"Come va?" Welcome to another sausage lasagna issue of "Only In Italy!"
Love your Sicilian dialect, brings back fond memories of my wonderful grandparents and father who were true blooded Sicilians. Again thank you for all the hilarious anecdotes. Jean
Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!
Rome - October 26, 2008 - Italy has trained a special squad of gourmet police officers to sniff out fraud in the multi-million Euro olive oil trade.
Italian police have stepped up their battle against olive oil fraud. The 20 officers have just graduated from a course in which they were taught to distinguish fake extra-virgin oil from the real thing.
While customers pay a premium for Italian extra-virgin olive oil, often it is neither Italian nor extra-virgin, but lower quality oil brought in by tanker truck and ship from Spain, Greece or Tunisia.
During an intensive training course arranged by the National Olive Oil Association, the police officers were schooled in how to detect an oil's provenance just by taste.
"This initiative will strengthen the defense of the quality of one of the symbols of the Mediterranean diet," said Massimo Gargano, the head of the association.
It would send "an unequivocal signal" that the olive oil industry was determined to ensure quality and clamp down on fraudulent practices, he said.
Italian police have recently stepped up their battle against unscrupulous growers and producers, amid fears that adulterated or wrongly labeled oil will harm Italy's image.
In March, in an operation called Golden Oil, police arrested 23 people and confiscated 85 farms after a investigation into suspect producers.
A month later another racket was busted, with police closing down seven olive oil plants and arresting 40 people in an investigation spanning nine provinces. Officers seized more than 25,000 liters of suspect oil. Those arrested were accused of adding sunflower and soybean oil to the genuine product and selling it as extra-virgin oil in Italy and abroad.
Police said they intercepted large shipments of the fraudulent oil just as they were about to be exported to Germany, Switzerland and the US.
Flavoring and other chemicals had been added to the blended vegetable oil to give it the distinctive golden luster of high-quality olive oil.
Although Italy is Europe's second-biggest olive oil producer after Spain, its production was down 15 per cent last year and the country fails to produce enough to satisfy even domestic demand.
The temptation for growers and producers is to buy in cheap oil from other Mediterranean countries and pass it off as Italian.
Last year the amount of oil imported from Greece, Spain and Tunisia jumped 12 per cent.
"You find bottles with Italian flags all over them and yet the oil is from Spain or Morocco or Turkey or wherever," said Johnny Madge, a British olive oil expert who has lived in Italy for 26 years, producing and selling oil in the Sabine Hills north of Rome.
"But it is possible to taste where different oils come from. There's a Spanish olive, for instance, that has a very distinctive coriander taste, which makes it instantly recognizable even if it has been blended with other oils."
"Mamma mia", all I did was try to fry some Bacala with this "new and improved" olive oil and the kitchen caught fire...along with my hair!
Extra virgin is the highest quality and most expensive form of olive oil. It comes from the first pressing of the olives. It is the least acidic and has the fruitiest flavor.
Much of what is sold as "Italian Olive Oil" is really oil imported from Spain, Greece and Tunisia, packaged in Italy and sold as Italian. In fact, 60% of all olive oil produced in Spain is bought by Italy.
Most gourmet stores try to stump and fleece you with the different types of extra-virgin olive oils available on the market:
"Well, this recipe calls for a fruity and fragrant oil..."
You must understand. Italians consume only one type of oil on a daily basis and that is extra-virgin olive oil from Southern Italy. There are no peppery, fruity, or chocolate kinds with different colored bottle caps. And it is not sold in 'Chanel' type bottles.
Ask a kitchen veteran in Italy what's the best grassy oil for your salad and you'll get a filthy and angry stare. You'll almost be able to make out the word "vaffanculo" on their forehead.
An excellent way to test the quality of your olive oil is to do what pregnant women did in Ancient Rome which is to apply it to your skin to help prevent stretch marks. Many Italian women today still follow this practice. Make sure to film the process and show it to your family and friends.
Rome - October 29, 2008 - Bathrooms and elevators at the Colosseum were off limits on Wednesday due to significant damage caused by a torrential downpour which hit the Italian capital on Tuesday evening.
Officials at the historic sight said the abundant rainfall damaged the sewer system as well as electrical transformers serving the tourist attraction. No damage from the rain was reported to other parts of the central archeological hub which aside from the Colosseum includes the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.
Oh, "porca di quella vacca", it's backed up again Caesar!
Ever enter the unpredictable world of an Italian public bathroom? "Palle", finding one with a toilet seat is like winning the Puglia lottery and there are about 5-6 different ways to flush a toilet. There are pull-strings, knobs, buttons and panels in walls!
And you'll never ever find toilet paper (kind of like that useless manager that has to keep a minimal amount of paper in the copy machine in order to prevent you from taking the paper and using it to wipe yourself)!
The Coliseum was completed in 80 AD, seated 50,000 and, during the games, served death on a plate to over 500,000 people and a million animals. Where is it written in history that the Romans who darted for the bathrooms between Christian martyrdoms would find a marble slate with the inscription, "out of order"?
On July 7, 2007, the Colosseum was voted as one of New Open World Corporation's New Seven Wonders of the World. "Cazzo", the wonder is how can a world famous tourist attraction with a daily attendance of 30,000 get by with 4-5 bathrooms?
Rome - October 27, 2008 - American NATO officers have been renting a villa near Naples for years that belongs, indirectly, to Antonio Iovine, a clan chieftain of the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia.
Mr Iovine, 44, nicknamed "o'ninno" or "the baby" because of his small stature, is wanted for murder and other crimes, and is listed among the 30 most dangerous criminals in Italy. He has been on the run for 12 years.
According to an investigation that was published in a local paper yesterday the villa of Mr Iovine may be only the tip of an iceberg. Italian police sources suggested that there were scores of similar cases in the Naples area of NATO service personnel living in houses that were owned by the Camorra. There are several NATO facilities in the area, notably a US telecommunications center in Bagnoli and the US Air Force base at Capodichino.
"Itís ludicrous, isn't it? The coffers of NATO, to which Italy also contributes, are helping to fill the coffers of the Camorra," Franco Roberti, the coordinator of the local anti-Mafia bureau, said.
The villa rented by the American officers, near the town of San Cipriano díAversa, was bought in 1986 by Mr Iovine's mother, with what investigators believe were the wages of his criminal activities. Because it is registered in her name, prosecutors have so far failed to present sufficient evidence of its criminal origins.
The two-story villa is surrounded by a high wall topped by a fence with several video cameras along its perimeter. It is only 18 miles from the US bases.
Colonel Carmelo Burgio, who heads the 1,360 Carabinieri in the Naples area, which is infested by the many family-based clans that make up the Camorra, said: "Last year we succeeded in sequestering 100 million Euro (79 million GBP) of assets belonging to the Bianco-Corvino clan of the Camorra, including about 50 villas. We then discovered that 40 of these were rented out to NATO personnel. Most of them are still living there, with the difference that the rent, which ranges between 1,500 and 3,000 Euros a month, is now paid into a state fund."
Colonel Burgio said that the Camorra clans were masters at camouflaging their purchases, which were used to launder illegal earnings. He said that Mr Iovine's wife, who was arrested in July for extortion and for managing contacts between her husband and other clan chiefs, "has letters from friends saying they gave her as presents everything of any value in her house, furniture, TVs, clothes everything". There were even hundreds of pairs of expensive shoes, each with a "present note" from a friend.
The military duty officer at the US Embassy in Rome said that he had no knowledge of the situation and declined to comment. Military personnel at the American Joint Forces Headquarters in Naples and at the Capodichino airbase also said that they knew nothing of the matter, and that nobody was available to comment.
Proverb: "Ambasciator non porta pena." (The ambassador does not carry the blame.)
Renting a Villa in Naples: What You Should Know:
- Be careful and ask if the villa you are going to rent has everything that you will desire. If so, make absolutely sure nothing is taken when you leave including the complimentary soaps.
- Find out what's included. Does the villa have a full time staff, such as cooks, and housekeepers, or does it only have minimum housekeeping service that stops by regularly to make sure you are keeping the house spotless and in order. Ask if the lion chained to a marble column in the garden can be removed for the safety of the children.
- Are services such as air conditioning and heating extra? Most of the time these services are complimentary for the owners themselves do not receive city utility bills. It's quite difficult to read gas and electric meters when...you don't have any.
- Ask to view photos of the villa, its layout, the gardens and a floor plan. Are the beds double, queen or twin? No need to ask why the villa has a remarkable resemblance to Tony Montana's villa in "Scarface".
- Are you planning to cook? If so, you will find a nice sized meat locker large enough to hold a couple of cows and sheep, a 100 gallon aquarium for the fresh lobster, a restaurant sized kitchen with all the modern conveniences and a lovely and impressive set of sharp cutlery.
- Does the villa staff, such as housekeepers and gardeners live in the villa or on the grounds? Find out if privacy will be an issue. You don't want a villa where your NATO paperwork will find their way to Iran and North Korea.
- Find out if there are emergency services quickly available. Where is the nearest hospital and does one of the hidden tunnels under the villa lead to it?