Italian food activist Don Pasta brings his musical culinary experience to ASU

Don Pasta will be performing at Engrained Café on March 29

Daniele De Michele, better known by his stage name Don Pasta, is a modern day renaissance man. This chef, DJ, author, expert and activist of traditional Italian cuisine and practices, among other things, is bringing his performance experience to ASU.

Don Pasta will prepare one of his recipes, and students and the community are invited to watch, enjoy a sample of his food and listen to music while he narrates his process and discusses "the importance of preserving the diversity of local food histories" in his native Italian.

Sandra Palaich, a senior lecturer in the Italian program at the School of International Letters and Cultures, will be there translating his performance to English.

Don Pasta will cook with local, organic produce during the show, and he said that people sometimes forget the quality of local products is directly related to quality of life. 

“If you want to live well, you need to eat well,” he said.

He said that supermarkets have created a different type of ideology and many people think that eating faster is more important than eating well, which has created both a health and economical problem. 

A performance will take place on the patio at ASU’s Engrained Café, a restaurant committed to sustainability and healthy eating, and will feature an array of vegetarian dishes to sample. He will also host a variety of other events beginning March 24. 

He said that a lot of people think that cooking is complicated or time consuming, so he tries to teach students that it is really simple to enjoy cooking with music and a recipe from grandma. 

“For me it’s normal,” Don Pasta said.” I grew up in the land where people take the time to eat, drink and to listen to good music.”

Along with cooking and DJ-ing, Don Pasta conducts anthropological research on the history of food culture in Italy by interviewing local grandmothers as a source of collective knowledge for local traditions. He learns their recipes through cooking with them. 

“You can’t speak about food if you loose the roots,” he said. “I try to show how it is important to know the lesson of the grandma and the old farmer in Italy, but I try to understand that you can do it everywhere else.”


Sydney Lines, the project coordinator for the Food Systems Transformation Initiative at the ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, said  that preparing food is a very social activity that accompanies many rituals, customs and holidays and causes people to gather around as a focal point in our social communities. 

She said she hopes Don Pasta's performance will show students that cooking isn't as intimidating as it may seem.

“He makes food the central item of his performance piece and gets people excited about the food prep process,” Lines said. “I hope there’s students that come out and see this and realize it’s really not that hard.”

Juliann Vitullo, associate professor of Italian studies who created to course Food and Culture: Mediterranean Lifestyle, said she heard of Pasta while conducting research for the course and was inspired by his work.

“We found through the research for this course that the connections between strong marked local food histories, sustainable practices and positive individual health outcomes all play a role together,” Vitullo said.

She said the course encourages students to not only learn about the rich food cultures in Italy, but also find out more about the history of local food cultures, and how those traditions might help students better understand Arizona.

“People don’t realize that Arizona has a rich food history,” Lines said. “We have a really unique food fusion here that speaks to a lot of different cultures, histories and heritage.”

Don Pasta will also be hosting a lecture on the relationship between food art and activism, which will be available on the ASU Sustainability webpage

His work focuses on the “pleasures associated with eating well” through preparing with other people and enjoying the time it takes to do that, Vitullo said. 

“I try to make a link between food and music because the food and music is really important for the quality of life of the people,” Don Pasta said. 


Reach the reporter at chofmann@asu.edu and follow @chofmann528 on Twitter.  

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