Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People by Dina Di Maio. I love this book! Before I even finished reading the Introduction, I wrote notes in the margins, starred paragraphs, underlined, checked, and doodled thoughts and words I wanted to get back to read out loud to someone I knew would love it too. The author’s family moved to a town in North Carolina near the South Carolina border from the New York Tri-State area in 1986. They opened a pizzeria serving Italian dishes with the pride Italians have about their foods, using the finest ingredients. Out of her experience of growing up in this town ignorant of Italians and their culture, came the well-researched information that will fill and delight anyone who appreciates the food and wines that Italians have given the world.
Since I was born and raised in New Jersey a few blocks from Chambersburg, also called ‘Little Italy’ I was fully immersed in Italian culture, their torpedo rolls warm from the oven, rum cakes, Casino hot dogs, Italian sausages, and looked forward to the Feast of the Lights of one saint or another (who cared we were teen girls looking to flirt with the handsome Italian boys). We didn’t say pasta back in the 50s and 60s. It was spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, parmigiana, all names of foods that rolled off my tongue like words of poetry and kissed my taste buds. We shared tomato pies, not pizza as it was later called and it wasn’t delivered, we picked it up.
I was the only non-Italian and non-Catholic in my close girlfriend group whose last names were Petito, Nicolini, Daddio, and Fruscione. Mine was plain Bice-one syllable, no musical sound to it. Who cared? They adopted me as one of their own and I fit right in. Of course there were discussions on who were the best at one thing or another. That didn’t matter either it just gave reason to let the hands fly up to stress a point and to get a word in about what part of Italy one’s family was rooted.
So I loved this book that woke up memories for me and tells you what recipes came from where. What is authentic and what is a myth made up for advertising purposes. I kept thinking of my late husband and his brothers who immigrated to the States in the 50s. They would have loved reading this book. They also would have recognized the daily food on their tables is considered gourmet today. That would have tickled them. I’m sure many a happy discussion would have arisen at the next table they shared. I’m hoping the author will write her personal story of growing up as a daughter in the only Italian family and restaurant proprietors, in the town during the period they lived there. I know she will have lots to report. It sounds like a TV series. . .