Eyes Wide Open

A Perspective From Within

Top Chef Miami


One thing that I truly miss is cooking and throwing fabulous dinner parties. Those that know me will firmly attest that I’m all about food, cooking, and entertaining…it’s borderline an obsession. Not only do I love to create amazing experiences with food, whether just for me, a group of friends, or for the masses, I continuously immerse myself in the pop culture of food, recognizing that it is not only something that we eat to sustain life, it is something that defines us. People that love food are naturally drawn together and its no coincidence that many of our friends are either in the food business, are food obsessed hobbyists, or both. We tend to stalk people like Thomas Keller and Mario Batali rather than the Kim and Kanyes of the world.

While growing up in an Italian restaurant business family, and tugging on the apron strings of the best cook in the world, my mother, food was obviously a big part of our livelihood and our social situations. Like the Italians say: ” A tavola non si invecchia. Translation: At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.” So beautifully said.

This horrible injury didn’t just affect the use of my legs, but also my hands. I lost the function in my left hand, and have very limited function in my right hand. There are some days that i feel like i have dog paws rather than hands. You never realize how important fingers and hands are until you don’t have them. Without hands functioning, it is pretty much impossible to do the things in the kitchen that I used to do. I’m not talking about making a roast or cooking a chicken. I’m talking about very complex recipes that require fine motor skills just do the mise en place and the agility in the kitchen to work on 3 things at once. Outside of walking, not being able to create in the kitchen was probably one of my greatest losses.

A while back, I had promised our friend Bob Serpantini that I would give him a lesson on how to make an old family recipe called Pizza Nostra. I made this pizza just about every time I had people over. It was my go-to appetizer, snack or main course. I haven’t met one person who disliked it. It was like crack. People could not get enough of it. I’m not ashamed to say that I would often times have it for breakfast the next day, even after it was left out on the counter all night, unrefrigerated. I wasn’t about to waste this precious treat and wasn’t afraid of a little bacteria. Although the pizza itself was very simple and called for only a handful of ingredients, there were many nuances to the technique, and the specifics to the ingredients could not be deviated upon. Bob said he would do all of the prep and I would give the step-by-step pizza making instructions.

The plan was coming together. Bob got the dough from my brother’s restaurant in Akron and flew it down with him, and I had my very old and seasoned pizza pans (previously used in our family’s restaurant) FedEx to me. These aged and beautifully seasoned pans were probably just as important as dough itself. Ross made sure that I had all of the very specific ingredients on-hand: canned San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, freshly grated Pecorino Romano, fresh basil, purple onion, dried oregano, garlic powder, and really good olive oil. We scheduled an evening to make the pizzas, and my much anticipated opportunity to get back in the kitchen was finally coming to fruition. Bob and his wife Kathy, their son Ryan (who lives in Miami), and Ryan’s roommate Jeff came over for the Nostra lesson. Our friend Jason who is also our attorney, was staying with us that weekend and doubled as our videographer. There was a lot of wine flowing so the lesson most certainly needed to be documented.

The finished product

The finished product

We had loads of fun that evening, and I was actually able to forget for a bit that I had these major obstacles to overcome. The next installment to the Italian cooking series will be how to make perfect meatballs and Sunday sauce. This session might require a little less wine and a little more instruction!


14 thoughts on “Top Chef Miami

  1. That is a great looking pizza nostra!

  2. Mary, I love this post….there is beautiful energy in the video and my mouth is watering. I haven’t had pizza that looked like that since my Dad died. I love being Italian, everything is about the food. Our photo albums are filled with gatherings that are all based on food. I am obsessed with the Food Network and I love to read cookbooks. Thank you for sharing this beautiful evening.
    Hugs, Lisa

  3. How wonderful! From one Italian to another I must say it made me hungry just to read this. Bob said he was going to florida but never mentioned the upcoming pizza lesson. It must have been a blast to have everyone there!

  4. That was really fun to read Mary…The pizza looks like it came out to perfection…

  5. I wondered where those pans went to…The videos are great…I’m gonna post them on face book…

  6. Mary,
    The girls and I enjoyed your post last night as we were studing for Natalie’s Religion test. It looks like you all had a fabulous time. The pizza looked amazing, it made us all hungry. Natalie want to be there helping make the pizza. There is nothing like coming from an ethnic family and being surrounded by family, friends and amazing food. Great memories. The girls and I are addicted to the Food Network and HGTV. I truly enjoy reading all your posts!
    Lots of love and hugs,
    Nawzat, Natalie and FeFe

  7. Good job MV!!! Did you get my note in the bag of dough??? I told bob I wanted to come!!! Nice pie sista!!!!xoxooxoxoxox

  8. Mary,
    I will say it again: You are a very talented writer.
    My best to you,
    Cousin Diane

  9. Mary, you are so right everyone, loves Pizza Nostra! You surfaced many great memories for us! Preparing great food is an art! It can be something so simple but becomes so special to all. Take care!

  10. I remember your mom’s pizza nostra – my favorite pizza ever!

    Mary Alice

  11. Craving sister! You, and your pizza.

  12. I have ordered Pizza Nostra at your brother’s restaurant many times–however, with your mouthwatering description I am going to attempt to make here at my home–wonderful post Mary!

  13. Mary that is quite a beautiful looking pizza nostra! I think I need your assistance because being an Italian I was born with NO cooking skills. HELP ME 🙂 By the way you look beautiful Mary. Love you!!!!

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