Viva Italiano – a celebration of food and music

Published Mar 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm (Updated Mar 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm)

T he wintry weather has definitely taken its toll. Dull, dreary days are coming to an end as spring is just a week away. Social events are filling our calendars and outdoor activities will be a welcome relief from winter.

Dining Around the World events planned by Cura Hospitality and Providence Point in Scott Township have certainly kept the winter doldrums at bay. A few months have passed since I joined Providence Point residents for a Grecian adventure. And just last week, I was delighted to return for a few hours in Italy, without even leaving town.

Viva Italiano was delightful. Once greetings were shared with old friends and new, we gathered to enjoy a succulent international dinner prepared by Executive Chef Paul Bates, who was trained in Venice, Italy, and Sous Chef Scott Beattie.

“Tonight, I’m serving foods indigenous to both northern and southern Italy, flavors of the Old World,” said Chef Paul.

A fresh antipasto of cheeses, vegetables and greens topped with tender, fried calamari along a side of rustic Italian bread and dipping oil raised anticipation of the next course to new heights. The chefs took great care in their presentation of grilled Venetian mackerel with a tapenade of olives, raisins, capers, onions and tomatoes. Sharing each plate was a generous serving of Sicilian chicken stuffed with prosciutto, spinach, provolone and wild mushrooms, drizzled with Madeira pan sauce. Sundried tomato-herb polenta and ricotta gnocchi in a fresh basil pesto tossed with sautéed broccoli rabe were awesome complements to the Italian specialties.

The delicious food quickly disappeared from the plates in my view. No surprise there! But everyone saved room for the pistachio spumoni and cannoli duet, a perfect sweet ending to the Italian cuisine.

Even before the feast was set before me, the evening was made perfect by the wonderful music of mandolin player Egidio “Jimmy” Faiella. Throughout dinner, he strolled among the guests, playing Italian favorites such as “Innamorata,” Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro” and the much-loved “That’s Amore,” made popular by Dean Martin.

Traditional music was a relaxing touch to a great meal. Dinner guests often sang or hummed along to familiar tunes as Jimmy entertained folks around the room, taking on a scene of an outdoor café in Italy.

“My grandfather Egidio’s heartwarming homemade recording of his mandolin and acoustic guitar music is what encouraged me to master the beautiful tones of the Italian folk style of mandolin playing,” said Jimmy. “I have wonderful memories of him performing ‘Speranza Perdute’ (The Lost Hope) on his mandolin, accompanied by my father, Eugene, on the acoustic guitar.”

Jimmy’s music credits include an episode on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and “A Wedding for Bella” starring Scott Baio.

Truly an asset at Providence Point are the young servers and waiters. Once more, they deserve a few words of praise. Not a plate was rattled, not a voice raised and each one moved around the room with exceptional ease. They were so eager to please.

Next on tour for Providence Point’s Dining Around the World series will be France. Resident travelers will then enjoy more old school cooking as chefs continue to share their talents, techniques and passion for cooking and baking.

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Providence Point

Opened in 2009, Providence Point is a retirement community in Scott Township. Patio homes, apartments and healthcare accommodations fill its campus.

Cura Hospitality offers innovative dining services at Providence Point with a mission to enhance life around great tasting food in healthcare facilities, retirement communities and hospitals.

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