Restaurateur Gianfranco Sorrentino hosted a Members & Press Cocktail Reception for his non-profit organization Gruppo Italiano (GI) at Il Gattopardo on Monday, March 20, 2017 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. The New York based non-profit is an evolution from the original Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani (GRI), which was established in 1979 to increase the awareness and to promote the image of authentic Italian cuisine through member restaurants, culinary scholarships and events. The event featured guest speakers such as Maurizio Forte, John Mariani and Charles Scicolone, and offered attendees a chance to learn more GI while enjoying delectable Cocktails and Hors D’Oeuvres from the Il Gattopardo kitchen.
A half hour into the event, Gruppo Italiano founder Gianfranco Sorrentino welcomed the attendees, introduced GI and explained how it works to popularize authentic Italian cuisine, Italian wines and Italian products, and enhance their image in the United States through education, member restaurants and promotions. He lightheartedly asked the audience what America would be without pizza, or without an espresso for breakfast. He noted that the authenticity of a cuisine starts with the chef, which is why GI puts a lot of emphasis on educating future chefs on authentic Italian ingredients and cooking techniques, in combination with an in-depth knowledge of Italian wines. This is promoted through a program where American culinary students are offered the opportunity to visit Italy, and Italian aspiring chefs are offered internship opportunities in the U.S.Gianfranco went on to introduce Maurizio Forte, the Italian Trade Commissioner in New York. Forte pointed out the importance of smaller Italian companies and artisan suppliers of food and wine coming together as a group to increase their influence in an environment where the larger chains have traditionally had more bargaining power. He noted how GI’s work really makes a difference in bringing the best of Italian food, wine and culinary education together.
Following Forte, Author John Mariani, who recently released his newest book How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan), spoke about the history of Italian food and wine, and how it spread from its homeland to become one of the most loved cuisines across the globe. He noted how popular culture has helped shape the type of Italian restaurants that we see in America today and how important a cuisine it has become, making it even more important to support its authenticity through initiatives such as GI.
The last keynote speaker to take to the stage was renowned wine consultant Charles Scicolone, who pointed out how much the selection of fine Italian wines in the U.S has increased over the last decades thanks to organizations such as GI. Scicolone also went on to explain how important the educational aspect is, and that we learn more about the distinction of wines from different Italian regions, not just from the country as a whole. Lastly, Gianfranco thanked everyone for attending the event, and said he looked forward to welcoming new members and to see the organization continue to grow.GI provides a constant flow of information about Italian cuisine to member restaurants, US press, culinary schools, importers, distributors and general consumers with a serious interest in authentic Italian food. Throughout its history, Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani had made significant strides in enhancing the perception of and passion for Italian food and wine throughout the hospitality industry in the United States, and now, Gruppo Italiano begins a new era in developing a stronger presence of authentic Italian culinary products and services in the United States.
Members of Gruppo Italiano include influential Italian restaurateurs, distributors, importers, and other prominent business and cultural leaders, and continues to be one of the most respected culinary and cultural organizations in the country. GI provides numerous benefits to its members, including a wide range of opportunities in advertising, networking, high-profile events and media placement, as well as recruiting and staffing solutions for businesses here in the United States that represent authentic Italian products.
Members are featured in “The GI Report” newsletter distributed 4 times a year to members, trade publications, food writers, industry contacts, and to prominent culinary and hospitality schools around the United States. Companies are featured on the GI web site and receive a detailed listing in the publication, “The GI Restaurant Directory”. All members are included in outreach to both U.S. and Italian media outlets. Networking and cooperation between member businesses are a large part of the organization’s mission, and GI will afford members the opportunity to network with other GI member restaurants, distributers and importers, as well as associate educational member schools and educators.
Members can also participate in the annual “Vino e Cucina” consumer event, which draws more than 500 guests and members of the press, and brings together the acclaimed GI member restaurants from around the United States to prepare and present their signature dishes. The evening is complemented by Italian wines and spirits and a silent auction, which supports the GI Scholarship Program.Members will also be invited, along with press, to an annual GI culinary trip to Italy; the organization will partner each year with a different Italian region to provide an experience filled with history, food, wine, and tours of various producers highlighting new products and techniques. This trip allows members the opportunity to further learn about the history of Italian cuisine, while being introduced to specific new products and techniques. The knowledge gained through this experience provides restaurateurs the opportunity to enhance their businesses, and provides a new training resource for their staff, making their operations more successful and progressive in today’s competitive market.
What also makes the mission of the Gruppo Italiano so unique, and membership so attractive to Italian businesses here in the United States, is the direct access provided by the GI Board to agencies throughout Italy who provide the opportunity to host Italian cooks, chefs, managers, sommeliers and FoH staff. Other labor assistance includes online job postings and resume search features coordinated by GI, and will allow members to post their current staffing needs, providing their companies with exposure to thousands of qualified, trained culinary and restaurant staff.
The organization’s philanthropic and educational efforts and accomplishments are numerous, and include the aforementioned GI Scholarship Program. Each year for the last 35 years, GRI (and now GI) have provided almost a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships to culinary and hospitality students from across the United States, enabling them to travel to Italy and participate in an intensive educational program to study the cuisine, viticulture, and products of Italy.Gruppo Italiano also serves as the consultant to the Italian cuisine curriculum developed and introduced at the Culinary Institute of America. Through these efforts, the CIA opened the acclaimed Catherine De Medici restaurant in Hyde Park, New York, which still serves as an invaluable educational resource for the college. Gruppo Italiano continues to be the point of reference for educational institutions and journalists throughout the U.S. and Italy, and promotes a better understanding and appreciation of Italian cuisine and regional Italian products. In addition, GI provides the support and resources to culinary professionals in all regions throughout Italy who travel to the U.S. for special events and educational programs.
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