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We are excited to introduce you all to our new blog series: My Family Story. Our founder, Guido, has heard from so many of you, each who’ve shared your personal connections to Italy, and/or how Nonna Box has brought you closer to this country that we love so much. This is exactly why Nonna Box exists — to connect you with Italy through its cuisine, traditions, and, of course, the stories of locals.
But your stories mean the world to us as well, and they’re just too interesting not to share! So, we’d like to introduce you to Audrey. Her family hails from Emilia-Romagna, which also happens to be the region we’re featured last month!
What is the story of your Italian heritage?
I am 100% Italian! My father immigrated to America from Morciano di Romagna at age 17 in 1911. He boarded a ship in Genoa and was processed through Ellis Island. My Uncle Giuseppe was already here and had sponsored him. He made his way to San Francisco, where his brother was living, with 25 dollars in his pocket and no English skills. Worked as a laborer and then at a gas engine company in Oakland. He lived with his brother in North Beach and lived a wild bachelor life until 1929 when he decided to buy land outside Tracy, Ca and became a farmer. In 1950 he figured it was time to settle down. He wanted a good Italian woman who could cook and keep house. He traveled to Italy and met my Mom, who lived in Sant Andrea di Casale and was raising a daughter alone. They married 2 weeks later and she was able to come to the US in February 1952. I was born 9 months later and the rest is history.
What is your favorite Italian dish? How did you come to love it?
It’s a toss up between Tortellini in brodo, Tagliatelle Bolognese, and Passatelli in brodo. These are dishes that my mom cooked from scratch and when I have gone back to Italy the flavor is the same. She used to make her own pasta rolling it out into paper thin sheets with a huge rolling pin. She taught me to do it but I could never master the rolling pin but I do use a machine and make my own for holidays. Passatelli is a traditional dish from Emilia Romagna. My children began calling it worm soup and now my grandchildren also call it that. You need a special tool to make the “worms” and I have my mom’s that she brought over from Italy and also a more modern version.
Do you have an Italian nonna? If so, can you tell us more about her? Do you have any Italian food memories connected to her and your family?
My Father’s Mother died way before I was born. My Nonna Filomena died in Italy when I was 2. I never met her. My Mother was Noni to her grandchildren and great grandchildren and we had Sunday dinners at her house until she was unable to safely cook. She taught my son how to make Ragu Bolognese (and me too,,,,he and I are rivals and argue over who’s sauce is the best) and many of her meals. Holiday meals were huge—-Cioppino at Christmas Eve…..a recipe taught to my Mother by one of my Father’s best friends, Joe Marchegianni, who had owned a restaurant in San Francisco; Homemade ravioli, lasagne verde, and of course Tiramisu dessert.
Why is it important to you to stay connected to your Italian heritage and Italian traditions?
I am fortunate to have learned the language from my parents. I still have family in Italia and when I visited for the first time at age 13, had a sense of being “home” the moment I stepped off the plane. The family in Italy is dwindling down in numbers but we are all very close and I try to go visit every 1-2 years. The food remains amazing and just like Mom’s. I try to learn a new dish from my cousin’s wife Elda who is an amazing cook and makes the best desserts. I also try to continue the traditions to keep my grandchildren connected to their heritage. 2 of my granddaughters are learning Italian through Rosetta Stone and I have promised to take them on a trip when they learn a bit of the language.
Has Nonna Box brought you closer to Italy and/or your heritage? If so, how?
Of course it has! I have learned about the traditions and cuisines of many parts of Italy and how they differ from how my family cooks. Many of the items in the box are items I have heard of but never tried.
Why did you want to try Nonna Box?
I feel it brings me closer to my roots. I’ll be in Italy when the next one comes out and amazingly, it focuses on Emilia Romagna—-my roots! I can’t wait to sample the contents when I return—it will be a reminder of my love for my heritage and my people.
Have an interesting family story that you’d like to share with us? Our founder would love to hear from you! Write him at [email protected]