What can I say. I’m IN LOVE with Italian food, whether that’s eating it, cooking it or obsessing on reading every Italian recipe book on the planet. As long as anyone is interested in joining me, I can conversate about it at great length, most probably with over-the-top hand gestures & wiggly eyebrows.
I would say my obsession started around the time my dad, Salvatore Maggiulli, sold his Italian delicatessen, Salumeria Napoli, Battersea.
He had it for nearly 20 years and through out that time it was the bane of my teenage life, which when I look back now is just crazy.
My dad would want my brother and I to work on Saturdays and holidays. I can categorically say that at the time I hated it. I used to get really moody and not shy of a throwing a good teenage sulk.
But it’s only now, looking back, I have realised how much it has influenced and driven my obsession.
As a child, I was extremely picky when it came to food. I used to look enviously at my school friends pack lunches which would consist of the sandwich and crisp combo while eating a healthy Italian frittata. As a child, I was mostly into beige food. The only Italian food I would eat was pizza and pasta, and that was of the plain kind. I would push to one side olives, Italian charcuterie and cheeses. I just wasn’t interested.
Throughout those years, we would visit relatives on our annual holiday to Lecce, Puglia, where a vast amount of food would be eaten. However, I just wasn’t interested in anything but pasta. I would have to eat it everyday as I would not touch much else.
However, when I started to work regularly at the deli, I started to appreciate the delicacies and flavours that I chose to ignore for many years, especially during my twenties. Over time I started to try and regularly eat everything that my dad used to sell. When we went on holiday to Italy, I used to hover over my aunts and Nonna (rest her soul) while they cooked 5 course lunches for all the family just so I could take in the aromas and cheekily ask for tasters. I remember the first time I was given a slice of peach that had been dunked into red wine. It blew my mind. I knew that these lot knew exactly what they were doing.
I slowly started to understand how important food was to my family. It wasn’t just fuel, it was a time to sit together, talk very loudly over each other and just simply be content with life. One of my fondest memories, is my Zia Teresa, propping a large loaf of bread under her arm, slicing it one handed and then frisbeeing it down to everyone sat at the table. Major skills.
When my dad sold the deli, only then did I realise the void we were going to have in our lives. No longer could we get free parma ham, pesto, olives, cheese, pasta etc. As a family we were going to have to go elsewhere to stock up on our cupboards and fridges. It was a huge shock and it was then that I realised that I could not walk away from my Italian food roots. Instead I would embrace and learn as much as I could about it to keep it alive. I couldn’t let go straight away. SoI started a little food stall (as soon as the deli closed). For a year I would sell all my dad’s best sellers in Battersea on a Saturday morning.
I’m now obsessed and have collected many recipes, Italian cookbooks written in both English and Italian. I started to spend as much time in the kitchen as possible & rustle up many dishes that may have been cooked for me in the past. I also started to try and find the best restaurants and food shops just to ensure that I ate the best quality Italian food offered around.
This blog is my journey of learning to cook all things Italian, understand all regional cooking, discover new delicatessens to find the best quality Italian food and even try to locate the best Italian restaurants in London and the rest of the world.
Please share and feedback if there is anything of interest.
Apologies, for any form of weight gain.
Paola aka The Tiny Italian