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Celebrating July 4th in True American Fashion...with Italian Food?

While patriotic Americans across the country honored the United States’ big 2-3-4 (or, really, the day off of work) by firing up the BBQ and chowing down on hot dogs, hamburgers, and of course, beer, my family broke from tradition and instead opted for a 3-day Italian feast. Makes sense, right?

I could explain it by saying that our Italian orgy was meant to pay tribute to the ideals that helped form the US - diversity and cultural acceptance, but that would clearly be complete bullshit. To be honest, my recent Italian binge happened by chance; sure, I may be half Italian (well, a quarter Sicilian and a quarter Italian for those who really want to know), but it is no way customary for us to pay tribute to our heritage on July 4th…or ever, really.

In actuality, my dad recently started working for an Italian import distributor, Ital Foods, and that means the refrigerator is stocked to the brim with authentic Italian goodies. You could understand my disappointment to find the fridge void of Kraft American Singles and overflowing with Mozzarella di Bufala, Calabro Whole Milk Ricotta, and Crave Brothers Mascarpone. Those ingredients combined with my parents’ flourishing backyard garden meant that a serious Italian throw-down was imminent.

Day 1 started with my mom’s homemade pizza, a dish which she’s been working on perfecting for over 12 years. The goal was to replicate a Neapolitan-style pizza, but the construction company forgot to include an 850-degree brick oven in our kitchen when they built the house. Silly mistake. So, she went for the next best choice: the backyard grill.

I had two variations (only the first pictured here): a Margherita with the fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce (made with home-grown tomatoes) and freshly picked basil, and another with homemade pesto, cured artichokes, and again, that dangerously delicious mozzarella. While both were tasty, the second frankly blew me away; the crust was perfectly thin and chewy but with a crispy bottom, and the ingredients were simple, fresh, and of the highest quality. And I’m not just saying that out of obvious bias for my mom’s cooking. Homemade pizza, that good, from the grill?! Pretty baller!

Moving on to day 2. Despite my requests for something light and healthy, my parents went in a different direction: 10 pounds of lasagna. They were clearly on a mission – they had 3 lbs of mozzarella and they were going to use it. And really, nothing says “God Bless America” like a colossal tray of lasagna.

This time, my dad was up to bat in the kitchen, and started by making a sauce that stopped me in my tracks. I’m actually not a huge fan of rustic, traditional Italian food – I don’t dislike it, but I don’t crave it, so being so taken by lasagna sauce was not what I was expecting. After complaining and whining about having to eat lasagna for dinner, I promptly shut the !@#$ up as soon as I tasted the final product – it was hearty, structured, well-seasoned, and layered with flavor. Since it’s too long for this post, you can find the recipe HERE.

And if that wasn’t enough, we had the option of dessert: Crave Brothers mascarpone with Fabbri Amarena cherries. Needless to say, the following morning I pushed myself just a bit harder during my workout.

On the final day of my visit, my mom ensured that my kitchen would be stocked with only the most necessary of foods: homemade pesto and focaccia bread topped with bits of basil, tomato, and sea salt.



........only half of the focaccia made it through the two hour train ride back to SF. I just couldn't help myself.

My overall impression of our 4th of July Italian bender? It may seem weird, but really, who the hell cares when the food is that good? At the end of my trip I was left with two thoughts: “My god I am lucky to have parents that can cook like that,” and, “Kelsey, stop looking at the focaccia. Stay out of the focaccia.”

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