To the French, it’s joie de vivre; to the Italians, it’s che gioia vivere. Either way, it means the same thing: the joy of living. For Italians, the phrase describes the way they embrace every experience as one to be savored. From great music to fine art to outstanding food, every Italian considers certain pleasures a birthright. Love, Italian style isn’t just an ordinary romance; it’s seeing the romance in everything.
Art in Italy
If you were to list the world’s most exquisite artists, Italians would be represented more than any other culture. Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Botticelli, Michelangelo and others changed the face of visual art and sculpture. The Renaissance began in Italy’s studios and libraries. One reason for this artistic flowering is Italy’s natural beauty, but part of it might also be the Italian psyche. To create something beautiful, an artist must first be sensitive enough to see beauty. Their eye for beauty didn’t keep Italian painters and sculptors from unstinting realism, though. The simplest horse drawings in da Vinci’s notebooks had an earthy, muscular presence along with their grace.
Art in Italy has never meant frescoes and sculpture alone. Every building, landscape or wardrobe is another occasion to make something beautiful. From vintage Venetian Carnevale masks to the latest Milanese fashions, opulent Italian style is a delight to wear and to see. Unlike the heavy, brooding Gothic architecture that evolved in other countries, early Renaissance architects designed piazzas and public buildings filled with light and clean, simple lines. These Italian artists in plaster and stone paid homage to the simple elegance of Roman architecture and added their own sophisticated polish. Modern Italian buildings still evoke the grace of their Renaissance roots because Italians still appreciate the beauty of a Mediterranean sun slanting through Venetian glass windows.
Magnificent Music and Movies
No other country could have created the pageantry and passion that is opera. Combining the best of a stage play with music as memorable today as it was when it was written hundreds of years ago, opera is still dominated by the Italian influence. That Italian gioia di vivere makes itself known in every soaring aria. Like all Italian art forms, opera combines refinement with a rustic charm that shines through in comic operas.
Opera isn’t Italy’s only contribution to great music. Great Italian, Italian-American and Sicilian-American performers like Louie Prima, Connie Francis, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra brought Italian passion to everything they did. The legendary Tony Bennett is still thrilling new generations of fans.
From Federico Fellini to Roberto Benigni, Italian filmmakers have become famous for their richly complex movies. Kaleidoscopic art-house films and emotionally moving masterpieces like “Life Is Beautiful” are equally emblematic of Italy’s thriving and varied movie industry.
Great Italian Food
An Italian dinner doesn’t just fill you up; it fills your senses. Peppers, tomatoes and fresh greens let you feast your eyes before you taste the first courses of your meal. Even the textures of crunchy bruschetta or creamy mozzarella in an insalata Caprese contribute to the diner’s delight. The Italian love of food is an appreciation for how it pleases every sense. Home cooking – or restaurant cooking that comes from the heart – is better than any overly precious plate of nouvelle cuisine to an Italian because it’s made with love.
Every Italian believes a meal is incomplete without at least a little time to savor food, wine and conversation – even for a quick lunch. Even when pressed for time and grabbing a quick bite, Italians chat as they eat. Whenever possible, friends and family gather for dinners, turning them into convivial events. As great as the food tastes, it’s improved with good company. It’s okay to leave food on the plate because you’re busy talking and laughing; Italians believe it’s more important to live in the moment. Dessert is just another reason to spend time in the company of those you love best, so linger over that slice of tiramisu.
With the beginning of Lent on February 13, Roman Catholics throughout the world observe the season by forgoing meat. Some say goodbye to red meat altogether while others skip it only on Fridays, but giving something up for Lent is part of a centuries-old tradition. For observant Catholics, vegetarians and lovers of Italian food, many meatless meals may feel more like an indulgence than abstinence.
Salads are an excellent way to start a lunch or dinner at any time of year, and they fit beautifully with Lenten observations or vegetarian dining. The key to a perfect salad is combining the right flavors and textures. The best salads incorporate tangy, rich, crunchy, salty and sweet flavors and textures in the right proportions. Carlino’s fruit salad is a great example; with sweet fruit, crisp mesclun greens, rich and salty Romano cheese and tangy balsamic dressing, it hits all the high points. Without the cheese, the salad goes from vegetarian to vegan.
Pasta is a perfect base for meatless dining. Topped with shrimp or clams, it’s a Lenten classic; with vegetables and a delicate cream sauce, it’s a taste of spring in any season. Meatless marinara sauce rich with garlic, basil and olive oil is all a great plate of pasta needs sometimes. Who says Lenten meals have to be dull? No one who’s ever tried pasta puttanesca, certainly. With its briny capers and pungent anchovies, this luscious dish packs enough flavor to keep anyone from missing meat.
During Lent, consider making vegetables the star of the show instead of a side dish. Eggplant, broccoli rabe and portobello mushrooms get regal treatment from Italian cuisine and deserve their share of the spotlight. Try an eggplant parmigiano sandwich for lunch or an eggplant rollatine bursting with flavorful mozzarella for dinner and discover how versatile the vegetable can be. Carlino’s has a wide variety of sandwiches that are perfect during Lent or at any time of the year.
Pizza, America’s favorite food, is also a great Lenten meal if you choose the right toppings. Skip the sausage and go heavy on the vegetables for a healthy, flavorful pizza. Anchovies and shrimp are also fine for those observing Lent and for pescetarians. All of Carlino’s pizzas are made to order, so let us know if you have special requests for toppings.
Seafood of any sort has long been a staple for Lent. Finding flavorful fish, shrimp and clams may be a challenge in some parts of the country, but New Yorkers don’t have to suffer through their seafood dishes. Clams Posillipo, tender mussels and buttery shrimp scampi are at their best near the coast. Spicy shrimp fra diavolo may have a wicked-sounding name, but the piquant dish is as virtuous as any Lenten meal. Lobster, one of the most luxurious foods you can enjoy, is also welcome on the table for Lent.
The beauty of Italian food is its inclusiveness. No matter what you eat or how you eat it, you’ll find something to please your palate. It’s the perfect solution for large parties because everyone can enjoy something on the menu. With hundreds of years of experience creating phenomenal feasts for Lent, Italian food is excellent for vegetarian and vegan diners as well as observant Catholics. Those who like to indulge in a sausage pizza or spaghetti with meatballs will find all these favorites on the menu, too.
Let our meatless, vegetarian and vegan choices surprise and delight you by dining in with us or ordering for delivery.Tweet read more
Some of the longest-lived people in the world come from the mountains of Sardinia. Just 250 miles off the Italian coast, Sardinia shares much of its culinary heritage with Naples. Its hundreds of miles of shoreline and hilly interior enjoy the same sunny Mediterranean climate that makes southern Italy a favorite vacation destination. It also boasts more people over the age of 100 than almost anywhere else in the world.
Molecular biologist Dr. Gianni Pes of Italy’s University of Sassari noticed this remarkable longevity and decided to identify the places where people lived the longest. These regions became known as blue zones, areas of longevity far beyond the average. Sardinia contains one blue zone, but so do Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; and another Mediterranean island locale, Ikaria, Greece.
People in Sardinia, Loma Linda and Okinawa eat vastly different diets, but the proportions of what they eat are similar. In all the blue zones, people eat plenty of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables with their meals. Fresh salads and greens dressed with olive oil are popular in the Mediterranean blue zones, but they’re also a favorite in California’s longest-lived population.
In Ikaria and Sardinia, tomatoes are a staple and appear with every meal of the day. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants such as lycopene and high in vitamins A and C, but that isn’t why they’re so beloved in Sardinia; they’re a favorite because they taste delicious fresh or simmered into a savory marinara sauce. Red wine is a perfect foil for tangy sauces and is almost always on the table for dinner. Sardinians also accompany their meals with pecorino cheese from the sheep that graze in the hill country.
People in blue zones also enjoyed seafood. It’s no accident that so many blue zones are in or near coastal communities; seafood’s typically high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein but low in fat. Just as important, though, is that it’s high in flavor, which is why blue-zoners eat it five times a week or more. Mussels, clams, squid and whitefish keep the menu varied for people in blue zones.
For people who’d spent a century or more living in these blue zones, it wasn’t just what was on the plate that mattered. They shared another common bond: They enjoy life with family and friends. Meals are occasions to celebrate and connect with loved ones. Their community sustains them as much as the food they eat and laughter is as important a part of a meal as the wine served with it.
No one can promise that great Italian food, lively company and laughter will help you live longer, but it’s a great way to make sure you enjoy life more. Spend an evening with friends, a bottle of good red wine and a plate of clams Posillipo; and perhaps you too will live for 100 years!
Carlo, Wali and your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more