Benvenuti! My name is Michelle Capobianco. I am the owner of a food and catering company called Majella Home Cooking (pronounced “mah-yel-lah” – no “j” sound!) located in New York. As the name suggests, I have strong roots in the mountainous region of Abruzzo in Central Italy. My father, Gino, was born in the tiny village of Salle, deep in the mountains of the Parco Nazionale della Majella.
There’s also a second meaning behind the name – during a visit to Salle when I was a teenager, my precocious 6-year old cousin, Davide nicknamed me “Majella” as he led me around town spewing gossip about the villagers! My mother, Nina, on the other hand, was born in Caltabellotta, Sicily, in the province of Agrigento. (I must confess that although I have spent considerably more time in Abruzzo, my occasionally fiery temperament is entirely Sicilian!)
- Each summer, I return to Italy with my husband, Michael, a musician and composer, and our three sons – Mikey (10), Stefano (8) and Antonio (6) – to my family’s home in Salle from which we’re blessed with an unparalleled backyard view of the Majella mountain.
A little bit about me … My parents raised me with a strong sense of my heritage and its traditions, and not surprisingly, food played an integral part of my cultural experiences. My favorite brown-bag lunch, Nutella (back when it was still only available in the US at Italian specialty food shops) on yellow-hued semolina bread, was banned by a teacher who criticized my mother for sending me with chocolate cake for lunch. That same teacher chastised me when I included the pairing, “and” and “end” in my homework list of homonyms. Although I had pleaded with my charmingly-accented mother that the two words did indeed sound different, I finally caved and added them to the list so as not to offend her.
When I went away to college, my entire dormitory eagerly anticipated my parents’ visits for with them arrived trays of anellini al forno, melanzane alla parmigiana and polpette. (A roommate who hailed from Mississippi recently confessed that she once snuck into the freezer and finished off the last of my mom’s arancini while everyone was sleeping.) My fascination with Italian cuisine started to evolve beyond my parents’ own regional specialties when I studied abroad in the lovely art city of Perugia and then again in Firenze during college and law school.
I began a career as a corporate and securities lawyer at a large NYC firm and unfortunately, knew from the get-go that I wasn’t in the right profession. Never one to quit, though, I hung on for nearly 10 years. At the same time, I began to seek inspiration and a creative outlet in the kitchen. I immersed myself in Italian cookbooks and culinary history and during our trips to Italy, while my husband, Michael, an amateur Renaissance historian and fellow Italophile, led me to off-the-beaten-path churches, I guided him to every obscure trattoria, pasticceria, gelateria, salumeria, cornetteria, etc., etc, etc.
I stopped practicing law to stay home with my children in 2008 and aspired to one day embark on a new career that channeled my love of food and Italy. In the spring of 2012, I had a now-or-never moment and launched my catering business, which specializes in regional Italian food, as opposed to the more widely-known Italian-American standards. The dishes I prepare span the entire Italian peninsula — from Sicilian caponata to maccheroni alla chitarra from Abruzzo to gubana from Friuli.
I also rediscovered my love of writing and vis-à-vis my blog, share recipes and cooking tips as well as stories and photos about my Italian childhood and travels in Italy. I hope you’ll join me on a culinary journey to the most awe-inspiring country in the world.
A presto e buon appetito!