September 2009

Dining in an Italian American Home (Humor)


Italians have a $40,000 kitchen, but use the $259 stove from Sears in the basement to cook during the holiday!


There is some sort of religious statue in the hallway, living room, bedroom, front porch and backyard. ( I have a fountain in the front!)

The living room is filled with old wedding favors with poofy net bows and stale almonds (they are too pretty to open).

A portrait of the Pope is hang in the dining room.

God forbid if anyone ever attempted to eat Chef Boy-are-dee, Franco American, Ragu, Prego or anything else in a jar or can.

Meatballs are made with Pork and Beef.  Italians don't care about cholesterol.


Turkey is served on Thanksgiving, after the manicotti, gnocchi, lasagna and minestrone or shcarole soup.

If anyone ever says ES-CAROLE, slap 'em in the face -- it's SHCAROLE.

Sunday dinner was at 1:00. The meal went like this...

Table is set with everyday dishes...doesn't matter if they don't match...they're clean, What more do you want?

All the utensils go on the right side of the plate and the napkin goes on the left. Put a clean kitchen towel at Nonna & Papa's plate because they won't use napkins.

Homemade wine or a gallon of Piasano as well as bottles of 7up are on the table.

Next, Macaroni (Nonna called all spaghetti Macaroni)...change plates.

After that, Roasted Meat, Roasted Potatoes, Over-cooked Vegetables... change plates. Then, and only then (never at the beginning of the meal) would you eat the salad (Oil and Vinegar dressing)...change plates.

Next, Fruit & Nuts - in the shell (on paper plates because you ran out of the other ones).

Coffee with Anisette (Espresso for Nonna, "Merican" coffee for the rest) with hard cookies (Biscotti) to dip in the coffee.

The kids go play...the men go to lay down, loosen their belts. They slept so soundly a bomb could go off and they wouldn't wake... the women clean the kitchen.

Getting screamed at by Mom or Nonna - half the sentence was English, the other half Italian.

Italian mothers never threw a baseball in their life, but can nail you in the head with a shoe or wooden spoon thrown from the kitchen while you're in the living room.

The true Italians will love this.

Those of you who are married to Italians will understand this and there are those that wished they were Italian. Finally, those of you who are friends with Italians will remember and will forward it to them.


Sfogliatelle Ricce (Recipe)



 Mini Sfogliatelle


Flashback, I remember my father James "Jimmy" Selvaggio telling stories about a worker in his bakery,"Big John" he said they use to joke that his Sfogiatelle were huge like giant clams due to the size of his large hands.

Sfogiatelle Ricce (layered Sfogiatelle) is one of the most famous examples of Neapolitan pastry.

The local tradition says that this pastry was created by pure chance. It happened on bread-making day; one of the sisters (cloistered Nuns).

 A cook and blessed at pastry, found herself with some leftover semolina flour cooked in milk. As it is a sin to throw away food,  she thought of adding a few ingredients which she had in abundance in her pantry.


She mixed the semolina with dried fruit, lemon liquor (not yet called "Limoncello"), and sugar.

Then, after kneading the bread-dough with a little pork-fat and white wine, she flattened two portions of dough, filled them with the dried fruit preparation, folded them in the shape of a nun's wimple and cooked them in her wood burning oven.

 The abbess was the first to taste the new cake; she relished it so much that she decided to share it with "the outside world". On the Feast Day of St. Rosa's August 30th, she offered it to the people of Conca. Conca dei Marini google map

The Legend holds that when King Ferdinand first tasted the Sfogiatelle, he understood that he had found a way to access all European royal courts: what king or queen could resist such a Machiavellian culinary temptation?

 How many alliances would be owed to this splendid and delicious masterpiece? But... and there was a but: the Santa Rosa nuns had to remain cloistered... The king therefore had to abandon his project, because the authentic Sfogiatelle could only be eaten fresh out of the oven, it could not be re-warmed without losing its delicate crunchy crust.

According to the 18th century convent recipe:

Take half a rotolo* of flour, mix it with a little pork fat and knead it with all your might (literally: "with the strength of a convict").

Then flatten out the dough and roll it out into the shape of a large bowl. Add a quarter of pork fat and roll it out four times "summerwise" and six times "winterwise".

Then cut it up into many pieces, roll them out and fill them with cream and chocolate or, if you prefer, with Castellammare ricotta.

Should you add a dash of vanilla, a drop of extract of Orange flower or a stick of candied citron, it will become a heavenly thing.

Fold the pâte feuilletée only halfway and, where the cream seeps from, add seven "weeping eyes" made with black-cherries or slices of peach. Slip into the oven and cook at a low temperature. Eat warm and lick your fingers."

*A rotolo ("roll") is an old Neapolitan measure of weight, approximately 2 lbs.

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Tiramisu Italiano (Recipe)




Tiramisu Italiano , the first time tasted this popular Italian Dessert I was impressed with its creamy rich, satisfying flavor with hints of chocolate, espresso coffee and liquor.

I have seen many versions that have a variety of non traditional ingredients.  Here is a classic version with marsala, brandy and Grand Mariner liquors,

Tiramisu in essence means “pick-me-up” in Italian, think of it as the energy drink of desserts with its sugar and caffeine from the strong espresso coffee. According to Anna Maria Volpi, "There are many different stories about the origin of Tiramisu’. It is a layered cake; therefore some people place its origin in Tuscany, where another famous layered Italian dessert is very popular. It is called “Zuppa Inglese” (English Soup). It is not English and it is not a soup. Instead is a simple cake of ladyfingers or sponge cake, soaked in “alkermes” liquor, and alternated layers of chocolate and egg custard." You can read more in her book,“The Timeless Art of Italian Cuisine – Centuries of Scrumptious Dining”, there is extensive information about culinary history of the various regions of Italy.

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Penne alla Vodka (Recipe)

Penne Ala Vodka


Penne alla Vodka is one of my Aunt Toni's favorite pastas so I though that I would honor her with this recipe and a bit of history that I learned about this popular pasta dish!

According to Pasquale Bruno, Jr., From Chicago, author of "The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook," Penne alla Vodka was invented at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy.

Others credit James Doty, a graduate of Columbia University, as the inventor of Penne a la Vodka.

Paula Franzese, a law professor, claims that her father Luigi Franzese, born in Naples, Italy in 1931, devised the first incarnation of Penne alla Vodka, which he called Penne alla Russia because of the addition of the vodka to his tomato and cream sauce.

He first prepared the dish table side for patrons at New York City's Orsini's restaurant in the early 1970s.

 Orsini's, owned by Armando and Elio Orsini, was one of the most acclaimed restaurants of its time, hosting regulars that included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sammy Davis, Jr, Mick Jagger and scores of literary, entertainment and business icons.

Word of Penne alla Russia quickly spread, and soon it began appearing on other menus throughout the New York region.

The Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook says that it was invented in the 1980s by a Roman chef for a vodka company that wanted to popularize its product in Italy. So the debate is on on who created it!

I looked at the recipe and it is basically a rosa sauce with vodka.  Here is my version.

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