Jonathan Di Bella
By Jonathan De Sua
In October 2022, Montreal native Jonathan Di Bella entered the ring to compete for the Strawweight Kickboxing championship of One FC, the largest fighting organization in Asia. Standing in Di Bella’s way was the sensational Zhang Peimian, 19, ranked number one in the world and whom pundits and oddsmakers alike considered the hands-on favourite.
Zhang didn’t give Di Bella much of a chance as he engaged in trash-talk before the fight. Di Bella, polite and stoic, said he would do his talking in the ring. As the grueling five-round fight wore on, it seemed the popular opinion might have been right. While the Italian-Canadian fighter wasn’t being outclassed, the scorecards were tight and likely leaning toward Peimian. Di Bella pressed forward, unfazed.
During the fifth and final round, his father and trainer Angelo (a champion kickboxer), attempted to rile Di Bella, calling out that he would need to finish his opponent in order to win the fight.
Less than a minute later, an ice-cold Di Bella executed a flawless left high kick to Peimian, sending him to the canvas and tilting the fight unanimously to his favour.
After remaining calm and collected while weathering the waiting, training, press conferences, criticism, speculation and punishment from a highly skilled opponent, Di Bella finally exploded with passion and emotion. He had done his talking in the ring. He was now champion of the world.
One FC broadcasters call Di Bella “a throwback to a 1920s boxer, Rocky Marciano-esque (…) an old soul living in a new-school body.”
An apt description when speaking to Di Bella about his success as an undefeated boxer and kickboxer. We joined him at home, three weeks before his first title defense on October 7, 2023. At just 27, he had already fought at Madison Square Garden and would now be headlining at Lumpinee Stadium, the mecca of Muay Thai in Thailand, a dream for any aspiring fighter.
Food for Thought
Planning a winter foodie tour in Italy
By Silvana Longo, Travel Editor
Despite my deep desire and best intentions, I didn’t make it to Italy this year. The seasons passed and other priorities took precedence. Now I find myself facing the depth of a Canadian winter, an ocean away, separated by snowbanks and blustery wind chill factors. How is a summer-loving Italophile to cope?”
Well, central heating and thermal winter wear apart, winter is the perfect season to indulge in some well-deserved comfort food. My guilty pleasure on a frigid January evening is to skip dinner altogether and put an apple pie in the oven. That heavenly scent fills the entire home; I swear it is the perfect remedy to a snowy night indoors. Of course, when you add that scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, it becomes truly sublime.
Since I don’t ski, skate or snowboard—bad Canuck, I know—I do walk, work out, clear the snow off my driveway. Besides the odd pie dinner, my winter survival kit involves making soul-nourishing, carb-loaded (usually) Italian food. A lot of the dishes stem from meals I grew up eating, while others are from different regions of Italy, which I learned to make later.
Whether you are making a polenta or a caponata, anyone who grew up in an Italian household with their mamma at the culinary helm can attest to the rigorous way Italians adhere to “the right way” of preparing any particular dish.
Following long-held, tried-and-true traditions passed on from generation to generation, in this issue we explore foodie tours in Italy because, let’s face it, beyond the art, history, medieval towns and diversity of landscapes, foodies flock to Italy combining holiday time with sharpening their cooking skills and knowledge.
And since we like to keep it real and as authentic as possible, these are food tours that even your nonna would approve.
I had the pleasure of interviewing YouTube foodie couple, Eva and Harper, creators of the wildly popular channel, Pasta Grammar. He is American. She is Calabrese. Together they are Italian food storytellers who create engaging, informative weekly videos presenting a behind-the-scenes look at how to prepare countless, unadulterated dishes recreated as if you were in a kitchen in their place of origin in Italy.
I can attest that you will learn something with every video. The success of their channel led to curating food tours like no other, from Naples to Sicily. Find out how they put Eva’s hometown in Calabria on the map and are spreading the love for the real deal of southern Italian gastronomy via YouTube and their coveted on-location tours.
A multi-talented pastry chef
By Carole Gagliardi
Dario Bivona is the winner of the first edition of Le meilleur pâtissier du Québec, an adaptation of The Great British Bake Off, a British baking competition broadcast around the world.
“I was a fan of the show Bake Off. I used to bake a lot of pastries, take photos of them and give them to my friends, who kept asking for more. My pastries are personal adaptations of great classics to which I add fruit, liqueur and ingredients that inspire me.”
Bivona, an amateur pastry chef, is a gifted gourmand with a passion for the cuisine he learned from his mother and nonna: “My mother wanted me and my brother to be able to manage and travel the world.”
Pasta fresca, focaccia, risottos and a variety of typically Italian desserts are all part of his repertoire.
“Knowing how to cook is one of the fundamental elements of our education, and I admit that I draw my inspiration mainly from Italian cuisine, which reminds me of my childhood.
“My family had a small house by the sea with fruit trees. My mother would pick the fruit and bake pies and cakes. I remember how happy her cooking made us.”
The 41-year-old is charming, and his atypical background has undoubtedly prepared him for this astonishing, multi-faceted career. Originally from Puglia, he left his native region in 2005. After studying pharmacology, he headed for Paris for a master’s degree in biology and biochemistry. His goal: to do research. But he didn’t particularly like the hectic pace of Parisian life, and research bored him.
Pizzicotti di pasta di mandorle
By Dario Bivona
This almond paste recipe, very popular in Puglia, is really simple. Egg white, sugar, almond flour, and there you have it!