academia barilla  June 2007

Gourmet Menus at Creative Restaurants: Va Pensiero on the Golden Wings of Parma

On our path to discovery the true meaning of Italian gourmet in [...]

On our path to discovery the true meaning of Italian gourmet in the United States, which we pursued also through the gourmet trivia game we recently launched, we are now getting closer and closer to the best hands-on experts of Italian cuisine in the United States: the gourmet Chefs from the most renowned Italian restaurants in the US.

Academia Barilla Gourmet Trivia Game with LogoAt Academia Barilla we have a very long tradition in working closely to Chefs at any level, from professional gourmet Chefs to home Chefs and Italian gourmet connoisseurs.

Our activity at the Academia Barilla Culinary Center in Parma, Italy, is definitely focused around the Italian culinary culture, and you can bet we spend a lot of great time cooking, and teaching how to cook.

If you are not planning a trip to Italy anytime soon, and it happens that you are in Chicago, Illinois, but still want to feel that perfect Italian dining ambiance, with traditional Italian regional specialties that find their way into contemporary gourmet creations, then we strongly suggest that you plan a visit to Va Pensiero, one of the best Italian restaurants in Evanston, in the Great Chicago Area.

At Va Pensiero Executive Chef Eric Hammond creates award-wining authentic, rustic Italian cuisine, lovingly prepared and artfully presented. Va Pensiero specializes in homemade pastas and breads, seafood, veal and lamb dishes, the freshest vegetables and exquisite desserts. The setting for this popular restaurant is as charming as it is romantic, for a memorable evening. Classic Roman columns and Italianate tile floors complement the singular and creative cuisine.

Whether you order off the menu or from the nightly specials, a creative flair can be found in every dish. We are not the only ones saying that Va Pensiero is a top choice, you can check reviews from other happy customers on CitySearch and Gayot, and you can also a watch an online video on NBC5 where Va Pensiero owner and special events Director, Jeff Muldrow, reveals the philosophy of his restaurant.

Jeff Muldrow and Academia Barilla’s Italian Culinary Specialist Mario Rizzotti present this evening a special Academia Barilla Tasting dinner where, with the help of Chef Eric Hammond, a complete gourmet dinner menu has been created with the entire range of Academia Barilla gourmet specialties. We felt so honored about it that we immediately decided to publish this special gourmet menu on our blog.

Va Pensiero Restaurant Proudly Presents
Academia Barilla Tasting Dinner

Menu by Executive Chef Eric Hammond

Hors D’Oeuvers

Arancini Stuffed With Provolette Affumicate

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp with Melon

Tartlettes with Pears, Sangiovese and Academia Barilla Pecorino Dolce

First Course

Pesto Marinated Wild Mushrooms with Academia Barilla Salame Di Parma, Baby Arugula, Sliced Parmigiano Reggiano


Pappardelle Con Funghi e Piselli, Academia Barilla Pecorino Grand Cru and Monte Iblei Olive Oil


Prosciutto Wrapped Beef Tenderloin With Academia Barilla Fig Compote and Academia Barilla 25 Year Old Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Grilled Polenta Cake, Radicchio


A Selection of Imported Italian Cheeses


Saffron Infused Panna Cotta with Academia Barilla Pear Compote

Wow, yummy! Definitely a menu I would sign in for! Thanks Chef Eric Hammond for such a wonderful gourmet creation.

If you want to experience directly the pleasure of Va Pensiero dining, pay our Evanston friends a visit, and call +1 847-475-7779 in advance for a reservation. Their address is 1566 Oak Avenue, Evanston, Illinois – click on the map below to see their location on Google Maps and print your own driving directions.

Va Pensiero restaurant

If you live very far from the Chicago Area, you can still get the same ingredients used by Chef Eric Hammond to create your own gourmet menu. Check the list of gourmet stores where you can find Academia Barilla products, or simply visit the Academia Barilla online shop, we deliver to your home in just two days!

Last input for this post – do you know what Va Pensiero is and means? OK, no trivia games here, I’ll tell you all about it.

Giuseppe Verdi NabuccoVa Pensiero literally means “go thoughts” and is the centerpiece of the Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi’s first successful opera.

Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), was written in 1842 by Parma-born opera Maestro Giuseppe Verdi and relates the Biblical story of the captivity of the Hebrews in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. In the opera, the chorus “Va, pensiero” (a paraphrase of Psalm 137) is sung by the exiles on the banks of the Euphrates, lamenting the loss of their homeland.

The piece soon became a popular anthem for the Italian people, expressing their own longing for political freedom from Austria. When Verdi’s coffin was carried to its final resting place a month after his death in 1901, the crowd of over 25,000 people along the route spontaneously began singing this stirring chorus.

Here are the original Va Pensiero lyrics – I will provide a translation right below.

Va’, pensiero, sull’ali dorate.
Va’, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
ove olezzano tepide e molli
l’aure dolci del suolo natal!

Del Giordano le rive saluta,
di Sionne le torri atterrate.
O mia Patria, sì bella e perduta!
O remembranza sì cara e fatal!

Arpa d’or dei fatidici vati,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
Le memorie del petto riaccendi,
ci favella del tempo che fu!

O simile di Solima ai fati,
traggi un suono di crudo lamento;
o t’ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù

Giuseppe VerdiTranslation:

Fly, thoughts, on golden wings;
go settle upon the slopes and the hills,
where, soft and mild,
the sweet air of our native land smells fragrant!

Greet the banks of the Jordan
and Zion’s toppled towers.
Oh, my country so lovely and lost!
Oh, memory so dear and despairing!

Golden harp of the prophetic seers,
why do you hang mute upon the willow?
Rekindle our heart’s memories
and speak of times gone by!

Mindful of the fate of Jerusalem,
either sound a song of sad lamentation,
or else let the Lord give us the strength
to bear our sufferings!

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