I am a first-generation Italian-American born in Newark, New Jersey on June 25, 1958. My mother was born in Molise, Italy, and arrived in America in 1948. My father is second-generation Italian-American, and his family is from Avellino. My grandparents, Romeo and Teresa Cicchino, owned the home I grew up in. My first language was the Molise dialect. Italian culture and traditions were alive and well in my childhood home. Farmer’s foods were created in our home. My grandmother and mother cooked three homemade meals a day. Real foods, herbs and spices were used. We ate dark greens daily, and salads were served with lunch and dinner. Dessert at my grandmother’s table was fresh fruit. Grandma Teresa cooked predominantly vegetarian foods while my mother cooked more American (her food contained more meat and cheese).
I was born a foodie. The colors, textures, and fresh tastes of vegetables, fruits and raw nuts; pasta with aglio olio, pesto, marinara sauce, tomato sauce with meat, and tomato sauce with seafood; the dark, bitter greens with beans; homemade soups – I like it all. As a kid, I wanted to learn to cook, yet, no one would teach me. As a teen, I’d ask my grandmother how to make foods she specialized in. She gave me enough information in Italian to get me started; the rest was trial and error. Eventually, I became a good cook, and enjoyed cooking for friends and hosting dinner parties. I cook food my grandmother made, and, like her, only cook with real food, herbs and spices.
On February 15, 2011, I founded my chef service, The Feisty Italian. In November 2011, I wrote my first cookbook entitled, The Feisty Italian Cookbook. After operating The Feisty Italian in New York City for 3-1/2 years, I moved to Los Angeles where I worked as a Personal Chef, and taught cooking classes at The City Of Santa Monica right on the beach. In 2015, I relocated to Manhattan where I teach cooking classes and create meals for my clients.
I was a dancer first. Dance is the reason my heart beats. I’ve performed in other countries to audiences that spoke different languages, yet, during the dance, we understood each other perfectly. My dance background includes ballet, tap, modern jazz and Middle Eastern dance. By age 21, I was performing professionally in theaters, colleges, universities, and in New York City’s Greek, Arab, Turkish and Israeli nightclubs. All I wanted to do was dance to those magical Arabic rhythms. In 1996, I wrote a one-woman play entitled, A Belly Dancer’s Story, which played off-Broadway for 14-weeks. After every performance, women ran into my dressing room seeking to study dance with me. In April 1997, I started teaching dance. In January 1999, I founded a dance School.
I’ve eaten Middle Eastern food at nightclubs and restaurants all over the world. Foods eaten by Greeks, Arabs, Turks and Israelis are the same foods eaten by Southern Italians – they’re just prepared differently. I learned to create some of the foods of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and North Africa. These foods are exotic and flavorful. People ask how I went from dance to cooking. In dance, one trains for years perfecting spinal alignment, arm postures, isolations, foot patterns and more. The dancer creates choreography that she performs on stage. In cooking, a chef masters knife skills, braising, broiling, baking and more. When food is cooked, it’s presented on a platter. Whether one cooks on the dance floor or in the kitchen, the same process creates the ultimate outcome.
917-257-8917 / email@example.com