Carla Gambescia - cyclist, entrepreneur, and dog-loving philanthropist - is all about the pizzette (little pizzas) at her Italian fusion cafe !, which means "the way forward" or "the road ahead." I'm slowly chewing the most toothsome, crispy crust studded with figs, walnuts, fresh thyme and a drizzle of honey. The Beatrice (pronounced Bea-treech-eh) is her culinary gauntlet. And she's ready to throw it down before the biggest names in Italian cuisine."The secret is the par-baking the crust and ..." Carla leans forward. "I declare this a historic moment: I hereby challenge Mario Batali to better my pizzette crust!"Other non-mama-mia-red-sauce items on her eclectic but very accessible and affordable menu include her "breadless panini" (where South Beach meets the Riviera?) and a dessert pizza involving Nutella and three scoops of her signature gelato.What was the appetizer for this impressive second course in her life? "It was on my favorite vacation ever, a Ciclismo Classico trip in Sicily, 1995, with a really small group and native guides. We sang songs, had Italian lessons, the food the history ... I'm Italian and it really ignited something in me, brought back everything about my childhood. I was in marketing and food, so when I came home I wanted to conceive of this place so that when you came in here, you would feel like you were there.""Here" is Mt Kisco, just 50 minutes from Grand Central, and a short bike ride from her home in nearby Chappaqua. The cafe is housed right in Mt Kisco's historic train station.Aside from the wonderful perfume of Italian cooking in the air, she has meticulously curated the interior, inspired by her favorite city, Venice."I believe Venice is the home of fusion cuisine," she declares. "It was the gateway to the East, the spice trade." The Venetian theme unfurls: Murano glass chandeliers, chairs from the design epicenter of the universe, Milan; partitions and tilework echoing the Doge's Palace in Venice; Carrara marble counter, and Italian classic movies by Fellini rolling behind bottles of Lambrusca and Frascati at the bar. And of course, the signature gelato case.Carla was a a founder of well-known gelato brand Ciao Bella. She proudly shows me .
"Gelato is better than ice cream in three ways. First, it has half the fat. So it's better for you. Second, fat coats the tongue and reduces taste, so with less fat, gelato is a more direct experience on the tongue. Third, gelato should be served soft - not freezing hard like you typically encounter in American ice creameries in America - excess cold numbs the taste buds. So gelato, served at the proper temperature is a more sublime taste experience."With her expertise in this creamy, healthy, not-so-cold stuff she helped design Ciclismo Classico's award-winning tour, voted Best EU Trip 2007 by Outside Magazine."Instead of a wine tasting, we took riders on a gelato tasting, all the way through the Italy. It was amazing how honed people's palates became. At the start it was "delicious, delicious, delicious.” Towards the end it was "Crystallized. Gummy. Next!".One of the masterpieces in the restaurant is "Incantare" (Enchanted) a mural by . It's a dreamy composition channeling Chagall and the Commedia dell'Arte, a theater form originating in Venice in the 1500's and the root of improv. Featuring several famous clown characters like Harlequin and Puncinello, the Zanni, as these clowns are collectively known, has become the the Via Vanti! mascot."Zanni is the originator of the word "zany" in our culture." Speaking of mascots, Carla's latest initiative is raising money through Via Vanti! events for one of her favorite charities, .
An upcoming event, called Wag-Time Jazz, features legendary trumpet player Lew Soloff of Blood Sweat 'n' Tears, Sinatra, and Streisand fame. Another event, called Dogs in Party Hats, gets dog owners to dress their pooches as one of 12 Via Vanti! flavor-of-the-month gelato.
"It took a while for people to get their head around that idea, but we got a toasted coconut dog, a peanut butter chocolate dog, a peppermint candy dog ...""Once I had the restaurant, I saw how I could use it to help some worthy causes," says Carla, with a heart as velvety as her autumn roots and fruits soup .With that, Carla bids me arrivederci to prepare for her evening diners, and continue to map the road ahead for Via Vanti!, her little piece of Venezia away from Venezia.
After watching the video, email answers to the following questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first five correct entries win $50 vouchers to Via Vanti!
1. Who originated the Margarita pizza?2. Why is St Mark's Lion's book sometimes open, sometimes closed?3. What food was considered so vulgar, women where not allowed to eat it?