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OLIVE OIL

Lay off our olive oil: MP to ‘junk food’ Americans

Italian MP Colomba Mongiello called the US a country of "junk food" where the "importance of quality food is not understood" after a story in the New York Times claimed the majority of olive oil sold in the US is fake.

Lay off our olive oil: MP to 'junk food' Americans
Colomba Mongiello said Italy has made great strides in combatting 'fake food', including Olive Oil. Photo: YouAsAMachine/Flickr

Mongiello was speaking on Wednesday at a press conference in Rome for the launch of the Italian edition of the book Extravirginity: The sublime and scandalous world of olive oil by Tom Mueller, who was also present.

Mueller himself said that although the New York Times piece contained some truth, it was an inadequate summary of the situation and also contained “blatant errors” and was “not linked” to his book, which was cited as the sole source.

"The book is not against anyone; it is in favour of olive oil," he explained. "It tells the story of olive oil, and the people who produce it."

Mongiello said such articles were “dangerous” because they damaged the credibility of 'Made in Italy' food.

She added that Italy has made great strides in combatting “fake food” but admitted that more could be done. Earlier this month, the Italian parliament passed a motion to better regulate food labelling and impose penal sanctions and harsher fines for those breaching the regulations.

“We are more rigorous than the rest of Europe, more disciplined and more wary,” Mongiello said.

“The rest of Europe does not understand; for once it is Italy which is the model to be copied in order to make the market more equal, transparent and legal.”

She also spoke out against the British 'traffic light' system on food, which may soon be brought to Italy, calling this “another attack” on Italian foods including oil, cheese and pasta.

However, Mongiello and Mueller did not deny the reality of fake or corrupted 'Made in Italy' olive oil.

“We need to defend the 'Made in Italy' label and our products. We must be aware of fake food,” Mongiello said.  

She explained that fake products had distorted the market, causing real producers of extra-virgin olive oil to close, and damaging Italy's reputation, market, and the consumers themselves, who think they are eating real Italian food.

Consumers should be taught how to recognize real extra-virgin oil, and celebrate the product, before it disappears, she added.

“Real Italian olive oil is good for you. And has even been shown to help cure degenerative diseases…anything under €6 for a bottle is not the real thing.”

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FOOD & DRINK

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Summer in Italy means lots of things - trips to the beach, empty cities, strikes, and metro works - but it also ushers in the spritz and negroni season. Here are some of the best drinks to cool down with in Italy this summer.

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Spritz

Venice wins all the prizes for being the home of the spritz: the jewel in Italy’s summertime daisy crown and one of the country’s most popular exports.

To first-time customers, the sweet-and-bitter combo can taste unpleasantly like a poisoned alcopop. Stick with it, however, and you’ll soon learn to appreciate this sunset-coloured aperitif, which has come to feel synonymous with summer in Italy.

The most common version is the bright orange Aperol Spritz, but if this starts to feel too sweet once your tastebuds adjust then you can graduate to the dark red Campari Spritz, which has a deeper and more complex flavour profile.

What are the best summer drinks to order in Italy?

Photo by Federica Ariemma/Unsplash.

Negroni

If you’re too cool for the unabashedly flamboyant spritz but want something not too far off flavour-wise, consider the Negroni.

It’s equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari – though if you want a more approachable version, you can order a ‘Negroni sbagliato’ – literally a ‘wrong’ Negroni – which replaces the gin with sweet sparkling Prosecco white wine.

Served with a twist of orange peel and in a low glass, the Negroni closely resembles an Old Fashioned, and is equally as stylish. A traditional Negroni may be stirred, not shaken, but it’s still the kind of cocktail that Bond would surely be happy to be seen sipping.

Crodino

Don’t fancy any alcohol but still crave that bitter, amaro-based aftertaste?

A crodino might be just what you’re after. With its bright orange hue, it both looks and tastes very similar to an Aperol Spritz – so much so that you might initially ask yourself whether you’ve in fact been served the real thing.

Similar in flavour are soft drinks produced by the San Pellegrino brand; bars that don’t have any crodino on hand will often offer you ‘un San Pellegrino’ as a substitute. These drinks are usually available in multiple flavours like blood orange, grapefruit, or prickly pears.

A barman prepares a Campari Spritz cocktail in the historic Campari bar at the entrance of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II shopping mall. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Chinotto

Much like the crodino, the chinotto is another distinctive bitter Italian aperitivo drink.

With its medium-dark brown colouring, however, the chinotto bears more of a resemblance to Coca Cola than to the spritz, leading to its occasionally being designated as the ‘Italian Coca Cola’.

In reality far less caramelly and much more tart than coke, the chinotto has its detractors, and the fact that we’re having to describe its flavour here means it clearly hasn’t set the world alight since it was first invented in the 1930s (it was subsequently popularised by San Pellegrino, which became its main Italian producer).

If you’re looking for another grown-up tasting alternative to an alcoholic aperitivo, however, the chinotto might just be the place to look.

Bellini

What’s not to love about the bellini?

Its delicate orange and rose-pink tones are reminiscent of a sunset in the same way as a spritz, but with none of the spritz’s complex and contradictory flavours.

A combination of pureed peach and sugary Prosecco wine, the bellini’s thick, creamy texture can almost make it feel smoothie or even dessert-like. It’s a sweet and simple delight, with just a slight kick in the tail to remind you it’s not a soft drink.

Shakerato

Not a fan of drinks of the fruity/citrusy/marinated herby variety?

If caffeine’s more your thing, Italy has an answer for you in the caffe shakerato: an iced coffee drink made with espresso, ice cubes, and sugar or sugar syrup.

That might not sound inspired at first, but hear us out: the three ingredients are vigorously mixed together in a cocktail shaker before the liquid is poured (ice cube-free) into a martini glass, leaving a dark elixir with a delicate caramel coloured foam on top.

You couldn’t look much more elegant drinking an iced coffee than sipping one of these.

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