🍝 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.