Italian Festival at Hofstra University


Ciao a tutti! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m back. And today I decided to check out an Italian festival at Hofstra University, in Hemstead, Long Island.

I’m the only dork I know who would actually get excited about a trip on the LIRR to check out an event like this, but you know what? It was fun!

Yes, it was full of oldsters, but they were all speaking Italian, so I got in a little practice and the entertainment was…cheesy but good!

One singer, Simona de Rosa, direct from Naples, had a strong voice and and endearing Italian warmth that drew a crowd. I bought a CD hoping it’ll help my Italian language.


I wasn’t much impressed with the “star” of the day, John Ciotta, but he was a Hofstra grad and got the crowd to join him in a round of “That’s Amore.”

After a totally unappetizing bowl of baked ziti from a Hofstra deli, and a totally appetizing glass of vino bianco from one of the food vendors, I settled in to hear the Bronx Opera strut their stuff.

Robert and Leslie were the tenor and soprano performing, and they did rousing renditions of some greatest hits: “Visi d’Arte” from Tosca, “La Donna è Mobile,” a love duet from act 4 of my favorite, La Traviata, before rounding the hour out with “O Sole Mio” and crowd favorite, “Con Ti Partirò” (I think every Italian concert now ends with that one now, thanks Andrea Bocelli).

It was a fun event. As I left, another Italian singer was leading the crowd in a sing-along to a song I didn’t know–in Italian. Era un bel di!



JFK Caesar salad

I don’t know why I thought the international terminal at JFK would have better food. But after a fruitless search down two corridors I ended up at the Medalist Bar having a Caesar salad. I have a feeling the real Caesar salads I’m about to eat for the next three weeks would laugh.

Now it turns out they’re out of the Caesars! And the southwest chicken salad. And Miller Light!

No wonder I first read the sign here as Mentalist Bar!


Sabato in NYC

Here’s how semplice it is to have l’esperienza italiana on a gorgeous Saturday August afternoon….
1. Lunch at ‘inoteca on Rivington, featuring vino rosé and arancini

Yummy risotto balls with mozarella

2. Followed by steaming macchiato…


3. Winding up at Numero 28 on Carmine for a dinner of la capricciosa pizza di Napoli, across from Our Lady of Pompeii church at sundown.

Our Lady of Pompeii


Concert in the Park Evokes Memories of Trevi Fountain

Was the Trevi Fountain one of Respighi’s inspirations for his “Fountains of Rome”?

One of my favorite things about New York City is going to the free concerts in Central Park. I first moved to New York in January of 1999, and all it did was snow. I didn’t know anyone. I spent six months buying furniture for my new apartment and wondering why I’d moved from sunny Southern California to this miserable place.

Then June came around, and someone told me about opera in the park and symphony in the park. I met some of my new friends with a blanket and some cheese and crackers from Zabar’s, and all of a sudden I understood why New York City was so amazing. Sitting on the Great Lawn with friends among fellow New Yorkers and listening to the best of the best: the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic playing the greats from Puccini to Tchaikovsky while drinking a Solo cup of wine…it doesn’t get much better than that!

Tonight, I met my friend LaRue, and we listened to the NY Phil play Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and…here’s where the Italia comes in: They played Ottorino Respighi’s “Fountains of Rome” and “Pines of Rome.”

I wasn’t really looking for something to add to my new blog and I’m not sure I knew who Respighi was. But when I sat on the grass, started eating my St. Andre’s cheese with Trader Joe’s pita crackers (salty goodness!) and heard the symphony strike up the tone poem “Fountains of Rome,” suddenly I felt I could have been in Italy.

Born in Bologna, Respighi studied in Russia under Rimsky-Korsakov and “Fountains of Rome” reminded me of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” But Respighi was a traditionalist and this piece, composed in 1915-16, is part of what is known as his “Roman Tryptych.”

Ottorino Respighi

The “Fountains of Rome” was inspired by—you guessed it!—four fountains in the Eternal City. Rome’s fountains help to define the city, and Respighi captured the grandeur and beauty of those fountains.

Following the symphony’s performance, came something truly American: Fireworks! Sitting closer to the East Side, we were not in the best position to see them—a tree blocking our view began to look like the Burning Bush!—but it was pretty spectacular anyway!

And don’t miss the next two outings: Symphony in the Park on Monday, July 16 and Opera in the Park, where Puccini’s Madam Butterfly will be performed at the Naumberg Bandshell on Wednesday, July 18, which happens to be my mother’s birthday—and she’s probably Puccini’s No. 1 fan! Who’s with me?