Donatella Arpaia’s Home Cooking Helps Launch Revamped iVillage Food Portal

Video: Chef, restaurateur and iVillage Food contributor Donatella Arpaia prepares her quick Sunday ragu at the launch party for

Last night at the Culinary Loft in SoHo, iVillage celebrated the launch of its newly revamped food destination,, with basil-limoncello cocktails, Web site demos, and a veritable Italian feast prepared by New York restaurant fixture and iVillage contributor Donatella Arpaia.

On the heels of September’s entertainment site relaunch, which Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal’s Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, says spurred a spike in page views, membership, and message board activity, iVillage hopes to recreate that success with its latest makeover in the Food category.

“Almost three-fourths of all women who are on the Web rely on the Internet for meal planning and healthy eating,” said Zalaznick. “If we fill that gap… that’s how iVillage is going to win.”

Christina Bender
, director of product development for iVillage, acknowledged, “We know competition’s stiff,” citing,, and as rivals. Bender said the new site’s secret weapon will be to “uncover what women are already saying” in the vibrant iVillage community of 20 million unique monthly visitors, bolstered by their unique access to NBC Universal’s “premier content,” which includes Bravo’s explosively popular “Top Chef” brand.

“This is a community-centric site, not a user-generated site,” Zalaznick said. It’s “a big, rollicking portal that behaves like a series of niches.”

“You have to be able to adapt and keep up with the way women use media,” said chief content officer Angela Matusik, who says the revamp is meant to “modernize the message board” with new tools and ways to contribute to the conversation. Next up to go under the knife? The Astrology channel, followed by Health, Beauty and Family. And stay tuned, Matusik added, for a new iVillage social media community platform set to launch sometime in 2010.

Read on for a breakdown of the site’s features and fabulous food photos:, which has been in development for three months, still had visible HTML tags on its pages at 8 p.m. Tuesday while iVillage-rs gave site demonstrations to party guests just four hours before the site officially went public. iVillage Food’s new features include an oversize search box front and center, along with an array of not-so-subtle tools to contribute your two cents to the foodie conversation. “Add your twist,” lets users “clip” their own adjustments or suggestions to recipes, you can weigh in on the taste factor of food ideas with “Yum/Yuck” buttons, and “Chime In” boxes goad site visitors to vote on topics like, “How often do you eat dinner with your family?”

The pièce de résistance is the “Kitchen View” feature, where users can pull up a recipe in a full-screen mode resembling flash cards for step-by-step guidance in the kitchen. (Check out this one for Arpaia’s irresistible ricotta cheesecake.) Bender said this feature is also being developed as a free mobile application, coming soon.

With the “macrodermabrasion” of its women’s lifestyle verticals, iVillage also plans to draw in revenue-generating sponsorships for recipes, content areas, and other partnerships. McCormick, the consumer brand synonymous with spice, is the launch advertiser on iVillage Food, and though Bender wouldn’t name names, she expects more partnerships to emerge within the next few months.

Jodi Kahn, formerly of and now executive vice president of iVillage Networks, said that over the past three months, there have been 6,000 mentions of food brands on “Think of all those sponsorship opportunities we can create.” Kahn also announced that iVillage will partner with Time Inc.’s, (which draws on content from Real Simple, Cooking Light and Southern Living) — the first time Time Inc. has shared its recipes with an outside company.

iVillage managing editor Charlie Rogers and chief content officer Angela Matusik present the newly redesigned food portal of

President of NBC Universal’s Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks Lauren Zalaznick (L) learns how to shape homemade pasta with help from chef and iVillage Food contributor Donatella Arpaia.

Chef Donatella Arpaia (center) poses with her mother, who inspired Donatella’s meatball dish but refused to reveal two secret ingredients from her master recipe.

Dinner included elegant eggplant parmigiana, delicate side salad, rustic pork rib and sausage ragu, meatballs, and handmade orecchiette pasta, followed by a light, souffle-like ricotta cheesecake.

Attendees gather in the demo kitchen of the Culinary Loft while enjoying their Italian dinner.