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BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/ Photos by Jaime DeJesus
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/ Photos by Jaime DeJesus
Marco Polo owner Joe Chirico with co-owner and first place winner Marco Chirico and second place winner Oscar Riquelme.

Culinarily speaking, they’re narrowing the distance between Italy and Brooklyn.

On Monday, November 14, Brooklyn Borough Hall hosted the Basilicata Fine Food in New York event that featured high quality Italian dishes created by top cooks made with products from the southern Italian region located between the toe and the heel of the geographic “boot,” renowned for its fish dishes as well as those made from the flavorful vegetables grown in the area’s rich volcanic soil.

“We are really bridging the gap with the old cuisine of the great Italian chefs, and now coming to the borough of Brooklyn and having the winners of this contest become master chefs will just add to the rich environment we have in the borough,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “This is a borough of diversity, and with diversity comes great food and great culture. This is why Brooklyn is so unique.”

“I’m really happy that the first Italian week of high cuisine is taking place here in Brooklyn,” said Isabella Periotto of the Italian Consulate in New York, stressing, “Chefs can exchange experiences and come here to learn new things and create networks.”

Before the event, a contest was held during which several chefs cooked a regional dish, with two winners receiving proclamations and two weeks in Basilicata, with a chance to learn more about the area’s culinary traditions.

“It’s like a student exchange program,” said Joe Chirico, owner of Marco Polo Ristorante, 345 Court Street, which frequently holds tasting nights highlighting the cuisines of different regions of Italy.  “A chef from Brooklyn goes to Basilicata to watch and cook with a chef from there and the same chefs from Basilicata are going to come here to Brooklyn to teach chefs how to cook real products from the area.”

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The evening meant a lot to Chirico, especially since his son Marco, who is also an owner of Marco Polo, won first place in the competition. “For me personally and for the restaurant, it means a lot because we want to explore a lot of products from Italy and maintain the real taste of Italy,” he said.

Marco — who cooked up pasta with pesto sauce — was thrilled to receive first place. “It’s a great accomplishment and such an honor to be able to cook with products  from Basilicata,” he said. “To be a chef, you have to know a lot about culture. All the chefs that competed were amazing.

“The award represents an achievement in culinary art and an appreciation of the culture,” he said.

Chef Oscar Riquelme, who came in second place for his fish creations, was also happy to receive the award. “I was invited because I live in the neighborhood and they know me and wanted me to participate,” he told this paper. “Marco Polo always engages in community, especially the Italian community. It’s a beautiful thing.”

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