Growing up, I ate numerous authentic Italian dishes in the comfort of my own home. For the first 13 years of my life, my Italian grandparents lived in my home with my parents, my brothers and I. My nani (Italian for grandma) was an excellent cook. She insisted that we eat home cooked meals almost every night of the week! She also made sure that we all sat down at the table and had dinner together, no matter how busy our schedules were. My pap pap had a huge garden in our backyard. Many of his vegetable and herbs (parsley) were used in my nani’s homemade dishes. My nani was famous for her gnocchi. Gnocchi was my favorite dish of hers because she made them with ricotta cheese instead of just potatoes. They had a much richer and creamier taste than the potato gnocchi that you get at many restaurants. I also enjoyed her homemade pizzelles, pasta fagioli, bruschetta, etc. As I grew older, I realized how family oriented that most Italians are. Many Italians are raised to treat friends as though they were family too. When we would have company at my house, my nani and my mother would be sure to be as hospitable as possible. When I was a kid, I remember when my great uncle and his wife would come over to my house every Friday night to play cards with my family. My nani and my mother seemed to barely sit down the whole time that they were there because they wanted to make sure that they always had something to eat or drink in front of them. My dad claims that he gained 30 pounds after marrying my mother because of how many times my nani insisted that he needed to sit down and eat something even though he was not hungry!! She would always say “Mangia, Mangia!” (eat, eat!) as soon as she would place food on the table!