, an anti-photoshop campaign promoting positive body image which was covered by major publications such as PEOPLE and Vanity Fair Italia. After years of physical therapy, Elizabeth has made her return to the ice, defying all odds and hoping to inspire those around her. Elizabeth is currently a student at the Harvard extension school, majoring in legal studies and double minoring in religion and math. Her second collection of poetry, “About You,” is due for release in early summer 2018. She will appear at the International Book Expo in New York City.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are a poet, a model, a figure skater and so much more, even though you are only 22. Which one is the title you feel depicts you more accurately and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I am a figure skater before I am anything else. And I say that certainly not because I am a brilliant skater, but because figure skating is where I found myself. Only after discovering the sport did I discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Everything in my life changed when I fell in love with the sport. Some things got better and some things got worse, but somehow it all felt extremely right. I felt like I was born to be a figure skater when I first fell in love with the ice at ten years old, and I think I’ll forever feel that way.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDid you always have the poetry bug in you or was it inspired by your life events?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I’ve always liked writing and felt as if I was better at it than I was in certain other things, but it was never something I did regularly. Only after certain life events caused me to need to find an outlet for my emotions did I realize how much I enjoyed poetry.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat is your poetry about

Elizabeth Pipko: It’s about a lot of things… For me, I used poetry to express the heartbreak I felt as a sixteen-year-old girl trying to deal with a devastating injury (that took skating away from me) as well as the very common heartbreaks that a sixteen year old girl may face. My second book, About You, was written about my injury and losing the ability to skate, but without ever directly mentioning those words. I wanted people to be able to connect with the words and emotions that I was feeling regardless of what or who it was that they were longing for.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaHow important was it to you to return to ice skating and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: It was extremely important to me for many reasons. My parents raised me not to be a quitter. My mom taught me to always follow my dreams, and always prepared me for the many obstacles I would have to overcome in order to do that. And more importantly, showed me how to overcome those obstacles with everything I’ve watched her deal with in her career (she’s possibly the most incredible concert pianist you’ve ever heard). I always knew that this was something I had to do. And whether I make a full recovery and reach the top levels of the sport or just overcome the obstacles that come with trying to skate through pain every day, I’ll always be proud of myself for not giving up.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaIn your bio it says you moved from New York to Florida to ice skate and that may confuse our readers, considering the climate of the two cities. Could you elaborate on that?

Elizabeth Pipko: It does sound quite funny now that I think about it! Competitive figure skaters train in skating rinks indoors, so the climate outside is not really the one that we focus on. I discovered incredible coaches, actually completely on accident and without ever planning on pursuing skating, and they’re the ones that introduced me to skating and believed in me from the start. So, my parents and brother packed up and moved down to Florida in order for me to skate with those coaches and follow my dream. 

Photo by Nayo Martinez

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You participated as a model in the campaign “Perfectly imperfect”. Could you explain what that is about?

Elizabeth Pipko: Yup! So Lisa (the owner of Vizcaya swimwear) and I really bonded over what we had been through with dealing with negative comments and cyber bullying and decided to do something using those experiences. We wanted to do something special and something that would feel natural, and also inspire people not to be ashamed of the skin they were born in. The point of the campaign was to show the swimwear and how good it made you feel to be wearing it, and we decided that we could do that without needing an ounce of retouching! Just like in life.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Would you have a special message for our readers? And maybe a suggestion for our young readers?

Elizabeth Pipko: Always always always follow your dreams! I promise people will stand in your way, sometimes even people who you thought were your biggest fans. But the ONLY person that you needed believing in you, in order to succeed, is YOU.

For more information on Elizabeth Pipko, visit Elizabethpipko.com



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Poet, International Model, Figure Skater And Inspiration For Young People, Elizabeth Pipko Will Come To The International Book Expo
by Milano52
May 28, 2018 | 3241 views | 0 0 comments | 509 509 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
Poet, model, figure skater and inspiration for young people, Elizabeth Pipko will come to the International Book Expo

Exclusive interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Elizabeth Pipko, 22, was born and raised in New York City. At ten years old she discovered her love of figure skating and moved with her family to Florida in order to pursue her dream of becoming a competitive athlete. She competed for years in various competitions across the United States before suffering a devastating injury at 15, after which doctors told her that she would never skate again. During her long recovery, Elizabeth finished and published her first collection of poetry, “Sweet Sixteen” in 2013. She also began her modeling career, being featured in DT magazine, Maxim, Esquire and many more.  Elizabeth also starred in the Vizcaya Swimwear “Perfectly Imperfect” campaign, an anti-photoshop campaign promoting positive body image which was covered by major publications such as PEOPLE and Vanity Fair Italia. After years of physical therapy, Elizabeth has made her return to the ice, defying all odds and hoping to inspire those around her. Elizabeth is currently a student at the Harvard extension school, majoring in legal studies and double minoring in religion and math. Her second collection of poetry, “About You,” is due for release in early summer 2018. She will appear at the International Book Expo in New York City.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are a poet, a model, a figure skater and so much more, even though you are only 22. Which one is the title you feel depicts you more accurately and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I am a figure skater before I am anything else. And I say that certainly not because I am a brilliant skater, but because figure skating is where I found myself. Only after discovering the sport did I discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Everything in my life changed when I fell in love with the sport. Some things got better and some things got worse, but somehow it all felt extremely right. I felt like I was born to be a figure skater when I first fell in love with the ice at ten years old, and I think I’ll forever feel that way.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDid you always have the poetry bug in you or was it inspired by your life events?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I’ve always liked writing and felt as if I was better at it than I was in certain other things, but it was never something I did regularly. Only after certain life events caused me to need to find an outlet for my emotions did I realize how much I enjoyed poetry.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat is your poetry about

Elizabeth Pipko: It’s about a lot of things… For me, I used poetry to express the heartbreak I felt as a sixteen-year-old girl trying to deal with a devastating injury (that took skating away from me) as well as the very common heartbreaks that a sixteen year old girl may face. My second book, About You, was written about my injury and losing the ability to skate, but without ever directly mentioning those words. I wanted people to be able to connect with the words and emotions that I was feeling regardless of what or who it was that they were longing for.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaHow important was it to you to return to ice skating and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: It was extremely important to me for many reasons. My parents raised me not to be a quitter. My mom taught me to always follow my dreams, and always prepared me for the many obstacles I would have to overcome in order to do that. And more importantly, showed me how to overcome those obstacles with everything I’ve watched her deal with in her career (she’s possibly the most incredible concert pianist you’ve ever heard). I always knew that this was something I had to do. And whether I make a full recovery and reach the top levels of the sport or just overcome the obstacles that come with trying to skate through pain every day, I’ll always be proud of myself for not giving up.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaIn your bio it says you moved from New York to Florida to ice skate and that may confuse our readers, considering the climate of the two cities. Could you elaborate on that?

Elizabeth Pipko: It does sound quite funny now that I think about it! Competitive figure skaters train in skating rinks indoors, so the climate outside is not really the one that we focus on. I discovered incredible coaches, actually completely on accident and without ever planning on pursuing skating, and they’re the ones that introduced me to skating and believed in me from the start. So, my parents and brother packed up and moved down to Florida in order for me to skate with those coaches and follow my dream. 

Photo by Nayo Martinez

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You participated as a model in the campaign “Perfectly imperfect”. Could you explain what that is about?

Elizabeth Pipko: Yup! So Lisa (the owner of Vizcaya swimwear) and I really bonded over what we had been through with dealing with negative comments and cyber bullying and decided to do something using those experiences. We wanted to do something special and something that would feel natural, and also inspire people not to be ashamed of the skin they were born in. The point of the campaign was to show the swimwear and how good it made you feel to be wearing it, and we decided that we could do that without needing an ounce of retouching! Just like in life.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Would you have a special message for our readers? And maybe a suggestion for our young readers?

Elizabeth Pipko: Always always always follow your dreams! I promise people will stand in your way, sometimes even people who you thought were your biggest fans. But the ONLY person that you needed believing in you, in order to succeed, is YOU.

For more information on Elizabeth Pipko, visit Elizabethpipko.com

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Adolph Caso, a voice for Italian Americans, decries the attacks on Columbus
by Milano52
May 14, 2018 | 28526 views | 0 0 comments | 1231 1231 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I met Adolph Caso the first time at the International Book Show in New York City and he struck me as a person who loves books more than anything in the world. Only later on I discovered his interests were not only in publishing but also in writing, translating, teaching and standing up for the Italian American community. In this period of confusion in which some people attempt to rewrite history to please a few, regardless of the accuracy of the rewriting, having a scholar of the level of Adolph Caso on the right side of the case is optimal and I felt that our readers would be happy to find out more about him. Here follows, then, a brief interview that will introduce Mr. Caso. There are link you can follow to discover more about his many activities.

Link on his author’s page on Amazon

Link to Dante Press




Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are a respected editor, but also a prolific writer and educator on your own. Which profession do you identify the most with?

Adolph Caso: I am a poet, therefore, of independent mind. In my poetry, I reveal and share the things and ideas that appear within me. {Click here to read his poem Filtering Energy}

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You wrote more than one article regarding the “Columbus statue” issue. Do you confirm your belief that this attempted rewriting of history is actually a not-too-veiled act of discrimination toward Italian Americans in general? What do you think we as a community should do to counteract this offensive on Columbus?

Adolph Caso: Columbus was not a Spaniard, nor Portuguese, and not a Jew. He was from Genoa. Next to Jesus, Columbus did more for mankind than anyone on discovering a route that led to the Americas. Millions and millions of people have derived benefits as a result of Columbus, and not from any other individual, including his ignorant and empty-headed critics.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Regarding Columbus, you published TO AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD–The Logs of Colum­bus and Magellan. Do you feel people who make wild accusations about Columbus should definitely read this book and why?

Adolph Caso: The rationale behind this publication was to place before the readers the very words of Columbus himself and not the prejudicial opinions of prejudiced critics. Example, Columbus never dealt with nor captured people to turn them into slaves, as evidenced in his writings.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your autobiographical book “Boy Destined to America” was actually written in 1966 and it has just been published. Could you tell us the story behind this book?

Adolph Caso: My writing professor told us to write a book about ourselves rather than about others because we know who we are. So, during the summer of 1966, I wrote my autobiography and placed the manuscript on the shelf. By chance, a couple of years ago, I re-discovered it, and the rest is history.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also wrote THE KàSO ENGLISH TO ITALIAN DICTIONARY. What is this book about?

Adolph Caso: Yes, the title is, The Kaso English to Italian Phonemic Dictionary. My goal was to show that Italian is based on a phoneme system because it uses the one-to-one principle between symbols and sounds, thus making Italian a system whose phonology is the most scientific, and very adaptable to our computer age.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Dante University offers online many free courses taught by you and other professors. What are they and how can you take them?

Adolph Caso: The Irish have their Boston College, etc. The Italian Americans have no similar institution per se. My dream remains unfulfilled. My hope is that that dread will be fulfilled by someone else. {Link to courses}

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Were you the founder of Dante University Press? (Please say when it was born and other info, such as its relationship to Branden, etc…) What was the goal you tried to achieve?

Adolph Caso: The hope was to establish a press that would allow individuals better opportunities to publish their works about the Italian American experience. Except for a few publications, nothing more came out of it. The community never supported it.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also published THE KASO VERB CONJUGATION SYSTEM and BILINGUAL TWO LANGUAGE ASSESSMENT BATTERY OF TESTS, showing a strong interest in bilingual education. Were you a teacher or is this interest only tied to your deep knowledge of the Italian language?

Adolph Caso: My goal was to show the greatness of the language’s phonology I invested time and money in writing and in publishing the book that no one bought.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you have any projects for the near future that you are working on at this time? (If not, skip the question)

Adolph Caso: Typically, I never stop working, my latest being, Amalfi-Re-Visited, which has failed to sell in any significant way.

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Dr. Mary Rorro, The “Violin Doc,” An Exclusive Interview
by Milano52
Apr 29, 2018 | 30533 views | 0 0 comments | 1603 1603 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

An interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

She was nicknamed “The Violin Doc” in a book by Lisa Wong entitled “Scales to Scalpels, Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine;”  a talented professional viola player and a respected psychiatrist who uses her music to heal veterans, Dr. Mary Rorro is so much more and we are proud to present an exclusive interview with this bright star of the medical field who is finding many ways to help her patients.



 Tiziano T. Dossena: You are a psychiatrist working with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and blending music and poetry into your practice. It seems that music has always been a major factor in your life. Could you tell us when did you start to use music as a healing tool? {Talk about your Music major, awards but also about the middle school and following years too, please)

Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was six and a half years old, my mother showed me her little violin that she used to play as a child.  I cherished that violin and toted it around in its diminutive case.  My mother, my talented brother Michael and I used to play together to Suzuki records, and listened to Italian arias and Neapolitan songs with my grandparents. The first time I witnessed the power of music was as my grandfather was dying in his hospital bed.  I played Toselli’s Serenade for him, a favorite song he frequently requested.  His last words were “More music.” As a candy striper in high school, my mother encouraged me to entertain the ill patients under my charge.  She witnessed as I played for a depressed cancer patient who had not spoken for months, who suddenly began to sing along with my violin to Christmas carols, bringing the nurses to tears.  That inspiring moment influenced me to combine my desire to be a physician and blend music into my profession. We recognized the healing power of music to those suffering that day. My mother was so proud. I wanted to make her happy by sharing music with others, who needed it in the most essential way.

I majored in music and minored in biology at Bryn Mawr College and received the first Performing Arts Prize ever awarded at the college.  Bryn Mawr encouraged leadership opportunities for women and service to others.  I organized two benefit concerts for St. Christopher’s Hospital for children with AIDS, as President and first violist of the Bryn Mawr–Haverford College Symphony.  I developed a program in medical school and psychiatry residency called “Musical Rounds: The Next Best Thing to Grand Rounds,” and “From Soup to Notes,” to perform for people in soup kitchens.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Besides your practice, you also created a program of volunteers with a similar goal, “A Few Good Notes.” Could you tell us about it?

Dr. Mary Rorro: Given the enthusiastic response from my previous musical experiences, I wanted to introduce music into the lives of the veterans at my clinic and the New Jersey VA Healthcare System. I started a program called “A Few Good Notes,” in which I play viola for the patients in the group therapy sessions and individually in my office.  Some of my patients used to play instruments, and hearing me encouraged them to resume their musical instruments and join me in the program.  One of my patients brought his Dixieland band in to entertain nursing home patients with me in the Lyons VA.  The quiet room was instantly transformed with the sound of patients singing along to the upbeat rhythms.  Another patient, after hearing me play Amazing Grace in the office, was inspired to pick up his guitar again and also start reading the Bible, after he contemplated the words in the song.

I initiated a program at the VA that provides free guitar lessons for veterans, which enables them to experience the joy of music first hand.  We have volunteer guitar instructors who give generously of their time and it allows for engagement with other veterans in the Guitar Instruction Group (GIG.)  The clinic is now filled with the strumming sounds of vets on their instruments, and the waiting list for lessons is a long one.

Every year, we carol in Lyons and East Orange hospitals and recruit other employees to share their time and talents with veterans.  The program has been expanded nationally in the VA.  Some patients and employees who are part of our Healing Arts committee bring their guitars and other instruments, and sing along to my viola.

Music draws out stories from the patients, including one Vietnam vet who remembered his platoon sang Silent Night on a hill in Vietnam, causing a cease fire for that time on Christmas Eve.  Music evokes powerful emotions and enables the therapists and me to process them with the patients in group therapy settings.

The program has been featured on WQXR, the former classical music station of the New York Times, WNYC radio, the Dr. Oz website, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and AOL’s Homepage for Heroes.  I was featured as “The Violin Doc,” in the book “Scales for Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine,” by Lisa Wong, M.D.

Princeton Memorial ceremony at Monument Hall (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube of Dr. Mary Rorro’s program for the veterans)

 Tiziano T. Dossena: You clearly had a call for music and became a professional violist. When and how did the call for medicine, and in particular psychiatry, come about? 

Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was 4 years old, I was riding in the car with my mother, and she asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I quickly responded, “A doctor, because I want to help people.”  My parents always encouraged me in my dream, from which I never wavered.  I was influenced by many members of my family, who were role models. I spent time in my father’s busy primary care practice, and observed grateful patients leaving his office.  He went on house calls early in the morning for people who he knew couldn’t afford to pay, but was dedicated to helping them.  My Aunt, Mary A. Rorro, M.D. was one of the trailblazing women physicians of her area.  Her “Uncle Doc” graduated from Hahnemann Medical School and encouraged her to go there from a young age.  Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s father, Samuel Alito Sr., was her teacher in high school and he awarded her with the science medal.  He knew she wanted to be a doctor and told her, “Never be discouraged from your dream.” She still has the report card envelope where he wrote other encouraging words about her future, since she valued them so much.  She graduated from Hahnemann in 1958, and married my Uncle Al.  He and my Uncle John also served the community as physicians. My Aunt Celeste received her Doctorate in Education and was Director of Teacher Certification and Academic Credentials in New Jersey.

I became interested in psychiatry after a rotation at UMDNJ-SOM medical school at a New Jersey state hospital.  Psychiatry seemed like a perfect way to blend narratives, creativity, and the arts into the medical profession.  I entered a Harvard Medical School program for psychiatry residency and began working with veterans in the VA system as well as other mental health institutes in Boston, including McLean Hospital, Cambridge Hospital.  Following residency, I completed a psychiatry Fellowship in Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.  The years of tests and training, long nights on call, sleeping on scratchy sheets, were all worth it when someone says, “You changed my life.”  I consider that to be a complement to my parents, because without their constant love and support, I would not be able to help my patients and hear those words.

 Tiziano T. Dossena: Your poetry is very poignant and inspirational, bringing images of war and tortured souls. Do you write only about veterans’ experiences?

Dr. Mary Rorro: Veterans’ stories of trauma, grief, and loss inspired me to write poetry meant to help patients, and to honor them.  Some poems reflect themes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including intrusive memories, nightmares and flashbacks.  Others relate to more specific trauma incidents and themes of moral injury and survivor guilt.  The patients’ often poignant, sometimes frightening narratives were compelling.  Poetry became a venue in which I could attempt to first process and then articulate the overwhelming emotions they experience.  I began to share my poetry, in hopes of helping them connect and progress in treatment.  The poems opened a new dialogue on aspects of their stories which they might not have touched upon during the standard medication management visit.

I also write other poetry and haiku based on nature and spiritual themes, and compose songs and song lyrics.

Click here to read one of her poems, Tunnel Rats

 Tiziano T. Dossena: You have received innumerable awards both for your charitable and your professional work. Notwithstanding that they are all relevant and well deserved, is there one in particular that has meant more to you and why?

Dr. Mary Rorro: There are a few that are especially meaningful.  An award that had special meaning was from the American Foundation of Savoy Orders, a royal order in Italy.  They bestowed the Saints Maurice and Lazarus Bronze medal for charitable works at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  It was incredibly exciting to walk up the steps of the main altar to receive the beautiful bronze medal and proclamation of Vittorio Emanuele.  Performing at the Centennial Celebration mass of the Holy Rosary church in Washington D.C. with Supreme Court Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Antonin Scalia, and Nancy Pelosi, in attendance, was also a peak experience. It was an honor to be inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame, in the same year with Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

The Planetree organization’s Patient-Centered Excellence and Innovation Award (received by one of 10 individuals or programs internationally) for my “A Few Good Notes” program in Chicago, was significant for recognizing the importance of helping veterans through the arts.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Your father was a doctor and your mother is an icon of the Italian American community in New Jersey. How did this influence you in your personal life and your professional choices?

Dr. Mary Rorro: My late father, Dr. Louis Rorro, was a physician who was committed to helping patients in the community.  My mother, Dr. Gilda Rorro, was an educator and administrator in the Department of Education, and worked in civil rights.  She traveled to Haiti on numerous occasions to establish school exchange program with schools in Haiti and New Jersey.  In the past 20 years, she worked tirelessly to serve Italian Americans in the community as Honorary Vice Consul work and as Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. She was knighted by the President of Italy for development of her curriculum to put Italian heritage into all schools in New Jersey.  My parents instilled an appreciation of Italian language and culture, and we feel fortunate to have cherished family and friends in Italy. My wonderful husband Joseph also shares my love of Italian culture and music; we met at an Italian social club when I was a psychiatric resident in Boston.

My parents’ productivity and engagement in their careers motivated me toward my profession and I was proud of what they accomplished.  I was raised without limitations of what a girl or woman could achieve.  No matter how busy my patients were, they were always actively engaged in my development, taking me to music lessons, concerts, and trips to Europe, to broaden my education.  They were tremendous mentors, who influenced my life and left a legacy of serving others, which I strive to continue.  Their high school graduation gift was my viola, and one that truly keeps on giving.  I am forever indebted to my parents for guiding me in my goal to becoming a doctor and grateful they helped make my dream a reality.  They gave of themselves with genuine commitment to community, and to me.  My parents’ love and devotion enabled me to be fulfilled as a physician and musician, and aspire to help some many others, to live by their example.

Dr. Mary Rorro plays the viola for the mother Gilda in the occasion of her memoir’s presentation to the public

Tiziano T. Dossena: Are there any new projects in the near future?

Dr. Mary Rorro: I consider serving our veterans a patriotic mission. They have taught me so much about sacrifice and resilience. Blending music and poetry into my practice is a privilege and serves as a rewarding and creative means of deepening the doctor–patient bond. I have witnessed the powerful effects the arts can hold for patients and hope to distribute my collection of vignettes and poems to more veterans.  I plan to continue expanding the “A Few Good Notes” program so more patients become involved in music and the arts, as an invaluable tool to employ in their journey toward healing.

Veterans listening to Dr. Mary Rorro’s music (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube)

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