Celebrating Harris’ Mother’s 87th Birthday- Italian Style!

Mom’s birthday party turned out just a special as we anticipated. In our previous blog entry, Leah shared with you about how her Great-Grandparents were from Palermo, Italy. For our theme, we wanted to incorporate foods that Harris’ mother would have enjoyed growing up.

Antipasti, or the starters, are very important in Sicilian cooking. We made two. We had some hot crab dip, a Maryland favorite, to celebrate my mother’s love of Ocean City. To celebrate her Italian heritage, we also made a fresh pesto and cheese pizza which was topped with arugula, basil, and cherry tomatoes. It was like a little slice of Italy! Below is a picture of the tomato mix before we dressed the pizza!
Since saffron is such a staple in Sicilian cooking, we made a very light saffron soup that was packed with mussels. Our guests really seemed to enjoy it, especially with our homemade rosemary focaccia bread. The bread was delicious, but wow- that recipe is not for beginners! It took us about 2 days to make!

For our main course, we made Angel Hair pasta from scratch two ways. The first, was aglio e olio style – meaning with olive oil, fresh basil, and sundried tomatoes. The second was a red-sauce based pasta, which was pared with homemade meatballs. But these meatballs, mixed with beef, veal, pork, prosciutto, and parmesan cheese, were not for the faint of heart! We also made some hot Italian sausage and baby backed ribs, all cooked in Harris’ homemade tomato sauce. And although the food turned out great, the best part was that the family was together, and sharing stories from the past. It was very special.

For dessert, we made the Decadent Chocolate Cake- check our recipes tab to try this one out yourselves! After dessert, we all joined around the piano for songs and stories. It was the perfect way to celebrate and we think Mary had a great time!

There’s just something about Mary!

Leah, here, from the Dads: Harrris and Dave. My Grandmother, Mary, is turning 87 this week, and for her birthday, the Dads are planning a very special Italian dinner party. So when my Dad, Harris, called to tell me all about some of the dishes they have in mind, I thought I might take this opportunity to share with you a little about my Grandmother and what she has meant to me in my life. Fingers crossed, we will have a video featuring her next week!

My Grandmother was born in 1927. Her father, Vincenzio, was a barber who immigrated to the U.S. from Palermo, Italy. He married her mother, Concetta, in 1924. Concetta’s family owned what’s now known as the World Famous, Lexington Market. The couple moved to New York after they married, but after the birth of their first two children, Phyllis & Mary, they returned to Baltimore for good. Vincenzio and Concetta had two more children, Sadie and Rose.

Before I started writing this, I asked my husband, Sean, what makes my Grandmother different than other Grandmothers- he just laughed. You see, my Grandmother is a character- she swears in Italian, is full of colorful phrases, and will tell you exactly what’s on her mind. At family gatherings, sometimes she will surprise a newcomer with something off-the-wall, and Sean will just smile and say “Oh, you’re new!” She’s also an avid gambler. Below is a picture of her in Las Vegas!


As all good Italians do, my Grandmother loves to give advice. For instance, when it comes to clothing, more sequins and beading is always best; and no matter what your size, you are actually a small. She taught me how to dance, and was the first to teach me the Macarena- when it was actually cool. Scary, I know! And on my wedding day, it was her heart necklace, a gift from my Grandfather, that I wore close to my heart.

So now that I’ve told you a bit about Grandmother, I have to say that we are so excited to celebrate her birthday and enjoy the meal the Dads have planned.  What are some of your favorite Italian dishes? And do you have any special memories of your own grandmother?