italian girl holding plate with pasta

A little story from my childhood…

I remember the smell of onions roasting in olive oil at 8:00 in the morning. The hot and humid summer air slyly seep through the wooden door panes as the familiar smell of onions tickled my nose. I love onions but the smell of them this early nauseated me.
”Chiara” I whispered from the top bunk, “Has the smell woken you yet?”“Agh, I didn’t sleep with all the snoring in this house”, a big sigh, “not to mention the 25 year old mattress that sucked in my entire body, I don’t know if I can move.”

We both slumped out of bed, walked down the spiral staircase and found our way to the small kitchen of our summer beach home.Nonna Laura just finished the zucchini con cippole,- an onion and zucchini side dish and started on the sugo al pomodoro – tomato sauce. Like many Italian Nonna’s, she started preparing lunch as soon as she awoke. In the back veranda I found my aunts, uncles, and little cousins surrounding the breakfast table. A salty breeze made its way from the beach just as it did every morning.

I looked to see wise Nonno Livio, my grandfather, sitting quiet in his chair at the head of the table reading the paper and observing his family. From his eyes I could tell this moment reflected perfection. As he looked at us, the simple moment of these summer mornings created tears in his eyes. He sat and enjoyed the noise of a reunited family. He dreamed of this moment all year long.

I wonder now why this moment felt so special when it mirrored normal life: our big Italian family with loud voices, laughter, and shouting from the kids. I wanted this moment always- not just on summer holidays. I always felt torn between my American and Italian life. I wanted both. It wasn’t fair.I wish I could wake up to the smell of roasting onions in olive oil every morning, just so I could walk down those familiar spiral stairs and see all my family around that table- together again- to live another sweet summer morning. A memory frozen in time to live again and again…

I wrote this story when I was 15-️ Elena

Written with Amore,


Recipe for Sugo al Pomodoro

I would love to hear your thoughts or connections in the comments…