Italian Scientists Say Vines May Love Vivaldi

Wired for sound: vineyards at Paradiso di Frassina in Tuscany.

Just in through the grapevine: Music helps grow healthier plants.

That’s the preliminary result of research by Italian scientists who have been examining vineyards exposed to classical music to see if sound makes the plants grow larger and more quickly.

While sound has long been thought to influence plant growth, this is the first time anyone has investigated the effects of music outdoors on Sangiovese vines, which are best known for producing grapes that go into Tuscany’s famous Chiantis.

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Salute! Italian fridge with beer spout

Beer fridgeForget the water dispenser and ice cube maker: a new fridge made in Italy has a front-door beer tap.

Called HomePub this chic, stainless steel fridge holds a five-liter keg and can keep the beer bubbly for up to three weeks. Price not listed.

You’d think Italians would be more interested in a vino dispenser, but Bel Paese residents have developed a taste for beer in recent years.

Healthy Indulgence: Chocolate Vitamins

Choco-pillThe best giveaway at Milan’s recent tourism fair: dark chocolate enriched with Vitamin A & C for the guilty.

Called “Chocopirin-A,” (a play on “aspirina,” aspirin) the tabs were handed out to hungry visitors to promote the Eurochocolate fest in Perugia next fall. Meant to underline how chocolate has become more a part of our daily lives, hopefully some marketing genius will copy the idea and make them for real.

Rome Restaurant Gets Grannies to Cook

If you happen to eat at Primo al Pigneto in Rome on the right day, you may be treated to a home-cooked meal from a neighborhood grandma.

At age 30 — when many Italian men are still living at home feasting on la nonna’s cooking — chef Marco Gallotta had the brainwave of recruiting local women to “guest star” in his kitchen for one week a month. Continue reading

Salty Gelato for Your Sweet Tooth

While many Italian gelaterias are closed for the winter, ice cream makers here are testing new flavors.

What’s hot? If you believe the news coming from Sigep, the gelato, chocolate and bread fair in seaside resort Rimini, sweet is out.

Salty is hot. Organizers of the fair are so convinced that people will want a cool lick of savory gelato they held a contest for the best new flavors. Seven international teams – Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the U.S. — participated in this piquant cook-out. Continue reading

Italians Say: Take Me Out

An increasing number of Milanese are shunning aprons for ready-made meals and take out food. It’s such big business that the Chamber of Commerce decided to study it.

So, how much is everyone eating out?

Well enough to register a 101% jump over five years in the number of businesses making and selling prepared foods, with a 30% increase between third quarter 2004 and 2005. Continue reading

Beefed up: Italians bring back bistecca

Steak feastby Nicole Martinelli Beef is back in Europe after a nearly 10-year ban for mad cow disease. In Italy, butchers are trying to entice people to put the famed bistecca fiorentina, a monumental T-bone steak, on the table again.

Ban, schman. If you knew where to look — just three months after locals held a public funeral for the steak — you could sink your teeth into a fiorentina anyway.

Timing, though, couldn’t have been better. Continue reading

”Pizza Pact” for cash-strapped Italians staff What could possibly ruin the love affair between Italians and pizza?


The faltering Italian economy — more or less stagnant since 2002 — and relentless price hikes with the arrival of the euro have made many in the Bel Paese forgo eating out.

And because even the most gifted mamma is unlikely to have the wood-burning oven necessary to make a proper pizza, it is the one dish Italians gladly eat outside the home.

Restaurant owners have struck up a “pizza pact” (patto della pizza) hoping to get cash-strapped Italians out and eating the national dish again, offering pizza and a beer or soft drink for 7 euro ($8.39).
The pizza crisis and the idea of a pact was first discussed on popular talk show Porta a Porta, a late-night program generally dedicated more to burning political issues than hot pies. Retailers’ body Confcommercio took up the idea and over 200 restaurants throughout Italy have signed the pact, valid to the end of 2005, so far.

It may be a case of too little, too late.

“Pizzeria owners are crazy if they think this will fill the restaurants after they’ve jacked up prices over the last few years, ” Rik Sentenza wrote in a letter to daily Metro. “Why don’t they give us coupons, like war-time rations for bread, since none of us can afford to eat out anymore? This isn’t going to solve the problem.”
Sentenza, like many readers who wrote into the paper, remembers a few years back when a pizza cost ?4.000 to? 6.000 lire or about 2-3 euro.

The profit on the average pizza is already 490%, reminds Vincenzo Donvito, president of consumer group ADUC, who called the initiative “obscene.”

Four out of the just seven pizzerias supporting the pizza pact in Milan called by zoomata did not know whether the offer was valid just one day a week or every day or on which day it was offered.

Roberto, owner of pizzeria Summer in Milan, who has not signed the pizza pact told us: “They didn’t publicize it very well, I first read about it from the newspaper.”

When asked whether he would be signing up any time soon he said, “We’re talking a 1.50 discount on our normal prices, I’ll throw in an espresso or grappa if people ask for the pizza pact. How’s that?”

Related resources:
Pizza Napoletana!
A love letter to the true Italian pizza from chef Pamela Sheldon Johns
Official site for the pizza pact

Wine? Italians say spread it on staff How about laying some Brunello di Montalcino on your toast, or slathering Chianti on some cheese?
The brainchild of Italian agronomist Giordano Cal?, “spreadable wine” comes in 20 flavors of the country’s best-loved vino, including Marsala, Morellino di Scansano, Zibibbo and Nero d?Avola.The creams, which have the consistency of jam, are at their best with roast meats, cheeses or on fruit for dessert. Calo’s favorite combination? Goat cheese tempered with a rich spread of Aglianico.

Cal?, whose company motto is “little for few,” makes 10,000 jars of wine cream a year. He estimates about 20% of the sold outside the Bel Paese. Connoisseurs outside Italy have to settle for an ‘unleaded’ alcohol-free version, it seems it was the only way to keep it preserved and get it through customs.

Spreadable wine is an idea whose time has come: Italians are drinking less wine than ever, less than half of what they imbibed in the 1970s. Numerous initiatives are trying to get Italians back in the habit of drinking the gift of the grape in moderation — including one aimed at the youth market sponsored by the National Enoteca called ‘By Bacchus, Kids!”? text 1999-2005
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