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Something that newer readers may not know is that I am only half proud Newfoundlander Nan. The other half of me is proud Italian Nonna. There are many correlations between my two cultures, including fierce love of family, a passion for food and cooking, and the deep ties between the two.
On March 10, I lost one of the most importation people in my life. My Nonno (grandfather) passed away just shy of his 88th birthday. Nonno was a funny man who loved his family dearly, and loved to cook for us. He kindled my love of cooking.
So on the last night we would all be together in his house, we cooked his signature Sunday dinner; a feast to remember.
Around noon, we started preparing the sauce. (That’s the trick to a good sauce – hours of simmering.) With the onions and meat frying on the stove, we set to grinding the tomatoes by hand.
Immediately after the sauce was simmering, we set to work on the meatballs; my Nonno’s own recipe. Once they were hand mixed and fried, we tossed them in the pot.
By the time they were all in the pot, it was almost overflowing.
Next up was my sister and dad on the cutlets. Thinly sliced pieces of chicken and veal that Nonno had in his fridge were coated in breadcrumbs and cheese then fried. Normally Nonno cooked them on a gas stove, as my uncle pointed out when noting that ours weren’t as burned. But we made do with what we had.
Once the pasta was ready and the salad was made, the family sat down together – Nonno’s sons,daughters-in-law, grandchildren and significant others. We sat together and shared food and stories, laughing and remembering all the good times that kitchen and house had brought us.
For two weeks, my family and I stayed in that house. For the first week, we mourned losing him. The second week, we delicately sorted through his things. And every day, there was a hole in our lives. When we’d leave the house and come home to find it quiet and empty, it was like a punch right in the feels. It wasn’t right.
But for that one night, our family connected over his biggest gift to me – a love of food. And for one more night his house was full of life, laughter, and deliciousness. For one more night, he was with us.
Ti voglio bene, Nonno.