A delicious way to explore Italian heritage

As far as I know, I don’t have one bit of Italian heritage, but after my experience last weekend I am prepared to be adopted by someone who does.

My husband, Mike, and I had the pleasure of attending the Italian Cooking School offered at the Sons and Daughters of Italy lodge in Bellaire on April 8. We had both visited the club on its pasta nights in the past and I had been there to report on various lodge activities, but we didn’t really know what to expect from the class.

We were in for a very pleasant surprise!

The club’s Cultural Committee worked long and hard planning the event, which was its first cooking demonstration since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The members carefully planned a seven-course menu, promoted the class and sold tickets to up to 50 attendees and then made sure to polish up their demonstration skills before preparing a delicious meal to share with all of their students.

We arrived a few minutes early — in plenty of time to find seats and get a glass of wine to enjoy. I opted for the homemade Sangria that was available, and my fruit-filled glass was like nothing I had ever tasted before. I figured that was a good sign.

The committee members then took the floor one-by-one (or in one case as a pair) and gave step-by-step instructions on how to prepare each dish on the menu. Some even went into detail about their favorite brands of certain products and what types of tools to use.

Lillian Siebieda instructed the crowd on the bread and pizza course, teaching us how to make a nice, thick Focaccia bread.

When it came to soups and salads, Cynthia Hartlieb demonstrated how to make an authentic Caprese salad, carefully layering fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, drizzling them with olive oil and basalmic vinegar and topping everything with fresh, fragrant basil leaves.

For the pasta and rice course, President Bill Ault took us through the process of making potato-based gnocchi, noting that it could be topped with the sauce of your choice.

When it was time to talk about the main dish, Tony Posinelli talked about his childhood in Italy and, later, his youth in Bellaire and Benwood. He explained how to create a delicious Porchetta from a pork butt that first is seasoned with garlic and rosemary and allowed to stand overnight before being slow-roasted.

Mike and I were both wary of the vegetable dish, since neither of us had much experience with eggplant. But the Eggplant Caponata demonstrated by Irene Louda and Theresa Mowery might have been my favorite part of the meal.

For dessert, Anita Masciarelli Smigill shared her recipe for Italian Butter Cake, a rich, dense, delightful sweet that can be topped with frosting, fresh fruit or just about anything else that suits your taste.

Mike’s opinion was that they saved the best for last, even though the beverages and appetizers course was the first listed on the menu. John Gianangeli showed how to make Limoncello using Everclear, lemon zest, sugar and water. After he finished his presentation, club members circulated through the audience offering ice cold samples of the potent but tasty drink.

After that, the membership served all the guests meals that featured all of the dishes we had just learned how to make. The food was fabulous, and the company couldn’t have been any better.

I am happy to report that the organization had a full house for the cooking school and, as a participant, I would deem it an absolute success.

We didn’t even make it home before Mike had purchased lemons and the other necessary ingredients to recreate that drink.

To the Sons and Daughters of Italy, I say grazie mille!


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today