Roberto Benigni’s film, La vita e bella is not a story solely of the Holocaust it’s more a story about life and the hope we carry we with us. The very sweet and comical Guido Orefice (Benigni) has dreams of owning his own bookstore along with his dear friend Ferrucio (Bustic). However their dreams are on hold as Guido works day in and day out as a waiter and Ferrucio is without a job.
Guido is mesmerized by a woman named Dora (who is Benigni’s wife in real life) and calls her lovingly ‘principessa’. I instantly fell in love with Guido, he can turn the gloomiest day into sunshine. It’s 1939 Italy and for the moment, times seem to be going well. In 1945, things take a hard turn. The Nazi’s show up and take Guido and his son Giosue. This is where we really see the hope come into play as Guido protects his son from the hell that they are enduring by using his imagination to create an illusion that everything that is happening is part of a game. The game is to be silent and hide from the Gestapo with the prize being a full size tank at the end for the winner.
This film truly is a work of art. It uses humor, poignancy and dignity. The Holocaust which was a horrific event has been shown as a love story between a family and a story of hope and survival.
For this film, I wanted to pair it with a comforting Italian dish. What came to mind was a delicious and creamy risotto. It nourishes the soul just as this classic film does.
1 cup of rice per person
2 cups Parmesan
Black Truffle Oil
2 cups White Wine
Vegetable Stock (4 cups)
1/2 Stick Butter
Begin by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat with a bit of olive oil. Then add your rice (1 cup for however many people you are serving) and add 1 cup of broth. Feel free to add an extra cup if you need more liquid. Let the stock soak into the rice and add more slowly. Stir until all rice is completely covered. The key to a good risotto is adding the broth slowly and letting the rice soak it up before adding more. About ten minutes in, add 2 tsp truffle oil and stir. Then add in 1 cup of white wine. Add a dash of salt and pepper and let sit, in the broth and wine. Stir occasionally. Then add your Parmesan shavings, 1 cup to start. Mix in and taste, then add more saving a bit for later. Add more liquid if necessary.
Top with basil and Parmesan. You can even sprinkle a bit of truffle oil on top if you would like more flavor. Serve with a chilled glass of white wine.
I hope you enjoy this film as much as I have, if you aren’t used to older films,let alone foreign, this is a great one to see. It is an Italian masterpiece, as is this dish!