With rain drizzling outside and warm light aglow, the UC Santa Barbara Italian Club hosted an Italian cooking night with Katie’s FUNd Program in collaboration with Chef Dario Furlati from the restaurant Ca’Dario. The event was held at the Alpha Resource Center and brought over 60 people together from the UCSB community, the special needs youth community from Katie’s FUNd and gracious helpers at the center.
The event was organized by professor Carla Borromeo, a lecturer in the French and Italian department and the faculty advisor for the club, along with the club’s president Thomas Lloyd, vice president Manuel Rodriguez and treasurer Piya Rao. “The mission of the UCSB Italian Club,” said Professor Borromeo, “is to actively re-connect the Italian student community at UCSB, and make a positive impact both within and beyond the campus, after the extended pause caused by COVID-19.” The club resumed their monthly meetings, which perform outreach to the Santa Barbara community by involving the students to help local organizations and raise money for important causes. The Italian Club’s motto is that everybody is welcome, and they have organized successful events such as arts and crafts night, cards night, Tombola night and soon they will hold karaoke and dance nights.
Borromeo and McKenna Robles, the coordinator of Katie’s FUNd, have spent time getting to know each other and setting up this event. In the event, each participant was paired with a student of Katie’s FUNd to learn how to prepare a complete Italian dinner following the direction of Furlati and his assistant Constancio Gomez. “I am thrilled with the idea of an Italian cooking night, especially because the kids from Katie’s could interact and be paired with people of their same age group!” said Robles.
Katie’s FUND was established at Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara by the Janeway Family in July 2003. It honors the determination and passion for the life of Katie Janeway, a 14-year-old with developmental disabilities who died while attending a camp in 2002. Katie’s FUNd provides social and recreational activities for teens and young adults through the programs Teen Extreme and EXPO. Teen Extreme is for junior high, high school and transition students, typically aged 13 to 22. EXPO is for young adults, typically aged 22 to 35. Participants in the programs assist in selecting activities and special events. They also choose from a range of community activities each month.
The event started with a welcome speech from Borromeo and Furlati. “Food is a big part of the Italian culture and … eating is a beautiful form of unity many people forget,” said Borromeo.
Later, everyone gathered in the kitchen as Furlati guided them in preparing the “primo piatto,” or first course. They first learned how to make the dough for tagliatelle in green, red and white, meant to symbolize the Italian flag. The pasta was served with a choice of traditional ragu sauce or with olive oil and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
UCSB professors and students helped plate and serve the pasta. Italian Club members and youth from Katie’s FUNd enjoyed eating the pasta dishes together while also engaging in activities like coloring Italian flags and arts and crafts. The vibrant ambiance was complemented by the cheerful Italian music that filled the air. Students enjoyed the pasta they had made themselves, each bite filled with freshly cooked tagliatelle and flavorful ragu sauce.
As a side dish, the group also prepared a traditional Italian salad, but everyone was especially excited about the dessert: sfogliatelle with zabaglione cream and frutti di bosco (a mix of various berries), a traditional Italian dessert.
After the dinner ended, Furlati and his assistant Gomez walked around the room, making sure that everyone had enough food and answering questions about the recipes. Each participant had the opportunity to also bring home their own dough to remake the dish. Afterward, members of the Italian Club helped the chef clean up the kitchen.
Everyone left with a sense of accomplishment and a full stomach. The members of Italian Club had achieved their goal of not only sharing the Italian language and culture, but also leaving a positive impact on the Santa Barbara community by collaborating with Katie’s FUNd. The event was an excellent example of how students from different ages and backgrounds can come together to learn and have fun while supporting a good cause.
As the rain continued to fall outside, the students from Italian Club and the youth from Katie’s FUNd took a group photo and said their goodbyes, promising to stay in touch and to meet again soon. The Italian cooking night was a memorable experience for everyone involved, and it showed that even in difficult times it is possible to come together, have fun and make a positive impact in the world.
Borromeo and the Italian Club are already planning their next event. They are determined to make a difference in the community and to share their passion for Italian culture and language with as many people as possible. The Italian Club is open to everyone, regardless of their background or level of knowledge, and they are always looking for new members who share their enthusiasm.