Italy comes to Israel – virtually

This is the fifth year that Italian Cuisine Week has been held in Israel.

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Benny Ben Israel, an Israeli chef and expert on Italy who leads culinary tours to Italy, sits on a couch in Jaffa studio sipping a glass of vermentino, a full-bodied white wine that is made in Sardinia, while Italian wine journalist Fabio Piccoli shows a presentation about Sardinia. The webinar is conducted simultaneously in Hebrew and Italian, and is just one of dozens of events that made up Italian Culinary Week.
“We want to offer a trip via the vineyards to bring people to places where they actually make the wine,” Clelia di Consiglio, who works for the Italian Ministry of Tourism, said in an interview. “Wine is not just a drink, it is an area, a whole culture. We want people to connect with different parts of Italy.” According to the Italian Ministry of Tourism, almost 250,000 Israelis visited Italy in 2019 before COVID-19 decimated international travel. But most Israelis stay in Rome, Florence and Venice, and Italian Cuisine Week was a chance to introduce Israelis to other areas.
The events included food demonstrations by chef Emanuala Panka, a Jewish-Italian chef who made aliyah two years ago and speaks Hebrew with a lovely Italian accent. In a webinar on olive oil, she picked up a clove a garlic, rubbing it on a piece of fresh Italian bread.
“This is the classic bruschetta,” she said. “And it pays to use the best olive oil you can find.”
She said that after school children munch on focaccia with olive oil as a snack to hold them until dinner.
This is the fifth year that Italian Cuisine Week has been held in Israel, and usually the workshops and wine tastings are held in person. But COVID-19 has moved the entire event online, which makes it accessible to many more people.
Chef Panke said that food is a way to understand a country’s culture.
“Each area in Italy is almost like a different country when it comes to food and wine,” she said. “What we eat in Sicily is not the same as what we eat in Piemonte. More than just recipes, we want ot give you the atmosphere.” Clelia di Consiglio fo the Italian Ministry of Tourism said the week was a way to remind Israelis that COVID will send, hopefully sooner rather than later.
“Israelis have a passion for Italy and we want to offer hope that people will be able to travel again,” she said.