I have always loved food. I’ve studied it, written about it, cooked it for family and friends, savored and delighted in it. As a child, my favorite toy was “il dolce forno,” a bright red plastic device heated by an ordinary light bulb. With it, I baked my first cake, a birthday present for my dad. It was an 8-inch-round pastry, made from scratch and topped with Nutella and banana.
My dad praised me for the messy cake, but I could tell he wasn’t too keen on actually… Eat it! We were all sharing the same family high culinary standards. In fact, even my dad was an excellent cook. He’d learned from his mother, a classic Southern Italian home cook. As she exhorted everyone to eat her huge Sunday lunches, she was already asking what people wanted for supper. While the guests were sleeping off lunch, she would be back in the kitchen, creating something new.
Grandma was from the Southern Italian town of Bari, in Apulia, and she taught me many traditional recipes. I grew up in Northern Italy, in Asola, a small town in Lombardy in the province of Mantua. Thanks to my grandma, I also acquired a taste for the strong flavors of the South. Her enthusiasm in the kitchen still inspires me. She transformed simple ingredients—even leftovers—into delicacies. She cooked with what she had on hand, most of which came from the backyard garden and hen house. She was my introduction to local, sustainable ingredients!
My mom also cooks like a pro, especially when it comes to Northern meat recipes and filled pastas, from tortellini to ravioli to agnoli. She comes from a Northern Italian family of farmers and winemakers, and she knows how to choose—and grow—the best ingredients. As a hobby, she learned organic and biodynamic techniques. She gave me the freedom from a young age to get my hands dirty in the kitchen, to try new things, make mistakes, use knives. Even today, when we see each other, we prepare food or talk about it. Our phone calls, across nine time zones, focus on recipes and ingredients.
My career has also focused on food. I started writing articles for the Italian magazine “Food” while studying business and economics at the University of Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region. The area is a culinary heaven, named “The Food Valley” because it’s home to delicacies such as Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I stayed for 10 wonderful years. Later, my husband and I lived in Amsterdam and Milano, where I earned a master’s degree in journalism. I also worked for websites and freelanced for food and travel publications, including “Slow Food.”
We moved to Oregon in 2001. In Portland, I have been busy raising three kids, juggling family, work—and getting dinner on the table quickly. I founded an Italian language school, where I still serve as board president. I wrote a few articles for local food publications, but never thought about writing recipes until 2008, when I attended a food-writing course with cookbook author Diane Morgan. I had written about food from many angles—historic, cultural, economic—but never a recipe. Diane opened my mind and remains an inspiration.
I am blessed to live in Portland, a city enthusiastic about food. And I am even more blessed to spend my summers in Lerici, Italy, a coastal village close to the Cinque Terre. It’s a one-hour drive from Parma and Florence, where I enjoy the authentic Italian flavors I hope to share with you, through my app and food blog. I look forward to cooking with you! Ciao!