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Photo via mariorizzotti.com
Photo via mariorizzotti.com

The Forest Hills community was given a lesson on authentic Italian cuisine from a true professional.

On Saturday, June 24, Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” judge Mario Rizzotti came by La Vigna Restaurant and Bar, located at 100-11 Metropolitan Ave., to teach diners how to to eat healthy through authentic, Italian cuisine as a part of his “4 the Love of Italian Food” tour.

The evening kicked off at 5:30 with a meet and greet cocktail hour where Rizzotti met with each guest personally before dinner. The hour featured an Italian cocktail called “Amore Mio,” which included wild, Italian sweet cherries, cherry juice, and topped with Italian prosecco.

Rizzotti and Giuseppe Vitale, owner at chef at La Vigna, then had everyone sit down for a four-course Italian dinner. Throughout the dinner, Rizzotti shared stories of growing up in Rome, coming to America and how he worked his way up in the culinary world starting as a dishwasher to becoming an Italian culinary expert and judge on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”

During the meal, Rizzotti also recounted how upon his arrival to America, he realized how different Italian cuisine was in the U.S. than in Italy. He then made it his mission to teach Americans about authentic Italian cuisine.

As the evening went on, Rizzotti gave the guests lessons on how to professionally taste olive oil. Each guest received a small tasting cup of extra virgin olive oil and were taught how to warm the olive oil by covering the cup with one hand and swirling the oil around. Rizzotti then asked the guests to smell the oil, asking what scents they found in the oil. The guests offered answers such as “tomatoes on the vine” and “artichokes.”

“Yes, yes, this is what real extra virgin olive oil smells like; it doesn’t smell like oil. If it smells like nothing, it will taste like nothing,” replied Rizzotti.

Guests were then taught how to taste olive oil, what to look for on a label to know the oil is real, how to finish dishes with good olive oil, and to never heat it.

At the end of the night, Rizzotti called upon the entire team who helped make the night possible and thanked them for their hard work. Rizzotti formally ended the evening by thanking everyone and reminding them that life is a celebration of “dolce vita,” or “sweet life.”

“Remember when you dine together, to turn off your cellphones, your iPods and iPads. Take time to listen and converse. Meals are better when you enjoy them with those you love. Grazie and buona notte,” Rizzotti said.

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