December 8, 2022

What makes Parmigiano Reggiano unique – week of Italian Cuisine

I recently got to attend the 7th annual Week of Italian Cuisine, hosted in Los Angeles! This year’s theme was “Conviviality, sustainability and innovation: the ingredients of Italian cuisine for people’s health and the protection of the planet”.

Organized by: The Consulate General of Italy in Los Angeles and Sistema Italia (ITA, IIC), in collaboration with Accademia Italiana Cucina (AIC), the Gastronomical Sciences University of Pollenzo, Eataly LA, IMPASTIAMO, Consorzio Parmigiano Reggiano, Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, Fondazione Valter Longo, Creating Cures Foundation, ITTV Forum & Festival and Casa Modena.

Week of Italian Cuisine, Gli Amigos film screening

The week of Italian cuisine kicked off with a film screening of Gli Amigos, a journey into the territory of origin and production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, aka a love letter to Parmigiano Reggiano. The film follows a master of a cooking school and his students, invited to a cooking competition. They must use the star ingredient (Parmigiano Reggiano, of course) in order to win an internship with Massimo Bottura.

There are many storylines that converge into one purpose during the film. Altogether showing the diversity of Italy, as well as the different motivations people may have to go after a goal. From wanting to reopen a family restaurant that has shuttered, to turning a kebab food truck into an even more successful Moroccan restaurant, to not letting a family down by continuing a tradition. This particular girl says to the others “You’re lucky to have your own dreams. I envy you.”

Later in the film, she realizes “I want to have a dream too, but I want it to be my dream. I want my eyes to sparkle like yours.”

I’ve included the short film with English subtitles, if you would like to watch:

Here are some other takeaways that have stuck with me, almost a month after the week of Italian cuisine. During the film, the students simultaneously learn about what makes themselves and their star ingredient, Parmigiano Reggiano, unique. Their journey of discovery reveals the values ​​and secrets of this extraordinary product, while also delving into their own relationships and dreams. 

The Science of the Cheese

There are special (lactic acid) bacteria that are on the grass in the specific region of Emilia Romagna that enriches the feed that nourishes the cows that make the milk that goes into the cheese that uniquely defines Parmigiano Reggiano. These same bacteria mean there is no need for preservatives. Lovingly referred to as the 3 amigos throughout the film, these superheroes are what makes Parmigiano Reggiano stand apart from all of its immitators.

Did you know? Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the most imitated cheeses in the world! Although it’s impossible to be imitated because it’s identity is made of specific values and processes that must be done. This is what brings it’s value. “Real value lies in diversity”, the mentor mentions.

Also, Parmigiano Reggiano is lactose free, thanks to the 3 amigos!

The key to cooking

The students learn the importance of truly getting to know your ingredients and that “cooking is much like loving someone. It takes patience, dedication, care, but above all, you have to trust in time.”

I never thought Star Wars and cheese would be related to each other, but we all got a kick out of the mentors clever quips – “Use the forma Luke.” “May the forma be with you.”

When they step into a room lined with wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano, their mentor tells them that “silence and time” are 2 of the most important factors in the aging process. He has them all close their eyes. I urge you to close your eyes and think of everything you’ve done in the last 36 months. What did you think of? Comparatively, just as we do, the cheese is collecting memories and constantly transforming. Supposedly, it’s scientifically proven that cheese is affected differently by different sounds. Here’s a fun article about an experiment done playing different musics for cheese.

Something so small can change everything

Throughout the film, the students talk about what their lives would look like whether or not they win the cooking competition. One of them has anxiety, which I personally know can be a daily struggle. He realizes (as I continually do) that one small change can make a huge difference, as he almost didn’t go to the cooking competition. What if he had let his anxiety completely take over and hadn’t taken part in the competition? Pushing through the feeling of “it’s easier just not to” and just going for it can make all the difference.

From starting a pottery class, swimming laps at the local pool, and training at the gym – I’ve implemented these things in the last couple months, pushing me out of my comfort zone and making a positive impact on my mental health. Undeniably something so small can change everything. I can even bring this all back to the events of the week of Italian cuisine – I attended all of the events on my own. I hoped to make connections, learn more about Italy and taste some delicious bites. That is exactly what I did, while simultaneously pushing through the inevitable uncomfortable moments of doing things on my own.

Week of Italian Cuisine, Food as a protagonist panel discussion

After the film, there was a panel discussion with chef, producer & Brand Ambassador of Parmigiano Reggiano, Michele Casadei Massari, executive producer Jeremy Spiegel, and Head Chef of Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, Mattia Agazzi – moderated by journalist Valentina Martelli. They discussed what makes the Italian lifestyle of food unique. It is equally about the meal as it is about socializing around a table and sharing a meal together. Food is community. Many Italian families take it one step further by cooking together.

This made me think about the most common question I’m asked about my love for and career in food. The answer always involves my upbringing. Being in a family that didn’t come from much, I know my parents were always happy to be able to provide quality food to our family. Food has always been treated with care in our household. From daily handmade school lunches by my dad complete with a handwritten note, to home-cooked meals usually by my mom. As a child, I didn’t understand the joy my mom gets from creating a meal for others. I have always been more of a baker, but have a newfound joy for cooking these days! I even get to share the kitchen with my mom whenever we find ourselves together. My love for food, always comes back to the joy of bringing people together. Whether over a meal at home or at a restaurant, my most treasured memories involve food.

Either Michele or Mattia mentioned that “cooking is all about generosity”, both chefs agreeing that cooking is a selfless act. Besides being selfless, the most important elements are the right ingredients (getting to know those ingredients) and temperature.

Food and film

There was also a conversation during the panel involving Jeremy and both chefs all about the food and film industry. Mattia and Michele spoke about how they think the film and entertainment industry should explore more Italian food and travel related stories or shows produced by Italians. Think of your favorite Italian food or travel shows. Who is the voice of it? Most of the time it’s coming from an American perspective, which partially makes sense because I assume the majority of the audience are Americans, but I think there is some room for exploration through the Italian lens. I can say I have cringed a bit in the past watching some of those aforementioned shows, so I can only imagine what Italians think of them. I think everyone means well, but the perspective can shift in an even better direction!

After the screening, a night during the week of Italian cuisine would not have been complete without a Parmigiano Reggiano tasting, in addition to some bites that included the delicious cheese!

I am going to leave you with another tidbit from Mattia, the chef at Osteria Gucci. Of course we were all curious what it is like working with Massimo Bottura. He says he learns something new daily, but the main takeaway is to look beyond the limits and to keep dreaming.

I hope you enjoyed this dive into one of the most important and famous items produced in Emilia Romagna! I am proud to say that I live in that region of Italy. What product should I delve into next?

May the forma be with you 😉



  1. […] the 7th annual week of Italian Cuisine! I attended a few different events including one focused on Parmigiano Reggiano. If you’re curious what the entire week looked like, you can see the full line up […]

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Growing up near Pasadena, CA, my creativity blossomed as I delved into the LA food scene, food styling, photography, and storytelling. Now, I curate content centered around food, beverage, and travel, while indulging in hobbies like thrifting. Italy holds a special place in my heart, where I found love and embarked on a new chapter in Bologna. Join me on this creative journey of food, travel, and love.