Cookbook honours spouse’s memory and city of L’Aquila

When native Torontonian Maria Filice married book publisher Paul Piccone of New York in 1997, they honeymooned in L’Aquila, his hometown in the province of Abruzzo in northeast Italy.

Breaking Bread in L'Aquila by Maria Filice.

Breaking Bread in L'Aquila by Maria Filice.

When native Torontonian Maria Filice married book publisher Paul Piccone of New York in 1997, they honeymooned in L’Aquila, his hometown in the province of Abruzzo in northeast Italy.

The pair travelled frequently back to the region for what Filice calls “our time away from the world.

“I fell in love with his hometown. The region is very mountainous and the culture and history is just incredible,” she says.

In 2004, Piccone died of cancer. Then in April 2009, L’Aquila was hit with a devastating earthquake and Filice returned to the city to revisit and remember the people and flavours she found there.

This was the inspiration for her to honour her late husband and his birth city. The result is her first cookbook, Breaking Bread in L’Aquila (Food & Fate Publishing, hardcover).

During their visits to L’Aquila, Filice and her husband frequented San Biagio, “a small and charming trattoria owned by two brothers who knew how to make their customers happy through their warm and delicious food.”

Consequently some of the recipes in the book are gleaned from those the couple sampled at the restaurant.

With her own background as a first-generation Canadian of parents who emigrated to this country from Calabria, Italy, Filice grew up watching her mother, grandmother and aunts as they prepared simple but delicious meals.

“Paul was a great cook himself and we cooked together and had many splendid dinner parties at our New York apartment,” she recalls.

With full colour photography by Carolyn Pulford, the book is organized according to the days of the week, with suggested wines from Abruzzo.

Filice has included a pantry suggestion list of Italian ingredients to have on hand for the 49 recipes.

Here from the book is her succulent recipe for roast chicken. “I especially like this one, because it sends the beautiful aroma of rosemary wafting through the house.”

Roast Chicken With

Rosemary and Garlic

1 chicken (1.5 to 1.8 kg/3 to 4 lb)

45 to 60 ml (3 to 4 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

45 ml (3 tbsp) fresh rosemary, chopped

15 ml (1 tbsp) coarse salt

1 ml (1/4 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and mix well. Using a spoon (or your fingers), rub mixture under skin and outside of chicken until it’s well coated.

Place on a rack in a baking pan and bake until chicken is golden brown and cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours. Check chicken periodically and baste several times.

Let chicken sit for about 10 minutes before carving. Then cut into pieces and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.t