Houston may not have any citizens confirmed to have coronavirus, but the disease's effects have already reached the Bayou City. Taste of Italy — a food and wine fair that's organized by the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce South Central — has postponed its 2020 event that would have taken place in Houston on March 30 (companion events scheduled for March 31 in New Orleans and April 2 in Los Angeles have also been postponed).
“Given the evolving situation,” says IACC Houston director Alessia Paolicchi, “we felt it wise to reschedule the Texas and Louisiana events, and our counterparts in Los Angeles agreed. We’re currently working with all of our partners, including the Los Angeles office and the Southern Food and Beverage museum in New Orleans, on setting up new dates for all three events, possibly in June.
"Although we are confident that the spread of the novel coronavirus will soon be contained in Italy and in the U.S.,” Paolicchi added, “we feel that it’s in everyone’s best interest to postpone these events, especially giving how many working parts are in play.”
Now in its sixth year, over 1,000 people had been expected to attend this year's Taste of Italy in Houston. With over 500 products on display, organizers tout it as the largest food event that's devoted exclusively to "Italian wines and food products, producers, and gastronomic traditions."
In addition to tastings of Italian food and wine, the event also includes presentations by Houston Chronicle columnists J.C. Reid and Dale Robertson, master sommelier Steven McDonald (Pappas Bros. Steakhouse), food historian Liz Williams, and local wine writer-publicist Jeremy Parzen on topics such as how to order Italian wine and which Italian wines pair best with Texas barbecue.
Italy has the most cases of coronavirus outside of Asia, with 1,694 confirmed cases and 34 deaths, CNN reports. The Centers for Disease Control has issued a "Level 3 warning" that discourages "all nonessential" travel to Italy. Potential screening of travelers arriving to the U.S. from Italy also contributed to the organizers' decision to postpone this year's event.
Taste of Italy isn't the only Houston event that's been affected by coronavirus. CERAWeek, a global oil and gas industry conference that drew over 5,000 people to Houston in 2019, announced on Sunday that it would not go forward with this year's event.