Ciao. My name is Barbara Francis and welcome to my kitchen. Sorry about the mess. I’m not really good at cleaning up as I go. So who am I and why just Italian? I grew up loving Italian food and surrounded by Italian-American culture. My family’s original name is Gianfrancesco. My father’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from southern Italy. Many years ago I lived in Rome and, while traveling around the country, learned to love the fresh, seasonal and simple dishes native to the “old country.” These days my husband and I have a home outside of Sansepolcro, in eastern Tuscany, complete with a 200-old farmhouse and acres of olive and other fruit trees. You’ll be reading more about La Palazzina as we go along.
Back to my heritage. My father was the only sibling in his large family not to marry an Italian. My mother had to go through some sort of culinary brainwashing to learn to make the perfect ragu. And it was great. I have so many vivid memories of growing up (half) Italian: fried pepper and sausage sandwiches at church festivals; noisy happy Italian weddings that went on forever; only oil and vinegar on salads as bottled dressing was banned at our house; and Italian bread every night with our dinner. The downside was that we often did that Italian thing of having fruit for dessert. (“But they’re having chocolate cake next door.” “Shut up, they’re Protestants.”) I remember fried smelts on Christmas Eve (Lord, they stank!); battling lupini beans out of their shells without launching them into outer space; and as kids being shocked, shocked to discover that delicious Italian wedding soup had nothing to do with anyone’s nuptials. And we could imagine what heaven was like while eating my aunt’s glorious handmade pasta.
Though Italian food in its many denominations is beloved the world over…you can order spaghetti Bolognese in Beijing…my husband and daughters unfortunately have their own Maginot line when it comes to certain dishes that I love. Artichokes, for instance, they won’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Eggplant, ditto the 10-foot pole. Zucchini, ditto. Need I even mention the much-maligned and harmless little anchovy? My beloved husband can resist a delicate risotto because he doesn’t like to eat “runny rice”. How about that? But I soldier on and will offer a variety of recipes on this blog that I love that cover the full spectrum of Italian food: from old country regional Italian, to Italian-American, to dishes that we’ll call Italian because they have an Italian ingredient in them.
So get out your napkin, fork, knife and spoon. And Buon Appetito!