These are my great-grandparents, Dora and Frank Fantini. I never met them, but the lively stories have been passed down. Frank was a gregarious, fun loving man who often entertained his children by balancing a glass of wine on his bicep. Dora was a serious housewife, fantastic cook and bread baker. Italians, no doubt, have a reputation for doing everything with passion. Most talk loud, love hard, fight ferociously and cook like there's no tomorrow. Regardless of disputes, the family always connects at the dinner table. Great food soothes...comforts....bringing back memories of those who used the recipes before us.
They say never to trust a skinny cook, but my grandmother was one of the best! I have fond memories of pulling into her driveway and there she'd sit in her lounge chair on the blacktop, her petite 4'11" frame that birthed 7 children (including twins), slathered in olive oil and clad in a bikini to keep up her perfectly golden, Mediterranean glow. Holiday dinners were nothing less than a roaring household, laughing, yelling, celebrating over rolled veal, shrimp scampi, shrimp cacciatore, beef, lamb and turkey, plus the fixings, canolli, chicilini and rosettes for dessert. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear the sweet chaos and smell her kitchen.
As a child, every single night we ate dinner together as a family. My mother makes everything taste fabulous. (Except the time she went on a health food kick and made a curried, chickpea salad. It was the one thing I ever remember my dad refusing to eat) No one makes a meaner filet of beef or hearty meat sauce. She, lovingly, makes my brother, Aaron's favorite dessert, pastafrola, or mine, date squares, when she expects us for a visit. I call her, regularly for cooking tips and my son, Sammy, recently called Nana to ask how to make her garlic rosemary wings, handwriting the recipe. As they slowly roasted, he drew in a big breath and said, it smells just like Nana's house in here. We all nodded our heads, breathing deeply ourselves, reminiscing...smiling.
4 generations of Italian women. (l-r) Me; my mom, Patricia; my daughter, Willow;
my grandmother, Flo (born a twin and named Tusalla Dusalla) ; my daughter, Sophia.
Last Sunday, I woke up and realized our family did not have a single item on our schedules. The Yager 5 would be together the entire day for the first time in weeks! And, when there is is something to be celebrated, it's ingrained, as you can see via my heritage, to think, "let's eat".
So, I pulled out my mom's huge, cast iron pot and started a Bolognese.
Willow, cheerfully, began constructing a Strawberry Tiramisu. (Magnifico!)
We made homemade ricotta to dollop on top of the Bolognese.
And, a few Sgrappinos kept me whistling while we worked.
The blood may get thinner with each generation, but the qualities of living, loving, fighting and cooking with gusto thrive. Passion, baby. And Family first. Always. Now let's eat! We're making memories here.
Fresh Mint, bruised or chopped
1 oz. Vodka
Top with Prosecco