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Las Vegas Italian Club Promotes Culture, Fights Stereotypes


Most people are familiar with Italian food. There’s pizza, gelato, and all manner of pastas.

And the food is great. But there’s much more to Italian culture than that.

Casa Italiana di Las Vegas wants to clear up a few things about Italians. And in a way, that’s its mission: to promote Italian culture.

“We have to battle misconceptions on a regular basis,” marketing director for Casa Italiana di Las Vegas Claudia Costantino told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Costantino said people have an idea that all Italian men wear gold chains and are in the mafia, which they're not.

There is also the problem of food. While most Americans are familiar with the food, she said much of the Italian food served in America is not authentic.

Alredo sauce and spaghetti with meatballs aren't authentic. Same goes for super garlicky marinara sauce. Costantino blames the ingredients that are available here.

“They don’t have the same flavor as the one in Italy and so sometimes to enhance the flavor they put more garlic," she said.

And while it is common to see chicken served on top of or next to pasta in America, Costantino says that would never happen in her home country.

“Italians will go crazy when they put chicken on top of the pasta,” she said.

In Italy, pasta is served as the first course or Il Primo while the meat dish is served separately as the second course or Il Secondi. 

Costantino said the focus of her nonprofit group is to bring all aspects of traditional and contemporary Italian culture to Las Vegas. 

“There is nothing, at least in Las Vegas, portraying ... contemporary culture," she said. "And that’s where we came in."

For example, most film buffs will be familiar with legendary Italian filmmaker Frederico Fellini or stars like Sofia Loren, but Costantino says there are more modern filmmakers and actors that people should know about, which is why Casa Italiana di Las Vegas has been screening contemporary Italian films.

Casa Italiana di Las Vegas also plans to offer after-school language classes for children, which is actually how the nonprofit originally started two years ago. They will also have workshops for children on Italian and ancient Roman cultures at local libraries.

They club welcomes anyone, whether or not they are of Italian heritage.

“We want to embrace and create a community of Italian culture loving people,” Costantino said.

Costantino said a lot of people who attend their classes do it with the dream to eventually retire to Italy, which she fully understands because she would love to return home one day as well.

However, she warns while the landscape is beautiful and the food is delicious, Italy nowadays is "not in the pink" - as the Italians would say. She said the government bureaucracy in Italy has a much stronger hold on the country than in the United States. 

“It’s going to be a little bit of a cold shower when they first move," she said, but if newcomers can get past the initial shock it is still a romantic place with a slower lifestyle than in the United States.

Claudia Costantino, marketing director, Casa Italiana di Las Vegas

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.