So our crazy Italian chef has been in the kitchen all morning making the family secret recipe for marinara sauce. I have been trying to sneak in behind him and get the recipe but he is too quick and wily for me. Plus he has been using those spice bottles marked “secret ingredient”. What could they be?!
For those of you who have stayed with us before, you already know this story. For those of you that are our future guests, Chef Tom’s Nona (grandmother) came over to this country on the boat through Ellis Island to New York from Italy. She single handedly raised two children in a foreign country where she didn’t speak the language (sound familiar). Like all parents, she wanted the best for her children and so she worked herself to the bone so that she could send her kids to parochial school and provide a comfortable life for them.
Now for the fun part of Mama Ronchi’s story…the family lore. She was apparently a very gifted seamstress. So much so that she was able to charge $2,000 a suit back in 1910s and 1920s. Now think about it, $2,000 is a lot of money for a suit today, a 100 years later, and back then in the teens and 20s that had to be just an incredible amount of money to spend on anything, especially a suit. The family legend has it that the only people that could afford one of her suits were members of the Family… the Italian mob.
For years Chef Tom would talk about his Nona’s cooking, especially breakfast. She didn’t prepare any frou frou waffles or fancy tarts. It was old fashioned comfort food full of sausage, eggs, peppers, and potatoes. Chef Tom tried to duplicate the recipe from his memory in our test kitchen but never quite got it right. Then a few years back, we were cleaning out Tom’s mother’s home when we ran across an old cookbook. I picked it up and out fell two stained and yellowed 3×5 index cards. One was marked marinara and the other marked scramble. Apparently Tom’s mother had at some point spent the day following Mama Ronchi around in the kitchen writing down everything that she was doing. Success!! We finally had the recipe. We came back to Jefferson and ran both recipes through the test kitchen and they were in a word…amazing.
We now consider Mama Ronchi’s Mafia Scramble to be our signature dish. Trust me, you can’t get anything like this at any other Bed & Breakfast in Jefferson. An old historic recipe served at an old historic house in an old historic town. It just seems fitting.
So on this snowy and blustery day, our crazy Italian Chef Tom is in the kitchen making the family secret recipe for the marinara. He would tell me what is in it but then he would have to kill me. You know how it is with these mob chefs.