In the middle of beautiful Kralingen, Rotterdam, you will find an Italian restaurant called "Mamma Licia", named after the source of inspiration behind the delicious dishes: Piero's grandmother, or in Italian: ‘Nonna’. We spoke to Piero and Romee, the owners. Piero is from Puglia, southern Italy. He is originally a musician and came to Rotterdam for his studies at the conservatory. He has now lived in the Netherlands for twenty years. In nonna’s kitchen he learned to make the most delicious pastas and since the opening of his restaurant he has been sharing this with Rotterdam. When visiting Mamma Licia, his love for music is also clearly visible. During dinner he likes to entertain guests behind his piano. Eight years ago, Piero's girlfriend, Romee, saw him perform and the love has blossomed between them ever since. She has always had the dream to start something for herself, so by running their restaurant she can put this dream into practice. We ask them about the food culture in Italy.
When asked how he would describe the food culture in Italy, Piero starts to laugh. “A food culture? That's a strange word. It doesn't really exist in Italy. There is no food culture, it is all about food.” He explains that everything in Italy revolves around food. "When my mother calls me, the first thing she asks me is what I had for dinner or lunch and how I prepared it." And according to Piero, this not only applies to him, but you also notice this when you are on the beach, for example. “Everyone is talking to each other about the question ‘What are you going to eat?’ And perhaps more importantly,’What did you eat yesterday?’ And work, no you don't talk about that. That is a side issue and you do it mainly to be able to pay for your food. "
“When my mother calls me, the first thing she asks me is what I had for lunch or dinner and how I prepared it. ”
When Romee first came to Italy, she had to get used to this. Where in the Netherlands your status as a young woman is determined by what you do and have achieved, this is very different in Italy. “In Italy, the first question Piero's family asked me was not what kind of work I do, but how I prepare my lasagna. Well, not that good, I can tell you”, Romee says with a laugh. “As a woman, very different things are expected of you in Italy compared to the Netherlands. You are judged on how well you can cook and hence how well you can take care of your husband. Because of her cooking skills, Piero's mother has, for example, a very high status in the family.” Piero adds that emotions sometimes run high. “For example, if your sister-in-law can cook better than your girlfriend, then you have a fight! But Piero also tells us that this culture is slowly changing. “In the past, only the women cooked and the men worked, but nowadays men are increasingly helping out in the kitchen.”
Piero has been living in the Netherlands for twenty years now, but still has difficulty with the fact that in the Netherlands it is less common to eat together. “In Italy, you usually eat at someone else's for one day or two. On Sundays, you get together with the family and spend hours cooking and eating, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Prior to this cooking process, an extensive search for ingredients takes place. “My grandmother very consciously chooses every tomato, every piece of meat and every liter of oil. She knows exactly where to buy what. In Italy you don't just buy the ingredients at a supermarket, but you get them from the daily market or you drive a few hours,” explains Piero. Romee adds: “Oftentimes we have the highest expectations after they have been away for hours, but the only thing they come home with is a little oil in a kind of diesel tank. The uglier the packaging, the better.” In addition, the choice of ingredients is very varied. Where you can buy a limited number of types of mushrooms in the Netherlands, in Italy you have, for example, dozens of types of funghi. “There you don't say that you are going to make pasta funghi, but you tell them which kind you use,” says Romee. To make the search a bit easier, a greengrocer regularly rides on a tricycle through Piero's hometown. "Verduraaaa!" (Italian for vegetables), Romee and Piero both shout.
“My grandmother consciously chooses every tomato, every piece of meat and every liter of oil She knows exactly where to buy what.”
Unfortunately, this focus on the best ingredients is diminishing, says Piero. "The new generation makes less effort to collect the freshest products." That is why we want to ensure that this culture is not lost.
In addition to the Rotterdam restaurant "Mamma Licia", Piero and Romee have started a platform for online cooking workshops and Italian meal boxes "PupediPasta". They select the best ingredients for you, so that you can make everything at home in the traditional way. During the online cooking workshop from the restaurant you will watch live how Piero makes traditional and generation-old recipes and you will learn the secrets of Nonna. Their biggest dream is to import the best and freshest products from Italy to the Netherlands through their own transport. They can put this into practice when they reach 1,000 subscribers. Can you help Romee and Piero realize this dream? For more information, visit pupedipasta.nl.
Curious about the authentic recipe behind this story? Click on the image for Piero's recipe for orecchiette with funghi!