Stefano Bonilli, founder of Gambero Rosso & inspiration to a generation, dies at 67 69

stefano bonilli mortoAcross the internet today, Italian food and wine bloggers are mourning the passing of Stefano Bonilli, founder of the popular food culture magazine Gambero Rosso and pioneering food writer and blogger.

According to mainstream reports, he was 67 (his friend and colleague, Luciano Pignataro, Neapolitan journalist and editor of one of Italy’s most popular food and wine blogs, writes that he was 69). The cause was a heart attack.

[A profile of Bonilli, published on August 4 by Il fatto quotidiano, reports that he was 69 at the time of his death.]

When he first published the “Gambero Rosso” as a supplement to the leftist newspaper Il Manifesto in 1986, Bonilli established a new category of food writing that would become a model for a generation of Italian gastronomes and food and wine writers.

As Pignataro writes today on his blog, “he was the child of a generation that made politics part of everyday life. His generation knew prosperity but also remembered hunger. Born right after the war, his generation questioned the very pillars of its own education as it dreamed of a better world for everyone.”

When he was abruptly fired by the then new owner of the Gambero Rosso masthead in 2008, Bonilli turned to virtual media and the blogosphere as the main outlets for his writing and causes.

When he founded his blog, Papero Giallo, in 2004, he was among the earliest mainstream food writers in Italy to embrace the new medium.

His online magazine devoted to Italian food culture, Gazzetta Gastronomica, was launched in 2011.

Since its founding, the Papero Giallo has been one of Italy’s most beloved and colorful food blogs.

It was rivaled in popularity by Bonilli’s Twitter, where he masterfully shared his insights and musings.

In his last Tweet, posted on June 29 (on the day of the festival of St. Peter and St. Paul, Rome’s patron saints), he wrote (translation mine):

desert and sun
city of Rome
St. Peter’s festival
the sea is far away
I drift home
reading in the shadows
I call to you via Twitter
an echo responds

At the time of his passing, Bonilli was in the process of organizing a food writers conference to be held in Bologna next month. It was billed as an international dialog on the “new food publishing.”

Myriad testimonials to his life and work, published today across the internet, are testament to his overarching legacy and the immense influence that he had a on a generation of food and wine writers and lovers.

stefano bonilli gambero rosso deadImages via International Journalism Festival’s Flickr (Creative Commons).

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