Lara Calgaro
Lara Calgaro, NIU

Laura Calgaro is a clinical laboratory science major and plans to pursue a career in the health profession. At NIU, Laura is involved in Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity. Laura’s involvement in the service organization reflects her activity in high school, where she participated in Key Club in addition to several other clubs. This essay, “Pasta and Romance,” challenged Laura to sharpen her analytical skills, which made the writing experience enjoyable for her.

What do you think of when you see a man and a woman enjoying pasta at a beautiful, romantic Italian restaurant? Many people will not admit that they wish they were in their spot, but they have that dream. Why is it that people associate pasta with romance? Could it be that our society has shown us how we should live our lives and what we should believe in without our realizing it? Through the use of a specific setting and certain camera angles, the Barilla pasta commercials from various years and a picture from their website present the social assumption that women envision pasta as a connection to their romantic fantasies.

Romance is exemplified in the Barilla pasta commercial from 2003. The commercial shows a man bumping into a woman at a market in Italy. Of course, playing in the background is a song by Andrea Bocelli, the famous Italian opera star. The man and woman exchange glances and go on their merry way. The setting of this scene plays a huge role on the overall impact of the commercial. In the background are numerous people shopping and several fruit and vegetable vendors with their arrays of colorful produce. Barilla predicts that people will be drawn into the commercial when they see not only the wonderful Italian market place but also the gorgeous Italian man.

Italian man
“Italian Man”: Image from YouTube

This brings forth the utilization of camera angles. The picture here shows the man after he bumps into the woman. The man is noticeably the main focus in this frame.

This shows the woman’s gaze at the man, instead of the reversal that is shown in many other commercials. He is a very attractive man with his luscious brown hair and tall frame. The woman’s head is positioned so that you do not even see her face. Barilla’s goal is to leave it to the audience to envision the fantasy through their eyes. It is a mysterious setting to see each of their reactions separately. Aside from his defining features, the man is proven to be even more attractive when he says, in Italian, “scusi,” which means, “excuse me” in English. This factor only adds to the social assumption that pasta is associated with romantic fantasies because he says it in a hushed tone that makes him seem mysterious and sexy.

The man, who is a chef, discovers the same woman with her friends in his restaurant later that evening. He cooks Barilla’s tortellini and serves it to her and only her as a romantic gesture. The pasta shown below looks wonderful and very appetizing.

“Pasta”: Image from YouTube

After making the pasta, the man makes sure he, instead of his waiters, serves it to the woman. When he approaches the woman, their eyes meet, and they both have luminous smiles. The setting of this scene, a charming and quaint Italian restaurant, contributes to the vision of romantic fantasies. The lights are dim and the walls appear to be fresco. While the setting is significant, the camera angle holds more importance. The pasta is viewed extremely closely while the camera circles the plate to add a more visual effect of the stunning presentation of the pasta. When the man serves the pasta to the woman, once again both of their faces are not shown simultaneously.   First, we notice the woman’s gleaming smile and curious gaze as she is surprised to see the man from the market. Second, and longer lasting, we see the man’s face as he barely smirks. The smirk, however, is one sexy smirk!

Barilla believes this commercial will appeal to mostly women. The goal of this commercial is obviously to sell the pasta. In this case, women will purchase their pasta and cook it for their family. The company tries to appeal to people by showing a serendipitous moment between a handsome Italian man and a beautiful American woman in Italy. Because society shows us how to think, Barilla assumes that people will be attracted to the commercial. Many romantic films star a man and a woman eating pasta in a dimly-lit Italian restaurant. Therefore, people simply believe that pasta is romantic. This Barilla pasta commercial portrays their pasta as a way of blooming romance and fulfilling women’s fantasies.

The Barilla PLUS pasta commercial from 2008 not only shows another serendipitous moment between a man and woman but also the love of a family. This commercial portrays the social assumption that women are swept off their feet by gorgeous Italian men who come with pasta. This commercial takes place at a villa in Italy. The same song that was played in the aforementioned commercial is played in the background once again. A woman visits her sister’s children and notices them playing a game with an extremely attractive Italian man.

Handsome man
“Handsome Man”: Image from YouTube

She asks her sister, with a rather curious tone, “Who’s that?” Her sister replies, “The neighbor. The kids adore him.” Why is this scene necessary in a commercial for pasta?   After this scene, the women make the pasta and they all sit down together to eat. The woman claims that it is a perfect meal. The man says, with a hushed Italian accent, that the pasta is “perfetto.” Barilla makes the connection that pasta brings a man and a woman together. The setting once again takes place outdoors in Italy.   This commercial, however, includes a more pastoral setting with a breathtaking landscape. Barilla believes that people will fantasize about being in Italy with an attractive man and will, therefore, purchase their pasta. The camera angles presented are important in making the commercial appealing. The picture shows the Italian neighbor featured in the commercial. The camera shows only him as he smiles with his perfect white teeth and gorgeous dimples standing in front of the magnificent scenery of Italy. This part of the picture alone has a major impact on the viewers, who are women. The man is the object of affection and therefore is the center of attention. This statement holds true at the end of the commercial when the family and the neighbor sit down to eat.

Family dining
“Family Dining”: Image from YouTube

Even though the woman is talking to her sister, and at first they are the only ones in the frame, the focus immediately switches to the man, so he is more appealing. He says, with his rich accent, “perfetto.” There is also a possible underlying message when he says the word “perfetto.” The audience can either think he is referring to the meal or that he is referring to the woman as being perfect because the camera angle shows him in a way that seems as if his eyes are only on her. He appeals to women so they will purchase Barilla pasta and cook for their family and friends.

In this commercial Barilla portrays not only romance but family, which is another social assumption. Barilla thinks the scene above represents the typical Italian family dinner. The scene is set in an Italian cozy and comfortable kitchen. The entire family and the neighbor sit down together at the table. Everyone is in the frame, but attention is directed to the woman setting the pasta down on the table. This provides the audience with the opportunity to connect the idea that everyone will be happy eating pasta together as a family.

In addition to the depiction of romance and family, the assumption that everyone will enjoy the healthier pasta is also presented when the nutritional side of Barilla PLUS pasta is mentioned and previewed. The Barilla PLUS pasta commercial suggests the audience purchase the pasta because it is healthy with “natural fiber, protein, and Omega-3.” This commercial thus also shows the familial and nutritional aspects of Barilla PLUS pasta. Barilla, however, mostly aims to persuade the audience to associate pasta with an encounter between a man and woman.

On the Barilla pasta website, they provide the history behind their company. They call it: “The Best of Italy in America.” They describe how they are proud to be the number one pasta in America and include links to recipes and instructional videos. Just reading the text, there is a social assumption. Because Barilla claims they are the best pasta in Italy, they assume people in America will buy it because they say it is authentic. Instead of just featuring a picture of their pasta above the text, they provide a picture of a handsome man feeding pasta to a woman. By doing this, they stress the social assumption that pasta equals romance. Both the use of setting and a clever camera angle contribute to this discovery. The depiction of pasta as a romantic idea is presented in the picture below found on their website.

Pasta and romance
“Pasta and Romance”: Image from YouTube

The scene takes place outdoors with palm trees and the sun shining on their wondrous faces. The man appears to like the woman, and they both have gleaming smiles upon their faces. When people see this picture, they dream of being in their position. Barilla persuades people to connect pasta and love or pasta and happiness. Noticing the man’s brown hair and white jacket, one can infer that he is an Italian chef. The woman’s blond hair is pushed out of her face so the audience can see the main focus of the image—the man feeding the woman a forkful of Barilla pasta. This is a great camera angle because the attention is drawn immediately to the vast amount of pasta going into the women’s mouth. The man specifically uses his right arm to feed her the pasta because it stands out and makes the image bold. This serves as an assumption that Barilla wants people to embrace and associate pasta with romantic prospects.

The Barilla pasta commercials and the image from their website feature many different social assumptions. The major assumption is that pasta promotes romance and love. When one thinks of pasta, one thinks of romance. This is what Barilla wants their audience to believe. They are successful through the depiction of idyllic settings and various camera angles. The commercials provide the fantasy: women who purchase Barilla pasta will encounter handsome Italian men. The image from the website is similar. It shows how happy people are when they eat pasta. The social assumption that pasta contributes to women’s fantasies is Barilla’s method of advertising their products.

Works Cited

Barilla U.S.A. “Barilla: The Best of Italy in America.” 2009. Photograph.  Accessed on 21 October 2009. <>

Barilla U.S.A. “Barilla Pasta Commercial – U.S.” 30 April 2008. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 21 October 2009. <>

Barilla U.S.A. “Roberto Farnesi Spot Barilla America.” 22 December 2007. Online video clip. YouTube.  Accessed on 21 October 2009. <>

Published by Aaron Geiger

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