"ITALIANI!" Welcome back to your favorite pasta, cheese, and self-help newsletter, "Only In Italy!"
Boy am I glad you're back, you really make my day! Gloria B.
This song is dedicated to you...Gloria:
Leave them hangin' on the line, oh-oh-oh, calling Gloria
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Rome - June 14, 2011 - The president of the retailing association in the Italian capital, Confcommercio, was among over 40 people arrested on Tuesday for alleged tax evasion.
Cesare Pambianchi and 14 other people were detained in prison and 27 put under house arrest in the operation, during which police raided hundreds of companies.
As well as tax evasion, the suspects face charges including money laundering and embezzlement.
Tuesday's operation was part of a probe by Rome prosecutors into an alleged international association involving the owners of various companies and groups who dodged taxes to the value of 550 million euros.
Sixty-five-year-old Pambianchi is accused evading tax on over 300,000 euros of consultancy fees.
"I am displeased. I hope Pambianchi will be able to prove his innocence," commented Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno.
Confcommercio issued a statement expressing "full solidarity" and "esteem and faith" in Pambianchi.
"In the hope that Rome prosecutors shed full light on this matter, we repeat that the accusations leveled against president Pambianchi concern his business activities alone and in no way regards Rome's Confcommercio," the statement said.
Pambianchi in 1996 founded the company Profit S.p.A. which currently employs 450 people and owns 20 sports centers and several health farms. He is also a member of the board of directors of Aeroporti di Roma and the Fiera di Roma permanent trade fair.
Look, Italians are not what you would call passionate planners. Forecasting what we will be doing a year therefore, is a game for idiots. Many of us wake up with no idea what awaits us by pasta time:
And tell an Italian that the only certainties in life are death and taxes and he'll throw a few Euros at you, thanking you for the wonderful laugh and making his day.
According to statistics, a 1/3 of Italians are semi illiterate. We can't do simple tasks like buying shoes that fit and have very little notion of history and science. But tax evasion is a way of life Italians plan very carefully. We'll go into a cave with goat milk and bread and meditate before we figure out how to pull it off.
According to the latest figures available from the "Agenzia delle Entrate", an equivalent of the Inland Revenue or IRS, more than 124 billion Euros ($181 billion USD), is evaded every year by Italians. For example:
The owner of five Ferraris...that claims an income of 1,000 Euros ($1,460 USD) a month.
Makes you want to run over your accountant with your car, doesn't it?
And believe us, there are Italians hard at work resolving the immortality problem:
"I said I want a 99 year lease on the store front. Of course, everything in cash."
Rome - June 15, 2011 - Pasta has topped a global survey of the world's favorite foods. So how did the dish so closely associated with Italy become a staple of so many tables around the globe?
While not everyone knows the difference between farfalle, fettuccine and fusilli, many people have slopped over a bowl of spaghetti bolognese or dove into a plate of lasagne.
But now a global survey by the charity Oxfam has named pasta as the world's most popular dish, ahead of meat, rice and pizza. As well as being popular in unsurprising European countries, pasta was one of the favorites in the Philippines, Guatemala, Brazil and South Africa.
And figures from the International Pasta Organization show Venezuela is the largest consumer of pasta, after Italy. Tunisia, Chile and Peru also feature in the top 10, while Mexicans, Argentineans and Bolivians all eat more pasta than the British.
Global sales figures reflect the world's love affair with pasta - they have risen from $13bn USD (8bn BP) in 2003 to $16bn USD (10bn BP) in 2010. The analysts at Datamonitor predict it will hit $19bn USD (12bn BP) by 2015, despite rising wheat costs.
So how did pasta become so popular? It's because it is cheap, versatile and convenient, says Jim Winship, from the UK-based Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association. A sauce to go with it can be made from simple ingredients.
"You can create lots of different dishes with it. It tastes good and it's filling. It also has a long shelf life, so you can keep it in the cupboards until you need to put a meal together."
But that's only part of its success. Pasta is also relatively easy to mass produce and transport around the world, making it a popular product with food companies as well.
"It's always been an industrial product," says John Dickie, professor in Italian Studies at University College London and author of Delizia! A History of the Italians and their Food.
"It is definitely one of the things that has contributed to its success - it's easy to transport and has a long shelf life. It has commercial genes."
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University London, says technological advances in the 19th Century allowed pasta to be produced on a big scale. But the Industrial Revolution did that for everything else, he adds, and the reason pasta had been particularly successful was because people liked it and the Italian way of life.
"It's a cultural phenomenon, not an industrial phenomenon," he says. "People like the Italian way of life and their simple, staple foods."
Pasta has always had a global aspect as its origins are not purely Italian, which is unsurprising considering it can be made with just wheat and water.
The Greeks and Romans had pasta-like foods but they tended to be baked, not boiled. Ancient China had dumplings, but it's a myth that the Venetian explorer Marco Polo returned from China with pasta in 1295.
The most accepted theory is that the Arab invasions of the 8th Century brought a dried noodle-like product to Sicily. This early pasta was made using flour from durum wheat, which Sicily specialized in. Under Italian law, dry pasta (or pasta secca) can only be made from this type of wheat, and the vast bulk of pasta is still made in Italy.
And despite being considered a cheap meal now it was the preserve of the rich in the very beginning, says Prof. Dickie.
"We tend to think of pasta like potatoes but it has never been viewed as a bland staple. It's been associated with prestige. People used to buy votes with pasta."
The first reference to pasta in Italy was noted in 1154 and it was about an export factory in Sicily, he says.
He says its breakthrough as a common food came in Naples in the 1700s, when it was recognized as "a good way to feed a large part of the populace".
But pasta popularity outside of Italy really took off at the turn of the 20th Century with large-scale Italian immigration to the New World. This is when it started to become known as Italy's national dish, he says.
Italian restaurateur Antonio Carluccio said pasta may have a long history, but the Italians made it their own by eating it with tomatoes.
He says most pasta is spaghetti outside of Italy but there are actually 600 different types and shapes and each region cooks it differently. He says its appeal is in the taste and its nutritional value.
"It is pleasurable with a good sauce, but it should just be coated, otherwise you lose the taste of the pasta. It is a complex carbohydrate which releases all the goodness slowly and you feel satisfied for a long time.
"I don't know one person who doesn't like pasta. It is very similar to bread - both are made with flour and water and they both need an accompaniment."
He's clearly not met food critic and broadcaster Giles Coren, who described pasta as "overrated gloppy stuff" that appeals only to children.
"Ask a footballer what they can cook and they always say spaghetti. It is what you reach for when there is nothing else left in the cupboard. It's poor people's food and it's unsophisticated. It's the same as bread - you just boil it instead of putting it in the oven."
So as popular as it is, pasta hasn't conquered everyone in the universe.
- The dried noodle-like food the Arabs introduced to Sicily in the 8th century is most likely the origins of dried pasta and was being produced in great quantities in Palermo at this time. Today with the invasion of the Mafia, the mass quantities of pasta produced has been replaced with that of cement, threats, and bullets.
- Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing pasta to the United States. It appears that he fell in love with a certain dish he tried in Naples, while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France. In fact, he quickly ordered crates of "macaroni," along with a pasta-making machine, to be sent back to the States before the garbage crisis prevented his ship from leaving port.
- Whether you like it or not, it takes about a half a gallon of water to cook pasta, and about a gallon of water to clean the stupid pot.
- Cook pasta until it is 'al dente', firm to the teeth yet tender. Many Americans cook pasta until it is too soft. It does not have to resemble Chef Boyardee pasta. A minute or two less of cooking time will do wonders for your pasta dishes and create less embarrassment. By the way, Chef Boyardee canned pasta products is named after its founder, Italian-American immigrant Ettore Boiardi.
The pasta line began production in the United States in the 1920s as a practical joke...unfortunately, many Americans took the joke seriously.
Rome - June 17, 2011 - Silvio Berlusconi's notorious bunga bunga parties are the inspiration for a new Angry Birds style game.
Angry Bunga features a cartoon version of the Italian PM throwing money at a beautiful girl in a cage.
In the application, available for iPhone, iPad and Android, he also walks along the Bay of Naples throwing bananas and tomatoes at a judge.
If Berlusconi hits a magistrate, he disappears, but if he hits the girl, she strips off and throws him a kiss.
The game was developed by the Italian Appymob agency and has been available since the start of the week.
Silvio, bunga, unga, asbestos hair plugs..."ma, che vita." You have no idea how really tired we're getting of this; our lives and future hang in the hands of a public employee who is depriving a village somewhere of a clown.
Quite frankly, the app doesn't sound entertaining. No creativity, no imagination, no surprises. Why do we always have to give suggestions to everyone out there?
How about a "Beat the Arrogant Italian Clown" app? A cartoon version of Berlusconi receiving a beating, clown style, every time he makes a blunder (feel free to credit us with the idea):
- November 2010: "As always, I work without interruption and if occasionally I happen to look a beautiful girl in the face, it's better to like beautiful girls than to be gay."
- October 2010: A video emerges of Berlusconi describing a fictional Jewish family agreeing to hide another Jew during the Holocaust, on condition that he pays 3,000 euros a day. He describes a member of the family asking another: "Do you think we should tell him that Hitler is dead and the war is over?"
- April 2009: Berlusconi yells out "Mr Obama!" after an official photo call in London's Buckingham Palace during a meeting of G20 leaders. Queen Elizabeth asks: "Why does he have to shout?"
- April 2009: During a visit to survivors of an earthquake in the central Abruzzo region, who were staying in emergency tents, Berlusconi says: "They should see it like a weekend of camping."