More efforts to commune with neighbors tonight; this time at the Garden Court Community Association‘s annual Progressive Dinner, themed this year: “Under a Tuscan Moon”. What could be more fun than eating Italian food with my fascinating neighbors?
Finding a fabulous Italian cook, that’s what! Mary Allegra, who lives barely a block away, learned her craft from an Italian aunt and time working with Julia Child at WGBH Boston, according to her husband Frank. While she made clams oregano and untoasted mozzarella bruschetta for the antipasti, as the hostess at the “entree house”, she prepared about a dozen delicious piatti: farfalle, strozzapreti with walnuts and ricotta salata, a white spinach and a red vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, a sort of ratatouille, stuffed peppers, chicken with mushrooms and bacon, braciole, asparagus, some sort of green salad.
I was overwhelmed. The chafing dishes, whose heat radiated through the rooms, literally covered her room-sized dining table. At first glance, I expected the food to be mediocre italo-americano at best. How could a home cook excel when cooking for more than 100 people?
Lots of planning and years of practice, I guess. Every bite pleased! (And what a huge relief. Hiding my opinions, positive or negative, especially when they’re intensely focused on Italian food, has got to be one of the most difficult social acts I know.) Most of all I liked the white lasagna, the braciole and the eggplant parmigiano. Grazie, Mary, for helping me rediscover the pleasures of Italian American done well. I would love to learn more about how you pulled this all off.
I came home with the need to create something and baked a simple American banana bread I’ll share socially tomorrow.