Does anyone remember this old commercial filmed in the Italian North End of Boston? I find it funny that she yells “Anthony” in an Italian neighborhood and only one kid comes running. I had an uncle Anthony and my Grandmother would yell out the window like that too. Except she was on the top floor screaming like a la pazza “Annnntoooonnnyyyy, whena I getta my handsas ona you Ima gonna killa you.” It sounds alot scarier in Italian. Then she would bite her hand, give the evil eye, and slam the window shut. In my uncle’s case it was not Prince Spaghetti Day. You never wanted to make Grandma mad or be witness to her wrath. Ask my Auntie Josie who had a friend over once and they made Mama Vincenza mad. Auntie told the girl to run and they did manage to make it down three flights but it was too late, Vincenza’s aim was off and the kid wore the door mat on her head instead of Auntie. With the girl now in hysterics, picking debris from her hair, Auntie said matter-of-factly, “I told you to run.” I don’t think that girl ever came for a playdate again.
When I was little, every Thursday was our spaghetti day at Grandma’s house. Early in the morning, after she put the gravy on, Grandma would take me to Mass at St. Anthony’s right there by her house in Revere. Then we would walk down to the bakery where she treated me every week to a Black and White Cookie. Those were the best and I haven’t been able to find them like that since. While nibbling my cookie we walked down to Grandma’s friend’s house. Mary was her name and she would give me a big wet kiss, pinch my cheek and tell me how bella I was and how big I was getting, which I thought was incredible as I just saw her the week before. Mary was a peach but her boys, Rocco and Vinnie (names changed) were another story. They always had buzzed haircuts and wore wifebeaters, ugh. They had no toys, their father’s rule and only wanted to watch “Aqua Boy” on TV. That family also raised rabbits for eating. They didn’t tell me that one until I was much older as that was the one thing I looked forward to in going to Mary’s, seeing all the pretty “pet” rabbits.
By evening Grandma would start cooking the spaghetti and my mother would toss the salad (remember she wasn’t allowed to cook with Vincenza.) We always had the bread fresh from the bakery and to think I begged my mother for Wonder Bread all those years when I was little. With more family joining us, dinners were lively and loud, then afterwards, while the adults drank their coffee, my brother and I would drowsily watch TV only to be scooped up and put in the car for the ride home to do it all again the next week.
When I was in middle school, my mother worked a short time at Prince and I think they paid her wages in pasta, sauce, and cheese because our pantry was loaded with Prince products. It wasn’t always a Wednesday but we ate pasta once a week. The leftovers were always fried up (before microwaves) and the crispy parts fought over. I have carried on with that tradition and serve my family a pasta dish each week and we enjoy the leftovers (not fried-sadly) for lunch or on C.O.R.N. (Clean Out Refrigerator Night). The following recipe for Pasta Carbonara is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s cook book, “Jamie’s Dinners.” It is bonnified comfort food.
1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
7 tablespoons heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper
8 slices uncurred bacon, diced
3-4 handfuls frozen peas
1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
To a large pot of salted boiling water add the farfalle and cook according to the package directions, in the last minute add the frozen peas. While the pasta is cooking, whisk the egg in a bowl with the cream and add a few pinches of salt and pepper. In a large skillet over med-high heat cook bacon until crisp then turn the heat off, do not drain. When the pasta is cooked drain reserving a little water. Add the pasta and peas to the bacon and blend well. Quickly stir in the egg and cream mixture into the hot pasta. Be sure to stir quickly so the egg does not scramble. Add a ladle of reserved pasta water to “loosen” the sauce then toss in the cheese. Pour into a preheated bowl (I usually drain the pasta in a colander over the serving bowl to heat it.) Top with parsley and serve with a salad and a crispy, warm baguette. Tutto Mangia!
Warning-If you ever receive the evil eye, you must put a wooden salad bowl on your head, olive oil on your forehead and repeat “facce tu la culla mia” (something to do with comparing your face to someone’s rear end) three times. I keep an extra bowl in my purse just for that reason.
Translation- la pazza: the crazy one