Marcella, grazie di tutto!

The first time I heard of Marcella Hazan, I had just moved to NY from Italy in 1989. I was amazed how popular Marcella was in America. I remember I thought she was just another veal-parm-with-a-side-of-spaghetti kind of chef. Gosh, was I mistaken! I started to follow her, I talked to her, I invited her at dinner. She accepted. Yes, she did! It was November 2002 and by then, I knew so much of Marcella Hazan, she had become my hero, too. And I started to have panic attacks.

marcella hazanSo what did I cook for Marcella and Victor? I remember like it was yesterday. The menu: Mozzarella in Carrozza, Penne with Gorgonzola Sauce, Pollo ai Due Aceti, and Beans with Sage; all Marcella’s recipes. I thought I was very clever. But that feeling did not last. Right before the pasta was ready, I had a crisis with the Gorgonzola Sauce which had become too thick. Marcella, in her infinite wisdom, guffawed at my panic and added some cream while, naturally, letting me know that I was a dummy for not coming to this conclusion alone.

Marcella HazanMarcella drank Jack Daniels before and during our dinner; and after dinner, we sat around smoking (yes, I was once a chain smoker) and bantering in Italian, our native language. I soon learned that Marcella and I shared some key character traits including tendencies towards sarcasm and impatience.

When I visited Marcella and Victor at their home in Longboat Key, she was very proud of her kitchen, small and custom made, everything was reachable from only one position. I noticed she didn’t have a microwave oven. She said she never owned one. One more thing we had in common and I felt good, I was not the only weird person left on this planet! Marcella prepared handmade tagliatelle. It was an afternoon I will never forget.

Marcella on Facebook
My Facebook exchange with Marcella

Ever since we met, Marcella has continued to school me, the last time being a couple of months ago via Facebook. I was frying Fiori di Zucca and needed the recipe for pastella. Lots of friends trying to help. She jumped in, with her authority and shut everybody out. Only mineral water and flour, no stuffings, she said, don’t you have my books? Of course I do, but they are in the office. I was frying at home. Thank goodness she was reading. The Fiori di Zucca came out fantastic.

The fact that Marcella and Victor have been long time Gustiamo customers has been a huge source of pride for me. I know that Marcella respected our commitment to Italian food artisans.

Cara Marcella, we will miss you very much. So so sad. Grazie for all you taught us. We will continue without compromises and with integrity and we will think of you. Always. Hope you are still reading.

26 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve Farish says:

    So sorry to hear of Marcella’s passing. My sympathies to all of her family and friends. It sounds like she was a very remarkable woman. You were blessed to have known her.

  2. Very sad to hear of Marcella’s leaving for the Big Table. Thank you for letting me know.

  3. Carmela says:

    I met Marcella at Di Lullo’s Fox Chase over 25 years ago for a meet and greet of her new cookbook. She reminded me of a sweet grandmother, but that was purely a façade. Marcella Hazan was a dynamo. She was tiny with a big personality and had such an influence on many of us in regard to Italian cuisine. Most of my Italian cooking has been influenced by Marcella Hazan. I own all her books. My family hails from Sicily and most of my aunts and grandmothers were fantastic cooks, but unfortunately by the time I was old enough to appreciate cooking myself, they had long passed and with them their recipes. Marcella Hazan filled in that gap. She felt like a family member. Once I called her frantic with preparation for my daughter’s wedding. I was making so many raviolis and I needed advice in storage, etc. I boldly called her at her home in Florida for help and she was such a sweet person answering all my questions and putting all my fears to rest. That impressed me. It is sad to know she is gone, but she lives on in all of us through the legacy she left in her recipes that we share everyday with our loved ones.

  4. Phil says:

    I am saddened by her passing and will always treasure my copies of “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” and “Marcella’s Italian Kitchen.” Marcella is cooking for the Angels now…..they never ate so good.

  5. Wonderful, Beatrice! I’ve been compiling my own memories of her. Do you know she was the subject of the first food story I ever wrote, back in the 1970s when she and Victor had a summer cooking school in Bologna. But I’d been following her first book for several years. You marvelled to find her in New York. I on the other hand marvelled that she was such a huge and constant help while I, naive American, negotiated the food scene in Rome.

  6. Thank you for this lovely piece about Marcella — she was certainly one of a kind. By the way, I’m the designer who helped create that custom kitchen, and it was the greatest pleasure to work with Marcella and Victor on it.

  7. Gestur says:

    I too will always be very grateful for Marcella’s wonderful cookbooks. My copy of the 1978 edition of her The Classic Italian Cook Book was how I cut my culinary teeth, almeno i miei denti italiani. It has long since lost both back and front covers but it carries on much like Marcella herself did. We all have our favorites from these lovely books, the recipes we make habitually each year. In my kitchen it’s known as Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce #2 from TCICB. And one reason I make it so many times—from each of my backyard tomato harvests—is that I discovered some time back that if you stop just before you add the olive oil and freeze the sauce then, next winter it can be thawed and the olive oil then added and, remarkably, it’s simply unchanged from its original flavor. The wonderful advice she gives in her Marcella’s Italian Kitchen for a simple way of making tomato purée for freezing is the main reason the freezer compartment of my refrigerator is stacked high, right now, with jar after jar of tomato purée and of course Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce #2. Although I fear that Marcella and I would have come to blows over my use of my old fashion American Wear-Ever conical food mill for making both sauces in preference to the Italian version I also own. It might depend on whether she would have been susceptible to empirical demonstrations of superiority, at least enough as to overcome long habit and a native’s pride.

  8. Please join me in cooking a favorite recipe and raising a glass of vino di tavola in her name. And thanks for posting.

  9. Adri says:

    What a lovely remembrance. I remember back in the eighties when I first discovered her. To say it was a revelation would be to understate things. She was a tough taskmaster, but a fair one. I was always in awe of her, and simply could not imagine what I might say to her should I ever meet her. Then, one day I discovered that she was on Facebook, and we had a long discussion about vegetable preparation. She, of course thought that the American habit of bringing “tender crisp” vegetables to the table amounted to nothing more than serving them raw. She was so forthcoming, so generous, I honestly felt like an old friend. Over the next couple of years the experience was repeated, and I came away with increased respect for her knowledge and gracious character. She was a force of Nature, and I regret her passing. She has influenced all of us. Her last years were a struggle for her. May she rest in peace.

  10. Burt Kittay says:

    I took three classes with Marcella in Los Angeles and have used the education since. She put green beans in a pot, and stuck in her hand to take one out and tasted it. It was not done, so she threw the rest of it back in the pot.

    She told the class that she would answer any questions. Sometimes they were so weird that she just ignored the person. I am a psychologist, and once time some asked a question and she turned to me and said “Burt, I think I leave this one to you”.

    She rolled out a sheet of pasta about 24 by 24 and then in five minutes created 50 different types of pasta using pencils, afro combs, her finger, spoon, forks and other utensils. Amazing.

    When I went to Italy for my 65th birthday I wrote her and asked for recommendations of restaurants. She recommended Pier Luigi in Rome and it was one of the best meals that I ate.

    We were in one town in Italy and passed a book store and in the window were some of her books. I always wanted to send her the picture that I took, but let time go by and did not. I do think of her every year on her birthday-April 15. It makes that day a little more pleasant.

  11. Linda says:

    What a wonderful way to pay tribute to a departed love one, remembering times spent with them.

  12. Cara Beatrice,

    When I read of Marcella’s passing, right on the front page of my NY Times morning copy I had a very deep sense of personal loss. You see, I first came to New York in 1967 as a young executive for what at the time was a very unknown (to the large public) Italian company, Gucci. The Gucci General Manager at the time was a vibrant Italian, Giancarlo Palermo, who, with his lovely English wife Judy, had already taken over as a magnet to the small but very active Italian community. So I was soon introduced to Giancarlo and Judy’s furrier, Victor Hazan, who, although with not a very Italian name, spoke fluently our language and he soon introduce us to his wife Marcella. The HAZAN FURS store was on 57th Street and Sixth Avenue. Giancarlo and Judy lived at 77 West 55th Street, corner of Sixth Avenue (Renata Tebaldi lived in the same building) and I lived at 134 West 58th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenue. Now as you can see, even for Manhattan, that was very much as we say in Italian…”in un fazzoletto”.We were soon getting together for dinner, always in each other’s home. Judy, although English, had become super popular among our circle of friends for making the BEST English Trifle (..o come la chiamiamo noi, Zuppa Inglese). Marcella was so impressed that over and over she would call Judy to ask her to give her one more time her special recipe. Of course, this was much before Marcella had realized that the US had not moved up with the REAL Italian cooking. Most of our circle of Italian friends were from Rome, Florence, Milan, Bologna and as you can easily imagine, we were thoroughly disgusted by what Americans at the time thought was fine Italian cooking! Yes, there were few “good” Italian restaurants (Orsini, Romeo Salta, Il Pescatore, Italian Pavillion,), but every time we would go there we would end up in the kitchen talking to the chef to make a dish a little bit more ….Italian! Marcella, in her inimitable way, would scoff at the efforts that Italian American restaurants would make to hype up dishes that needed only great quality of ingredients and the …experienced hand. That was Marcella!!! As you know, the rest is history!
    i will cherish the memories of those years and believe that when I will “meet” her again, she will say….”Allora Luigi, come dici che voi cucinate la carbonara a Roma?”

    Un abbraccio.

    PS. Anch’io, come tutti quelli della mia generazione, ero un accanito fumatore!!

  13. Cushla says:

    I had an English mother, whose two Italian friends became my virtual nonne and professoresse in Italian language and cooking. At more or less the same time, along came Marcella’s brilliant cook books, which taught me and so many Americans how to cook real Italian food at home. She demystified Italian cooking, leading me to a year if study in Italy. A few years ago, I was chatting with a friend (Argentine/Mexican — but generations back, Italian!) and he said his wife made “the best” Bolognese sauce. My husband said I made the best one. Needless to say, both of us swear by the same, perfect recipe: Marcella’s! She will be missed, but she gave us such an incredibly rich gift, a gift which will truly keep on giving.

  14. June Jacobs says:

    What a beautiful tribute to Marcella. Sadly, I never met her (although Giuliano and Lael are friends), but I have “known” her since 1979 when I received her “Classic Italian Cooking.” Who among us – American cooks – is not in her debt for showing us true Italian cooking. Truly she is now among the angels in Heaven. We will miss her.

  15. Pippo Onorati says:

    Ciao Marcella, tks for all…
    🙁
    P

  16. Marcella was my Italian chef heroine. She did it the authentic way. One thing I always check in an Italian cook book is to see if the chef uses cream in spaghetti carbonara. If they do, I do not buy the book. While carbonara recipes may vary somewhat (e.g. only using the yolk and not the whole egg), Italians don’t put cream in authentic carbonara. Marcella doesn’t. She was the best. She was to Italian cooking as Julia was to French cooking, a master.

  17. Linda Griffith says:

    Beatrice,

    My heart nearly broke when I read a message on my Facebook page early in the week, from Marcella’s beloved Victor, saying that he found her on the floor not far from her bed;and she was gone! She had been in poor health for a number of years. In fact, they moved to Longboat Key in Florida to be near their son and good health care. I remember the last time we were together and it was in Venice. Marcella pointed to the place where a gondola might stop to take her to the doctor, or the hospital, and she commented that it was not the best way to get medical care. And I winced at the thought of just getting groceries to their magnificent Venice home, where there was no way to have a car stop by the door, so groceries could be brought close to the kitchen. And we agreed that Venice was one of the world’s most magnificent cities. But one paid a steep price to live there.

    My husband Fred and I spent time here in Cleveland (and in Venice,) with Marcella and Victor when they came to our city with a new book and talked with Fred on his celebrated TV show, The Morning Exchange. We had planned in advance to take the Hazans to one of our most favorite restaurants here. And then I questioned my decision to take them to a celebrated Cleveland Restaurant, Johnny’s Bar on Fulton. We could have a private room and food made just for our guests. But it was “an Italian Restaurant!” And food was prepared by the son of its founder in a small kitchen on the second floor of the building, right next to their private dining room which had been “Grandma’s home!” My dear husband, who loves the restaurant the way I do, thought I was insane. But, I thought that Marcella would love the place and the stunning men who ran it. And I had made the right choice. It was a sensational evening, with fine wines and outstanding dishes in a space that was decorated to be a private space where a businessman might take a girlfriend.
    The Hazans, when reaching the top of the stairway, looked around the very elegant sitting area and dining table and began to chuckle. And after flutes of Prosecco and simple nibbles, we slowly moved to the elegant dining table. Joe Santosuosso, the person who created this marvelous place, asked if it was time to serve dinner. And we said “Yes” in unison.
    Slowly plates of magnificent gnocchi were delivered, And then corks were pulled and wine was poured. It was a fabulous tour de force and not a speck of food was left on a plate.

    I was not surprised when I heard a news report that Marcella Hazan, grande dame of Italian cuisine, was just interviewed after her book tour and when asked if there was any good Italian Cuisine in the US, she replied, “I found it in Cleveland, of all places. At Johnny’s Bar on Fulton! There the grandson of the family, was carrying on the traditions of his mother and grandmother. And the food was just amazing! ” I was simply thrilled. I’d made the right choice, after all.!

    And, in fact, right before Marcella’s spirit had left her body, I made reservations to celebrate my final “young” birthday in the same place!

    I never got to Bologna for classes, or back to Venice. But dining out in Venice with Victor and Marcella, was a lifetime thrill. I’ll miss her terribly. She was so very kind to me. And I learned so much from her, especially about courage and determination.

    From Linda Griffith

  18. Phyllis Goldberg says:

    I moved to Rome in the summer of 1978. My husband, Daniel was transferred there by his international accounting firm. He was the first American to work in their Rome office. Marcella Hazan’s THE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOK BOOK was amongst our possessions to make the move. We quickly made friends with the people in the office….BEATRICE UGHI being one of Daniel’s colleagues . We learned just how important food was to Italians when we told our new friends that in America we would typically socialize with people by having a quick bite to eat and go to the theater. They were aghast! Why would we consider sitting next to someone in a dark theater socializing. For Italians, the meal was the drama. In the five years we lived in Rome there were many dinners with friends in homes. Often a mother or mother in law would cook a dish and deliver it for us to eat. I had my share of dinner parties….and I held my own….with MARCELLA’S help. All these years later, I still cook for BEATRICE in New York and she doesn’t complain much. THANK YOU MARCELLA!

  19. Ciao Beatrice, This is such a lovely tribute. I’d love to add my own thanks to Marcella – http://majellahomecooking.com/2013/10/07/marcella-hazan-and-my-life-as-a-lawyer/ Grazie, Michelle

  20. Giuseppe Morabito says:

    Cara Beatrice, ecco il mio ricordo della grande Marcella.

    We were deeply saddened to hear the news of the loss of Marcella Hazan. As Consul General of Italy in Miami we were invited to attend the annual Sarasota Music Festival organized by Piero Rivolta and it was there, by sheer chance, that we had the great good fortune to meet Marcella Hazan for the first time. It was an encounter that changed my life. My Welsh wife, Sheba, had been brought up with “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” and for her Marcella was and always will be a mythical figure. A very special friendship developed between us, as Marcella herself remarked, a rare thing later in life but destiny prevailed. The only honour I bestowed, Knight (Cavaliere) of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, during my time in Florida was for Marcella: through her books she did a wonderful cultural operation. By explaining to Americans that in Italy there are so many different regional cuisines, because of history and morphology of the country, Marcella eventually demystified the stereotype of the Italian immigrant.
    Many special moments come to mind. Dinner at Longboat Key in 2001, with the menu I still relish: pappardelle fatte in casa col ragu di vitello e quattro funghi and arrosto di maiale al latte. Marcella’s unforgettable 80th birthday party at Cantina Allegrini at Fumane in the Veneto; an intimate dinner at Osteria da Fiore in Venice, speeding back to Giudecca with Victor and Marcella with lashing rain and peels of laughter…
    I write this from Lebanon where I am now Ambassador: what Marcella would have had tasting the Phoenician and Mediterranean dishes of this colourful region! Our thoughts are now with Victor and we will toast Marcella with Chateau Musar 2003, obviously red….Evviva Marcella!
    Giuseppe Morabito

  21. Victor Hazan says:

    Grazie Beatrice, sono stato perticolarmente contento di leggere il commento di Giuseppe Morabito. Marcella era affezionatissima a lui e alla Sheba e incantata dalle loro vivacissime e belle bambine. Tempo fa aveva tentato di raggiungerli per telefono a Roma, ma non aveva trovato nessuno. Hai per caso l’indirizzo dell’ambasciata a Beirut? Un abbraccio. Victor

  22. Giuseppe Morabito says:

    Errata corrige

    In my comment I skipped a word. in the last paragraph it should read: “What FUN Marcella would have had tasting…”.
    Giuseppe Morabito

  23. claudia vitelli says:

    Grazie Beatrice.
    Marcella was the first person that I met in NY when I arrived from Naples in 1970 as a new bride at the age of 22.
    Immediately, she invited me to her apartment and I started to discover the personality of this incredible woman and the great passion for all the things that she was doing. While she was doing Ikebana Victor was learning the tea ceremony with a Japanese master or taking pottery classes. I still have one of his vases!
    Often we went out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant, Nippon. Dinner out was never at an Italian restaurant because the food was full of garlic and tomato sauce. “Orribile” as she would say. So started the story out of her kitchen on 76th Street and Lexington Avenue – the rest is history!
    Dear Marcella, I always will remember your great passion, you sense of humor and your incredible and simple recipes, but, above all, the integrity and love that you had for the Italian cooking tradition.
    It was you who introduced me to whisky instead of wine while dining. So, my dear friend, a toast to you and I hope my kiss will reach you!

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