Just over a year ago, in February 2016, the director and deputy director of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce of Texas called me to their Houston offices to discuss how we could make their Taste of Italy trade show bigger, better, and brighter.
We needed to get the greater Texas food and wine community involved, I told them, and we needed to reach out to local media to help us raise awareness of this unique festival.
I also suggested that we invite food and wine experts from beyond Texas to give the event the world-class credentials that it deserved.
And, of course, I told them that we needed to start a blog.
On Monday of last week, not only did I lead five tastings for the more than 300 Taste of Italy attendees and more than 60 exhibitors, but I also watched the Texas restaurant and food professionals community coalesce around this spectacular enogastronomic happening — the biggest in the U.S. devoted exclusively to Italy and Italian food and wine products.
One of the biggest thrills was seeing this preview of our Carbonara seminar and panel in the Houston Chronicle by my friend Chris Reid, one of the Texas food writers I admire most (I believe the content is still free to non-subscribers).
I loved how this iconic dish, which today is equally popular on both sides of the Atlantic, united both Italians and Americans in an expression of cultural culinary identity. In case you missed the seminar, Chris gave an excellent talk on how Texans and Italians are very much alike in their proud and often fierce connection to dishes that reflect their gastronomic ethos. Whether it’s a question of beans in Texas chili or guanciale versus pancetta in carbonara, Chris touched on the way that what and how we eat increasingly defines who were are and what we believe in.
Chris and Houston chefs Paul Petronella and William Wright, who each cooked a carbonara — one with pecorino and the other with Parmigiano Reggiano — for the seminar (above, from left), are just two of the countless people I need to thank for being part of the fair.
I also need to share my heartfelt thanks with my colleague Christina Truong from Food and Vine Time Productions here in Houston. Working in a stressful situation (like any major food event) really brings people together and I can’t think of a more talented and even-keeled person to call colleague and friend.
But most importantly, I need to thank the chamber’s director and deputy director, Alessia Paolicchi and Maurizio Gamberucci, for believing in my crazy ideas and trusting in my intuition and experience. Over the last twelve months, they’ve both become my friends as well. And my life in Texas is all the richer for the camaraderie and solidarity they have shared with me.
We all look forward to welcoming you next year to Taste of Italy 2018!