Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Behind the Pizza Curtain

Submitted by Michelle
One of the great things about Utica, New York is its cultural diversity. When my father and Aunt Roe were growing up, there were distinct sections of the city where the Polish, Italian, German, and Irish lived. Today the city is more blended and is also home to other cultures which reflect the modern day immigration to the United States, but many of the old institutions still remain. Yesterday, Aunt Roe and I went to East Utica, a part of town which used to be deeply immersed in Italian culture. My Great Uncle John used to say that when you went to East Utica you were going "behind the pizza curtain" and my cousins and I still laugh about that to this day.
The reason we ventured behind the pizza curtain was to go to my favorite bakery, the Florentine, for some cappuccino and cannoli. I've tried cannoli all over New York, but I think the Florentine is the best, which is ironic since New York City is home to some of the best restaurants and bakeries in the state.
My Aunt Roe and UD's favorite restaurant, Ventura's, is also in East Utica. UD took us there on Sunday night for dinner and I had an amazing dish called Veal alla Maria. Imagine this: a veal cutlet topped with a paper thin slice of prosciutto, a piece of eggplant, greens, sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. Delish!
Along with our trip to the Florentine, we also had brunch with my Great Aunt Helen Jiampietro (how's that for an Italian last name?). Aunt Helen was married to Dominic, my grandma Jilda's brother, and she is the last of her era of the Jiampietro's. She is 87 years young and loves a good "sangwich." Her laugh is infectious and she tells wonderful stories of our family, often interjecting "mama mia" or "God bless him" as she goes.
Aunt Roe, Great Aunt Helen and me
Sadly, our final destination of the day was the Utica Train Station. I took the Amtrak back to NYC and will be spending the rest of the week with Kathy.
It is always difficult to leave my family (and the food!) in Utica, but the memories of each trip keep me smiling, along with the hope of visiting again soon.


Nelda Esmeralda said...

What a great experience with your aunts, one you'll never forget. I once spent a week with my mom and her sisters when they were all in their 80's+, such fond memories. The canoli looked delicious. After reading your blog last night I even dreamt of running around in NYC with my childhood friends, and I've never been there. You're such a great writer.

Susan Rikimaru said...

That cappuccino and cannoli looked so good!! Glad you are having such a great time with family in NY.

Melanie Johnson said...

I am the Great-Grand-Daughter of Dominic Jiampietro. I was playing on Google and found your post about Aunt Helen. Dominic's daughter Anita was my Grandmother. I've lived in FL many years but the food in Utica is always home!!! Thanks for posting pics and making me miss home. :)

Melanie Johnson