Category: Robert Stepanek



Beginning as an insert in a daily newspaper in 1986, Gambero Rosso has gradually grown to become the most important multimedia brand in the world of Italian food and wine, encompassing the publication of dozens of guides and books, the first thematic television channel in Europe (begun in 1999), and educational programs both in Italy and internationally – the former constituted of Città del Gusto sites throughout Italy, with Gambero Rosso Academy offshoots in the rest of the world. These initiatives include cooking classes for professionals and amateurs alike, courses in wine, journalism master programs, and seminars on restaurant management. While this economic growth has beget a listing on the stock market, a mainstay of outreach for Gambero Rosso has been the events they organize worldwide – since the first of these in 1990 the number of them has increased to over 40 such annually.


Registrants for the annual wine tasting and feast Spain’s Great Match, held once again at the terrific Hudson Yards restaurant Mercado Little Spain on October 12th, were informed that a printed guide of all the producers and wines on offer for the afternoon would not be provided to guests on site for the sake of saving paper – “in an effort to lessen our environmental impact” the tip sheet read – and folks could instead download a detailed listing available online as an app and use that as a basis to navigate their way around the event. For Luddites such as myself, accustomed to writing notes in whatever basic guide is typically handed out at tastings (and too often in a format which allows scant space for legible scribbling), this made for something of a challenge – but also an opportunity; I resolved to focus on those producers who brought with them pre-printed materials which would enable me to jot down notes in the manner I am used to. Call it creative limitation. (One day sometime soon I may yet adopt habits to transition to the Digital World.)


If you consider the tricolore of the Italian flag, its three bands could arguably be seen to represent different sauces characteristic of Italian cuisine, with the green of pesto and white of alfredo or carbonara sauce being followed by the red of marinara (or any variant including the seemingly omnipresent tomato as a base ingredient). Given the relative commonality of the latter sorts of sauces, it wouldn’t be surprising that if you were to ask the average consumer to name Italian wines, they would most likely think of those whose color – red – matches the sauces most often associated with Italian cuisine. They might cite Chiantis, Montepulcianos, Nero d’Avilas, Brunellos or Ripassos, and almost certainly if any varieties from Piedmont come to mind, these would be Barolos, Barbero d’Albas or Barbarescos. Although there are a number of outstanding white wines from Italy, it is nonetheless rare when a tasting focuses on these exclusively, so it was a unique event when the Gavi World Tour descended upon the Midtown Loft on September 7th.


From May 18 to May 25 the Italian Trade Agency presented Italy on Madison, a celebration of Italian culture and cuisine involving restaurants, fashion showrooms and businesses, and featuring panel discussions and special events. On May 23 there were three of the latter, with two taking place at the Italian Trade Commission on East 67th Street. I attended the morning event, entitled ‘Women in Wine: The Italian Perspective’, wherein a panel of five professionals recounted their experiences as trailblazing women in the world of wine, and offered advice for those in attendance aspiring to follow in their path; afterwards guests were treated to a sumptuous lunch prepared by Il Gattopardo restaurant. The evening event was a comprehensive presentation of Italian food items – focusing on the Denominations of Origin which confirm the authenticity and quality of products and ingredients – in the format of a relaxed 10-course dinner.


Walking down Mercer Street on May 12th to attend an ICFF related event, I passed by something I didn’t know about in advance which was also timed to coincide with the furniture fair – a pop-up exhibition space called Casa Brasil. During the last iteration of the Interior Design confab – which atypically unfolded in November 2021, due to the Covid lockdown canceling the event from its normal Spring occurrence in both 2020 and 2021 – the Brazilians showcased their prodigious variety of interior design and furniture products at a temporary showroom in SoHo. With the ICFF restored to its habitual place on the calendar of May in 2022, the Brazilians upped the ante, with the trade organization ApexBrasil renting out a vast exhibition space spanning the block between Mercer Street and Broadway (with entrances on both), and featuring not only design and furniture from Brazil there but also hosting talks and programming focusing on other aspects of the nation encompassing manufacturing, travel, cuisine and wines.


Every five years the fine food provisions firm D’Artagnan has held celebrations to mark their continued success in business, and recently they staged a series of events over a week for their 35th anniversary. The culmination of this for the New Jersey-based company were two sumptuous events held in Manhattan – a lavish feast at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and what is now an annual seasonal cook-off among noteworthy chefs, which took place at the Second Space at the Eventi Hotel on 6th Avenue.


The global nature of the produce business was fully evidenced throughout the London Produce Show and Conference (LPS19), put on by the Fresh Produce Consortium and Produce Business magazine over June 5-7 at Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott hotel on London’s Park Lane. As the UK’s leading global produce get-together, it enables suppliers and buyers to connect within an immersive networking event in one of the world’s iconic cities for the fresh fruit, vegetable and flower industries. Drawing upon London’s traditional role as an international hub of trade and commerce, with the LPS19 the fresh produce industry has thus built upon a regional retail scene that is evolving rapidly and matched that with a reach that is unparalleled.


One of the trends I have noticed in attending BookExpo over the last several years is that it seems to have gotten smaller with regards to the size and floor space it covers at the Javits Center at the same time it has expanded in a way to welcome more and more people who are not publishing industry professionals into the space. The former phenomenon certainly has to do with a consolidation in the industry, with any number of smaller publishing houses having been acquired by larger corporate entities (one of my favorite publishers, Black Dog & Leventhal, being a case in point); undoubtedly, too, the progressive growth in online sales of not only books but also related intellectual properties has contributed to the apparent contraction of the size and scope of the annual event – it’s easy to forget if you’re an attendee who creates, reads or reviews content that BookExpo primarily functions for the sake of book sellers and others in the business of delivering that content to consumers. With regards to the latter aspect, it’s mostly felt in the transitioning of the three days of BookExpo into the two final days of BookCon within the same Javits footprint – wherein the floor space taken up by exhibitors shrinks even more, but the public attendee crowd swells, not only to browse areas where they can purchase books but also to sit in on public presentations by authors and other publishing notables.


If it’s January in New York City, that means the annual ‘Beer Bourbon & BBQ’ culinary extravaganza will be taking place, allowing folks from the greater New York area (and regions besides) to flock to The Tunnel at 608 West 28 Street in West Chelsea to fulfil the appetite of their ‘Inner Redneck.” Happening on January 26th, the theme for 2019 is ‘BEAST MODE. TASTE IT. SIP IT. PORK IT’ (which has been trademarked by presenters the Trigger Agency to mark the occasion), and it is an apropos coinage for the opening event of a series that is staged throughout various cities across the eastern seaboard over the year, from Florida to New York. 


The most comprehensive annual celebration of the performing arts around the globe, encompassing a convergence of 14major performing arts industry forums and public festivals, is about to take place once again in New York City with the 2019 edition of JanArtsNYC. With the broad menu of cultural events including American Realness (Jan. 4-13;, Chamber Music of America Conference (Jan. 17-20l, Drama League DirectorFest (Jan. 28;, National Sawdust’s FERUS Festival (Jan. 4-8;, globalFEST (Jan. 6;, ISPA Congress (Jan. 8-10;, Jazz Congress (Jan. 7-8;, NYC Winter Jazzfest (Jan. 4-12;, The Joyce Theater’s American Dance Platform (Jan. 3-7;, Performance Space New York (Jan. 5-31;, PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now (Jan. 5-13;, and The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival (Jan. 3-13;, perhaps the most important of these will be the 62ndannual Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) Conference. Taking place at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel from January 4-8, the APAP Conference in 2019 will host more than 3,600 performing arts professionals (including persons who represent leading performing arts centers, municipal and university performing arts facilities, culturally specific organizations, foreign governments, artist agencies, managers, touring companies, consultants and self-represented artists) as they experience some 1,000 performance showcases, network at a 370-booth EXPO Hall, and attend professional development and plenary sessions addressing issues impacting their industry.