A couple of years ago my husband and I went to Italy. During our visit we went to the Abruzzi region on the east coast of Italy bordering on the Adriatic Sea. There we visited the birthplace of my grandfather, Giuseppe (Joseph), in San Valentino and my husband’s grandmother, Mary, in Giulianova.
These places turned out to be about 20 minutes away from each other. The funny thing about all of this is that our grandparents left Italy separately and settled in New York. Years later their grandchildren meet and marry and never knew their families came from the same area of Italy. I would have never known if I didn’t research my family history.
Two years before our trip to Italy, I discovered where my grandfather was born. I just find it so interesting that life is a full circle, and we meet people who we are meant to be with. I only wish that our grandparents lived long enough for us to have told them that we were connected to Abruzzi together.
The reason I am writing this story is because I definitely felt connected to Italy. I am sure that a lot has to do with growing up in a home with an Italian grandma, Mary (Maria). (Aren’t all Italian grandmas named Mary and grandpas named Joseph?)
The wine, the foods, the people were all so familiar to me, and I felt at home. The foods were fantastic, especially in the Abruzzi region, since there seemed to be no tourists there, just Italians. We actually visited with my husband’s cousins, who graciously took us out to breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, we experienced all the different meals.
Our favorite was a lunch at a little stone house that you would never know was a restaurant until you stepped down to what looked like a basement. This turned out to be the main dining area. The antipasti were delicious cheeses, olives, meats and marinated vegetables served on wooden boards with brown paper, very unpretentious, just simple and plain. In Italy, be careful not to say that you like something, because if you do, another dish is immediately ordered.
We could barely finish our three-hour lunch when we were told that we would be meeting another cousin for dinner! Not to offend anyone, we continued onward to another town and another antipasti and another meal. It was one of our most memorable days during our trip to Italy. Other memorable days were with a cousin in Florence, and another meal, but that is for another story.
My husband and I have prepared and eaten antipasti for our friends and family since forever. I look at antipasti in a different way ever since our trip to Italy. I try to prepare the individual foods of antipasti myself instead of serving from a jar. The olives, cheeses and meats will still come from the Italian deli, but at least we can add own touch. The roasted peppers, the marinated artichokes and the oven roasted tomatoes I prepare myself. I even experimented with my own marinated olives.
Homemade marinated artichokes makes for a special antipasti dish served here in New York, but made from the hearts of the people of Abruzzi, including us, the grandchildren of Joseph and Mary.
1 8.5-ounce can of artichoke hearts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Drain and cut artichoke hearts into quarters.
2. In a small frying pan, put in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add
garlic and sauté till tender and a little golden.
3. Add artichokes, wine and spices. Continue to sauté for 10
minutes. Cool down and serve on antipasti platter or store in
a jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
ENJOY – Artichokes, made by one, enjoyed by many!
Editor's note: Mariann Raftery, creator of Somebody's Mom blog, has a column in Westchester County Patch sites by the same name (this article in Port Chester Patch). She cooks up comfort food recipes for families here at home, as well as sending homemade cookie care packages to our American soldiers overseas. See Somebody's Mom cooking videos at http://www.youtube.com, search "Thesomebodysmom".