Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

La Dolce Italia – The New Lygon Street Festa?

La Dolce Italia
Royal Exhibition Buildings, 10-12 August 2012

I originally made a video blog of this, but due to the extremely tight nature of the collar under my bow tie – and the slight layer of blubber I’ve acquired over the winter months (everything must go… for summer!) – I’ve decided to spare you the jowels and instead offer you this take on a food, fashion and cultural event I recently attended.

La Dolce Italia has become the replacement event for the Lygon Street Festa. Try typing the latter in Google, you get one replaced for the other.

Where did the old one go? Probably “too much the insurance”, and a lack of commitment from local councils, much like the good old Brunswick St Festival (what I wouldn’t give to be able to enter a float, and go down Brunswick Street playing rock and roll on the back of a flat bed truck with all my nephews and nieces in costume doing formation dancing to advertise Blue Vapours...).

But how do the pair compare? (as they ask about superannuation funds).

First I have to admit my interests in this review.  We were invited by President of Les Toques Blanches, Dario D’Agostino to attend. He’s an enigma. A big restaurant family from Italia, a brother who is a Grand Prix driver, importer of luxury goods from Italy into Australia (truffles, wine, etc.), he’s friends with a Prince of Persia in exile who is now an artist in Italy. A qualified chef himself, he runs training schools and does food styling for advertising agencies, for things like Ferrero Roche. You get the drift.

He and some of his connections have poured significant investment into getting up this event since the effective demise of the Lygon Street Festa.

The two events are like chalk and cheese. When I think of the Lygon Street Festa, I think coffee races with waiters in aprons, a Renee and Renato look alike act on an open stage (the one singer, a kind of half bearded lady), climbing a greasy pole to get a giant cheese, a pasta eating competition, and a general working class ethos shaking its hands over its head as the champion of the world.

La Dolce Italia? Versace Fashion shows, a Pavarotti look and sound alike, and gastronomic stands including (naturally) truffles, Cinzano, a Michelin rated star lunch, fencing, artists; basically it was modern and high end Italian trade fair, as opposed to the cultural go to of an Italian who moved to Melbourne in the fifties.

I’ve just been on OnlyMelbourne.com.au, and  La Dolce Italia got completely panned in the comments section. $35 tickets to walk around an exhibition that tried to sell stuff – as opposed to a free Lygon Street Festa where you can passeggiata – seemed to be the major grievance. This was commerce, not culture.

I sympathise. I’m not Italian, and I can’t say I went to roll around in a flag and let everyone know I was more Italian than anyone else. I also didn’t pay, so the sting of expecting something for my money was considerably removed.

But I was in Rome last year and I feel La Dolce Italia was more about high end culture in Italy today, where the Lygon Street Festa was more of a celebration of the Italian Community in Australia.

Ten out of ten for effort. Classy if cold.  The food was exemplary and I can honestly say I had a fantastic time there eating a six course lunch with matching wines, meeting truffle growers from WA and trying a whole range of cocktails. If I were to suggest anything different, I’d make it a warmer time of year (October), put it in a smaller venue and have an outdoor stage for free. It was gastronomic, not an event for the people, but there has to be room for luxury occasionally.

I give it 5 and a half tentacles out of 8! (I just hope I don't wake up with a horse head in my bed!)


Murene said...

I agree - not an event for 'the common folk'.
Disappointing about the instructions on the entry tickets - indicating that we were to arrive 30 minutes before 'the show' then told that the entry time on the ticket WAS the 30 minutes before 'the show' and we wee 30 minutes early and had to wait outside in the rain.
Inside - few places for visitors to sit and enjoy the food bought at the (surprisingly few) stalls. We didn't want to pay the high prices in the 'restaurant' areas, nor did we want to replicate a restaurant visit, but there were few options.
Highlights were the made-in-Italy Nutella (and at special prices) and the one or two products that we can't easily buy in our shops (maybe they are available in specialty shops, but we are supermarketers).
The pizzas were pretty good, though!
Very clever marketing to sell (and upsell) tickets. Some dodgy practises involving 'invitations' to special lunch sittings that were not invitations at all but opportunities to buy tickets.
Glad we went but we won't be going again.