CENTITALIA! Extraordinary Italian Taste

Luciano Pavarotti once said, “one of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever we are doing and devout our attention to eating.”  Well over the course of a week dedicated to Extraordinary Italian Taste I was able to devout plenty of attention to not only eating authentic Italian food but learning a great deal about it through a number of workshops and classes.

Centitalia, a week long program dedicated to authentic Italian cooking, education, and the Italian food lifestyle was a collaborative partnership between the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario (ICCO) and Centennial College.  From November 14-18th, prominent chefs, food and wine experts, restaurateurs, influencers, educators, journalists, and foodies came together to celebrate the charm and simplicity of the Italian way of living.

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The cornerstone of this week long celebration was authenticity and education on the unique characteristics of Italian DOP and IGP products, and other protected designations.  These learnings were facilitated in a day long symposium hosted at Centennial College’s Culinary Arts Centre which featured a panel discussion on the commercialization of Italian Food; a keynote presentation and sampling from Chef Rob Gentile; a vendor showcase (with tasty offerings from Bauli, Chef Cacciani, Faema, Perugina, SalumiAmo and A Taste for Luxury) and a number of informative and interactive workshops.

The discussion facilitated by Mark Cirillo (Editor of CucinaTO) on Italian Food Designations featured an esteemed panel providing their feedback on this important subject. Corrado Paina (Director of the ICCO), Pat Belliccione (President of J.K. Overwheel), Afrim Pristine (Maitre fromager of Cheese Boutique), and Allison Iannerelli (Executive Chef of Centennial College) all spoke to the growing interest of Italian food globally and the importance of quality and authenticity of that food.  Each shared a personal story or anecdote highlighting how respect and the quality of a few simple ingredients shaped each of their upbringings and career paths. Each different account all shared a common thread, the association of food with culture.

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The same message was reiterated by keynote speaker, Chef Rob Gentile who defined the Italian culture as being about food, ingredients, cooking and family. He shared stories of being immersed in the growing process, learning where the food comes from and how to respect the ingredients. Rob also spoke to the fact that he is still learning and discovering new ingredients which he can incorporate into his menus.  The delectable highlight of Chef Gentile’s presentation was the opportunity to sample 4 D.O.P. (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta – Protected Designation of Origin) products of Italy: Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella di Bologna, Parmigiano Regiano and Gorgonzola D.O.P.

Post panel discussion it was on to a series of workshops and master classes on food and wine specialties facilitated by, Chef Ugo Mura, Chef Paolo Cacciani, Chef Rocco Grisoni and Chef Filippo Saporito who came from Italy to a part of this program.

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CENTITALIA certainly demonstrated the undeniable contribution that Italy has made to Gastronomy and impressed upon all of us how to Eat, Drink and Think Italy. Buon Appetito!

*Photos courtesy of Centennial College and ICCO

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