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Las Vegas club’s goal: Highlighting true Italian culture

The mobsters in “The Godfather” trilogy and the food served in many Italian-American restaurants don’t accurately reflect Italian culture, according to Casa Italiana di Las Vegas.

For example, popular offerings in America such as fettuccine Alfredo and chicken Parmesan are not traditional Italian dishes, said Claudia Costantino, marketing director for the southwest Las Vegas-based club.

“We want to fight the stereotypes; there are a lot of stereotypes about Italians, Italian culture and Italian food,” Costantino said.

Among those stereotypes: that Italian men are linked to organized crime, as depicted in some popular American films and TV series.

“We are happy for the love Americans have for us, but we also care about addressing when people think everyone in Italy is a mobster and in the Mafia like ‘The Godfather.’ That is not what it is like in Italy,” said Marta Soligo, events coordinator with Casa Italiana. “It is more than the Mafia.”

Costantino moved to Las Vegas in 2007 from Bari, a city in the Apulia region in southern Italy. She said when she moved here, the region lacked an organization dedicated to promoting authentic Italian culture.

Antonio Stefania, executive director of the organization, started the group in February 2016 by teaching Italian-language classes to children. As the organization grew, it began offering lectures, movie screenings and an Italian book club. It now has more than 200 members, club leaders say.

Soligo is in charge of organizing events; the latest have been movie screenings from the Lecco Film Commission. The films in the three-part series are either based in Lecco, a city in Lombardy in northern Italy, or are directed by filmmakers from Lecco.

Casa Italiana offers three levels of Italian classes for adults and is partnering with some Clark County School District schools to offer after-school classes. The cost of eight adult classes is $180. They are each an hour and a half, once a week.

Stefania said he often hears from people interested in the classes because they plan to visit Italy in a few months. He said it takes much longer to learn Italian than a few months.

Soligo, originally from Bergamo, near Milan, moved to Las Vegas three years ago to pursue her Ph.D. in sociology at UNLV. She also teaches Italian culture classes at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNLV.

Casa Italiana also hosts Italian karaoke on Thursdays and a picnic with Italian food and music during the spring or fall in Summerlin.

Contact Rachel Spacek at 702-387-2921 or rspacek@reviewjournal.com. Follow @RachelSpacek on Twitter.

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