by Ralph Montesano
I have been asked by my sister, Maria, to reflect on my fond food memories of growing up second-generation Italian-American. I’m not a writer, that’s her job, so bear with me while I try to paint a picture of eating Montesano/Iozzo style.
Our family, as most of you are now aware, hails from the south of Italy. Not known for its gourmet dining pleasures, southern Italy is best known for its heavy sauces, big macaronis, mounds of bread and meats … comfort food!!! I remember Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin songs playing while our grandmothers stuffed the pot of sauce with three types of meats: meatballs, pork, and sausage. And I remember the braciole floating in the pot starting to make my mouth water.
Then there is the macaroni. We didn’t just have plain ole spaghetti … it was either ziti or rigatoni, maybe some stuffed macaroni such as manicotti, or even lasagna. We’d rip off a hunk of our favorite hard-crusted bread to “get the grease out of our mouth,” and we’d top it all off with the reddest red wine that could be dumped out of a gallon jug. There you have it: comfort food.
Now you are expecting, I guess, a recipe. Not so fast. That will come in a future post. As a medical person I believe in varying methods of treatments. My studies started a long time ago with one of my first instructors — Poppy!
One thing a good Italian must learn before embarking on a life of southern Italian eating is how to survive it. And the best survival tool ever found comes in a simple blue bottle you can find in any drug store. That’s right:
I remember Poppy preparing the antidote. First, he’d take a large glass, pour two capfuls (yes, capfuls) of Brioschi into the glass, and fill the glass with water. The bubbles were indicative of the effervescent action that was to relieve the only downside to comfort eating. And then there was the belch…
To this day I owe a lot to my ancestors, for not only teaching us to cook second-generation Italian style, but also for teaching us how to survive eating it all.
I promised my sister a recipe and I am working on it. I will submit it at a later date, but until then, practice your Brioschi skills and maybe you can enjoy not only preparing and eating the dish, but also surviving it! Ciao!