This piece was written for Daily Hive by Robert Collins.
Pasta’s reputation has taken a pounding in the last few years.
As Vancouver’s culinary preferences have recoiled from the twin gut punches of carbohydrates and gluten, pasta has become in danger of being left on the shelf.
Yet at the same time, the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet seem hard to dispute. Italy, where pasta remains a daily staple, has the second-highest life expectancy at birth of any EU country.
The secret, according to chef Giorgio Perin, councilman and coach for Italy’s prestigious APCI, the Association of Professional Italian Chefs, is moderation.
“Eighty grams of dried pasta is a portion,” he insists. “And as Italians, we’re pairing that with vegetables and often working outside. We’re cooking simply with fresh ingredients. What’s good in the market that morning? That’s the Mediterranean Diet.”
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Perin had flown to Vancouver from his home in Piedmont for Wednesday evening’s True Pasta Unveiled at the Italian Cultural Centre, a night dedicated to celebrating the joys of Italian cuisine.
True Pasta Unveiled was the gala event of the global (and unwieldily-named) Week of Italian Cuisine in the World, a major international campaign from multiple Italian government departments to spread the good word about Italian products and culinary culture.
Now in its fourth year, with over 1,000 events worldwide, this was the campaign’s first visit to Vancouver and Western Canada.
Alongside the fine hospitality of Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre and Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada West, a major factor in bringing chefs of Perin’s calibre to the city was the presence of Vancouver’s own APCI members, including Cioppino owner (and Iron Chef competitor) Pino Posteraro and Giovanni Trigona, Chef Maitre of the Glowbal Group.
For Trigona, the president of APCI Canada, educating BC cooks and diners about his country’s vast gastronomic variety was the key to the entire campaign.
“This is a celebration of Italian Cuisine in the World,” he explained before he and Posteraro began their shifts in the Italian Cultural Centre’s kitchen. “Italy is a long nation and every region has its own cuisine. We’re always explaining that. But tonight we can stop talking and let people taste.”
Alongside cooking for the gala dinner at the Italian Cultural Centre, Trigona and Perin, alongside APCI Chefs Vito Semararo and Luca Malacrida (from Puglia and Rome respectively) spent a busy morning earlier this week delivering a master class to industry professionals and culinary students at Vancouver Community College.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about Italian food,” continued Trigona. “It’s easy to go to the supermarket and find products with the Italian flag that aren’t Italian. One of our jobs as Italian chefs is to educate people on, for example, the difference between Parmigiano and Parmesan cheese. We cook in simple ways. A dish shouldn’t have more than three or four elements. The first question we were asked at VCC was how to make a real carbonara. A carbonara should be pasta, egg, pepper, pecorino, and guanciale. That’s it. There’s no whipping cream or alfredo sauce.”
The proof of the gathered chefs’ expertise was delivered to roughly 200 guests over five courses at True Pasta Unveiled, accompanied by fine wines and cooking demonstrations from the three chefs who had flown in from Italy for the occasion.
Fittingly, for a nation where every city and town has its own flavours and specialties, the evening’s courses reflected that culinary diversity. Neapolitan fried pizza was accompanied with Venetian salt cod, before Pugliese seafood pasta was followed by Piedmontese beef pot roast.
Only in Italy do five-course meals and export economics go hand in hand. International trade has rarely tasted better.