I made lasagne for dinner last night, but I wasn't hungry, so I didn't have any. We had lots left over and had it for dinner tonight too. I was hungrier tonight, so did have some and have to admit it wasn't bad, if I do say so myself.
I grew up in the heart of (or, more accurately, on the outskirts of) North Beach, the Italian section of San Francisco. (Though the city is more homogeneous now, North Beach is still predominately Italian, with a slop-over of Chinese from nearby Chinatown.) My parents lived there for more than 30 years. Within walking distance was St. Peter & Paul church, which was the Italian National Church in San Francisco.
My father comes from Irish and German roots. His father's grandparents came to this country from Ireland, and his mother's family (about which I know virtually nothing) came from Germany. But in his heart, my father was Italian, with or without the blood lines.
We lived in a flat on a hill in the city and our landlord was a guy named Joe, who was from the old country. His Italian accent was so thick I could barely understand him. His wife was German and they were theater folks, with their walls covered, to the ceiling, with pictures of the activities of their thespian group. I don't think they performed, but they definitely were active in theatrical stuff.
Irma was a large woman who bought clothes, when she liked something, in three different sizes...small, medium and large, to accommodate her always fluctuating weight.
My father worshipped Joe and spent a lot of time with him. And along with worshipping Joe came his love of Italian food. He loved it all. Dinner in our house was invariably something Italian, if it wasn't something Amurrican or delivered Chinese food. Whenever we went out to eat as a family, 90% of the time it was to a local Italian restaurant.
I grew up with spaghetti, lasagne, veal parmesan, ravioli. My father learned how to make a lot of Italian food and to this date I have never had calzoni as good as his.
He would take me with him to order pizza in the days when pizza was a new thing. I remember standing on a box to look over at the pizza-making area and watching the pizza being assembled. They usually gave me a slice of mozarella to eat while we waited for the pizza to be cooked in the big brick oven. I never remember other customers being in the shop when we went there, which tells you how new the whole pizza idea was!
To go with that pizza, my father bought what he always called "Dago red" wine by the gallon in bottles without a label on them. (I think that he actually brought the bottles back to be refilled). I don't remember him slinging the jug over his shoulder to pour a glass, but it was the kind of bottle that you expected people to do that with.
But I somehow missed the Italian-loving gene. I listen to Italian cooks on TV today, waxing rhapsodic about childhood memories of mama's spaghetti sauce. I never got it. Spaghetti sauce was spaghetti sauce to me. Oh, I don't dislike Italian food, but if you offer me the choice of an ethnic restaurant for dinner, Italian would be about the last on my list of choices.
I'm also a pretty good Italian cook. I can make spaghetti sauce from scratch, or dress up a bottled version. I make a fairly good pizza (not nearly as good as Jim's family--but his son is a pro). I make a good lasagne (and actually prefer the pesto type that we had in Portofino) and I am willing to try just about anything, but as with restaurant choices, Italian would never be my first choice of ethnic food to cook. But I cook it because it's easy, it's famliar, and Walt likes it.
But if truth be told, I'd really rather be cooking something Mexican.