Benvenuti a Majella

Backyard view from our home in Salle, Abruzzo, Photo by Leana DiBenedetto

Backyard view from our home in Salle, Abruzzo

Ciao! My name is Michelle Capobianco. I am the owner of a food and catering company called Majella Home Cooking (pronounced “mah-yel-lah”) located in Queens, New York. As the name suggests, I have strong roots in the mountainous region of Abruzzo in Central Italy. My father, Gino, was born in the tiny village of Salle, deep in the mountains of the Parco Nazionale della Majella. (There is also a second meaning behind the name – during a visit to Salle when I was a teenager, my precocious 6-year old cousin, Davide nicknamed me “Majella” as he led me around town spewing gossip about the villagers.) My mother, Nina, on the other hand, was born in Caltabellotta, Sicily, in the province of Agrigento. I must confess that although I have spent considerably more time in Abruzzo, my occasionally fiery temperament is entirely Sicilian! Each summer, I return to Italy with my husband, Michael, a musician and composer, and our three sons – Mikey (7), Stefano (5) and Antonio (3) – to my family’s home in Salle from which we’re blessed with an unparalleled backyard view of the Majella mountain.

A little bit about myself … My parents raised me with a strong sense of my heritage and its traditions, and not surprisingly, food played an integral part of my cultural experiences. My favorite brown-bag lunch, Nutella (back when it was still only available in Italian specialty food shops) on yellow-hued semolina bread, was banned by a teacher who criticized my mother for sending me with chocolate cake for lunch. (That same teacher chastised me when I included the pairing, “and” and “end” in my homework list of homonyms. Although I had pleaded with my charmingly-accented mother that the two words did indeed sound different, I finally caved and added them to the list so as not to offend her.) When I went away to college, my entire dormitory eagerly anticipated my parents’ visits for with them arrived trays of “pasta al forno,” “melanzane alls parmigiana “ and “polpette.” (A roommate who hailed from Mississippi recently confessed that she snuck into the freezer and finished off the last of my mom’s “arancini” while everyone was sleeping.) My fascination with Italian cuisine started to evolve beyond my parents’ own regional specialties when I studied abroad in the lovely art city of Perugia and then again in Firenze during college and law school.

I began a career as a corporate and securities lawyer at a large NYC firm and unfortunately, knew from the get-go that I wasn’t in the right profession. Never one to quit, though, I hung on for nearly 10 years. At the same time, I began to seek inspiration and a creative outlet in the kitchen. I immersed myself in Italian cookbooks and culinary history and during our trips to Italy, while my husband, Michael, an amateur Renaissance historian and fellow Italophile, led me to off-the-beaten-path churches, I guided him to every obscure trattoria, pasticceria, gelateria, salumeria, cornetteria, etc., etc, etc. I stopped practicing law to stay home with my children in 2008 and aspired to one day create a new career that channels my love of food and Italy. Last spring, I had a now-or-never moment and launched my catering business, which specializes in regional Italian food, as opposed to the more widely-known Italian-American standards. The dishes I prepare span the entire Italian peninsula — from Sicilian “caponata” to “maccheroni alla chitarra” from Abruzzo to “gubana” from Friuli. I have also rediscovered my love of writing and will share recipes and cooking tips as well as stories and photos about my Italian childhood, travels in Italy and regional Italian gastronomy and customs. I hope you’ll join me on a culinary journey to the most awe-inspiring country in the world. A presto!

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11 thoughts on “Benvenuti a Majella

  1. Antonette January 20, 2013 at 11:41 pm Reply

    Looking forward to reading more…your stories take me into my own Italy experiences of food, tradition and travels!!!

  2. Diana January 21, 2013 at 2:37 am Reply

    Wow, we have a lot in common. I’m also a lawyer (still practicing, dreaming of retirement), my parents are both from Abruzzo, they came to Canada in the 1950’s, and we still have the family home in the mountains of Abruzzo that we go to every summer. And I just spent the day in the kitchen making penne al forno and braciole d’agnello. I’ll be following your posts, counting the days until I am back in Italy.

    • Majella Home Cooking January 21, 2013 at 5:13 am Reply

      Thanks, Diana. Where in Abruzzo is your family from?

      • Diana January 25, 2013 at 11:05 pm

        The town is Collelongo, about 20 km from Avezzano, as you get to the end of the Fucino valley, http://www.collelongo.com. Like you, I have been going there since I was a young girl, then with my husband and children when they were small, and even though they are now grow, they never pass up the opportunity to spend time there.

      • Majella Home Cooking January 26, 2013 at 5:44 pm

        Diana, I love hearing that. All of the town elders in Salle tell me that once my children reach a certain age, they won’t want to return anymore. Although I know there’s some truth to this (it happened to me when I was a teenager), I’m hopeful that it will be temporary. We really try hard to give them a rich and varied cultural experience on each trip back.

  3. Neema January 22, 2013 at 2:07 am Reply

    Love, love reading all about your Italian adventures.
    I have never been to Italy yet but in the mean
    time I will enjoy learning and dreaming about the Italian culture, it’s beauty, and ethnic foods through your blog.

    • Majella Home Cooking January 22, 2013 at 2:10 am Reply

      Thanks so much, Neema! When I lead my first culinary tour in Italy, you’ll have to come! 🙂

  4. Geralyn Marchisello January 22, 2013 at 5:34 am Reply

    Michelle
    Thank you for bringing the beauty and flavors to Italy as you do. Let me know when a cookbook comes out and cooking classes begin. Keep warming our hearts, minds and bellies!!

  5. Geralyn Marchisello January 22, 2013 at 6:13 am Reply

    Michelle
    Thank you for bringing the beauty and flavors of Italy as you do. Let me know when a cookbook comes out and cooking classes begin. Keep warming our hearts, minds and bellies!!

  6. Tony D'Auria September 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm Reply

    I appreciated your posts on Salle. I too have family born in Salle Vecchia. My mom will be 93 in January and can probably trade recipies with you. My mom lives in Astoria, Queens along with a dwindling population of friends and relatives who were born in Salle.

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