Since my sister, Natali, and I were little girls, my mother and father made sure the kitchen was the centerpiece of our household. We had dinner as family every night and ate delicious italian-style meals that were made with love from recipes that had been passed down for generations on both sides of my family. Recipes from ancestors in Naso - a town in Messina Province of Sicily - Santa Lucia and Venice live on through my family, each with its own distinct twist in flavor. The uniqueness of this cookbook and our family restaurant, Joanne Trattoria, lies in the influence of the immigration of our families from Italy through Ellis Island to New Jersey (where my father was raised) and West Virginia (where my mother was raised).
The smell, every Sunday, of a pot of fresh "gravy," as we would call it instead of "tomato sauce," is one of the fondest memories I have from my childhood. I recall the smell of roasting sausages as they were dropped delicately into a slowly simmering 9-12 hour sauce. I remember the smile as my butter knife snapped open the outer layer and the juices filled my plate, sopped up by fresh pasta and followed by a crispy chopped salad made by my mother. Red wine that my father and grandfather Giuseppe made in our laundry room in the basement, sifted through cheesecloth as it was poured for everyone at the table.
We would say a prayer and then eat as a family. We ended each prayer in memory of my father's sister, Joanne, whose name has become the symbol both of our family's majestic accomplishments and of our losses along the way. We always knew there was a plate at the table missing, and we ask that when you prepare these traditional family dishes you honor the memory of those you love and those you've lost, and cook with the intention of strengthening the bonds of family and friendship in the place us Italians think is best: The Kitchen.
Love, Stefani Joanne Germanotta
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