for those who burn to learn


Apr 2015

Our Trip to the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School

Posted by / in Garden of Delight, Into the Fire Blog, Italy /

My curiosity about the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School was really piqued when I sat by the fire reading Fabrizia Lanza’s fascinating book, Coming Home To Sicily, during this past insufferable New England winter. Published in 2012, the book explains that at Fabrizia’s family’s Regaleali estate where the cooking school is located, December through February is all about pruning grapevines, harvesting citrus and making marmalade. Springtime in Sicily, I read, is green and lush, dotted with brilliant wild flowers, little lambs, rugged farm workers and sunshine.

I had heard about Anna Tasca Lanza’s Cooking School for years and I knew that the school was started by Anna, Fabrizia’s mother. As a young woman, Anna married Venceslao Lanza di Mazzarino, son of a great Sicilian noble family. Since 1830, the family has proudly owned a 1,200-acre-property halfway between Palermo and Caltanisetta, Italy. Venceslao did not expect his wife to set foot in the kitchen, especially since he, like his father Count Fabrizio, was fond of the international cuisine prepared by cooks of the family. However, later in life, Anna decided to learn to cook traditional Sicilian fare and the more she learned, the more passionate she became.

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    Oct 2013

    Celebrating The Great Marcella Hazan

    Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog, Special Dinners /

    Given the well established fact that she never suffered fools gladly, and given that patience is a virtue, especially if you are an educator, it’s amazing that Marcella Hazan succeeded as a teacher. Still, after cooking from her wonderful cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and reading her memoir, Amarcord, I grew to have deeper appreciation of her life experiences. I had read that Marcella was tough, but many are now remembering that she was also kindhearted

    I never did get the chance to meet Marcella in the flesh, but, I had the good fortune to meet and study with her gentle son, Giuliano–certainly, her best student. In a villa in Verona, Italy, where Giuliano, along with his wife Lael and partner Marilisa Allegrini, run a luxurious cooking school, I learned to make pasta by hand, pound veal scaloppine correctly, so that it was evenly stretched thin, and create a flaming dessert with one of Allegrini’s finest Italian wines…Amarone.

    On Saturday, October 26th I would like to recreate some of the dishes I learned to make thanks to both mother and son. Please join us for this special dining experience. As is customary at Jillyanna’s Woodfired Cooking School, some of the class will be demo, some will be hands-on and although we will not be making pizza, we will make some appetizers in the wood-fired oven. So do bring a light jacket and a big appetite and feel free to BYOB.  Click here to attend:


    Grilled Littleneck Clams on the Half Shell

    Homemade Fettuccine with Alfredo Sauce

    Veal Scaloppine with Lemon

    Mushroom Salad with Parmesan Cheese, Crispy Pancetta and White Truffle Vinaigrette

    Braised Pears with Bay Leaves and Amarone Wine

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      Aug 2013

      My Neapolitan Epiphany

      Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog /

      The guidebooks told us that Naples is a strange, gritty, and chaotic place, filled with vibrant neighborhoods, exquisite ancient mosaics, underground mysteries, and a slumbering volcano. We did not go to Naples, however, because or in spite of these things. We went knowing it is the birthplace of pizza and because It is where people still take pizza very, very seriously.

      You need a sense of humor to live in Napoli and, the first few days we were there we almost lost ours. We were shocked by the intense September heat and humidity, jolted by dented cars making u-turns with no warning, motor scooters driving up on garbage laden sidewalks, and taxis speeding straight through red lights. We were also frustrated by our inability to communicate and make sense of our new world. We needed an English speaking guide, but we didn’t know where to find one. Then Roberto entered our lives.

      Roberto was a tiny man with wiry white hair, a large vocabulary, and great bravado. He was fluent in many languages including English and Italian, and always wore a shiny gold Star of David on a chain around his neck. He took a fancy to me when he came to sell magnetized business cards to Enzo at Pizzaria La Notizia. I don’t know if Roberto liked me for keeping my equilibrium while Enzo was repeatedly shouting: “Uno! Due! Uno! Due!” while I awkwardly slapped the pizza dough into submission or if it was simply that Roberto felt a connection with me when he learned I was Jewish. Whatever the reason, Roberto became our guide and protector and, after pizza class, he took us on several tours and opened our eyes to the wonders of Naples. On the way to one of these extraordinary places, I asked Roberto, in an exasperated tone, why the Neapolitans drive like madmen.

      “Aren’t there any laws here?”

      “Jill,” he said calmly. “You must understand one thing…the laws in Naples are only a suggestion!” So we grasped each other’s hands and said a little prayer while Roberto whisked us to Fontanelle Cemetery.

      Naples started running out of room to bury its dead in the16th century. To deal with this catastrophe, undertakers started moving bones into a cave just beyond the city walls. When the plague of 1656 swept Naples, thousands of corpses were piled into the caves. Even more corpses were tossed into the cave with the cholera epidemic of 1836. Later, it became a boneyard for paupers. In time (around 1872) a cult devotion to the dead developed and people began cleaning the skulls, praying to them and asking them for favors.

      Roberto said there were so many natural disasters and so many deaths in Naples that Neapolitans thought they were being punished. For many, the feeling that developed and prevailed was: Death is just around the corner so live for today! This philosophy made sense to me. After all, it was my mid-life crisis, my belief that life is too short to wait to follow your passion, that led me to Naples. I watched Valerie and Roberto in the cool, dark, creepy cave, and I felt strangely calmer. Like the pizza dough I had been forcefully shaping, I too began to soften, succumb, and accept my destiny.

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