By Carol McCracken (Post # 804)
If the last 2 1/2 days are any indication at all, there are many Italians living in this area because many of them converged on the first-ever Italian Life Expo! at the Ocean Gateway on the East End of Portland. The expo! began Thursday, June 9 with an evening reception and concluded last night with a “sip and sample” event in which attendees voted for the People’s Choice Red and White Wine. In between were two hour sessions on eating in Italy, traveling in Italy and more; all taught by experts.
The expo! was the brainchild of the Institute for Italian Studies, Paul Turina and the Spannocchia Foundation. Turina, who distributes Italian wine and olive oil wanted to expose many small and wonderful Italian wineries to American markets – and so this expo! came into being. Throughout the event, there were 25 vendors either from Italy or doing business directly with Italy, exhibiting at Ocean Gateway. Nine of those vendors were wine dealers and eighteen vendors came over directly from Italy, said Erin Cinelli, Spannocchia Foundation.
The legendary Cesare Mazzetti and his wife, Iolanda, were the celebrities of the expo! Well known back in Tuscany for his familiy’s classic copper cookware, the couple who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Portland Friday, had a large display at the expo! of his hand-made copper pots and pans. In preparation for a special dinner for seventy people held at the Quimby Colony, Thursday, Mazzetti devoted fifteen days to making a magnificant copper fish poacher. Following the Mazzetti’s return to Italy today, it will be put in storage here in Portland until a use is determined for it. The generous Mazzetti who speaks no English, said through an English speaking friend, that he began making copper utensils when he was six years old.
Roberto Bonechi, Bonechi Imports, another popular vendor at the expo!, buys high-end ceramics from thirteen different sources in Italy and sells them wholesale to the northeast and across the country. Very locally, he wholesales to Maxwells. Orginally from Florence, Italy he came to the US in 1974. The poor economy has hurt his business, but he liked the exposure this expo! has given him. “I’ll return next year,” he said if indeed there is a second Italian Life Expo! Please visit www.bonechiimports.com for more.
Paul Brescaiani and his wife, who used to live on the Hill, drove over from New Hampshire for the event. They wanted to sample the wine of small producers that you can’t find in the Northeast, he said. “I’m an Italian wine snob,” he said grinning. “It’s in my blood.” They’ve visited Italy six times where they have second cousins.
The expo! sold 800 tickets to this first-ever event. “I hope we’ll be back next year. We have to check with our vendors, customers and others first before deciding,” said Erin Cinelli.