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About the author:
Barbara Oliverio is the daughter of Italian immigrants and grew up in North Central West Virginia with a love of reading and a passion for learning. Following a career path that included being a teacher, journalist, and marketer, she has lived as far away from home as Italy where she practiced her family’s native tongue as well as took advantage of living near to other European countries to travel extensively. A rabid Pittsburgh Steeler fan, she lives with her husband, an equally committed New York Giants fan, in suburban Denver where off-football-season dinner conversation is calmer and is usually accompanied by a meal she cooks from one of her mother’s treasured recipes. Other interests include New York Times crossword puzzles, good movies, and travel. She volunteers extensively for her parish and writes for its publications. She also teaches part-time for the St. Catherine of Siena Institute.
What inspired you to write your book?
My friend Nancy suggested that I collect my mother’s great recipes into a cookbook. Since I didn’t have enough for an entire cookbook, I came up with this fun story to share these (and other) recipes with people by writing a story about a young woman who sees if the way to a man’s heart is really through his stomach — by cooking the recipes of his boyhood.
Here is a short sample from the book:
I don’t care if the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, at that moment
I made the decision that Raymond James needed to wear a five-pound lasagna
directly on his head. Topped with a lavish tiramisu.
“But, baby, I think this is for the best,” he said, wiping $40 of cheese, tomato
sauce and chocolate from his face.
“The best. THE BEST?!”
“Yes. You know that we’re not ready to move on to the next level….and you know
I’m not a commitment guy…so this is better for you…and you know …” He backed
toward the door.
“What? Did you just read ‘Cliché Break-up Phrases for Dummies’ before you came
over? Get out!”
I slammed the door in his face and unceremoniously slipped on dinner and
dessert. I promptly dialed my best friend Keira.
“Well, that’s over”
“What? Don’t tell me didn’t make it through lasagna and tiramisu.”
“No…He didn’t even dodge lasagna and tiramisu”
“I’ll explain when you get here. And, pick up a pizza from Tarantino’s on the
way. There don’t seem to be any leftovers. And TastyKakes!!”
I sat and pondered my recent dating debacle.
Raymond James was just another in a list of failed relationships that I
inexplicably was doomed to encounter. At first he seemed to look “good on
paper”, as my brother Anthony would say: Good Italian family (for Mom), good job
(for the future) and definitely good to look at (for me). But what had started
as a nice, promising relationship had ended abruptly this evening.
What was it? I know I’m not Sports Illustrated cover material, but my petite
frame, short dark brown hair and blue eyes have been known to turn a few heads.
I had always had my share of dates, even if I didn’t have the blonde luscious
curves of my best friend, Keira, who, at that moment strolled into my place
bearing Tarantino’s finest pepperoni pizza and a box of TastyKakes.
“Good lord, Alex, it’s quite the disaster here!”
“Well the disaster was ever hooking up with one Raymond James. Here, let me mop
this up and we can enjoy that pizza”
“Let me help you.” She twisted her long blonde locks into a quick ponytail,
grabbed some paper towels and assisted in the damage control. That’s the thing
about Keira. To look at her perfectly manicured, coiffed, and impeccably dressed
persona, you’d think that she had grown up in a house with servants – and she
did — but she is always the first to get down and dirty to do “real work”.
It was the effort of a few moments as we companionably cleaned the remains of my
disastrous date from my floors and wall. I changed from my “date” clothes into a
well-worn pair of pajamas emblazoned with sock monkeys sporting Hawaiian shirts.
“I just don’t get it” I said, settling in to polish off half the pizza, and at
least one trio of packaged chocolate cupcakes. “How did things go so bad…so
suddenly, but with no real drama, you know? I mean there were no arguments.
….just poof, tonight he says he doesn’t think things will work out…and on the
night I made Mama’s lasagna and tiramisu!”
“ Quite frankly, I’m surprised you pulled out the big guns so soon in the
relationship. Making your mom’s lasagna for someone you’ve only been dating two
weeks….hey…split this last slice with me…”
“I dunno. I guess I thought this felt promising. He comes from good family…has a
“I know, I know, he ‘looks good on paper’. Maybe you should start ignoring your
brother Anthony’s rating system and concentrate on your own.”
“Ha. You know I don’t rely solely on my family’s recommendations, but you have
to admit that Anthony was spot on this one. Pass me the cupcakes please.”
Tarantino’s, in addition to making the most authentic East Coast pizza in
Denver, also imported and stocked my favorite snack treats from back East,
allowing me to relive my childhood one cupcake at a time.
“In any case, I’m not sure how he could have walked in here, seen that lasagna
and done anything but propose on the spot.”
“If that’s the case he should have pulled out a two-carat diamond last week when
I made Chicken Piccata, or Pasta Amatriciana, or…”
Ever since I was old enough to pull up a chair and stand next to my mom and
grandmother as they produced the wonderful dinners that were such an integral
part of our family life, I have been able to reproduce the Italian specialties
that I love. That talent came in handy when I moved half a continent away from
“Besides, Keira, I wasn’t looking for a marriage proposal…just an indication
that he’d be around long enough to maybe go back East with me at some point to a
Keira stopped chewing and gave me a whack on the back of my head.
“Ow! Just because you’ve spent a lot of time with me back home doesn’t give you
the right to use the patented Nonna Teresa head whap.
“Alexandria! You told him were going to take him into Italian Catholic central?
It’s not enough that you have enough photos and memorabilia in this apartment to
make it the setting for a Fellini film festival? And that you rarely cook a meal
that doesn’t include pasta?”
“Hey! You LIKE my pasta!”
“No, I LOVE your pasta, but that’s beside the point. Guys don’t want to feel
that they are being wrapped in the Italian flag and tied with a red, white, and
green bow when they date you. “
I took in the family photos in mismatched frames that lined the mantle and side
tables of my bachelorette pad, and the cherished items handed down to me from my
grandmother and great-aunts’ homes. Hmm. Maybe it did look more like it belonged
in the Italian countryside than the Washington Park area of Denver.
“Are you saying I should change my décor?”
“No, not at all. The way you have this place decorated is adorable….and you have
a lot of things here that you have picked up on your business trips that you
have added here that make it uniquely ‘Alexandria.’”
We munched silently and pondered that for a moment. I suppose that I could go
for a more sleek modern look, but what would I do with the crocheted throws that
I liked to grab at a moment’s notice while I settled in to read or watch TV?
What would be come of my collection of menus from my favorite restaurants that I
had framed and hung on the walls? And how could I get rid of the collection of
hatboxes that served as both conversation pieces and extra storage? No. My
apartment was definitely “home” and I saw no reason to make any changes.
“No…it’s the food that scares them away” Keira nodded.
“Hey!! Complain about my cooking again and you’ll have to hire a professional
cook to cater for your next dinner soiree rather than rely on my amateur skills
and good will.”
“ Calm down. For that outburst…I’m taking the last Kandy Kake. No. What I mean
is that you might need to branch out in your culinary world and make things for
“What? Everything is for THEM.”
“You need to research your target market better and aim at them. See, while you
are an amazing cook, sometimes I think that you don’t take the time to find out
enough about the fellow’s favorites and hit them with those favorites. You rely
on YOUR favorites. You know, you don’t want to be a one-trick pony.”
I made a note to relay that back to her the next time she said she desperately
needed a veal marsala for a dinner party. One-trick pony, indeed.
She had a point though. While I was a foodie and a great culinary experimenter,
when it came to cooking for dates I generally stuck to the safe recipes from my
mom’s kitchen. Hmm. Market research and target marketing. I could do that…after
all it’s what I actually did for a living.
“Well, one good thing with this one” she said, gathering up the empty pizza box
and chocolate wrappers, “At least since they won’t have met him, you will be
spared the family examination on this one.”