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Michele Crippa. Young people and street food: jobs for the future

Taste / -

Michele Crippa intervista img rif

Italy has a long tradition in street food, which ranges from arrosticini to fried pizza, from the fish cuoppo to the piadina flatbread. Michele Crippa, who teaches history of Italian cuisine at Alma cooking school and is co-founder of Gastronomist, tells us how U.S.-style food trucks have brought new life to Italian street food and created exciting new job opportunities for young people.

Traditional, innovative and gourmet: food trucks have brought a breath of fresh air to Italian gastronomy. This is the conviction of Michele Crippa, teacher of history of Italian cuisine at Alma cooking school and co-founder of Gastronomist-Consulting community, a social community and agency for gastronomic consulting. He was a speaker at one of the Expo Milano 2015 Terrace Talks, the weekly meetings organized on the terrace of the US Pavilion to explore issues relating to food, sustainability, innovation, technology and cooking.
 
Why has street food become so popular?
Because, as Gualtiero Marchesi, the Maestro of Italian cuisine says, street food is the simplest and most direct way of getting to know the history of a country, because it incorporates the country’s values and traditions and represents a people’s vision. Each region in Italy has its own street foods, all creative and delicious, made from local specialty products. I am grateful to the United States because their food trucks have given us Italians a new way of seeing and selling street food.
 
Which are the most iconic Italian street foods?
First of all, the piadina, which is a specialty from Emilia Romagna, a flatbread served with cured ham, creamy fresh squacquerone cheese and rocket. Next I would say the Ascolana-style olives, deep-fried, sweet green olives stuffed with mixed minced meats, and arancine, balls of boiled rice mixed with ragout and caciocavallo cheese, which are a Sicilian specialty. Then we have the arrosticini from Abruzzo, little bits of lamb grilled on wooden skewers, which are a similar idea to gnumareddi and liver, except that the latter two are made with liver and offal.  And we should not forget fried pizza from Campania and focaccia with mortadella (a soft pizza-like bread used as a sandwich with a pork cold cut).
 
Can you give an example of a street food created to avoid wasting food?
Street food was created precisely to use products that would not otherwise have been eaten: think of pane ca’ meusa, a Sicilian specialty sandwich filled with fried spleen, a part which is normally discarded when the animal is butchered. Again, the cuoppo di pesce, a paper cornet filled with fried fish, originates from “reusing” the least valuable fish, which was not sold in the market.
 
How did street food appear?
Originally, street food was made at home, as a private initiative. Women in Naples cooked fried pizza and sold it from their front door or their kitchen window. Over the years, some of these kitchens became actual shops and delis, and the women had “invented” a new job for themselves.
 
When did the concept of Italian street food change?
The revolution came in 1986 in Rome, with the arrival of the first McDonald’s, the same year in which Petrini founded the Slow Food movement. Those were the glory days of paninari (sandwich bars) which sold low quality food: that is why street food was mostly considered of low nutritional value - what we now call junk food. But, look what was happening elsewhere: in Cesena in Emilia Romagna there was another revolution: one of the largest manufacturing centers closed down and the locals started opening little kiosks along the coast, which propped up the local economy. These days it can cost as much as 500 thousand euro to buy up a license for a piadina stand.
 
And what is the situation right now?
The same thing is happening again now, and street food is a significant driving force for the economy. As always happens during a crisis, street food brings back life and strength to the economy and offers a new way of living and eating. Thanks to the influence of the United States, we are now living the food truck revolution, which means high quality street food served on wheels. It ranges from the classic food - fried pizza, arancine and kebabs to the most innovative, who sell vegetarian and vegan street food. And it is also a work opportunity, especially for young people.
 
How are food trucks doing in Italy?
In 2014, there were just 15 food trucks cooking street food based on quality and design, now there are almost 120. Their number has exploded in under a year. That is why I call it the “food truck revolution”. Most of the models are Ape cars, which are already an Italian icon. We can divide them into 4 categories: traditional, selling regional specialty street food; innovative, selling unusual and trendy food; fine dining, for those looking for a gourmet experience and branded, managed by globalized brands which have decided to invest in this new way of distributing food.
 
Can you tell us some success stories?
Farinel on the Road, selling miasse, basically cornmeal wraps like a polenta flatbread, filled with specialty salami and cheeses from the Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont regions. And Ape Scottadito, selling arrosticini (grilled lamb cubes on a skewer) and fried stuffed olive all’ascolana to tourists in San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic coast; then Pizza & Mortazza, with a pink Ape vehicle with white spots, which drives round Rome selling mortadella focaccia sandwiches. And I must mention LuBar: Ludovico, its inventor, is 24 years old and came to Milan to go to university, but now he has several food trucks serving granite (a semi-frozen ice dessert), cannoli (sweet pastry) and all typical Sicilian specialties. These are examples of how, thanks to street food, with a bit of imagination one can come up with big opportunities to set up in business.
 
Can you name a quality Italian food truck at Expo Milano 2015?
Bello&Buono, one of the most famous pizzerias in town, the first Italian food truck, which sells fried pizza, cuoppo di pesce, Parma-style aubergines and traditional dishes from Campania region. The really great thing is that they choose their ingredients and food producers personally, and know each one by name.
 
Which are the most innovative?
Cucinando su Ruote (Cooking on Wheels), from Turin, does on the road vegan cooking using hemp; Matilda - traveling food based on Medieval recipes from the 13th Century, and also Monaka,  a bicycle selling azuki-bean ice cream sandwiched between rice wafers.
 
And the best gourmet trucks?
The Michelin-starred chef Mario Uliassi, who started Italy’s first fine dining restaurant food truck, with the aim of offering an outstanding culinary experience through a food truck. But one of the most incredible is Zibo, the brainchild of three Alma cooking school graduates, which opened just two months ago, and gives the impression of being in a gourmet restaurant, although the backdrop is the street. Zibo’s specialty is pasta, and one of the dishes which has dazzled customers the most is the egg-pasta tortello filled with crunchy bacon carbonara, which is fun because, when you bite into it, the ingredients combine, giving you the impression you are actually eating a spaghetti carbonara. Food trucks can come up with big surprises!
 
 

February 2, 1926. Luigi Veronelli: singing the praises of wine and the land

Culture / -

© Sandro Fabbri
© Sandro Fabbri

Connoisseur of good wine and food, chef, journalist, writer and publisher, Luigi Veronelli was the forerunner of common expressions and points of view that have become part of household conversations. He led bitter battles to safeguard diversity in agriculture and food production and played a key part in the widespread promotion of Italian food and wine.

Born in Milan’s Isola district in 1926, Luigi Veronelli was a master of wine and food culture, but that’s not all. He devoted more than 50 years to battles, ideas, notions and causes in support of agriculture and an understanding of taste that might create bring together quality and social consciousness. In 1956 he embarked on a career as a liberal publisher, producing, among other things, the last proscribed book in Italy ("Storielle, racconti e raccontini", by Marquis de Sade) for which he was sentenced to three months in prison in 1957. In 1962 he became (and remained so for 21 years) a reporter for Il Giorno, where he began working on developing a food and wine culture in Italy. In the 60s and 70s he authored highly insightful and sophisticated broadcasts for television. He sang the praises of everyday life, of farming and of the countryside, devoted to the land and the fruits of the earth, openly taking sides and calling himself an anarchist and a pro-naturalist. In Il Canto della Terra, one of his comments is indelibly marked in history: "The worst country wine is better than the best industrial wine, because it has a soul". In the 80s he was sentenced to six months in prison for inciting a revolt among wine producers in Piedmont - with the occupation of the Asti railway station and motorway - against political indifference towards  problems faced by farmers and small producers.

The founding father of food and wine journalism
He heightened public awareness of excellence in food and wine when he entered into a cooperation with Il Giorno, transforming wine as an instrument of culture. Later, many other partnerships followed, both Italian – Panorama, Epoca, Capital, La Domenica del Corriere, Vini e Liquori, L’Espresso, Sorrisi e Canzoni TV, Corriere della Sera, Gazzetta dello Sport, Class – and foreign – Travel (US); Decanter (English); Gran Riserva e Enciclopedia del Vino (Spanish); Carta Capital (Brazilian). His articles were provocative yet refined in style, full of new and old words, representing a school of thought that made him the creator of a kind of journalism that was hitherto inexistent, except for his own personal contributions. He invented "everything", from the very language, understanding and tasting of wine that it should not be technical but an experience of compelling storytelling.
His television appearances added to his renown. Between 1970 and 1977 he led A Tavola alle 7, first alongside Delia Scala and Umberto Orsini, then with Ave Ninchi; in 1979, his Viaggio Sentimentale, explored the wines of Italy, where he brought advancements to Italian viticulture – both provocatively and with a rallying cry – rocking its foundations with surveys, interviews and proposals. He wrote numerous volumes, including I Vini d’Italia, Alla Ricerca dei Cibi Perduti, Viaggio in Italia per le Città del Vino, I Cento Menu, Il Vino Giusto, Le parole della terra. Manuale per Enodissidenti e Gastroribelli, with Pablo Echaurren; La Grande Cucina e La Cucina Rustica Regionale, with Luigi Carnacina); and the Guide Veronelli all'Italia, an entertaining collection made "with the precise intent of enriching the classification of our immense national food heritage and contributing to increasing awareness of the touristic appeal of the most beautiful country in the world." He carried out extensive studies and research into the challenges of enology and gastronomy. From this was born Il Veronelli, the first comprehensive wine encyclopedia; I Vignaioli Storici a history of the families that made Italian wine great, and various catalogs, including Vini d’Italia, Vini del Mondo, Spumanti & Champagnes, Acqueviti.

His philosophy, from Il vino giusto (1971)
"We pour red wine – lovingly, and with infinite care – in a bulbous glass that demands the warm caress of the hand; or – with the same care – white wine in a tall, aristocratic and nervous glass, keeping our other hand at bay. We clearly discern its colors, enjoying already the light and soothing play of tonal reflections. We take the glass with a light gesture of the hand, a hint of rotation, increasing the vinous surface. We set it free, and breathe in every hidden note of its bouquet. With a kiss, we take sips with our tongue and our palate. We imbue ourselves in memories: thousands upon thousands. Every wine we drink has its own particular story. My purpose: to make listening and understanding easy for you, dear reader, so that you love wine – you are reading me - or are willing to recognize it as a friend."

The battles for Denominazione Comunale, the designation of origin
But Veronelli was not only a connoisseur of wine and food. Many were the battles he fought in defense of country life, of small producers, of quality, of the land and of the individual. Examples of the ideas, struggles and victories he led in 50 years include the theory of the “cru,” namely, the promotion of areas most suitable for the cultivation of a particular grape variety. They also include the production of great wines; the limitation of yield per hectare to encourage quality over quantity; the reinstatement of local vine varieties; winemaking in situ; the classification of wines with specific organoleptic tests; and the theory of the second distillation of wine from a single vine. Among these was the battle for Denominazioni Comunali (De.Co.) or the designation of origin. In June 1999, Veronelli launched the idea of municipalities promoting their local territory through handcrafts and agriculture. The De.Co., a mark of local quality must certify the origin of a particular product from a specific area. The municipality involves growers, producers and restaurateurs as the true ambassadors of the territory requiring, and as part of the groundwork, an analysis and survey is required to identify the products that represent the local area. The De.Co. rapidly became an important vehicle for promoting a specific area. In 2004, when Veronelli died, about 400 municipalities had adopted a Denominazione Comunale and two years later, the Association of Municipalities of Denomination Comunale (Asso.De .co.) was founded. Increasingly, these were the years of price-source battles for an identification of the original price of food. Their aim was to reveal excessive markups in the passages of extra virgin olive oil from the producer to the consumer and against legislative injustices for local producers. His work was thought-provoking – on issues related to production dealings and production quality within the food sector – for the no-global movement. In later years, he created the movement Terra e Libertà/Critical Wine, along with a number of social enterprises. And as a driving force, Veronelli brought endorsement and impetus to early initiatives (such as, among others, barricading a ship loaded with oil of unknown origin at a port in Puglia with a group of "disobedient" demonstrators), so that apart from tracking the "origin", the media and industry operators began treating the matter more seriously.

If Italian wines, cuisine and gastronomical produce are today enjoying an extraordinary success in the world, much of the credit must go to the man who, with tenacity, determination, discipline and culture, was able to detect and indicate the right lines of progress and, with meaningful and ethical tension, blaze a trail that others could follow.
As a pioneer of a new style, rich in neologisms and archaisms alike, as an aristocratic supporter, humble and arrogant, of popular culture  – when asked: Gino, what you think of Tetrapak? he responded sardonically "I do not know, my business is wine ..." – Luigi Veronelli is to be reinstated as one of the leading promoters of a food and wine heritage of outstanding quality; and for these reasons he has been chosen as a symbol for wine spaces in Expo Milano 2015.
 

Domestic Quality Product in Italy is 46.9% of GDP

Economy / -

Il PIQ, Prodotto Interno Qualità, è stato elaborato da Fondazione Symbola per distillare la parte del PIL che rappresenta le eccellenze produttive a maggior valore aggiunto
© Tim Pannell/Corbis

The latest edition of the PIQ of the Fondazione Symbola (for 2010) confirms that, to respond to the crisis, the Italian production system is fundamentally rethinking all its parameters. Results for 2015 and the focus on the oil sector are expected shortly.

How much of the Italian economy can be traced back to quality? 
In the wake of a reflection to find new indicators to complement GDP, the Unioncamere and the Fondazione Symbola per le Qualità Italiane have developed a new measure, the PIQ, Prodotto Interno Qualità (the Domestic Quality Product), formulated to better analyze the current situation and new trends. In short, to take a reading of Italy, to measure changes and provide appropriate tools to deal with the crisis. 
The PIQ Report - developed in partnership with ENI and with the technical collaboration of the Istituto Tagliacarne - was born from the need to 'distill', within the national economy, production bringing higher added value. "A reflection on PIQ stemmed from the need to promote quality as a strategic asset of Made ​​in Italy - explains Domenico Sturabotti, director general of Fondazione Symbola -.Entry into our markets by Chindia (the combination of China and India) has forced a strategic repositioning starting from Italy’s strengths, including agri-food." 
 
How much is our PIQ?
PIQ is expressed in percentage terms, as a share of GDP attributable to the quality production in terms of the environment, innovation or competitiveness, net of all negative externalities.  
The latest edition, referring to 2010, with an estimated 46.9% of added value to the overall level of Italy. In absolute terms, it is €441.869 million, representing a growth compared to the previous edition. A confirmation of how the Italian production system has oriented its strategies to combat the economic crisis, taking the path towards a deep restructuring of its processes.
In short, GDP does not grow, but at least it appears to focus on healthier and growing sectors, according to the calculations of Symbola.
The 2010 analysis in fact shows a "convergence of the system" arriving at ever higher quality levels: high profile industrial activities such as chemistry, mechanics, electronics and transport vehicles are distinguished by significantly high quality produce, in percentages far not far off from the amount registered for activities traditionally associated with Made in Italy, from food to fashion to furnishings. 
Specifically, starting from the identification of a series of sector indicators for a variety of quality dimensions (professionalism, innovation, dependability, affinity, etc.), each economic activity has been part of the estimate for a share of added value. The sum of these shares obtained in this way is the PIQ of the Italian economy. 
"The qualification of skills is synonymous with quality and is included in the calculation of the PIQ - demonstrates Sturabotti -. In contrast, little or no human capital is typical of low-cost production and should be removed."
The methodology thus conceived allows the identification of a large area of ​​"non-quality" or of insufficient quality (unfortunately still at 53.1%), to which is added all that is produced with the use of work agreements that are irregular or part of ​​the underground economy, which damages citizens and the many businesses that operate fairly and within the rules.
 
A scientific and modular method
"A distinctive aspect of the PIQ is its applicability to individual regions, as is the case of Lazio and Tuscany, and individual sectors - assures Sturabotti-. Narrowing the analysis for example to the wine sector, we find highly entrepreneurial potential, which has been able to incorporate sustainability into its production, communications and design. Had we already formulated the PIQ in the mid-eighties, all these aspects would have been absent or almost. Of course, changes in the PIQ require a large time dimension, because the investment quality bears fruit in the long run.”
And to give more substance to its method and confirm the wealth of its parameters, Fondazione Symbola, which is working on the 2015 edition, is also about to publish a sector inquiry, in collaboration with the  INEA-Istituto nazionale di economia agraria (Italy’s INEA-National Institute of Agricultural Economics) on the olive sector.
 
 

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