STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Though the pandemic has prevented live participation in Casa Belvedere’s classes and program offerings over the last several months, it didn’t stop the cultural foundation from sharing Italian arts and culture with the community on a virtual basis.
In late summer when the foundation was able to resume outdoor programs, protocol related to proper social distancing was enforced throughout the Grymes Hill not-for-profit.
“With the power of the internet and social media, we were able to cast a much wider net recruiting participants,” said Gina Biancardi, founder and president of Casa Belvedere. “People from Ohio, Florida, Texas, and California signed up for our classes and programs. I would’ve never imagined that a Texan would ‘attend’ an Italian language class being taught, virtually, on Staten Island.”
Casa Belvedere is celebrating their 10th anniversary. It was in the fall of 2010 when the foundation began offering language and cooking classes, plus a few cultural lectures.
“Also, our 10th annual Motori D’Italia/Festa D’Italia, the Italian Car Show & Festival that was cancelled would have been this past weekend,” Biancardi added. “This is our signature fundraiser with lots of beautiful Italian vehicles on display, plus continuous music, food vendors and fun-filled activities for the entire family. Personally, I really miss the excitement and energy of having our constituents, volunteers, and members on-site enjoying themselves.”
She pointed out not being able to host any live fundraisers in 2020 has set the foundation back financially.
“I’m sure it’s the same for many other not-for-profits too. Even if a charity hosts a virtual fundraiser, it’s just not the same. And there’s nothing like the rush of a live audience,” she said.
“Although these are difficult times for the foundation financially, we never stopped being active, quickly reinventing and adapting all our programs to virtual formats,” said program director Beatrice Allecci. “We had to learn to use Zoom and other online features, but we got the hang of it. In the long run, I believe that it was worth the transition. We now connect with amazing people from near and far, even all the way from Texas and California.
“Every Saturday morning from early April through the end of August we offered ‘virtual chats’ and invited guest speakers to join us as we discussed, just to name a few, the pandemic in Italy, Italian Mother’s Day traditions, Italy’s Coffee Culture, Naples Culinary Tour, Summer Music Festivals, Women’s Suffrage, and so much more,” she continued.
She pointed out they also packed their virtual bags and explored all sorts of vacation destinations throughout Italy. And the coffee chats became tremendously popular, sometimes with 50 or more participants — and more chats are coming.
“What an extraordinary journey,” she added. “We learned, we laughed, we shared our stories, we got emotional, we became a family. United by our love of all things Italian, even a pandemic didn’t stop us from promoting our Bella Italia in its infinite cultural aspects!”
Opera Dinner Presentation
More than 80 people attended the outdoor extravaganza of fine dining, wine and a colorful presentation of “Pagliaci” by renowned opera educator Louis Barrella. A second opera presentation was added for Tuesday, Sept. 22, on “Revisiting the first Three Tenors First Concert” featuring Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose’ Carreras.
All are invited. For reservations phone 718-273-7660 or Click here.
Lessons for adults and children quickly transitioned into virtual classes. Children learn basic vocabulary and expressions and adults participate in a fun immersion program that develops or reinforces their communication skills.
On-going registration is now open for both live and virtual classes: Registration is now open.
Cooking demonstrations: “My Dad Can Cook”
Held in Casa Belvedere’s Cucina Colavita through Facebook Live, James Paone and his daughters, Rosemary and Sophia, demonstrated Italian-inspired meals using fresh ingredients from “Nonno’s Garden,” — a typically Italian, garden located on the grounds of Casa Belvedere dedicated to the late Vito Biancardi, dad of Gina Biancardi — or other locally sourced suppliers.
Cinema Sotto le Stelle – Under the stars –
The outdoor film festival began in mid-July and continues every Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. on Casa Belvedere’s sprawling front lawn filled with beach chairs distanced six-feet apart.
This year’s theme was “Celebrating 100 Years of Alberto Sordi,” the Italian actor who depicted Italy’s virtues and vices in more than 160 movies.
Films are followed by a question-and-answer session. Other film screenings will continue through the fall, but indoors. The film series is free, although donations are appreciated. Light food and beverages are available for sale. For more information on upcoming screenings click here.
The Summer 2020 Bocce Tournament began on July 15 with 14 teams and is still in progress.
The games take place every Wednesday until mid-October. Those interested in joining for the Spring tournament, should write to [email protected]
To keep the foundation’s mission alive and to bring in more members, new membership levels have been added. “We want many people to have the ‘Casa Belvedere’ experience and to make this vibrant community center become part of their lives. It’s not just an exclusive dining club,” said Gina.
Renaissance Circle annual membership begins at $200 and provides access to complimentary programs and many other benefits. For details on Renaissance Circle and other membership circles click here. New Members and donors will be recognized in Casa Belvedere’s e-newsletter with 15,000 plus subscribers.