** Update my father is now 89 years old and is preparing his seeds for this summer's garden.
Sunday, March 10, 2019
** Update my father is now 89 years old and is preparing his seeds for this summer's garden.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Saturday, September 22, 2012
|Enjoying a cup of Lavazza espresso with my family --made with my new Philips Saeco Espresso Machine|
What is it about espresso and Italian families? The one food element in an Italian family that often brings us together and gives us a sense of comfort at family dinners, occasions and most events. Since I was little, growing up in our Italian household --I always thought coffee was normal where even kids could drink it. I remember my father even putting a little bit of coffee in my bottle as a baby. Granted I may have been a hyper baby, but ask any Italian and they say they put a little coffee in the latte. As I got older, you realize that having a cup of espresso is really a lifestyle. There is style, etiquette and a lot of emotion that goes into espresso. Often when we would visit my family in Italy over the summers, I remember my Uncle Franky taking such pride in boiling the espresso, waiting, stirring the sugar and then serving it right away so it wouldn't lose it's savory taste or heat. Not only did making espresso at home become such an important element in our family, but it also signified a time for family to gather, talk, digest and really slow down to enjoy the moment. You think -- 'Really does espresso do all that? I say, yes... if you go to Italy and someone invites you for an espresso, you better accept! If you deny someones invitation for an espresso at home or at an espresso bar you're basically saying 'I don't want to invest in that slow down or in conversation or time with you.' -(Yes --That is the translation--no, not really literally but Italians can get dramatic..) I laugh as I write this, because to someone who doesn't know or understand the Italian culture you could say, wow Italians take their espresso as serious business. I confirm that!
Recently, I received a Philips Saeco Syntia Espresso Machine along with Lavazza coffee beans from the awesome teams at both companies. I have to be honest with you, I've never made espresso in a machine like this, espresso was always made in the old school pot called a 'bialetti.' The only time you would see an espresso machine would be if I went to an Italian coffee bar.
My first time experience with making the espresso in this machine was beyond any appliance experience, the machine is so easy to use, it tells you exactly what to do, what you need and it respects the process of making espresso so much, that you end up respecting the machine.. it sounds silly, but I honestly want to spend a lot of time now really perfecting and make variations on my espresso.
I was unsure how I was going to make the espresso, let's be honest, when I make espresso I'm usually in company-- and by company I mean by my loud, overly involved family. So I wanted to wait when I knew I could share my espresso first time experience with my family. I'm not kidding. In setting the machine up I had my mother and father in on it too, my mother really loved looking at all the intricate details of the machine and was so impressed with the taste and 'crema' of the espresso.
The quality and taste of the espresso was beyond my expectations and my family's. Let's be honest as Italians we are very critical of food and especially the holy espresso. My sister, Maria was so in love with her cup that she asked if she could take my espresso machine home with her.. of which I said no, but she can come over when she wants. My brother Santo, wanted to try the cappuccino variation and asked me "Marg, what do we need, what kind of milk should we go buy so it comes out perfect?" I mean this Philips Saeco espresso machine turned my family into a competitive bunch of baristas -- of which I have to laugh.. my family is a sit-com in itself. So, I had to fight everyone off not to take my machine home with them, now they're begging to use it or for example my brother is moving into a new home soon and gently hinted "you know Marg, that would make a nice house-warming gift.." I told him .."Sure Santo..." --yeah right.. you're not touching my machine."
So what turned out to be a first time experience using my Philips Saeco Espresso Machine, turned into a night of conversation, family and lottttssss of love. I love my new machine, the coffee beans from Lavazza were also as my mother says, "speciale"-- the brand Lavazza is something we grew up using our whole lives, so when I told my family I have Lavazza beans to use in the machine, they all immediately nodded with approval, because any Italian knows and uses Lavazza coffee. Lavazza is also history to me -it's a familiar staple in the Italian family. Overall, if you're going to invest in a way of etiquette for espresso making the Philips Saeco 'Espresso Perfetto' machine will fulfill your needs and supersede your expectations. Grazie a Philips Saeco e Lavazza!
To learn more about the Philips Saeco machine visit:
To learn more about Lavazza:
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I will reveal my thoughts on this topic shortly..... in the mean time.. what do you think?
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Yes, I watched. So apparently Season 3 of Jersey Shore was the most viewed premiere for MTV ever! Over 8 million people watched! Wow! Really. Why are they watching? What's in this show that people love so much? As I watched that night, I was on Facebook following many of my friends status updates about the show; what I found was that many have such an interest in the show because A. either it reminds them of growing up at the Jersey Shore in the summers or B. They think its such a train wreck that they find it amusing to watch bad behavior.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I remember being in elementary school and learning about the true story of the pilgrims and why Americans celebrated with a day off and a big turkey feast. My mother learned from our neighbors that you were supposed to buy a turkey and make all sorts of things like yams, cranberry, stuffing.. all things that are not really Italian. So, to assimilate and take on the American holiday, my mother cooked the turkey, made the stuffing and presented the cranberry. This was really foreign to my parents. Our Italian American Thanksgiving would consist of stuffed mushrooms, lasagna, pasta, olives and more a la Italiana menu.
Make no mistake we are all Americans, celebrating a great tradition but at the same time Thanksgiving became a combined holiday of traditions just so we as Italian Americans could relate to it as well. I would imagine other ethnic cultures have experienced this as well when originating parents or grandparents did not grow up in America; therefore having to learn the traditions of the American holidays. As I write this or sit at the table and prepare for the holiday meals, I often wonder do other Italian Americans feel this way..? Or is harder from a first generation perspective because we literally learn, assimilate and practice as we go? Food for thought? I'd love to hear your opinions and or thoughts. Tweet
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
A really good point brought up by one of the Facebook-ers was-- where were the Italian American organizations when positive material, shows, content were being produced...? Not one press release blast went out or any 5 minute segment was covered on any local station. The same amount of energy that goes into the 15 minutes of fame for crying/complaining and saying people are racists should go into promoting the positive work we're all creating for the Italian American community.
I question the motives of others for getting on the press bandwagon and riding it all the way to the top by saying you're protecting the image of the Italian Americans, to me it sounds like you're condemning people for being who they really are.
If anyone, I mean anyone meaning myself, you can't get any more Italian American than me.. I am a first generation Italian American, my father came here on a ship over 50 years ago. My mother followed soon after. He struggled, he had nothing, he worked his ass off, he too was stereotyped.
Not once did my parents look for fame, fortune or any 15 minutes of a news segment, they're true revenge on the finger pointers was getting their family to be successful. The success of our family is what truly makes our story. So, forget about all the press, the TV, the un-reality of being Italian American, cause really if you haven't lived it or experienced it..you shouldn't be adding your two cents. Sorry. I direct this to those who think they're protecting the Italian American image.
I say, take the same resources, money, staff whatever else is available and use it to promote --not talk about the same negative BS on and on. Tweet
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Italian American Tweetchat Tonight- January 24th at 7 p.m. We're discussing Italian American Stereotyping in Mainstream Media.
I'm hosting a Tweetchat this Sunday, Jan 24. at 7 p.m. We're discussing "huge" debates on stereotyping Italian Americans in the media. What are your thoughts? I want to hear what you have to say! So all my Italian Americans, get over to Tweetchat.com and sign up if you dont have a Twitter account. Get one! Enter the conversation at tweetchat.com and the hashtag to enter is #italianamerican Tweet
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Italian American New York University Student, Julianna Miller, Writes Her Final Paper About Cultural Blogging.
“Join me as I open up my discussions on the journey of growing up with strong Italian values in America. Then, follow me on my day to day experiences on family, life, travel, culture, career and mainstream media.” Margaret Fontana, television producer and blogger, wrote this message to greet internet surfers and regular readers to her blog “ItalianAmericanGirl.com.”
“The reasons I created this blog are…because it is who I am.”
Fontana said she created her Italian-American blog because she wanted to have her identity as a first-generation Italian-American talked about in her daily life. She said, “You want to be able to keep a part of your culture preserved and talk to other people who are looking for those same answers on family… ancestors and heritage.”
The most recent post on Fontana’s blog comes from guest blogger and author Patricia Volonkis Davis. She shares the story of her Thanksgiving meal with her “just ‘American’” husband and stepsons. She writes about mashed potatoes getting spattered on the kitchen floor and explains why food has greater meaning in her life because she is Italian-American. She wrote, “If I invite guests to my home and discover that I didn’t make sufficient quantities of every food to feed them all, I’ll drop down dead of mortification, right then.”
“I'm a first-generation Italian-American. That slash says it all.” Volonkis Davis wrote, “It means that though I was born in the United States, walk American and, for the most part, talk American, my blood corpuscles are suffused with foreign tendencies for which science has yet to find an antidote.”
Fontana, whose parents left their family in Calabria, Italy for the suburbs of New York City in the 1960s, said she “struggled with [her] cultural identity growing up.”
“I grew up in a distinctly Italian household... But we wanted to be American and do American things.” Fontana said that her and her three siblings would never have missed a family event to hang out like their friends may have. She also said that living away at college was a big deal to her parents, who had a more conservative mindset, because in Italy most young women are expected to stay close to home.
“This [college] was a big deal for my family because they were immigrants,” Fontana said, “Everything was a learning experience.”
After “really the best four years” in college, Fontana, now 34, works in the television industry and is an Emmy Award Nominated television producer for educational shows on the Discovery Channel. Italianamericangirl.com was voted one of the top 100 blogs created by women by the “Daily Reviewer,” a website that sorts and chooses top blogs. Fontana is also working to create an Italian-American television network for the same reasons she created her blog.
“I want to report on mainstream things relating to Italian-Americans, whatever is current and happening today.” On italianamericangirl.com Fontana writes about her personal experiences, family history and news and events in New York City relating to the Italian-American community.
Last week Fontana wrote a blog post about a Sicilian-born singer, Carmen Consoli, who will be performing in New York next month. Below that post is one from guest blogger, comedian Maryann Maisano, who shared the story of her childhood and promoted her comedy tour “Italian Chicks.” Below that is a link to Italian-American pop star, Lady Gaga’s new music video “Bad Romance.”
Fontana wants to “update the cultural discussion of Italian-Americans.” The younger generations are of particular interest to her, who she says are more disconnected from their heritage more than any other age group.
Fontana said younger Italian-Americans are identifying with stereotyped versions of their culture or not at all. “They latch onto what mainstream American culture tells you what it means to be an Italian-American. Whether this is through the Olive Garden, movies like ‘The Godfather,’ or stereotypes about the mob and mafia.”
One of her goals is to help the younger generations create their own cultural identity. She said, “I want to let them know that there are these people who happen to be Italian-American that get together, they network and find out what they have in common.”
Fontana is not the only cultural blogger out there.
“Bleeding Espresso” is written by Michelle Fabio, who “finds love, her roots and a coffee addiction in Southern Italy.” Fabio, a freelance writer and attorney, moved to Italy in 2003 to the village of her ancestors, Badolato.
In an older post she wrote about “how a jean jacket and some wind can change your life. Or at least mine.” She told the story a man, the man she later fell in love with, who rallied a group of boys in the village to find her jacket that had been blown away by the wind.
“Cooking With Nonna” is a website centered around a very large part of Italian-American culture. Rossella Rago, 21, hosts a cooking web show with various Italian Nonnas.
Rago’s most recent webisode featured Nonna Maria Nibaldi from Frosolone. Nonna Maria showed Rago how to prepare pasta frittata, a dish from the region of Molise in Southern, Italy. Nonna Maria has been cooking since her mother taught her when she was 12 or 13 years old. Rago was featured in Fontana’s blog this October.
Sara Rosso, author of the blog “Ms. Adventure Italy,” is half Italian-American from California and is living and working, as a technological strategist, in Milan. She originally created her blog as a travel log for her family and friends to follow.
“Living in Italy has definitely taught me that the Italian American culture…is its own,” Rosso said, “while it is not better or worse than Italian culture [it] should have its own recognition.”
Rosso, who considers her self to be an expatriate, said that the majority of her readers are American with a few in Italy because of the expat network.
These bloggers are all helping to achieve what Fontana set out to do when she started her blog; rediscover and share Italian-American culture.
“We are all Americans…but for me…it is about knowing and embracing a culture…understanding that I am American because my parents made huge sacrifices to be here,” Fontana said, “They gave up their family and homeland for greater living and the American way.”
Written BY: Julianna MillerTweet
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Italian American Comedian, Maryann Maisano Talks About Growing Up Italian American & Her Rise To The Stage.
As a child, every Sunday in my home was like bad Italian dinner theater. They all came over in droves. One day, after dinner and before cannolis, I got up on the dining room chair and sang!!That was it! At five years old I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. A performer! That was a blessing and a burden.
I made my living for many years as a performer, but questioned my own mortality in the business. After my Italian father made me think about it. “Marianna! Whenna you gonna getta da real job?” I began to think… “The last thing I want to do is end up being 65 years old, singing misty in the Poconos in a sequence gown.”
I was the youngest of 4 children. My Father was born in Reggio Calabria and my Mom was born here, however her family was born in Naples. At a young age I knew we were different! Not the average American family for sure. All I know is that I was so intrigued with this culture, the language and the food.
One by one, year after year my Dad sent for his family. They lived with us until they secured employment and then moved on. With each cousin came a new experience for me. I learned that they all had been promised when they were born. I never knew quite what that meant until my cousin Tina’s future husband arrived in America. That was the only part of the culture I wanted no part of !!!!
They all shared different stories of their homeland, the farms, the music and the food, ahhhh the food!!! It was like a visceral fairytale for me. We received boxes from Italy filled with cheese and tuna. Candy, oil and of course photos. I can still remember what that food tasted like, smelled like!
Then my Dad’s Mother finally came to visit. I was in awe!! She was this small woman with braided hair around her entire head. Her clothes were in layers. Each night I would sit with her and she would hold up a hair brush and say, "Spazzola per capelli” – ah.. hair brush and so it went. Any time she had something in her hand she would tell me in Italian ad I locked it in. Yes, we were different. We were passionate people. Loving people. People that talked of Italia like it were 5 miles away.
Proud people, people that valued tradition and the family.
Not unlike many other family’s that have migrated to this country from other counties. Which is why I always valued diversity. When I hear people say, “these people come here and take over the county,” does it anger me? You bet it does! Why? Because I am the child of an immigrant that came to here make a better life.
But for some reason when my Father SAID, “get a real job”! I thought he meant, “you can't do it can ya”? I took it as a challenge. So I walked into the local town bank and got a job. A teller!!! I was trained and was finally given a window. The mistake they made was giving me the drive up window, why? Because it had a microphone!!! That was IT! I was doing my best James Brown impersonations. Jump back- kiss myself! Until I literally broke the drive up…
Yes, I got a real job and became successful by accident! As a BANKER! I continued to multitask performance and banking. My prestigious career culminated as VP of a major financial institution. However, one day - just 3 years ago - the “suits” got to me. I was a sales coach. It was my job to get the Team to drink the Kool Aid and coach them on selling to the customers need. My seminars were very motivational and I would always say, if you have always wanted to be doing something else and your here because you just need the money – then you need to go home and re think where and why you are here!
One day after leaving my seminar I said out loud to me – WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? The next day I went in and RESIGNED MY 6 figure position. I realized an important issue – you can plan to come home and do your laundry but you cannot plan to come home and be creative, it just happens!
As soon as I left my job all the music came pouring out of me, I wrote an entire CD. I began to use all of my corporate skills to market, promote and brand that. I always had this other dream to put together an all female, all Italian comedy show. I began the hunt for my team. I found three other women whom fit the bill, “pardon the pun” and premiered the Italian Chicks show in January 2008 AT the Laugh Factory, to a sold OUT crowd.
Since then the Italian chicks have performed in Boston, Philly, Chicago, and continue to gain ground. Italian CHICKS is the newest, hottest comedy tour on the scene today. Part meatball, part cannoli. These women are sure to leave you wanting more… and we're not just talking about the meatballs! You’ll laugh harder than if you we’re drunk at an Italian opera.
A PASSIONATE COMEDY… WITH A LITTLE DRAMA!
I COMPLETED the recording of my debut CD of original compositions.
It was up and live on I-tunes and was receiving stunning reviews.
"She is a compelling, provocative and lyrical songwriter. Her MUSIC AND HER voice are a woven piece of velvet - RICH IN abstract hues of red.” the consummate musician, all music and vocals are written and performed by Maryann Maisano. "
Then my sister goes to a wedding and calls me whispering from the bathroom..
Hey, its me!
Yea- what’s UP?
I am in the bathroom at the wedding.
Danny Aiello is here. So I went to my car and gave him your CD and said. "this is my sister, you really need to hear her music!”
And wouldn’t you know it! He called me.
Danny Aiello – (THE ACTOR & SINGER ) is performing my song, City of Light” on his new CD – titled Bridges – due out in 2 months, along with a music video…
My Father gave me what I thought was a challenge when in fact it was his way of saying. "I really don’t understand this business of yours and I just want you to be OK." Everyday I look at his photo, touch his necklace and say, Thanks Pop.
My Mom always was and continues to be my biggest fan and supporter.
My siblings never miss a show!
And they are all part of the act because growing up Italian can really be that funny!!!..And ya know what? The humor is not about mob movies or gangsta’s. Its about LIFE, love and family. So you don’t have to be Italian to love the ITALIAN CHICKS! You just have to come from a passionate, dysfunctional family that loves ya….
I also gained 3 amazing sister’s who are in the show.
Mary Dimino, Carolann Valentino and Gina Scarda. That’s us, THE ITALIAN CHICKS!
I walked away from 6 FIGURES, took a huge risk and have never been happier…
Join our fan club on Facebook and LET US keep you posted on up coming events & shows.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I will start this by saying I'm not exactly the best fan or follower of baseball or any other major sport. I know the basics of baseball, certain players, the fact that the Yankees and Phillies were in the World Series this week, but other than that..I am not the the expert. I am sure many of my close friends would laugh and do laugh when I mention sports because they know my lesser of knowledge in the game. As I watched the series this week, I noticed how much history and pride is in the sports industry. I didn't really tell anyone, but I have to say, I really enjoyed it and it became almost addicting toward the end to watch.
As I started looking up names, stats and teams..I realized so many baseball players are, and were Italian American and including on the infamous Yankees. The relationship between Italian Americans and baseball goes all the way back to the days with famous players such as Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and many other greats. It was just amazing to me-- how Italian Americans dominated the sport for many years with such amazing contributions to the history of baseball. I wanted to include this to our Italian American site as an important part of history as Italian Americans in sports. I salute all our of Italian American players past and present.
Here are a few great links @ Italian Americans & Baseball:
A great book: "Reaching For The Stars: A celebration of Italian-Americans in major league baseball" edited by Larry Freundlich.--
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I will say, many media outlets did a wonderful job in broadcasting & reporting Columbus Day parades locally & across the nation. But, honestly...if I wasn't so involved with my site and reaching out to other Italian Americans, I don't think many people had the opportunity to know or realize what resources are available to connecting to their Italian culture.
As Americans, yes --we are just that, American, but as an American we are part of something bigger, which is our cultural history. So, when you become surrounded by no resources, a sense of assimilation, and a society who shuns cultural education..then yes..I believe it could be possible we are becoming forgetful of our cultural history as Italian Americans.
Now, I don't want this to come off as negative, but there are so many everyday examples that can add to this theory. For instance, can your cultural identity be conflicting in your everyday life? My personal experiences have always leaned toward this being true, but you make amends with your upbringing and values, which then ultimately shapes your everyday life as an American.
You know, the more and more I am engrossed with my blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc..I realize so many Italian Americans are looking for anwers, relationships, ways of connecting to their cultural pasts. The biggest reason why they or YOU seek these answers to your Italian background is because this very thing I speak of, has happened--the fact that maybe your ancestors, parents, grandparents were forced to forget their cultural backgrounds not on purpose but because that was part of fitting in and becoming American.
So, now the generations come full circle and we all seek a common connection. I can only hope that collectively through my site and other Italian driven resources that we can remain, respect, celebrate and practice our traditions and memories as Italian Americans. So, lift a glass of wine this month and toast to your cultural background and be proud to be Italian American. Salute! Tweet
Sunday, October 4, 2009
My parents were rebels of their time by marrying outside their cultures and faiths having each been raised in very traditional environments, respectively. My Mother’s very Italian family welcomed my Dad with open arms, whereas my Father’s Jewish side wanted nothing to do with the union. (To put it into perspective, I didn’t meet my Jewish extended family until I was 10 years-old.) Still my parents made a life for themselves and when I came along, they agreed they were going to raise me in both faiths, and therefore both cultures.
To this day people like to point out how great the month of December must be for me since there’s Christmas and Chanukah, but imagine being a child of about five years old and utterly lost because Christmas Day fell during Chanukah and my Jewish Father’s birthday is on 25 December! Don’t get me wrong—anyone would love an excuse to get lots of presents and find three different cakes on the table—but every year around the holidays I just feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, I feel more strongly about many tenants of the Jewish faith despite spending most of my life surrounded by reverent Catholics. When it comes to the Italian side of my family I feel much, much closer to them and to Italians as a people in general since that’s not only whom I most look and act like, but also I don’t think most people peg me for someone with Jewish DNA by appearance: I’m dark, have tattoos, and eat pork like it’s going out of style. Good thing I don’t want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, right?
On a more humorous note, I feel like I live the Italian version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” on a constant basis. I have fond memories growing up of stories about Italy and why everything Italian is just superior in any way imaginable. As a little kid my grandmother only bought me dresses from Italy and my Mom tells me a lot of my toys were made in Italy, too. I grew up with the best homemade food ever and when I say “homemade,” I mean the only thing my gorgeous grandmother doesn’t do is grind her own flour. As a means of reinforcing language and culture, since the time I could speak my grandfather would always make me (and eventually my brother) ask for whatever we wanted solo in Italiano. The first memory I have of music and dancing is the tarantella with my grandmother, and the thought of eating anything but Italian food ever when we go out as a family is something that isn’t even up for discussion. I think one of the funniest memories ever was getting to my Italian grandparents’ house late at night after spending the day with my Jewish grandparents. My Nonna immediately inquired as to what my other grandmother made for us to eat and determined before I could get a word in edgewise that I must have hated her food and hardly ate all day, when in fact I wasn’t even hungry, but you can’t tell an Italian Grandma you’re never hungry since in their mind that’s just not possible. She quickly sat me down at 10:00pm and made what looked like an endless buffet of all my favorites and wasn’t satisfied until I nearly felt ill from eating two very large dinners back-to-back, all the while knowing her food was the last to touch my lips and not that of my Jewish Grandma!
While my Father’s parents are now both deceased, I am very fortunate to still have my Italian grandparents with me. I know they appreciate the fact that I speak Italian, inherited the cooking gene, love Italian music, and talk of hopefully moving there one day. I can’t say that whenever I get married and start a family I wouldn’t be the same way with my kids: reinforcing one’s culture through love, language, food, and music, but let’s just hope that my kids don’t walk around in a culture daze like I do at times. Sometimes I just don’t know what I am since I feel like two different people exist inside me and they only come out when I’m around a specific group of people. I have a nasty espresso habit and think a good coffee is an art that’s lost on America. I’ve been given red wine since I was a child and have been known to travel long distances for good cheese and exceptional sopressata, yet I fast on Yom Kippur, have read the Talmud and sometimes curse in Yiddish. What am I?? Let’s just say happy, well-rounded, and often overfed.
You can follow Lindsay on Twitter-- @thecigarchick Tweet
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This September marks the twelve years since I first stepped foot onto Italian soil as a teenager looking to find my heritage. Little did I know that over a decade later I would just be scratching the surface.
As the years passed I learned to speak the language and I opened my own Italian restaurant that is your typical red sauce joint with big pasta bowls and loud Italian music. My trip to Italy as a teen was quickly becoming just something I did a while back. A collection of fun stories to tell the customers over dessert.
Then about a year ago, around the same time I was celebrating the eleventh year since I had first gone to Italy, the economy took a dive and took many of my customers with it. The realization set in that I was in danger of losing my restaurant and I would have to cut back to make ends meet. How would I stretch out what I had? How do I compete with the big chain restaurants? How would I survive?
Sitting in the empty dining room after closing I racked my brain for ideas. Looking at the black and white picture of my long lost Italian family I began to imagine them and the romantic stories I had told time and time again to my guests. Stories of turn of the century poverty and the food that sustained them through the decades. That's when it hit me. So much of our heritage has been centered around survival during tough times. Now in some poetic way my own personal survival would depend on me learning about the one thing I had been chasing down my entire life. My roots.
The last year has been the toughest and most exciting year of my professional life. By turning to my friends and family both in Italy and in here the states I have been reminded of the basic principles of my Italian heritage in relation to cooking; Don't waste anything, and don't take short cuts.
Over the past months I have poured over cookbooks new and old. I've made countless calls to Italy with recipe questions. I grew my own vegetable garden. I've even began learning to butcher the cuts of meat I serve to cut costs and maximize quality.
These ups and downs have pushed me to better understand my roots as an Italian American and as a chef. I have a new found pride in my work as an extension of who I am and an appreciation for those who over the many years have brought a perfection to the traditions born from struggle. To be Italian is to understand and appreciate the craft of the artisan!
So here I am a year later. I'm at work on my day off trying out another recipe that is new to me but has been around for centuries. I share my triumphs as well as my failures with my customers who now wait patiently for my next lesson in Italian Culinary Tradition. And you know what? The effort has paid off. Now I have an edge that the other restaurants near me just don't have. The customers know that what comes out of my kitchen has my passion behind it, and that my friends is very specifically ITALIAN!
One dish that has worked well for me over the past few months is La Porchetta! This is a relatively inexpensive dish that is delicious in both flavor and presentation.
5 lbs Pork Loin- butterflied (have your butcher do this)
6 feet butchers twine. (ask your butcher if they've got any in the back. Usually they're pretty cool about giving you enough for the meat you've purchased.)
1 lb ground mild or hot Italian sausage
1 fennel bulb, centers removed and chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach - steamed and set aside
1/4 lb Prosciutto
2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
Steam your spinach and set aside to cool.
In a large hot saute pan add the olive oil. Add the fennel and saute until soft. Add sausage to the fennel and mix with a slotted spoon until the sausage is cooked. When done, use the slotted spoon to remove the sausage and fennel and leaving any excess grease.
Lay out your pork loin on a flat surface. Season with salt and pepper. When cool enough to handle evenly spread the sausage and fennel mix onto the loin. Next, lay the spinach on top of the sausage and fennel followed by the prosciutto.
Now comes the hard part, rolling and tying the loin. It's always good to have an extra pair of hands the first time you try this.
The best you can, roll up the pork loin. Once rolled up use the butcher twine to tie it tightly together every inch or so. Take any filling that may have slipped out the side and simply stuff it back in the ends.
Place the rolled and tied Porchetta on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 35-40minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.
Remove from oven, let rest for 15 minutes, cut the strings, slice and enjoy.
Viva La Porchetta and Forza Italia!
Visit Guy's blog at http://www.makingmybones.blogspot.com/ Tweet