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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Buon Appetito! LLL Provides SU Students a Virtual Taste of Italian Food and Culture

The one-credit course offered during Winterlude presented students with an opportunity to experience Italy from the comforts of their own kitchens.

March 19, 2021, by Dan Bernardi

Families Sampling Carbonara on Zoom
Buon Appetito! students sampling carbonara with their families.

When Syracuse University students finish up the fall semester and travel home for Winterlude, they may be left missing the sense of community and intellectual nourishment they get from classes and their friends. To provide students with a unique learning experience during winter break, the Italian program in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics created a new one-credit course in January called “Buon Appetito!”, which is an historical and hands-on introduction to food cultures in the various regions of Italy.

“One of our motivations for creating the course was to bring an experiential component to learning about Italian culture; we realized that a silver lining of online teaching was that we could connect students with a variety of people currently living and working in Italy,” says Anne Leone, Assistant Professor of Italian Studies, and Italian Language Coordinator.

Offered online to all Syracuse University students, the class included cooking demonstrations and presentations by renowned chefs and food historians in Italy. Italian instructor Consuelo Endrigo-Williams, who has taught related courses on regions of Italy and their food histories, designed the syllabus and led the course.

Students Preparing Scaccia on Zoom
Students in Buon Appetito! preparing the Italian stuffed flat bread called ‘scaccia.’

One of the highlights for students who took part in Buon Appetito! were the class’s lively cooking demonstrations. Prior to the start of Winterlude, students who enrolled were provided a list of equipment, materials and ingredients that would be needed for each recipe.

Carlo Nappo, head chef at Alla Catina Ristorante in Pordenone, Italy, was one of the course’s virtual guests. He shared his Roman recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara. During Nappo’s demonstration, he noted that choosing high-quality ingredients from local organic and sustainable farms combined with the attention in the preparation and presentation of the dish makes cooking not just technical but also emotional. “The magic happens when you put your heart in your plate,” says Nappo.

According to A&S student Nina Bridges ’21, “Buon Appetito was a great addition to my winter break. I had so much fun learning about Italian culture, new recipes and fun phrases to say in Italian. The best part was the cooking demonstrations! I made great food for my family from the recipes that we learned in class and can't wait to continue making carbonara.”

Students revealing their scaccia dishes
The virtual reveal of each students’ ‘scaccia.’

Other guests included Susy Patrito Silva, the director of Casa Artusi, a culinary and culture center located in the town of Forlimpopoli, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Silva discussed the legacy of the famous Italian food-writer Pellegrino Artusi on the 200th anniversary of his birth. Samantha T. Jezak, representative of the SU chapter of the Slow Food Movement, talked about the group’s mission of promoting food that is good for consumers, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Italian instructor Antonina Distefano led a cooking demonstration where she prepared the Sicilian delicacy, ‘scaccia,’ which is a stuffed flat bread, and Italian instructor Maria Rita Barbarino gave a presentation on viniculture in the volcanic soils of Etna in Sicily, as part of a lesson on the history of Italian wine.

For their final group projects, students developed websites on particular regions of Italy and their food traditions, which also included recipes and video demonstrations of them preparing local specialties. The students voted for the best project, and the winners received prizes of Italian delicacies.

LLL plans to regularly offer Buon Appetito! in the future and will look to involve a community element where they explore Italian American food traditions in the greater Syracuse area. They also plan to connect with more chefs and cooks throughout Italy – both virtually and in-person.