Thursday, March 31, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Last Friday, March 25, 2011 marked the 100 year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Although the tragedy took place in lower Manhattan, commemoration events took place around the country, including Washington, DC.

The fire claimed the lives of 146 immigrant garment factory workers, mostly female and of Italian or Jewish descent. Horrendous working conditions, typical of the era, kept workers locked inside the factory during their long shifts. This was done by factory owners to prevent theft of goods. However, the fire brought much needed attention to the disregard for working conditions and resulted in a huge passage of New York State pro-labor legislation - 36 laws in total.

The anniversary is apropos, coming at a time when there is a need to strengthen the image and voice of the American labor movement. Amidst the recent struggles to strip Wisconsin workers of their collective bargaining rights, the centennial reflection of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire sheds light on the significant safety improvements that were made as a result of unions working so that the lives did not perish in vain.

Continuing the remembrance of the Triangle fire are two events this upcoming week. This Monday, April 4th, The International Labor Rights Organization (ILO) will hold a forum at The George Washington University, Gelman Library at 7 PM. The event is free and open to the public. This will be followed by an ILO awards ceremony and reception at the Communication Workers of American Headquarters on April 6th. The ceremony will reflect upon the legacy of the international anti-sweatshop movement. Also, Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, United Steelworkers, American Federation of Teachers and Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity will be honored.

For more information on the historic event that has been engrained in the national memory, check out Triangle: Remembering the Fire, a
Documentary by Blowback Productions that serves as a cautionary tale for today is airing on HBO through April 6th. You can also read up at these websites: (story, victims list, transcript of criminal trial)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Good Fellas of Baltimore Chat with CiaoDC!

Check out the new reality TV pilot coming out of Baltimore dubbed Good Fellas of Baltimore. Premieres Saturday, March 26 at 1 PM on Fox 45 Baltimore TV or online. This mob will make any (Italian) American proud - their mission is to help a different family and charity each week in Baltimore city to uplift "the city they love." Good Fellas brain child, A.J. Ali, will be chatting with CiaoDC on facebook about this awesome project along with Brian Jarosinski, and fellow 'Good Fella,' classical tenor/Ciao Italia Radio Host Elio Scaccio . Go behind the scenes with CiaoDC and find out how you can become a part of the mob! You won't want to miss this conversation. Join 'the mob' discussion on Friday, March 25 at 2 PM here.

Cineforum Italiano: Questione di cuore (A Matter of Heart)

The lastest film directed by Francesca Archibugi, "Una questione di cuore", is an insightful and sensitive exploration of the complex dynamics of the modern family. The film offers comic cameo appearances by some of the most well-known names in the Italian film industry.

In Italian with English subtitles

Director: Francesca Archibugi
Year: 2009
Length: 102 minutes
Genre: Drammatic Comedy

Actors: Kim Rossi Stuart, Antonio Albanese, Michaela Ramazzoto, Francesca Inaudi, Chiara Noschese

It was unlikely that Angelo and Alberto’s paths would ever cross. Angelo (Kim Rossi Stuart), a solid family man, is married with two kids and a third on the way. A thoughtful and generous man, he runs his own garage that provides a good life for his family. A very different personality, Alberto (Antonio Albanese) is a successful writer, but a loner; loudmouthed, clumsy and a little bit crazy.

They meet in the emergency room, befriending each other on the night as Angelo says, “their engines seized” – each suffering a heart attack. The heart attack makes Angelo rightly fear for his family’s future, while Alberto cannot commit to the woman he loves and suffers from writer’s block. But when Angelo and Alberto are together, they feel better and stronger.

The film will be screened one time only on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 4:00 PM at Letelier Theater in Georgetown. The event is organized by The Washington, DC Italian Language Meetup Group. Tickets are available to group members for $8.00 or general admission is $10.00 at the door.

Here's a trailer for the film in Italian with no subtitles:

For complete event details, see the group website:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society trip to Phlly

On Saturday, April 2, 2011, the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society of the Washington, DC area is planning a trip to Philadelphia, PA. The emphasis of this trip will be on the Italian culture, arts, and food of the the City of Brotherly Love. The trip will include:
  • The Philadelphia Museum, also known for its "Rocky" steps, currently has an exhibit featuring Roberto Capucci, a well known artist and fashion designer of the mid 20th century
  • Fountain of Sea Horses, a replica of the fountain in the Borghese Gardens in Rome, a gift from Italy
  • The Academy of Music, the oldest opera house in the U.S, that is modeled after the La Scala opera house in Milan
  • Christopher Columbus Memorial at Penn's landing
  • Murals of legendary Frank Sinatra and Mario Lanza
  • 9th Street Italian Market in South Philly
  • The trip will be finished off with a delicious meal at Caffe Valentino
The bus will depart from Washington, DC at 8:30 AM and will return by 9:30 PM. The ticket is $75 and includes deluxe bus transportation, a guided tour of the city and dinner. Seats are limited, so reservations are encouraged by the end of the week. You can contact Nancy DeSanti at703-379-9418, Joe Novello at 301-927-4766 or Bruno Fusco at 301-654-5218.

Springtime Italian Language and Cultural Resources in DC

Soon the city streets will be filled with Washingtonians and tourists walking underneath the warmth of the sun's rays. Among the melange of foreign languages, you will assuredly hear the Italian language rolling melodically off the tongues of Italian tourists, ex-pats, foreign nations, and Italophiles alike. If you're like me, you may wish you were able to confidently engage yourself in one of those Italian conversations. As an on-again, off-again student of la lingua italiana, I know that the next best thing to total immersion is class room instruction combined with practical use. Lucky for us in the District, whether you are a novice or a maestro, we have many great resources where you can go to absorb the language and culture if il bel paese.

Classroom Instruction

For classroom instruction, we have Casa Italiana Language School and the Italian Cultural Society of Washington, DC (ICS). Both offer basic, intermediate and advanced language courses for adults and also classes per bambini. In addition, Casa Italiana offers a wider range of new cultural courses, such as Introduction to Opera, Ceramics, Wine tasting, and even lectures on Italian politics and current events!

Prices range from $235 for a 10 week course at ICS, and $305 for a 12 week course at Casa Italiana. If you are a member of ICS, you can receive $20 off the tuition of some courses. Until March 29, 2011, Casa Italiana has a great promotion: if you enroll for the Spring/Summer semester, you will automatically be entered for a chance to win a FREE course at Casa Italiana! Other enrollees will also have the chance to win a free wine tasting event, a free cooking class with Casa Italiana's resident chef, or a free italian language book. Loyal Casa Italiana students can receive a 5% discount if this Spring/Summer session is your third consecutive semester studying there.

Conversational Groups

DC also has great places to test your language skills., the biggest on-line community of local groups has two in the DC metro area: The Washington, DC Italian Language Group and Piazza Italia. Both groups offer opportunities for Italian language conversation for all levels. The Washington, DC Italian Language Meet-up also offers weekly language workshops and monthly Cineforum Italiano.

Also don't forget, thanks to La Dolce DC there are a myriad of events going on throughout the city where you can test your knowledge of Italian language and culture!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meet Chef Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna

Recently, Chef AmyBrandwein from Casa Nonna in Dupont Circle joined the NationalOrganization of Italian American Women for their Spring Meet and Greet.

Chef Brandwein showed us how to whip up some tasty, two-bite sized cannoli accented with pistachios. She shared her secret of using ricotta made from sheep's milk, which can usually be found in an Italian specialty store.

These cannoli are cute, but their diminutive size also serves a practical function; allowing diners to satisfy their sweet tooth after having already indulged in a big dinner. If you have ever eaten a cannoli, and I am sure you have, you already know how filling it can be. This portion size is just right, whether it follows a dinner or you are just looking for uno spuntino. You can try whipping up a batch of these tasty traditional Italian treats at home with this Chef Amy's recipe.

If you would like to see Chef Amy Brandwein for yourself mastering the art of la cucina italiana, you will have a chance the first Saturday of every month as she features the cuisine of a different region. On April 2nd she will take you to the Tuscan hills, to the capital of Rome in May, and then down to the Southern region of Campania, famous in the U.S. for everything Neopolitan.

You will surely enjoy your time at the demonstration, just as attendees did at the Meet and Greet. Chef Brandwein is not new to the role of educating others; she began teaching and garnered a following several years ago as an instructor at her culinary alma mater L'Academie de Cuisine in Maryland

Though not of Italian descent, Chef Brandwein shared with the NOIAW her deep appreciation for the many varieties of Italian cuisine. She mastered the art of cooking in an Italian kitchen, and even picked up some Italian.

Classes are $100 a person, and include a four-course meal, tax, and tip. They run from noon to three pm. For more information click here. Make your reservation soon, as class size is limited to 30 people.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Album Di Famiglia

Last Tuesday, Italians in DC hosted author Anna Maltese Lawton, PhD at the Darlington House in Dupont Circle to speak about her novel, Album Di Famiglia.

This is the first novel for Dr. Lawton, professor of Visual Culture and Film Studies at Georgetown University. However, she has written extensively on the subjects that she teaches.

Album di Famiglia can be read as a historical novel. Dr. Lawton conducted rigorous research to ensure an accurate historical background upon which the fictional family narrative is woven. Two colleagues from Georgetown University joined the author in order to provide thoughtful analysis and discussion on Album di Famiglia. Much of the discussion revolved around the use of language and time. The text is written predominately in Italian, but it also employs Italian dialect, English, and Russian at times, which helps to bring to the foreground the immediacy of language, commented Lawton.

To help animate the romanza visuale, or visual novel, on Tuesday evening, Lawton read some excerpts in Italian, and two members of Italians in DC read an excerpt in dialect. The audience was also treated to a screening of the DVD that accompanies the book, in which
the imagery of the story is brought to life by Tonino Tosto, Director of the Roman theater company, Gruppo Teatre Essere. The theatrical adaptation of Albun Di Famiglia was performed live one evening in the Cortanze Castel. That is the castle which Lawton's family owned for more than half of a century, and on which the novel is based.

The program was well attended by both Italians and Americans on Tuesday. To read a chapter from the book, click here, or to buy Album Di Famiglia, click here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Woman Like That Interview & Screening

CaoDC talks to the producers, filmmakers, writers and publicists of the unconventional documentary A Woman Like That. Get behind the scenes of 17th Century artist Artemisia Gentileschi with this exclusive CiaoDC interview with Ellen Weissbrod (Director, Producer, Writer, Editor) Linda Altman (Publicist), Melissa Powell (Producer, Writer, Editor) and CiaoDC Contributors Tara Mancini and Gala Duckworth. Catch the screening and meet the artists on Saturday, March 5, 1:00 PM at the National Gallery of Art. Listen to interview here!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Legacies of America's First Ladies

In addition to events on Italian culture in the DC area, from time to time, we at CiaoDC also like to acknowledge the educational and professional contributions that Italians and Italian Americans make to the nation's capital. Last week, CiaoDC interviewed Anita McBride about the influence of her Italian heritage in her everyday personal and professional life, as well as the conference she just organized on the history of our First Ladies.

The conference, aptly titled The Legacies of America's First Ladies, came to fruition on Wednesday, March 1st at American University, where McBride is an Executive in Residence at the Center of Congressional and Presidential Studies. The four panels of notable guests included included practioners who had worked with first ladies and scholarly observers.

Ms. McBride is no stranger to First Ladies, having served as Laura Bush's Chief of Staff from 2005-2009. She recalled Mrs. Bush's comment, that as First Lady she just wanted to help people everyday. However, finding the right platform and a voice amongst the chaotic nature of the White House is not always easy, and sometimes it is seemingly thankless. Mrs. McBride ended her introductory comments with this poignant and comedic description that had been passed along to her outlining the First Lady's job description.

There were 4 great panels scheduled throughout the day. Panel 1: the First Ladies Throughout History, discussed the changing role of first ladies over time. Panel 2 focused on the First Ladies in the Carter, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush Administrations, while panel 3 emphasized the First Ladies in the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama Administrations. After an evening reception the conference continued with a final discussion on the way in which First Ladies have been portrayed by the media. It was entitled, Reporters' Notebooks: Covering the First Lady and Anticipating Madame President.

I was most intrigued by the third panel, as the focus was on the legacies of the First Ladies that occupied the White House and livened the American people for most of my adolescent and adult life. Moderated by another notable Italian-American and former Congresswoman from Maryland, Connie Morella, the topics ranged from a typical day in the White House to myths of their bosses, and most entertaining, the slow evolution of telecommunication within the White House. Amazingly, it was only during the Clinton Administration that the dial system was introduced to the White House. Previous to that, everyone had to be first be connected to the White House operator! Panelists included Anita McBride, Susan Cher (Former Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama), and Melanne Verveer (Former Chief of Staff to Hillary Rodham Clinton), all of whom provided candid accounts of high regard for the First Ladies they had come to work with so closely.

The conference was a not only a great salute to the legacies of First Ladies, but also for the celebration of Women's History Month, which began on that very same day. The stories shared throughout the day highlighted the challenges of filling a First Lady's shoes, but also gave credence to the belief that it is one of the greatest clubs to which one can belong.

The conference was an amazing homage to the women that have influenced the country from behind the scenes and also while on center stage. In fact, there is no denying that positive impact of our First Ladies on the way in which women are viewed in U.S. society. While there was a wealth of information gained during the day, there is more to be uncovered. The 13 presidential libraries, who were partners of the conference, are a great way to start that adventure. Other partners that provided support for the event included the White House Historical Association, the American University Library, and let us not forget Ms. McBride's dedicated students at AU.

(check back for video updates!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Madness Italian Style!

CiaoDC is celebrating everything Italian this month and going around town to get you a taste of Italy in DC with special emphasis on Italian Women in honor of National Women's Month. Check out our exclusive interview with former Chief of Staff to Laura Bush, Anita McBride about being Italian and life in the White House.

Plus, join CiaoDC's skype chats with filmmaker Ellen Weissbrod on the life of Italian artist Artemesia Gentileschi just in time for the upcoming screening of A Woman Like That and meet and greet at NGA on March 5; then get singing with our sweetheart tenor, Elio Scaccio for his private concert and chef tasting at DaMimmo's in Little Italy on March 23.

Get a taste of that event with CiaoDC's skype chat later this month. Need a dose of Italian March Madness now? Go around town with CiaoDC with these video clips from the town's latest events. JOIN SKYPE CHATS AT CIAODC, PASSWORD: CIAODC1. Be eligible to win Sicilian Olive Oil from Colavita when you join the chat!

CiaoDC Interview with Anita McBride here.

NOIAW Meet and Greet Reception attendees, Sylvia Cacciato and Tina Maiolo below.

National Gallery of Art Guest Curator, Charles Beddington - Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals chats with CiaoDC Special Features Editor, Gala Duckworth.

Recipes from Chef Trabocchi at NGA's Garden Cafe Italia here.