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La Cucina Italiana: Let’s Do Lunch & Let’s Do Launch. Condé Nast Brings A Nearly Century-Old Brand to American Shores – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Maddalena Fossati, editor in chief, and Alessandro Belloni, business director, Condé Nast Italia…

October 12, 2019

“The real reason is that we still believe in print. Of course, not just print because the brand in Italy is a strong magazine because it has existed for 90 years. But we are also very strong Internet-wise because our website has five million unique users. And that five million in Italy is a huge number compared to the population. We think that print is still something that readers need. Of course, we tried to do more of a coffee table type magazine, it’s quarterly and this is because just the website is not assertive enough, I don’t think.” … Maddalena Fossati (On why Condé Nast Italia brought the magazine in print to the United States)

“It’s a balance between the print magazine and the website, which gives us continuousness. When it comes to the magazine we decided to start with a good partnership with Italy, so we are present at the same time in six stores. We celebrated this initiative in New York recently. This was, in our opinion, a nice way to tackle a complex market in America, being very selective and taking advantage of the presence of Italian food lovers so that they have something for them in the stores.” … Alessandro Belloni (On why Condé Nast Italia brought the magazine in print to the United States)

 A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Earlier this month the British landed once again on our American shores with the legacy brand The Spectator, one of the oldest magazines in the world, and now the Italians have decided to hit the U.S. with their own heirloom brand: La Cucina Italiana.

The century old magazine is Italy’s first and only food and wine magazine with a kitchen in its editorial office. So, you know authenticity and tradition mean something to this brand. But so does health and well-being, hence the Italian recipes you’ll find in this new magazine have been modernized with more natural and health-conscious ingredients.

Condé Nast Italia acquired the brand in 2013 and since has seen tremendous growth; September 2019 saw the first La Cucina Italiana website for the American market and the new quarterly print magazine was previewed recently at Eataly Flatiron in New York.

Maddalena Fossati is editor in chief and Alessandro Belloni is the brand’s business director. I spoke with Maddalena and Alessandro recently and we talked about this magical magazine that has always made food an art form and given Italian food lovers a delicious and long standing commitment to all that’s beautiful and good in food and drink.

The constantly-evolving brand boasts a total audience of more than 7 million, a prestigious cooking school and a series of partnerships and brand extensions, and is about to launch on the U.S. market, then subsequently arrive in the U.K., Germany, France and Spain, effectively becoming a global name.

All this is accompanied by a geolocalized weekly newsletter with the latest info about upcoming new Italian restaurants, food and wine tasting events and recipes for classic Italian dishes interpreted by renowned American chefs.

The first American issue of the magazine features more than 100 recipes designed for the U.S. market, from updated versions of granny’s recipes to regional desserts, traditional “Made in Italy” specialties, to foodie travel guides. There are unexpected pairings like wine and pizza, and exquisite party panettoni in new vegan variants.

It’s an explosion of the senses and taste buds and a welcome addition to the food categories in America. So, please help me welcome our Italian friends to our neck of the woods and enjoy this entertaining conversation with the brand’s editor in chief, Maddalena Fossati, and business director, Alessandro Belloni in this Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Condé Nast Italia is bringing its print version of La Cucina Italiana to America in this digital age (Maddalena Fossati): Basically, we’re crazy Italian people, you know? (Laughs) But the real reason is that we still believe in print. Of course, not just print because the brand in Italy is a strong magazine because it has existed for 90 years. But we are also very strong Internet-wise because our website has five million unique users. And that five million in Italy is a huge number compared to the population. We think that print is still something that readers need. Of course, we tried to do more of a coffee table type magazine, it’s quarterly and this is because just the website is not assertive enough, I don’t think.

On why Condé Nast Italia is bringing its print version of La Cucina Italiana to America in this digital age (Alessandro Belloni): It’s a balance between the print magazine and the website, which gives us continuousness. When it comes to the magazine we decided to start with a good partnership with Italy, so we are present at the same time in six stores. We celebrated this initiative in New York recently. This was, in our opinion, a nice way to tackle a complex market in America, being very selective and taking advantage of the presence of Italian food lovers so that they have something for them in the stores.

On the brand’s secret sauce ((Maddalena Fossati): I’m not sure we do have a secret sauce. When I took the brand, and I was lucky and honored to be nominated as the editor, I studied the first issue a lot. And all the answers were there because the magazine at the time was really contemporary and modern. Of course, we keep going with the traditional and we’re very careful about what we do in terms of recipes, in terms of being very careful about the Germanese point of view. Older recipes are strictly created and tried in our kitchen for the magazine. This is crucial to keep La Cucina Italiana authentic. Also we have added more stories about Nonna (grandmother) just to keep our heritage. It’s also a way to always stay attached to the brand.

On food being one of the fastest growing magazine categories in America and why people seem to have this affection for them (Maddalena Fossati): I can tell you this story. I grew up in a family where my mama wasn’t the typical Italian woman that cooked. So, I read food magazines since I was sixteen-years-old, because they really resonated with me. I think people like to read food magazines even if they don’t cook, because it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s something that really relaxes you and makes you think about what you’re going to prepare for your family and friends and yourself. It helps you escape reality and ease the stresses of the day.

On the business model for the American version of the magazine (Alessandro Belloni): La Cucina Italiana is so well established now in Italy, we have a business model that is 50 percent advertising driven and 50 percent consumer sales driven. This gives us a good balance when it comes to Italian business. On the other hand, we also sell our magazine through a subscription model. And then we have the school where the students are paying a tuition fee for the lessons. I think this is really one of the foundational elements of the brand that we will want to bring to the U.S.

On her first editor’s letter being titled “Let’s Have Lunch” instead of let’s have dinner (Maddalena Fossati): Let’s have lunch because lunch is more for everybody, dinner is more like going out. I was thinking a lot about family. What if a family doesn’t mean just mother, father and children? Any kind of family, even a group of friends. I think lunch is a good moment because you can stay over and talk, maybe spend the entire afternoon and just take it easy. It’s a very Italian moment, the Sunday lunch, where you basically spend the whole day at the table,  you’re so happy and relaxed.

On the expectations for the new U.S. magazine (Maddalena Fossati): I think Italian food nowadays is really a good food, in terms of it has modernized and is healthier than ever. So, knowing that more Americans are having the new Italian food that we are doing in Italy, food that is less fat and has more happiness for the body, I think it would be a good target because it would be nice to know that more people are in good shape. Good shape, in terms of being healthier, happier, and in a good mood. We did a manifesto in Italy about the new happy Italian cuisine that had great success, because the idea was to modernize all the traditional recipes. Sometimes they can be quite heavy and quite fat. Now they have more natural ingredients, in terms of quality, and less fat. So, we keep the tradition alive, but at the same time we keep our health in the forefront. So, my expectations would be to know that more people in the U.S. could eat well.

On if she had the opportunity to appear on national TV to give a message to the American people, what would she say (Maddalena Fossati): I would tell them to invest in the ingredients that they put on the table, because quality is crucial to being safe and staying well. Instead of investing in other things, first I think we should invest in the quality of the food that we eat. That’s the first thing that I would say to them.

On the biggest challenge from a business point of view that they have had to face (Alessandro Belloni): Probably the biggest challenge was to find the right formula to make the magazine visible. That’s why we decided to approach the U.S. through this deal with Italy, which is giving us good visibility at point of sales, with good flow displays. That’s why it is a fantastic way of presenting the wonderful product that we have at all the points of sale, collaring from a geographic point of view, all the regions. As you know the biggest challenge is the size of the U.S., so you need to prioritize or be very prudent in finding the right way to reach the major cities. So, I think the fact that we are working with them has been such a helpful idea from the start. On the other hand, I think Condé Nast is so strong from a digital standpoint that it was a little bit easier than if we had been a startup with just a good and quality website.

On whether the creation of the magazine is all done in Italy (Maddalena Fossati): We have journalists in the United States, one based in New York, and then we have several contributors who are freelancing from all over the country. We need this combination of Italy and America. We want to be a window for our Italian audience in Italy, but we also want to call out what is fundamentally interesting in America too, especially for the website. The magazine has stories about New York and stories from all over the country. But for the website it’s so important that we have everything.

On anything they’d like to add (Maddalena Fossati): Just that we are really happy and proud to be here, because there has always been a love between Italy and America, so we are very happy about this endeavor.

On the biggest misconception he feels people have about him (Alessandro Belloni): I think we are very happy and hope that people can recognize all the care that we have put behind this magazine, from both an editorial and marketing standpoint. It’s very hard to be internationalized and stay a pure Italian brand with a very rich history. This is really something that is valuable to us.

On the biggest misconception she feels people have about her (Maddalena Fossati): The important thing about La Cucina is that we are having fun, but we are damned serious.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Maddalena Fossati): For sure cooking, because in my family we cook every day. In the meantime, having a glass wine, absolutely.

On what keeps her up at night (Maddalena Fossati): I don’t sleep that well when I think about the day.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Maddalena Fossati, editor in chief and Alessandro Belloni, business director, Condé Nast Italia.

Samir Husni: I just received the first issue of La Cucina Italiana and all I can say is wow! But who in their right mind publishes a print magazine in this day and age, 200 gorgeous pages, to enter a marketplace where everyone is saying print is out of style, while you’re publishing something so in style; what were you thinking?

Maddalena Fossati: Basically, we’re crazy Italian people, you know? (Laughs) But the real reason is that we still believe in print. Of course, not just print because the brand in Italy is a strong magazine because it has existed for 90 years. But we are also very strong Internet-wise because our website has five million unique users. And that five million in Italy is a huge number compared to the population. We think that print is still something that readers need at some point. Of course, we tried to do more of a coffee table type magazine, it’s quarterly and this is because just the website is not assertive enough, I don’t think.

Alessandro Belloni: It’s a balance between the print magazine and the website, which gives us continuousness. When it comes to the magazine we decided to start with a good partnership with Italy, so we are present at the same time in six stores. We celebrated this initiative in New York recently. This was, in our opinion, a nice way to tackle a complex market in America, being very selective and taking advantage of the presence of Italian food lovers so that they have something for them in the stores.

Samir Husni: How do you take a brand that’s almost 100 years old and modernize it, while keeping its DNA? What’s the brand’s secret sauce?

Maddalena Fossati: I’m not sure we do have a secret sauce. When I took the brand, and I was lucky and honored to be nominated as the editor, I studied the first issue a lot. And all the answers were there because the magazine at the time was really contemporary and modern. Of course, we keep going with the traditional and we’re very careful about what we do in terms of recipes, in terms of being very careful about the Germanese point of view. Older recipes are strictly created and tried in our kitchen for the magazine. This is crucial to keep La Cucina Italiana authentic. Also we have added more stories about Nonna (grandmother) just to keep our heritage. It’s also a way to always stay attached to the brand.

We also publish a lot of travel and a lot of new trends, staying with tradition and eating well and eating Italian. But at the same time we are open to other food cultures, while staying Italian. We aren’t saying this is the only recipe of your grandmother’s and you have to do it this way, we try to modernize what we eat because the food is changing, the ingredients are changing; basically everything is changing. So, we try to keep a good balance between what is coming from the future trends and what is coming from the past.

Samir Husni: I’m sure you know that the food category in magazines has been one of the fastest growing categories in the United States. I think we have more food magazines than any other category in the marketplace today. Why do you think people have this affection and fascination with food brands?

Maddalena Fossati: I can tell you this story. I grew up in a family where my mama wasn’t the typical Italian woman that cooked. So, I read food magazines since I was sixteen-years-old, because they really resonated with me. I think people like to read food magazines even if they don’t cook, because it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s something that really relaxes you and makes you think about what you’re going to prepare for your family and friends and yourself. It helps you escape reality and ease the stresses of the day.

Samir Husni: What’s the business model behind the idea of this quarterly, coffee table magazine? You have advertising; you have the website and an app and you have the school. What’s the thinking behind Condé Nast International’s business plan for the American version of this magazine?

Alessandro Belloni: La Cucina Italiana is so well established now in Italy, we have a business model that is 50 percent advertising driven and 50 percent consumer sales driven. This gives us a good balance when it comes to Italian business. On the other hand, we also sell our magazine through a subscription model. And then we have the school where the students are paying a tuition fee for the lessons. I think this is really one of the foundational elements of the brand that we will want to bring to the U.S.

Of course, we are starting with the website and with the magazine, but we want to grow a good base of Italian food lovers. And we want to start selling services and additional products to them. So, we want to bring it in the way that it has been so successful in Italy. We now have additional licenses in the Czech Republic, Turkey and Serbia. We have plans to internationalize this brand, but for now we are focusing all of our energy on the U.S. launch.

Samir Husni: Your first letter to the editor is titled: Let’s Have Lunch. Why did you decide lunch and not dinner?

Maddalena Fossati: Let’s have lunch because lunch is more for everybody, dinner is more like going out. I was thinking a lot about family. What if a family doesn’t mean just mother, father and children? Any kind of family, even a group of friends. I think lunch is a good moment because you can stay over and talk, maybe spend the entire afternoon and just take it easy. It’s a very Italian moment, the Sunday lunch, where you basically spend the whole day at the table,  you’re so happy and relaxed.

Samir Husni: What are your expectations for the magazine?

Maddalena Fossati: I think Italian food nowadays is really a good food, in terms of it has modernized and is healthier than ever. So, knowing that more Americans are having the new Italian food that we are doing in Italy, food that is less fat and has more happiness for the body, I think it would be a good target because it would be nice to know that more people are in good shape. Good shape, in terms of being healthier, happier, and in a good mood.

We did a manifesto in Italy about the new happy Italian cuisine that had great success, because the idea was to modernize all the traditional recipes. Sometimes they can be quite heavy and quite fat. Now they have more natural ingredients, in terms of quality, and less fat. So, we keep the tradition alive, but at the same time we keep our health in the forefront. So, my expectations would be to know that more people in the U.S. could eat well.

Samir Husni: If you had the opportunity to appear on national TV and send a message to the American public about the magazine, what would you tell them?

Maddalena Fossati: I would tell them to invest in the ingredients that they put on the table, because quality is crucial to being safe and staying well. Instead of investing in other things, first I think we should invest in the quality of the food that we eat. That’s the first thing that I would say to them.

Samir Husni: From a business point of view, what was the biggest challenge that you were faced with and how did you overcome it?

Alessandro Belloni: Probably the biggest challenge was to find the right formula to make the magazine visible. That’s why we decided to approach the U.S. through this deal with Italy, which is giving us good visibility at point of sales, with good flow displays. That’s why it is a fantastic way of presenting the wonderful product that we have at all the points of sale, collaring from a geographic point of view, all the regions. As you know the biggest challenge is the size of the U.S., so you need to prioritize or be very prudent in finding the right way to reach the major cities. So, I think the fact that we are working with them has been such a helpful idea from the start. On the other hand, I think Condé Nast is so strong from a digital standpoint that it was a little bit easier than if we had been a startup with just a good and quality website.

Samir Husni: Is all the creation of the magazine done in Italy or do you have help in the United States?

Maddalena Fossati: We have journalists in the United States, one based in New York, and then we have several contributors who are freelancing from all over the country. We need this combination of Italy and America. We want to be a window for our Italian audience in Italy, but we also want to call out what is fundamentally interesting in America too, especially for the website. The magazine has stories about New York and stories from all over the country. But for the website it’s so important that we have everything.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Maddalena Fossati: Just that we are really happy and proud to be here, because there has always been a love between Italy and America, so we are very happy about this endeavor.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

 Alessandro Belloni: I think we are very happy and hope that people can recognize all the care that we have put behind this magazine, from both an editorial and marketing standpoint. It’s very hard to be internationalized and stay a pure Italian brand with a very rich history. This is really something that is valuable to us.

Maddalena Fossati: The important thing about La Cucina is that we are having fun, but we are damned serious.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; gardening; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Maddalena Fossati: For sure cooking, because in my family we cook every day. In the meantime, having a glass wine, absolutely.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Maddalena Fossati: I don’t sleep that well when I think about the day.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

One comment

  1. […] Nast Italia acquired the brand in 2013 and since has seen tremendous growth;” Husni writes in his interview with Editor in Chief Maddalena Fossati and Business Director Allessandro Belloni.  “September […]



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