“Italians say that someone who acquires a new language ‘possesses’ it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses.” These words spoken by Dianne Hales, in her book, La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language ring true for many.

Scuola Italiana di Portland knows well the enchantment of this beautiful language. When they opened their doors in Portland, Oregon in 2006, they had a mission- to promote the Italian language and culture to children and adults in a student-centered environment. Since then, they have grown from just weekend classes to having a preschool program, after school programs, adult classes, mommy & me playgroups, and summer camps.

This fall, Scuola Italiana will be adding yet another component to their offerings. They will be teaming with local Portland eatery Gilda’s Italian Restaurant to bring Italian language side by side with delicious Italian food & drink.   

“Scuola Italiana di Portland is always looking for new and creative ways to partner and share Italian language and culture with the Portland metro community,” states Janet Trimble, Scuola Italiana’s head administrator. “This new collaboration with Gilda’s offers adult students a more relaxed and social setting where they can enjoy a glass of wine and nibble on some food as they learn.”

Gilda’s chef and owner, Marco Roberti, is excited about the collaboration as well.  Marco named his restaurant for his grandmother, Gilda Piluso, who was born and raised in Serra Pedace, Calabria, Italy.

“For Grandma Gilda food was love, and she filled many lives with her wonderful cooking,” says Marco. “My own passion for food came from a lifetime of eating at the tables of my mother and grandmother. Collaborating with Scuola Italiana to bring Italian language to adults along with some of my favorite recipes, learned at the side of my grandmother, is a perfect combination. Her homemade pizzas, braciole, and famous Italian meatballs were legendary.”

Marco cooked at notable Portland area restaurants before moving to Florence, Italy to study. In Florence, Marco received a Master’s degree in Culinary Arts at Apicius International School of Hospitality. “As passionate as I am about cooking, I’m just as passionate about the Italian language. I’m thrilled to share space in my restaurant with Scuola Italiana to make this happen.”

The classes presented at Gilda’s will include food and drink and will generally be more casual than the Italian language classes held in their academic classroom settings- but don’t get too relaxed. You will still be presented with a two hour structured Italian language lesson each week, and will most likely be assigned some homework. Scuola Italiana has adopted the CEF (Common European Framework) for structuring its adult language classes and this goes for the classes at Gilda’s as well. The adult language immersion classes at Scuola Italiana are small and focused. The average class size is six students and the class at Gilda’s will be capped at 12. The curriculum will be tailored to meet the needs of the students as prescribed by the CEF (Common European Framework).

The instructor, Joe Wachunas, studied at Liceo Giovanni Falcone, a linguistics school, and most recently completed an advanced language program from Universita’ per Stranieri di Siena- Italy’s oldest language school.  Joe also teaches private lessons and works as a language trainer for the international company goFluent where he specializes in English training for Italian business executives. He has also organized the Portland Italian Language Meetup group since 2006 and prides himself on creating a strong Italian community despite living across the world from his favorite country.

According to Janet Trimble, head administrator for Scuola Italiana, the collaboration between Scuola Italiana di Portland and Gilda’s doesn’t stop there. “In addition to regular language classes, Scuola Italiana will offer a variety of culture courses and social gatherings at Gilda’s in the future. This September, the school will offer a shorter, two-week course that focuses on Italian wines by region.”

“We are very appreciative to Marco for his generosity in opening up his restaurant to the school and we look forward to collaborating with him to reach even more people with Italian language and culture in a way that is comfortable and works for them.”

The Gilda’s Italian language class will be held on Monday evenings from 7:00-9:00pm starting September 28th. Gilda’s Italian Restaurant is located at, 1601 SW Morrison Street, Portland Oregon.  The cost is $13 per hour/ $26 per two-hour lesson with a $25 registration fee.

If you are interested in attending the class at Gilda’s please send an email to, info@scuola.us or call, 971-270-0470.

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