Lakewood Ranch's Angela Massaro-Fain honors her grandmother's cooking secrets in a new book.
You could say the book "Bacio di Cucina" — which translates to "a kiss from the kitchen" — grew out a little slap on the arm.
That slap was just one of the stories told by Lakewood Ranch's Angela Massaro-Fain April 10 as she danced through her Central Park kitchen while finishing off her grandmother's classic manicotti recipe.
During Massaro-Fain's childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, she often would be picked up at school by her grandfather, Emilio Zamarra, who brought her to his house where she would begin her "servicia" or chores. Those chores were laid out by Angela Zamarra — known to those in her family and in her "burg" as Nanny.
Nanny's chore list for her granddaughter included dusting and ironing, but more often than not, cooking.
"I loved it," Massaro-Fain said as she stirred a pot of her famous Sunday gravy. "I did whatever my grandmother wanted me to do. It was my special time with her."
While it was a special time, Massaro-Fain didn't mind challenging Nanny once in a while. For example, when Nanny was making biscotti from a generations-old recipe, little Angela decided a sugar glaze, an Italian no-no for biscotti, was needed. She waited until Nanny had turned her back, and made the switch.
Smack! Nanny was far too smart for such a thing, and she gave her granddaughter the little slap on the arm. Little Angela had been caught. Fortunately Nanny didn't administer the often threatened "bot a la gool" or spanking on the butt.
Such moments carved out Massaro-Fain's passion for food and its preparation. She not only learned about how to cook, she learned about the integrity of the process. She said the morals of both her mother, Maria Francesca Massaro, and Nanny, laid the foundation for her success in both cooking and business.
As the years passed and Massaro-Fain developed into a successful businesswoman, she never forgot those precious moments with Nanny, or wavered in her love of cooking.
Now retired after she and husband, John Fain, sold Lakewood Ranch's Grapevine Communications on April 10, 2017, Massaro-Fain has decided to share her family favorite recipes in a book, Bacio di Cucina, which is available for purchase at www.Facebook.com/BacioDiCucina. The cookbook is a loving tribute to Nanny and includes some family stories along with the recipes. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Sisterhood for Good, which Massaro-Fain founded.
Those in East County are likely to know Massaro-Fain as a tough but fair businesswoman, and probably not as the woman who creates masterpieces in the kitchen.
"Cooking and business were totally separate parts of my life," said Massaro-Fain, who together with her husband founded Grapevine Communications in 2002. "But even when I was working, I would cook three to four nights a week, and on a Saturday or a Sunday I would do a cooking extravaganza."
John Fain, who married Angela in 2000, said cooking always has been a huge part of his wife's life, even during their busiest days. He described how she would come home from a long day's work, cut up chicken into cutlets, make a cucumber salad and a couple of side dishes, and then would constantly apologize for not being able to make a real dinner.
"I come from a non-cooking environment," John Fain said with a laugh. "My kids lived on pizza and hamburgers."
Over the years, that changed as he began to share his wife's passion to the point where she now calls him her "sous-chef."
He is proud of his wife's accomplishments and her new book.
"She is not a chef like a restaurant," he said. "But she is known as one of the most amazing Italian chefs in this area."
Massaro-Fain said it all comes naturally to her.
"I think the biggest joy I get is to see other people happy," she said. "To me, food always has been love."
The idea to write a cookbook came from John Fain during a vacation in Savannah, Georgia, a few months after they sold Grapevine Communications.
"We were sitting at Vic's on the River and we started talking about how important cooking was to her life," he said. "And everyone always asks for her recipes."
She immediately came up with 68 of her family's favorite recipes, and then cut it back to 54.
One of the recipes was Nanny's string bean with mint salad.
"I remember making that salad with her," Massaro-Fain said. "It was a little garlic and olive oil. The loved the flavor and I loved the smell of the garlic. To this day, when I smell garlic, I think of my grandmother."
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