Rockin’ Roll “Sister Style”

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Italy’s version of “The Voice” has been hit with the latest singing sensation – and an unlikely one at that!  Sister Cristina Scuccia, an Ursuline Sister of the Holy Family, has wowed us all with her sensational rock and roll style, all while wearing her black habit and veil!  With no makeup and simple clothes, her true beauty shines through as we watch the pure joy she is feeling while sharing the gift that God has given her – her spectacular voice and style!  She has captivated our hearts with this simple exterior appearance while belting out songs by Alicia Keys and, most recently, Cyndi Lauper.   In her words,  “I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift.  Shouldn’t things be that way?”

Her initial appearance on “The Voice of Italy” blew the judges away.  The Italian rapper, and judge, J-Ax praised her by saying: “If I had found you at Mass I would always be in church.” “You and me are like the devil and holy water.”

Would Pope Francis be proud of her?  I would think so….and she hopes that he will tell her so!  “I am waiting for Pope Francis to call me on the phone. He always says we should go out and evangelize, telling us God doesn’t take anything away from us, but will give us more. I am here for this.”

A native of Sicily, she appeared on the show while her parents and four fellow sisters came to cheer her on.  Her first performance of Alicia Keyes “No One” opened the world’s eyes to this Singing Nun, and her most recent performance of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” just continued the awe and fascination of this amazing young woman with an incredible gift – we’re just fortunate that she had the willingness to share it with all of us!  Go Suor Cristina!

 

 

 

 

 

Easter and the Colomba

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Easter is quickly approaching – warm Spring days, blossoms on the trees – all the beauty that this special Season brings with it.  And part of our Italian heritage’s celebration includes the traditional Colomba!  This year, we almost thought we wouldn’t be having one since they were very late in arriving here in the Bay Area.  Normally, I pick one up in San Francisco’s North Beach but as of last week, they hadn’t arrived yet and I wasn’t certain that I would have the opportunity to drive to North Beach again before Easter.  Frantically searching in the local area, I found one at a nearby grocery store, Lundardi’s, in Los Gatos.  Thankfully, we will continue with our Colomba Easter tradition for this year!

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The Columba is a sweet bread covered in crystallized sugar granules.  Colomba in Italian means dove – and the bread is in the shape of a dove.  Sometimes almonds are used for the eyes!  This is a traditional Easter treat, just like Panettone is a traditional Christmas goody.

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The New Roman Colosseum

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A few years ago, I wrote a post on the search for someone to hand over 25 million Euros for the restoration of the famous Colosseum in Rome.  Luckily someone has come forward with the capital:  Diego della Valle, CEO of Tod’s, the luxury shoe manufacturer.

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Della Valle is a native Italian with lots of pride for his homeland.  “I’m someone who has had enormous luck in life and when I could give back, I did,” says Della Valle. “This is a monument that not only belongs to Italy’s patrimony but the entire world.” The project began last December and will take about 5 years to complete.  So far, they have begun by removing the soot caused by dust and smog almost 2000 years old.  The travertine stone has been blasted with water at low pressure to reveal the true ochre and red colors of the original Roman stone.  So far, they have cleaned 14 of the 80 or so pillars.  Once this first phase is done, they will continue by reattaching broken fragments and fortifying them with mortar.  The iron bars that dot the surface will be repaired and the metal rails will be replaced with newly forged iron gates.  A tourist center and café will be built underground in front of the Colosseum’s entrance and lastly, in the Colosseum’s cellar, where roaring animals and sword-wielding gladiators were once detained, the brick walls will be restored.

The bidding for the project began in 2010 and the two final contenders were Tod’s and Ryanair!  It’s a good thing that Ryanair did not win the bid because it intended to wrap the monument in advertising banners!  Now that would have been a sight for sore eyes!

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Surprisingly enough, this seemingly generous donation elicited a huge controversy headed by the Italian consumer protection organization, Codacons because they disagreed with Tod’s having use of the Colosseum for preapproved corporate events.  Seems to me that if someone is being generous enough to hand over 25 million Euros they should be allowed a little bit of appreciation – a few private corporate events doesn’t seem like much to ask for!  Much better than advertising banners everywhere! This stupid controversy delayed the project for over 2 years, with all those millions just sitting unused, until the courts dismissed the case due to a technicality.  Della Valle wasn’t phased by this, but he did state “…I do believe that something as simple as, ‘I want to give you money, let’s spend it’ shouldn’t be so difficult.  My idea was always to use this [donation] as a restart.  The country is having problems right now. But there is a lot of will and desire to do things. All that’s needed is to show people that things can happen and how to do it.  I see it as an obligation.  Italians who have had success and luck in life should give back to their country.”

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This philosophy has elicited a positive response from several other notable Italian companies:  Fendi will be restoring the Trevi Fountain and Diesel will take on Venice’s Rialto Bridge.  Thankfully, there are these very generous patrons who value the rich historical significance of these extraordinary masterpieces and are willing to come to their rescue.

 

 

 

Zucchero Live in San Francisco

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Last night, my friends and I hit San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall for a live concert by the legendary Italian singer, Zucchero!

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First of all, the venue was absolutely beautiful.  An old music hall, built in 1907, with carved ceilings and decorated walls, was the perfect venue for an intimate concert.  The acoustics were great…the only complaint I have is that it’s not a huge theater and the seating is first come, first serve.  Therefore, if you’re not there early, the chances of getting a good seat aren’t great.  Nonetheless, even after having to stand the entire night, the concert was entirely worth the slight discomfort!  Everyone ended up standing and dancing anyway, so being up on the balcony gave us the perfect vantage point.

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Zucchero’s voice live is something that can’t be described.  Even though his CD’s are great, they don’t compare to what he sounds like in concert.  The rich tones in his voice really blow you away.  From the raspy deep tones to a clear melodic voice, he brings so much soul to his music.  His ballads were sung beautifully with the words and meaning delivered in such a way to touch you – the true talent of a great soul singer.  And his rock songs, performed alongside some incredible musicians, were loud and fantastic!  It was impossible not to dance to them!  Oddly enough, one of my favorite songs from last night was sung by him in English.  “Never is a Moment” is the perfect illustration of his soulful talent.

He was promoting his last CD, La Sesion Cubana, which he recorded in Havana with producer Don Was.  Along with tex mex guitars and Cuban rhythms, these songs bring a new element to his style by combining his gospel, soul, blues and rock talent to create an incredible new sound.

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After the concert, we got to meet Zucchero’s bassist and musical director, Polo Jones.  Throughout his career, Polo has collaborated with mega stars such as Whitney Houston, Andrea Boccelli, Bono, Joe Cocker and lots more!  His road to Zucchero began in 1985 when he received a call from producer -guitarist Corrado Rustici, (who performed for us as well!!)  to join “Holiday of Hands”, a San Francisco bay area fusion pop band. Shortly thereafter, Polo began recording albums in Europe and hooked up with Zucchero.  They’ve been together now for about 23 years!

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We didn’t get the chance to meet Zucchero himself, but meeting Polo was definitely a highlight to the evening.

 

Nutella Has English Roots?

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I bet you never equated Nutella with anything English, right?  After all, it is made in Italy and many Italian children have been raised on Nutella and bread sandwiches as an after school snack!  Nutella was created in Italy, back in the 1940′s, by a Piemontese pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero.

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He had the ingenious idea to incorporate hazelnuts with cocoa beans to extend the chocolate, which was in short supply because of World War II rations.  His original recipe mixed toasted hazelnuts (which are abundant in Piemonte, Italy) with cocoa butter and vegetable oils.  He called this delicious concoction “Pasta Gianduja” (gianduja is hazelnut in Italian).  Then in 1949, he changed the original recipe to make it easier to spread on bread.  This became known as “Supercrema Gianduja.”

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So, I know you’re just dying to find out where this English connection comes in?  Well, in 1964, because hazelnuts were becoming so popular, the Ferrero company decided to change the name to “Nutella”…a combination of the English word “nut” and “ella”.  “Nut” was used to make it clear that it was made of nuts (and not just chocolate), and the ending “ella” to give it a softer ending.   So there you have it – an Italian product with an English name!  I guess they knew that English would one day be the international language and they were tapping into a whole new population to sell their product to!  Now that’s what I call SMART MARKETING!

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Girl Power

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Two great female voices come together in this beautiful song. Both Giorgia and Alicia Keys are powerhouses and their combined talents make this song incredible. Both the Italian and English words meld together into a perfect blend. This song can be found on Giorgia’s Senza Paura (Without Fear) album. The entire album is great and I can highly recommend it for anyone that loves Italian pop!

Ora che ti guardo,
vedo solo il buono,
che rimane quando sai
che tutto è perso tutto è rotto ormai,
considerando noi soli in queste circostanze nuove, lasciamoci così
perchè un legame sempre resterà

Pregherò, piangerò, per desiderarti tanto, per lasciare ogni rimpianto
e no
non lo so che farò quando avrò finito il tempo e sarà tardi per l’inverno che nel cuore ho per te io pregherò

You never believed
the reason we are here
Is to make a better change for we can
see the world the best that we know how
But now i’m left alone
left without a word
i’m so breathless
now i’m with this
never ever been so burned before

I will pray
i will cry
’cause I want you so bad
’cause I have no regrets and no
I don’t know (non lo so) what to do
quando avrò finito il tempo e sarà tardi per l’inverno e nel cuore io per te io pregherò

Io non ti aspetto più
non hai coraggio tu
come un pugno in faccia adesso sei, oh ohhh
sarà possibile tornare a vincere contro il disincanto che mi dai
ma tu come fai
ma tu come fai

Pregherò, piangerò per desiderarti per lasciare ogni rimpianto,
non lo so (non lo so) che farò quando avrò finito il tempo sarà tardi per l’inverno e nel cuore per te io pregherò
per te io pregherò amore!

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Now that I look at you,

I only see the good

that remains when you know

that everything is lost, everything is already broken.

Considering only ourselves in this new circumstance, let’s leave each other like this

Because a tie will always remain.

I will pray, I will cry, to desire you so much, to leave every regret

And no

I won’t know what I’ll do when the time is finished and it will late for the winter that in my heart I have for you, I will pray.

I won’t wait for you anymore

You don’t have any courage

Like a punch to the face, you are now, oh ohh

It will be possible to return and win against the disenchantment that you give me

But how do you do it

But how do you do it

I will pray, I will cry for desiring you, to leave every regret

I don’t know, I don’t know, what I’ll do when I’ve finished the time and it will be late for the winter is in my heart for you, I will pray

For you I will pray, my love.

Got any Chianti Lying Around?

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If you were good and didn’t drink the whole bottle of Chianti at your last sitting, you might want to use the leftovers to make these Chianti Braised Short Ribs! They are so tender and delicious…and the Chianti makes it just perfect for a cold wintry night’s dinner. You need some time to prepare this, so it’s best to make it when you are stuck at home waiting for the rain or snow to subside…

Chianti Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4

3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs – your butcher and remove the
bones if they don’t have boneless ones readily
available.
Virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Chianti wine
1 32oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
2 tsp. chopped rosemary
Carrots cut into large chunks
Mushrooms cut into quarters
Salt & pepper to taste

Dry the short ribs and season with salt and pepper.
Sear the short ribs in olive oil until they are brown on all sides.

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Remove them from the pan and set aside.
Saute the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the Chianti, rosemary, broth and tomatoes to the pan and reduce a bit.

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Return the short ribs to the pan and cover the pan. Simmer for about 2 hours.
Add the carrots and mushrooms to the pan, and continue cooking for another hour or so until the carrots and beef are tender.

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This is delicious on it’s own, or can be served over rice or polenta.