Heirloom recipe stories with Sprezzatura
The Incline

🍝 Celebrate "Grandma Month" at this Millvale Eatery

Heirloom recipe stories with Sprezzatura

Woman-owned, woman-led, and woman-inspired — today’s newsletter is a special Throwback Thursday feature for Women’s History Month. 

I caught up with Jen Saffron and her team at Sprezzatura, a community cafe in Millvale serving sustainable and accessible Italian heritage food, for a look into their featured heirloom recipes during “Grandma Month." Today, we’re featuring the stories of these Grandmas and their recipes — and how you can order this week’s featured meal.

📷: Women of Sprezzatura: Jen Saffron, Bianca Berdeguer, Cecile Desandre-Navarre, and Lorraine Vullo.

All month long, Sprezzatura has been serving up weekly “Grandma Month” specials, like pasta al forno from grandma Angelica Silvaroli, al tonno pasta from grandma Mary Biordi, and this Saturday, grandma Rose Saffron’s rabbit stew with gnocchi.

“These recipes bring us comfort. We don’t cook anything we don’t want to eat. We make whatever brings us joy,” Jen said. “Food memories are real… there are particular tastes that I can conjure up right now that make me feel like it is a holiday or a celebration.”

And that resonates with Sprezzatura’s customers.

“We got a call from a 98-year-old lady saying that the al tonno pasta tasted just like her mom’s,” Jen said.

📷: Grandma Mary Alice Yolanda Buzzelli Biordi

This recipe comes from Jen’s grandmother, Mary Biordi, whose family came from L’Aquila, the capital city of the Abruzzo region. It features savory genova tuna cooked in a tangy red sauce, served over linguine with fresh herbs and a hint of lemon.

“She was 4 foot, 11 inches and a total powerhouse,” Jen said.

The Biordi family had four girls, one being Jen’s mother Merceda, and had strong roots in their community. Jen’s grandfather was a civic leader, the president of the Sons of Italy, and owned a movie theater. When her grandmother passed away, Jen said that they held four nights of wakes, “and the line was out the door every night.”

When thinking about a lesson she learned from her grandmother, she remembered back to when she was in the fourth grade and had to earn her cooking badge in Girl Scouts. She called her grandmother for advice.

“Clean up as you go along,” grandma Biordi said. Years and lots of experience later, Jen agreed. “That’s that truth!”

📷: Grandma Angelica Silvaroli

The pasta al forno comes from Lorraine Vullo’s grandmother, Angelica Silvaroli, whose family is Sicilian. This square, baked pasta is filled with Mostaccioli, ground meat, onions, cauliflower, cheese, red sauce, and topped with — you guessed it — more romano cheese.

“It’s made in layers...the key is pouring beaten eggs on top before you bake it,” Lorraine said. “The eggs go throughout and hold it together.”

Lorraine remembers her grandma Angelica making this dish for her and all of her cousins after long days picking vegetables during harvest season.

“When my grandpa retired, he bought a small farm,” she said. “My grandmother would prepare this dish at home in an enamel roasting pan, and she’d wrap it in newspaper and blankets to keep it really hot on her drive to the farm.”

📷: Grandma Angelica Silvaroli's pasta al forno

It was a hearty meal that filled the bellies and hearts of Lorraine’s big family.

“My grandmother always said, ‘add the love.’ No matter what we’re working on or what we’re doing, that’s how we grew up. It was that simple.”

For more about Sprezzatura's "Grandma Month" recipes, read the full story here.

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🎭 Catch Pittsburgh Public Theater's virtual benefit reading of North of Forbes, a contemporary Pittsburgh adaptation of Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles. (Online)

📣 Find your capital S 'Story' with tips from marketing pro Paul Furiga, who founded Pittsburgh's WordWrite (Online)

🏥 Meet with Pittsburgh's Cancer Caring Center for "A Night of Education and Hope" focusing on colorectal cancer during Colorectal Cancer Month (Online)

🏠 Learn about the life and legacy of Pauline Rosenberg (1863-1940) and her Deutschtown home in this Preservation Pittsburgh event (Online)


☘️ Tap your toes to the musical stylings of Colm Keegan, from Celtic Thunder, in this livestream with the Pittsburgh Irish Festival (Online)

🎭 Calling all educators: Learn practical ideas on how to enhance student engagement using basic drama methods at Prime Stage Theatre's All the World's a Stage: Creative Ways to Bring Your Lesson to Life (Online)

♻️ Help beautify Hazelwood in this seasonal winter clean-up (Hazelwood)

🌯 Support SHIM's March to Sack Hunger campaign by ordering Chipotle in the South Hills where proceeds go toward the campaign (South Hills)


📗 Discus the book "Veganism of Color: Decentering Whiteness in Human and Nonhuman Liberation" with the Pittsburgh Vegan Society (Online)

🎭 Spend a night at the theater (at home) with this one-act play "A Matter of Trust," with the Pittsburgh New Works Festival (Online)

🌳 Zumba in the park with Kemah — and bring the kids, too (Hazelwood)


🌟 Peek inside a Pittsburgh astronomer’s tiny house in this Doors Open Pittsburgh event (Online)

⏰ Make a plan for better time management at this workshop for Pittsburgh artists (Online)


📜 Learn from a local historian about how advertisers focused on women as mothers and caregivers at "'A Great Blessing to Women': Tonics, Temperance, and the 19th-Century Patent Medicine Industry" (Online)

📣 Listen to brave women as they tell their true, personal stories about overcoming the professional challenges, adventures, and mishaps that shaped their identities and careers at Ellevate Pittsburgh’s Story Slam (Online)

📚 Explore “The Jewish Record Collection on Ancestry” and pick up some research tips with this Heinz History Center workshop (Online)

One more thing …

Did you like today's special Women's History Month edition? I had so much fun learning about "Grandma Month" (which, by the way, is a totally made up celebration by the Sprezzatura fam...but a delicious one, at that.) I hope this inspires you to make one of your family's recipes.

My favorite heritage recipe? My mom's biscotti. "Biscotti" means twice-baked, but sometimes I like to steal the end pieces before they go back in the oven. They're super soft and perfect with a cup of coffee!

Okay, now I'm hungry. Gotta go!

See you back here tomorrow.

— Francesca at The Incline

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