Italians in the News

By Carol Cain, Free Press Business Columnist Published 7:00 a.m. ET March 31, 2018 | Updated 10:38 a.m. ET March 31, 2018

Joe Vicari will head out early this Easter Sunday as he’s done on that holiday and most others since 1982 to greet his guests at Andiamo in Bloomfield and Detroit and six other Detroit eateries he owns to thank them for their business.

He’ll also thank his employees for working the holiday, knowing the toll being away from family takes. The life of most restaurant owners means working holidays, weekends and sometimes missing family things.

For Vicari, CEO of Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, the largest restaurant company in the state with 22 locations in Michigan and Las Vegas, it’s meant 10-12 hour workdays six days a weeks.

And he's ultrasuccessful. He's come a long way from the Ram’s Horn in Warren, which he opened in 1982. Besides Andiamo, he owns Joe Muer Seafood, Brownies on the Lake in St. Clair Shores, Country Inn and 2941 Mediterranean Street Food.

Vicari told me he’s going to open one more restaurant, a Joe Muer Seafood in Las Vegas, and then, he said, “I’m done.”

Vicari, who is 61, is contemplating life away from the restaurant business and even selling the company.

“If the right offer came along and it made sense for my partners,” he said.

“I’d like to travel to Europe and actually the U.S.,” he said. “I’ve traveled to Florida because we have family there and Las Vegas — but it’s for work.”

He wants to spend time with grandchildren, he said — "enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

His son Dominic, 33, is operating partner of Joe Muer Seafood in Bloomfield. But he has no designs on following his father's path.

“Growing up and not seeing his dad a lot, he doesn’t want to follow in my footsteps," Joe Vicari said. "He wants to spend quality time with his three kids."

It is a family run business. Joe's wife, Rosalie Vicari, is chief operations officer of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, and his brother John Vicari is operating partner of Joe Muer Seafood in Detroit.

“When I began my vision was to have a successful restaurant that used fresh ingredients, preparing them from scratch daily,” Vicari said. “I never thought I would one day own 22 restaurants. Moving forward, the goal is to maintain a prominent space in the market.”

To accomplish that he’s sometimes defied the trends.

When Opus One and Caucus Club and other longtime downtown Detroit eateries were shutting doors, he opened Andiamo in GM’s Wintergarden and then Joe Muer Seafood.

He added live entertainment at Andiamo in Warren, bringing in about 20 acts a year including Mitch Ryder, America, Stephanie Mills, The Purple Experience and Andrew Dice Clay.

Vicari also is part owner of Freedom Hill.

This year he’s adding another twist — concerts at the Detroit Opera House presented by Andiamo.

Crooner Tom Jones will perform there May 11. And Vicari saw a show in Vegas that blew him away. So in June he’s bringing in “Frank, the Man the Music,” which features the songs of Frank Sinatra with a 32-piece orchestra.

“Business is good,” he said.

Like many establishments hammered by the global economic meltdown of 2008, the road back was slow.

“We really didn’t come back to that level until 2015,” he said.

Given the surge of new eateries popping up around metro Detroit, often with a first-time owner, I asked what advice he might offer them.

“I’ve watched what happens too often. They open their first restaurant and then they overpay people. They don’t realize the amount of capital it takes to open and maintain it over the course of the year.

“Things always come up,” he said.

Near his Andiamo in Sterling Heights, a major road construction project in 2015 lingered for months, causing an estimated loss of $500,000 in business.

“Luckily, I had other restaurants we could turn to make up some of the difference,” he said.

He said his secret to survival — besides offering great food and service — is “having good people working with you.”

Some of his 1,100 employees have been with him since he began.

“One of the most challenging things about having so many locations is finding the right staff that can carry out the level of service and authenticity we expect and maintain,” he said.

What other career might he have pursued if not restaurants?

“I would have done sales of some kind — and then made sure to play more golf,”  he said.

Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs at 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. See Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayed on Sunday’s show.

Jordan Burchette and Silvia Marchetti, for CNN

Pizza, pasta, Verdi, the Coliseum, runway models.
We know Italy does some things incomparably well.

But travelers to the elegant boot don't just want to eat spaghetti, deal with opera and gawk at old ruins.
Beyond the cliches, you'll find 10 other surprising ways in which Italy shines.

1. Flattery
Depending on whether or not you think the occasional catcall is flattering, you'll find Italians are aggressively complimentary of friends and beautiful strangers alike.
A historical tool for both disarming and defusing, flattery is the fulcrum on which Italian society teeters.
As Luigi Barzini writes in "The Italians," "The people have always employed such arts offensively, to gain advantages, destroy rivals and conquer power and wealth; and defensively, as the squid uses ink, to blind and confound powerful men, dictators and tyrants."
But you'll likely only notice the catcalls.

2. Hot baths
If flattery doesn't get you out of your clothes, the peninsula's 380 spa sites offering healing mud and bubbles will.
Boiling as much beneath the surface as its people, Italy pioneered the world's first large-scale spas, exporting them as they colonized Europe.
Watery therapies include island baths (such as those on volcanic Ischia), Tuscan hot springs, mountain baths in the town of Bormio and the thermal park of Lake Garda.
Just drinking the mineral-rich water in some places is reputed to be healthy.
So convinced is the Italian government of the healing power of hot springs and geothermal mud packs that it covers the cost of some therapies for its citizens.

3. Cursing
Best thing about an Italian curse -- it looks as good as it sounds.
Be it in Italian or any other language, the accent of native Italy turns any expletive into a blunt force instrument.
Rhythmic, staccato and with an almost operatic legato that fuses syllables together like a hammer-on guitar note, swearing here is a performance art.
Inspired mostly by pigs, anatomical exit points and promiscuous women, Italian profanities -- which vary by region -- sound equal parts dramatic, angry and comical.
Powered by the passion characteristic of the Italian people, the results stun, intimidate and even charm their recipients, sometimes all at once.

4. Beach bumming
With 7,400 kilometers (4,600 miles) of coastline, Italy boasts the most beaches in Europe, as well as 27 marine parks.
Summer temperatures peak in many places at just below 30 C (86 F), compared with the mid 20s (70s F) in France and Portugal.
It's like swimming in tropical waters, minus the sharks and trinket hawkers.
When it comes to beaches, it's a tough choice between blinding-white dunes, pebble and even turf shores, but 248 Italian beaches have been awarded Blue Flag status for clear waters and unspoiled sands.

5. Changing governments
Italians tear through regimes like their sports cars do dinosaur juice.
Since the end of World War II, Italy has established 63 governments under 39 prime ministers (42 if you count Silvio Berlusconi's three total terms), and only one has lasted a full five years.
Fearing the rise of another Mussolini, Italy's constitutional system years ago provided for a weak executive branch that requires majorities in both legislative houses just to get anything done.
That, combined with an already fractured political landscape of small, opposed parties, puts Italy's average MPG (months per government) barely over 12.

6. Volcanoes
Mt. Etna, the world's second most active volcano, is in Italy.
Ten active volcanoes allow Italy's geology to vent the way voting gives release to its citizens.
The country's (and Europe's) largest volcano is Mt. Etna in Sicily, the world's second most active volcano after Hawaii's Mauna Loa.
Etna's spectacular eruptions, soot-blackened scenery, lava flows and extensive caves draw more than a million tourists a year.
It leads TripAdvisor's top-10 must-see volcanoes list, along with four other Italian spouters, including Mt. Vesuvius.
Etna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, joining three other Italian volcanoes, including the Aeolian islands of Vulcano (no translation prizes there), Lipari and Stromboli, known as the Mediterranean's Lighthouse for its breathtaking eruptions.

7. Dessert
Apple pie is good and all, and it's never a bad time for a sticky slice of baklava, but for sheer volume and variety of treats, nothing beats an Italian dessert case.
Much is made of the peninsula's food, the usual suspects being pizza, pasta and antipasti.
But the real stars of Italian cuisine are gelato, tiramisu, cannoli, Neapolitan, biscotti spumoni, tartufo, zeppole -- Italy has nearly as many signature desserts as it's had governments.
Italian confectioners work in all media, too, combining cakes, cookies and creams both iced and otherwise to create the world's vastest, tastiest arsenal of desserts.
Ironically, Italians don't even really eat this stuff, most often preferring a piece of fruit or chocolate after a meal instead.

8. Caving
Rich in crumbly, sieve-like karstic landscapes, Italy is one of the most cave-pocked countries on the planet, with more than 35,000 cavities above ground and thousands more underwater.
Grotta Gigante holds the Guinness World Record for largest accessible cave on Earth at a yawning 850 meters (2,788 feet) wide, with 500 steps that descend 100 meters (328 feet) into the earth.
Other notable caves include the Blue Grotto on Capri, where Emperor Tiberius loved to swim. Inside the Grotta del Vento, winds whip through its tortuous trails at 40 kilometers an hour.

9. Sports cars
Ferrari Dino: Four wheels or "phwoar!" wheels?
Ferrari Dino: Four wheels or "phwoar!" wheels?
Eliciting more turns per head than even its fashion models do, Italy's catalog of exotic land jets is what Porsche drivers dream about.
What began as a race car manufacturer in the 1930s has become the standard bearer for aspirational autos -- in 2012, Ferrari sold just 7,000 cars, but booked $3 billion in revenues.
Meanwhile, Lamborghini may be owned by German Audi now, but the hips are still all Italiano.
Pagani, Alfa Romeo, Maserati -- these names are sex on wheels.
Italy doesn't even crack the top 20 in global auto production, but for out-of-your-league supercars that cover more adolescent male bedroom walls than Kate Upton, no other country can outrace Italy.

10. River cruises
Unlikely to be among the top two or three or hundred things that spring to mind when you think of Italy, river cruising on the peninsula is actually a vibrant business, and new routes keep opening up.
Italian rivers aren't as long or easily navigated as those in the rest of Europe, but visitors can float from one beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site to another.
Po River Travel, UniWorld and European Waterways offer week-long cruises that take in areas like the Venice Lagoon, Manuta, Padu, the Po Valley and Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet.
Originally published April 2014, updated March 4, 2015.

Silvia Marchetti is a freelance journalist and writer based in Italy. Jordan Burchette is freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

Know the differences between a caffè macchiato, freddo and lungo before your next trip.

So, you want to go to Italy? Great choice! The food, the wine, the history and of course, the coffee. Italians are particular about their coffee, and while you can probably get by with whatever terms you’d use at your local coffee shop, it’s best to have a strong understanding of Italian coffee options. Here’s how to order a coffee in Italy without sounding like an idiot.

First, a few rules to follow. While most American coffee drinkers will simply drink any coffee concoction as they please, Italians drink certain beverages at certain times of day. For instance, cappuccinos are generally reserved for breakfast—not to be ordered after 11:00 a.m. A macchiato is traditionally enjoyed as a bit of an afternoon pick-me-up and espresso is served after dinner. Also, try to stay away from ordering a coffee to-go. Most cafés in Italy are counter service or table seating only so try to keep that in mind.


Also know as caffè normale, caffè is the foundation of any Italian coffee drink. A caffè is simply an espresso, served black and only in one shot increments. Rather than ordering a doppio, or double, Italians will traditionally make a return trip to the barista if they’re in need of more caffeine.

The classic Italian espresso drink, a cappuccino is equal parts espresso, milk foam and steamed milk. They are most commonly enjoyed before or during breakfast, but never after a meal.
Caffè Latte

A creamier alternative to a cappuccino, a caffé latte is one part espresso to two parts steamed milk and just a little bit of foam on top. Much like a cappuccino, caffè lattes are traditionally enjoyed in the morning.
Caffè Macchiato

For those looking for a slightly milkier version of a simple caffè, the macchiato is the answer. This drink includes espresso that is “marked” with a splash of frothy milk. Unlike other milky espresso drinks, the macchiato can be enjoyed all day.
Caffè Americano

Undoubtedly one of the greatest coffee insults of all time, an Americano is simply espresso that is diluted with hot water to mimic American-style drip coffee.
Caffè Lungo:

Not quite a caffe or an Americano, this “long coffee” includes espresso with just a splash of hot water.
Caffè Corretto

If you’re looking for a nice pre-dinner drink after a long day, try a boozy caffè corretto. This drink, which translates to “corrected coffee,” features espresso with a splash of grappa, sambuca or your choice of liquor.
Caffè Freddo

It gets hot in Italy, especially in the south, and while a refreshing Aperol spritz is usually the best way to combat that, sometimes it’s best to opt for something non-alcoholic. A caffè freddo is simply espresso shaken with ice and sugar until the drink develops a slightly frothy head and is the refreshing jolt of caffeine you need during the spring and summer.

Ever wonder if you’re doing your coffee break correctly? According to the Italians, you’re probably doing it wrong — but they also have the fix. It’s called caffè corretto and means literally a corrected coffee. And it’s the best coffee break we’ve ever heard of.

Caffè corretto is one way Italians get a daily dose of espresso and one of hard liquor in the same fix. First and foremost, caffè in Italy is not the extra-grande cup of joe you find here in the States. Caffè for Italians is a potent little shot of espresso, served up in one of those cute little shot glass/mug hybrid-looking vessels. Caffè corretto is prepared by adding a few drops of liquor into the shot of espresso. Some bartenders serve the liquor separately, either in a shot glass or just by bringing you the entire bottle, so you can prepare the perfect coffee-to-liquor ratio. Common liquors used in caffè corretto are grappa, sambuca, or brandy. When ordering in Italy, simply order a “corretto alla ____” and specify your liquor of choice.

It’s not just in Italy. The carajillo in Spain is a similar type of coffee-liquor drink, as well as the kaffekask and kaffepunch in Scandinavia.

We’ve obviously been doing coffee breaks all wrong. We recommend replacing your afternoon coffee with your new European tradition. See? Italians really do do it better — when it comes to coffee, at least.

By Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi - Dec 30, 2016

The traditional Greek-style yogurt has made a splash in many European markets, according to official data which states that yogurt is Greece’s eighth biggest export in 2015. In recent years, many Greek labels of yogurt have made their way to the Italian market specifically and into the households of Italians with much success.

The country’s first yogurt company to export to Italy, Fage, reported a 13.2 percent annual growth in the value of its products over the first nine months of 2016 and a growth of volume in the market of 14.1 percent.

Now brands such as Kri Kri and Dodoni, Mevgal, Olympos and Farma Koukaki are all finding much success in the Italian yogurt market as well.

Part of the reason for the success of Greek yogurt in Italy is that Italians are very health conscious and eat foods with a minimum amount of synthetic ingredients and preservatives.

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