I learned to cook out of necessity. I grew up as an indentured servant in Puglia’s Delicatessen, a mom-and-pop deli on Pitman Avenue in the Bronx.
A typical day’s fare would be lasagna, manicotti, and sausage-and-peppers. We made everything fresh, including the pasta, and sold the best bread known to the civilized world. The La Scala Brothers, our suppliers, credited their bread to old brick ovens, the New York water and an ancient Sicilian recipe.
I learned many recipes from my great uncle Sal. Uncle Sal could sing an Italian aria and at the same time take three guys apart in a bar fight. He won Italy’s Medal of Honor for bravery in World War l and then pilfered the Allied Commissary, sending supplies to his family in Sicily. He had a strange duality.