Marsala Wine and Mushroom Sauce

cartoon for marsala wine sauce 002


  “In the early years my brother and I conversed only in Italian. In fact all of the cousins that resided in the apartments over the restaurant spoke only in Italian! What is weird is that I remember watching TV and cartoons like Felix the Cat! My favorite!  I must have known what they were saying since I remember enjoying it so much.  By the time I started kindergarten I still couldn’t speak any English, yet I understood English enough to know that my classmates were making fun of the fact that I couldn’t speak English!        

     Our parents, Italian immigrants, were only a few years in America when they decided to open up an Italian restaurant. It was very important for them to preserve their Italian heritage. And one way was to make sure their American children spoke fluent Italian. While my dad was here with 2 of his 5 siblings, my mom immigrated here with her parents and 6 siblings. Socializing was only with our huge Italian family. The only English we were privy to was what we watched on television and the rare occasions we were allowed in the restaurant! But once I started kindergarten everything changed. I was the pioneer who brought English into the house and spoke with all of my younger cousins. I was reprimanded many times!! What is very funny is that as I became more fluent in English, I started realizing the words I thought were Italian weren’t really Italian. They were actually English with an Italian twist. I am laughing to myself as I remember all of this. You see as much as we were isolated from English speaking Americans we were also isolated from proper speaking Italians!  As our parents worked in the restaurant, English words became part of their vocabulary. Those English words morphed into Italian words either because of their thick accents or because they knew no other way to pronounce them.  Unbeknownst to my brother, my cousins and I, those morphed Italian words were not authentic Italian.  Thank goodness our parents took us to Italy every summer so we could “tune up” our Italian.

      As much as our Italian suffered our English did not! Our parents were astute enough to know that they could never teach their children English.  We only spoke Italian at home so we never got confused.  We all learned proper English from school.  Although I did end up having some remnants of only speaking Italian in the early years.  My biggest handicap was trouble with the “TH” sound. It sometimes came out sounding like a T. It was my 4th grade teacher Sister Mary Regis who insisted that I learn to properly pronounce the “TH” sound. My mamma went to school explaining that I had trouble with it because we spoke Italian at home. Sister Mary Regis told my mom that it was not a good excuse and that it was mandatory that I learn to pronounce “TH” sound properly.  I soon overcame my problem with “TH”! But every now and then if I have to put thumb and tongue or thong and tong in the same sentence I get all tongue tied. There is one Italianglish word, which has lingered from my years living on top of the restaurant that my own children get hysterical about. It’s the way I say sandwich. I have the worst time pronouncing that word in proper English! I used to think that sanguiccio was the word for sandwich in Italian. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it was really just sandwich said with an Italian accent. I still catch myself saying sangwich.  On second thought I don’t even know I am doing it!  It is my children who love to point out to me that I say “sangwich”.  My sister reminded me of the word frontaruma, she said it wasn’t until her 20’s when it dawned on her that frontaruma was not Italian but the English word for front room (1960’s word used for living room!!).

     Don’t get me wrong I can easily go to Italy and understand most everything and can make myself understood by the Italians.  I am very conscious of when I get a blank stare I know that I just used an Italianglish word. But I have noticed that the Italians in Italy also use English words in their everyday vernacular. For example, hamburger is an English loan word in the Italian language. It’s a masculine noun that’s the same in the singular and the plural. It’s pronounced ‘AHM-boor-ghehr’.”

Hi everyone!

I decided to change things up from the garlic and oil based recipes for this week.  Instead I thought I would share another popular sauce from the restaurant. Marsala Wine and Mushroom Sauce! We used it on Veal Scaloppini and also on chicken, shrimp, scallops,filet of sole and even pasta!  I thought I would use veal in this recipe.  In the restaurant we used the best milk fed veal to get the most tender pieces.  For the home cook it may be a little harder to get the best veal.  I tried two different local grocery stores to get the veal and neither were labeled milk fed.  You can tell by the color of the veal if it’s milk fed. Milk fed veal has a pink color and more expensive than the grass fed version.  The prices ranged from $14.99 to $18.99 a pound.  I tried both and the milk fed was much more tender.  They are both labeled as veal cutlets and the better quality one was labeled veal cutlet top round.  You only need a pound to serve 4 people.

Take a veal cutlet and cut it in half across the grain to make a smaller piece called a medallion. A pound of veal should yield 12 medallions.

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Pound each piece with a meat tenderizer with the side with small teeth about 3-4 times each side.

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Object is to make small round medallions.  Salt and dredge the medallions in flour.

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Fry the prepared veal in canola oil.  The veal is thin so it’s less than a minute on each

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  Marsala Wine and Mushroom Sauce


½ cup salted butter (8 Tbs)

1 cup of veal stock or chicken stock (unsalted)

6 oz of Marsala Wine ( dry not sweet) (grocery store cooking marsala wine is fine)

6 dashes Tabasco Sauce

¼  tsp salt

1 Tbs chopped Italian parsley

10 oz (weight)  of sliced white mushrooms  (6 large)


Prepare the veal ( or Chicken, pork,shrimp,scallops, or filet of sole).  Salt the veal and dredge in flour. Fry in canola oil.


Pour out oil from the skillet and deglaze with Marsala Wine.

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Clean off mushrooms with a damp paper towel.  Don’t wash them or they will absorb all the water.  Then slice.

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Add the meat back in the skillet.

Add the rest of the ingredients,  butter, stock, Tabasco, salt, parsley and mushrooms.

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Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes and remove the veal.

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Continue to simmer for 2 minutes longer to thicken the sauce.


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and then pour the sauce over the veal and serve.

veal marsala

You can also double the sauce and serve it over pasta.


Pork Scallopini al’Arrabiata

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    “It wasn’t just my mamma’s voice that my brother and I experienced coming through the window of our apartment. As my brother and I would gaze through the window overlooking the restaurant kitchen skylights, we could almost see a swirl of aromas lifting through the air toward our window.  We both stood tall breathing in while our stomachs sucked in and our our chests swelled out. We pulled all those wonderful aromas curling up from the skylight all the way up into our nostrils! “ Yummmmiieee yum yum!!”, we would both exclaim to ourselves!  Some mornings we didn’t need alarm clocks to wake us up  because the scent of simmering tomato sauce coming from the restaurant kitchen  was the perfect wake- up call!

     Before you all get jealous on how my brother and I were raised on the restaurant foods let me set the record straight.  You know how the old saying goes that the “shoemakers children have no shoes!”, well we children felt like “chefs kids didn’t eat chefs meals”! My mom and her sisters insisted that we were on a regiment of healthy eating.   Soft boiled eggs for breakfast while lunch consisted of soups.  My one Zia made very brothy bland soups while my other Zia made soups that were so thick that you can eat them with a fork! In the early years mamma didn’t cook at all because she was always working. My brother and I were soon disappointed to find out that mamma cooked much the same way! Dinner was just an unseasoned broiled piece of meat and a plain vegetable. If I think back I don’t think my Zias ever served pasta!  Of course dessert was out of the question! I can still picture myself with my cousins sitting at the dinner table staring down at our plates confused. It was so difficult to enjoy our healthy meals surrounded by all those wonderful restaurant food aromas.  We all realized early on that the papas were the restaurant chefs who made the most delicious meals while the mammas were the home cooks who made sure the children ate healthy foods!  You can bet that we children looked forward to Mondays!  It was the day the restaurant was closed.  It was a special day.  Not only did we get spend time with our papas but we got to experience the chefs’ cooking.  We even got dessert!  Some Mondays all three families would go to my nonna’s house where we ate good there too! In fact our Nonna was a phenominal cook! Monday was my brother and I’s favorite day of the week! It is funny how to this day I still associate Monday as a day of family, love and good eats!”


January 15, 2015

Well hello again!!

I hope you are all enjoying the recipes!  We had a request for Pork Arrabiata recipe. This will be recipe number 4.  We have over 50 sauce recipes to share.  It will take time to go through all of them.  If you are especially wanting a recipe please feel free to request one and I will try to fit it in earlier! The Arrabiata Sauce falls in line with our garlic and oil sauce base. This recipe was quite popular in the latter years of the restaurant.  In many recipes arrabiata is often associated with a spicy hot tomato sauce.  Our version has no tomatoes in it.  We call it arrabiata because it is spicy hot! As long as you remove the seeds from the hot cherry peppers it will be mildly hot and palatable!

We use this sauce on pork scallopini but it will be just as good on chicken scallopini.


The way we prepare pork scaloppini is different than the way we prepare chicken.  We don’t use an egg batter for the pork.  We only dredge it in flour and not eggs!  We started off this recipe with 3 thick center cut boneless pork chops which we sliced through horizontally yielding 6 slices.  You may find the scaloppini already sliced for you at the butchers.  Place a slice in a thick freezer quart size zip lock baggie.  Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer and pound 3-4 times on one side and flip it over and pound another 3-4 times on the other side.  Do that with all six slices.  You may need to pound longer to get a nice thin slice of pork scaloppini.  Salt the meat and dredge in flour.  In a skillet fry up the meat in vegetable oil on each side.  Remember you don’t have to worry if it not quite done.  As long as it gets a light golden crust on it you will be fine because you will be finishing it off in the sauce for 20 minutes!


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Pork Arrabiata

Serves 2-3 people


3 cloves of sliced garlic

1 Tbs of chopped Italian parsley

2 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of white wine

1 ½ cups of chicken stock

Slice 4 hot cherry peppers into large chunks ( make sure you remove all the seeds or it will be too hot)

¼ cup of vinegar that the hot cherry peppers are packed in

3 Tbs of salted butter

1/8 tsp of salt


Saute sliced garlic in olive oil until golden over medium heat.garlic sizzling  Quickly pull skillet off heat and drop in chopped parsley.  garlic and parsleyAdd the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the butter is melted. pork arrabiata 5 Then placed  the pork scallopini in the sauce and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.pork arrabiata 3





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Piccata Sauce ( Chicken ala Piccatta)



chicken piccata blog title


     “My brother and I would savor our tomato juice for what seemed like an eternity. We lingered as long as possible at that booth.  Long and narrow with booths on the right and tables on the left, “the restaurant” was dark except for the light streaming from the front window and the light streaming from the back through the kitchen doors. The booth that my brother and I sat it was located just outside the kitchen.  Mamma would sit keeping an eye on the front door while folding napkins. Sitting facing the kitchen my brother and I were practically on top of each other, just barely tumbling out of the booth,  peering into the kitchen.  It was our chance to find out firsthand what really went on in there.  Our mouths were wide open as we gazed through those doors. The only sound we heard was from the knives.  We didn’t hear any voices what-so-ever.  The knives sharp, shiny and gleaming were busy.  Looking at each other we spoke only with our eyes, “OOOOOO   AAAAHHHH!” We had to stay quiet or Mamma would think to bring us back upstairs with our cousins. We listened for the different sounds of chopping. Like the rhythmic sound of a beating drum, the parsley was prepared for the day. Zio’s knife made clicking sounds like a typewriter, chopping garlic. With speed and precision Papa’s knife  had an even faster beat while slicing the mushrooms.  While all this was going on there a slow methodical thumping sound as veal and chicken were pounded into scaloppini. All these sounds together resembled a symphony.  Just when we heard it all, the sound of cymbals clashed when the parsley hit the sizzling garlic! It was early morning but my brother and I wished we could hear Mamma sing out in her beautiful soprano voice “I’m ordering!” and Papa answer in his baritone voice “Pick up!”  Now that would complete the musical symphony  inside “the restaurant”!

Greetings  all!

       Thank  you for taking a walk down memory lane with me with tales of  “the restaurant”.  Staying along the path of garlic and oil based recipes, I thought I would share the recipe for Piccata Sauce this time. You will find that “the restaurant” sauces are different from same named sauces prepared in other establishments.  You may think you are ordering the same dish but don’t be surprised to find the flavor is not the same. In fact you will probably be disappointed.  “The restaurant” sauces pack a lot of flavor and use ingredients not often found in typical recipes.   In this recipe I am going to serve the Picatta Sauce over chicken but we also used this sauce over egg battered filet of sole, shrimp, and broiled salmon.  Before I continue I want to inform you all that these recipes are from my husband Jim that were handed down from my dad.  I am converting them into recipes for the home cook. Jim was the chef at “the restaurant” for a great part of the latter years.  As you continue to walk down memory lane with me you will learn how this all came to be.

   *The following recipe serves 2-3 people.  We used skinless breast of chicken.  Depending on the size of the breast…slice it into 3 horizontal slices .  Take each slice and cut it in half.  You will have 6 pieces.  Sometimes the meat departments will sell the chicken already in large scallopini slices which you will still have to slice in half.    

     Take one of the slices and put it in a plastic gallon size freezer bag ( freezer bags are thicker than the regular storage bags) using the flat part of the meat cleaver pound 3-4 times on one side and then flip to pound the chicken on the other side.  Do this to all the other 5 slices.  Using plastic freezer bags makes it easier to keep your kitchen clean and sanitary.

    Beat up three eggs in a bowl and put ½  cup of flour (you may need more)  in another bowl.  Salt the slices of chicken on both sides, dredge in flour and then in the beaten egg.  These slices are then fried in a pan with vegetable oil until  golden in color.  Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked through because we finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.  After all the chicken has been prepared we set it aside and make the Piccata Sauce.





Picatta Sauce (Chicken Scallopini ala Piccata)

(serves 2-3 people)


1 large clove of garlic thinly sliced

2Tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbs of chopped Italian parsley

4 Tbs salted butter

Juice of 1 lemon (yields ¼ lemon juice)

Pinch of red pepper

¼ sherry wine

 2shakes of Tabasco sauce

1/8 tsp of salt

6 slices of prepared chicken scallopini (*see above paragraphs)



Saute garlic and oil until golden take off burner and throw in the chopped   parsley.                     

garlic and parsley

Add the rest of the ingredients and put back on burner.

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Add the prepared chicken scallopini.

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 Cook for 13 minutes over medium heat.  The sauce will evaporate until about half the original amount. 

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Linguini White Clam

        linguini wc illustration

      “Mornings were the best part of the day! We got to go to work with my mom!  My brother and I couldn’t eat breakfast fast enough to get ready!  Sitting by the bathroom door we patiently watched my mom put on her lipstick. I loved the sound she made after carefully sliding the lipstick around her lips, pursing her lips together.  That pop sound signaled, “Let’s go!”      

   Working was going down to “the restaurant” to help set up all the tables for lunch.  While my brother and I carefully placed the paper placemats at each place setting, my mom methodically placed the silverware in their proper spots. Watching her balance all those butter dishes I marveled at how she tossed the plates like Frisbees landing perfectly over the butter knives!  I secretly hoped that one day my mom would let me set up the tables all by myself.

   Finally after setting up all those tables we got our much anticipated reward! We followed my mom into the kitchen where she pulled out two little cans of tomato juice out of the refrigerator.  As we continued to follow her to the salad pantry where she lifted up the gleaming stainless steel top to pull out a lemon cutting it into perfect wedges we  caught a glimpse of my dad and his brothers busy at work!  My brother and I stood very quietly as we didn’t want to distract them from their work. The restaurant kitchen was sacred!  Grabbing 2 small glasses, my mom had us sit at a table adjacent to the bar. As we slid into the booth my brother and I gleefully opened up those little cans of tomato juice pouring it into little glasses and squeezing wedges of lemon into them!  I can still remember the taste of that tomato juice!  To this day no tomato juice has ever compared to what we sipped on back then in “the restaurant” sitting next to my mom after a productive morning!” My brother and I felt great satisfaction knowing that we too did our share in “the restaurant”! “


   Have you all been practicing making your garlic and oil sauce?  Don’t worry if you have had to practive a few times to get it perfect.  It’s all in the timing of getting the garlic a perfect gold color and then stopping the cooking by adding the parsley cooling it off.

   Now that you have mastered the basic recipe of Garlic and Oil Sauce the next sauces will be easy.   Linguini White Clam was another very popular dish at “the restaurant”.  It uses the same ingredients and the same exact method as the garlic and oil recipe with the addition of clams.  We will be omitting the salt since the clams are already salty.  In the restaurant we used cherrystone clams (big clams) instead of  the littlenecks (baby clams).  We liked using the cherrystone clams because they had the most clam juice and also because they yielded the most clams with the least amount of shucking. We don’t recommend canned clams.  To get “the restaurant” flavor always use fresh clams!

4819e21d1b8e7a245892fa8051bcbd26Shucking a clam doesn’t require strength.  It requires a little knowledge to get the clam knife through the opening of the clams cutting the muscle that keeps it shut tight.  Once the clam knife penetrates into the cavity of the clam then you turn the knife upwards to cut through both ends of the muscle that attach the clam to the shell. If you feel intimidated by shucking a clam you could always ask the fishmonger at the seafood market to shuck them for you.  Also another trick is to put the clams in the freezer for an hour which will relax the muscle that keeps the clam shut tight.  The clam knife will be easier to wedge in between the clam shell. An even easier way is to put the clams in the freezer for 3 hours. Then bring them out and let them thaw.  As they thaw they will open up for you.





Linguini White Clam

(Served over 1 pound of linguini)




A dozen cherrystone clams ( shucked and save ½ cup clam juice)

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs chopped Italian parsley

4 medium cloves of thinly sliced thin

Pinch of red pepper flakes



           Wash and scrub the clams. Shuck the clams and save all the clam juice. Put the clam juice aside to allow all the sand and clam bits to settle.  Chop the clams well.  Pour off the clear clam juice discarding the sandy settlement. Saute the garlic in the extra virgin olive oil until golden.  Take the skillet off the burner and throw in the chopped parsley.  Pour in the ½ cup of clear clam juice, the chopped clams and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Return to medium high heat. The clam sauce will foam as the clam juice evaporates.  Keep stirring.  Once the foam forms to the center of the pan the clams will be cooked (probably around 3 minutes).   Add a ladle (1/4 cup)  of starchy pasta water from your pasta that has been cooking  to the white clam sauce.


     Cook the pasta according to your liking.  We  always make our pasta aldente! You may either add the sauce to the pasta or you can add the pasta to the skillet to soak up some of the sauce and then pour it all in a big pasta bowl and serve. Depending on whether you want to serve this dish as a  first course or main course, it can serve anywhere from 2-6 people.

 A variation of the White Clam Sauce is Red Clam Sauce.  It is the same  recipe except for one ingredient.  Instead of the 1/4 cup of pasta water, at the end you add a 1/4 cup of marinara sauce.  Use the 825 MAIN Marinara! I promise it will be the exact taste of “the restaurant”!

Aglio e Olio

  spaghetti garlic and oil 002 

After  the lunch crowd my mom would come upstairs to the apartments.  As she climbed up the steps we heard the faint jingling of coins. My brother and I  would jump up with joy running to get hugs!! As mom sat down at the kitchen table with her two sisters to compare notes  of what the day brought she would pull out wads of dollars from her uniform pockets dividing it out equally between the three of them.  My brother, my cousins, and I would often sit quietly near watching this daily ritual. Sharing was so easy between the sisters.  While my mom worked the sisters would take care of the children. They were all in it together.  

   It didnt happen everytime but sometimes my mom would scoop up her change and my eyes would widen as she poured her fist full of change into my cupped hands.  I was the oldest and I was entrusted with the important task of dividing the change amongst all the children.  As soon as the kids observed this transaction everyone ran to get the piggy banks. This next part I remember quite vividly.  I am almost blushing as I think back. Although I counted out the coins evenly I kept the shiny silver ones for myself while my younger brother and cousins got the brown coins.  Placing the coins in our piggy banks my coins kerplinked while everyone else’s coins kerplunked!”


Hello everyone! 

     As promised I am sharing the first 2015 recipe.  I have thought long and hard about this.  Which recipe should I start with?   There are so many.  I finally narrowed it down to the sauces.  We made more than 50 sauces throughout the years in “the restaurant”.  I am going to start with the most basic of all the sauces that is often used as the  base of many of the other sauces. The following sauce is very  simple yet difficult to achieve perfection. Allow me to introduce our first recipe for 2015….Spaghetti Garlic and Oil or as we would say Spaghetti Aglio e Olio!  Just 5 ingredients – extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, parsley and red pepper flakes. But I am going to share the secrets to getting it perfect.    Garlic is the most important ingredient and should be treated with the utmost care. First it has to be fresh!  (Do not use the chopped garlic that comes packed in oil.)   When picking out the fresh garlic you will have the option of choosing between American garlic  or Chinese garlic.  Most of the American fresh garlic is from California. It is the best.  You can tell the difference because California garlic still has it roots and stems.  It is much more dense and heavy.  The American garlic flavor far surpasses the garlic from china.


garlic pic

     After peeling the garlic you need to choose whether to chop, slice or crush the garlic. Garlic contains a sulfur compound. The more you chop and crush the garlic the more sulfur compound is released.  ( Imagine all the sulfur smell trapped in one of those jars of chopped garlic packed in oil!  That’s why fresh garlic is best!)  Depending on how intense of a flavor you want in your cooking will lead you to your preference of chopping, crushing, or slicing.  “The restaurant”  recipe for Aglio e Olio  was to get a sweet mellow taste to the sauce.  So we thinly sliced our American garlic.  We put the sliced garlic in a small skillet with the extra virgin olive over medium heat.  Carefully watching the garlic until it reached a golden color, we then added the chopped Italian parsley taking the skillet off the burner. ( Make sure the parsley is the flat leafed italian parsley.  Curly parsley has no flavor.)  This is another secret that most people don’t know about.  Throwing the chopped parsley in the skillet just as the garlic turns golden will stop the cooking process keeping the garlic from turning into the dreaded dark brown color. (Turn off burner taking the skillet off the burner)  The dark roasted garlic has a bitter burnt flavor that will ruin the sauce! After the parsley add red pepper flakes and salt. Now it’s all set for you to either pour over the pasta or you can add the drained pasta to the skillet to coat it.  If you prefer it to be extra moist you can add a ladle of starchy pasta water.

garlic sizzling

Aglio e Olio

served over 1 lb of pasta 


½ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 medium cloves of garlic thinly sliced

1 tsp of salt

2 Tbs of chopped fresh Italian parsley

Red pepper flakes


Sauté thinly sliced garlic in extra virgin olive oil until golden yellow. garlic sizzlingTake it off the burner and  add chopped parsley followed by adding  red pepper flakes to taste  (we just added a pinch) and 1 tsp of salt.garlic and parsley

Add this to your choice of pasta aldente.  Some like to add some pasta water to the sauce.  But I prefer it with just oil.  That’s the way we always served it in my family.



My New Year’s Resolution!

2015 "the restaurant" recipes!

My brother and I huddled together by the window of our apartment and quietly listened amidst the sounds of the clinging and the clanging of dishes, pots and pans for that beautiful melodic song. And then like a ray of sunshine that burst of song penetrated upwards through the skylights. Up, up, up, through the air, through the window of where we sat, that voice….those words…that beautiful melody squeezed us like a warm mother’s embrace. “I am orderrrriiiinnnggg!”.

You see in 1961 my parents and their siblings opened up a restaurant. We lived in an apartment above the restaurant. Those first few years were hard for my brother and I as we adjusted to restaurant life. Although we missed my mom as she worked long hours alongside my dad, the sound of her voice was music to our ears and we took comfort. Hours were spent by the window listening and hoping to hear her voice singing out those beautiful words!  “I am orderrriiinnnng!” That was the phrase the wait-staff used, to yell out customers’ orders to the chefs in the kitchen.  Of course my mom’s distinct soprano voice was a great asset in the noisy busy kitchen of “the restaurant”.

That is the first vivid memory I have of ”the restaurant”.  I thought that I would start off 2015 by going back…. For my 2015 New Year’s Resolution I am going to share with you “the restaurant” recipes enhanced by the stories. Happy New Year!!!