I don’t care where you come from, what you look like, and what your nationality is. The comment that’s rounding the bend applies to all, and I am confident I speak for all when I say: everyone loves a home-cooked meal!
What’s the next opinion that applies to all? Everyone needs “someone” to cook them a “home-cooked” meal! There’s something that chemically happens to us when we are in a fun-loving environment and with laughter, cheer, and some spirits—not the kind that say boo, but the kind that takes the edge off even the most tightly wound type A personalities (that would be me)!
Have you any idea where I’m leading you to? If you’re thinking it’s about food, someone’s Mamma, and a home-cooked meal? You are right on all accounts. I recently spent time at what I would consider someone’s “home.” This lovely lady probably spends more time there than anywhere else and has dug the trenches and dedicated endless amounts of sweat, effort, and safe to say, tears along the way. You just feel it when you walk through the door, and what a feeling you do get when you enter.
I was lucky to score an invite to an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Now, I was not just sitting and eating at this wonderful place. I was fully engaged, head—on with sprits in hand, apron tied to every body part, cooking with a fabulous group of strangers, the Queen of this establishment, and her “huntsmen.”
The evening started with wine and introductory conversation. Then we proceeded to pick out of a hat (bowl) the item we would be preparing. Of course, the New York came out in me and when I blindly picked salad, I loudly exclaimed that I was NOT preparing this and I wanted something else! No, I’m not an entitled princess, but I am Italian and could make salad in my sleep. I wanted (demanded) something more challenging because I knew my Mamma was watching from above and would not approve. I find it interesting that I still want to please my Mom even though she is physically not here with me. My final choice was gnocchi and I was very pleased! I love gnocchi and knew I needed to get my hands dirty in order to have fun (it must be the tomboy in me)!
The class was set up in pit crews. There were the salad slaves, the pizza preps, the gnocchi goddesses (hi, MJ), and the pasta pals. The first crew was up, and the rest of us sat at an intimate table and awakened our taste buds to zesty marinara and warm, soft bread. While we waited for the salad slaves, I found my way to the prep tables where Mamma was hanging and watching over (with her Italian eye). It reminded me of when I was a kid, and I would sit quietly watching the “elders” preparing and chatting away. I find it amazing regardless of the time that passes by; give me the “right” kind of environment, and my heart finds its way back. It was there that night and I couldn’t be any happier.
As we enjoyed our salad, the pizza preps were preparing the…pizza; I found the mood in the room to be warm and funny amongst all these strangers. We started enjoying our pizza and before I knew it the goddesses were called to duty – I was psyched! I was going to make my old and new Mamma proud. We gathered around the experts and soaked in the knowledge they shared with us. As always with Italian food, tons of ingredients are not needed to bring out the best. Less is not more – but perfect.
As I reflect back on the gnocchi, my mind kicks into slow motion and the atmosphere comes to life. I remember the paint on the walls, the enchanting pictures hanging throughout the room, the laughter (loud but somewhat warm and numbing) – all the little fine details that bring moments to life. Like a sponge, I absorb those moments, store them away, and when needed, close my eyes and I’m back in the room standing next to Mamma.
We congregated and dove into the gnocchi and it was delish. As I glanced around the dinner table, I was happy to see smiling contented faces. I had great partners (I mean goddesses) and was proud of my group and the gnocchi we prepared.
The “pasta pals” were up and before I could observe another great moment in the making, Mamma herself came up to me and said, “pasta!” She motioned for me to come over and observe/help and there was no way I was saying no to the Queen Mamma. I left my gnocchi and ran up to the prep tables where I melted into the wall and watched as Mamma lovingly shared her time and expertise with the pasta pals. I couldn’t help but notice that everyone dressed for the occasion and we even wore cute aprons (see pics). It was an Italian Sunday meal on a Tuesday night filled with once strangers, now friends brought together by a great home-cooked meal.
At the end of the evening Mamma and her crew sat with us and we finished up with Italian desserts (my favorite being Tiramisu – cake, not pudding version). We broke the language barriers, shared memories, created new ones, and I laughed till my cheeks hurt.
I know these “moments” come and go, but time truly stood still for me. I walked away with a great feeling that is still with me today and as I reflect back on that magical night, that feeling will be right there for me to indulge in again.
If you are ever in LA head to http://www.osteriamamma.com/ you will be truly satisfied! Kiss Mamma for me!