In Australia, the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney is a window into Italy. Eva Sinosini interviews Donatella Cannova, the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney
Donatella, what is the mission of the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney and who does it concern?
Our work is to promote Italian culture and keep it alive in our community which here in Australia is represented by more than one million Italians, people of Italian descent, and those who have a link with Italy. We organise cultural events, food & wine events and Italian language courses for Italo-Australians and Australians in general who are passionate about all that encompasses Italy, the Bel Paese. Moving around us here at the Institute is a small galaxy of people including 400 students who participate every year in Italian language classes, more than 250 paying members, around 2,500 subscribers to our mailing list, 6,000 likes on the Institute’s Facebook page and a comprehensive network of contacts with all local cultural institutes. Generally, I can say there is a lot of interest in what we do. A good portion of our followers travel regularly to Italy to satisfy a true passion for our Country. This passion is often about the discovery or rediscovery of the extraordinary wine and gastronomic heritage that we boast.
So Australians like Italian cuisine?
Amongst Australians there is a great love for Italian food and wine, which are also the main attractions for a trip to Italy! In Sydney we are lucky because we can easily find high quality Italian products. Here an Italian chef is successful if he or she cooks Italian cuisine with simple ingredients of the highest quality!
What are some of your upcoming events and initiatives?
Tonight there is a meeting with Elisabetta Minervini and the Executive Chef of Barilla, Andrea Tranchero. Both Elisabetta and Andrea will hold live cooking shows where they will demonstrate how to create two exquisite dishes following recipes from Elisabetta’s book ‘Mammissima’ (Bloomsbury, 2016). Everyone present will then be able to taste these dishes accompanied by complementary fine wines! ‘Mammissima’ is a collection of recipes that showcase the traditional cuisine of Puglia, that charming region located on “the heel” of Italy. ‘Mammissima’ is perfect for busy mammas who, like Elisabetta, are time-poor but wish to nourish their own families with healthy and authentic recipes that respect culinary traditions. Elisabetta is in fact a busy Puglian mother as she is also highly active in business together with her husband Alessandro Gallenzi, as founders of the publishing house Alma Books in the UK.
These initiatives that mix elements of both Tradition and Innovation are very exciting for young people. Excellent Gusto also promotes such initiatives…
Oh yes! What’s more, a series of 4 meetings dedicated to great Italian wines will soon begin, together with the support and expertise of sommelier Piero Fonseca.
Do you have a message for young Italians of Australia?
It’s important to remain aware of the richness of Italian cultural heritage, of course including and acknowledging in particular the rich Italian cultural heritage of food and wine. This human heritage is to be maintained and passed down to generations that follow so that it is not lost. It is our responsibility, even when we live abroad.
What advice would you give to young Italians that would like to come and live in Australia?
It’s important to be well-informed about the path to take and whether you have the intention to stay in Australia. This path is often one with many obstacles! Just think that to obtain Australian citizenship, 7 years is required on average.
Donatella is Sicilian and loves the sun and Sicilian recipes! Donatella, do you miss Italy even a little bit?
No I don’t miss it, because the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney is strongly linked to Italy through the Ministry and the Institutions. What’s more I talk about Italy everyday! Yes, I live in Australia, but I am proudly 100% Italian!