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The inspiration for this website and cookbook began in Sicily, that island of enchanted flavors, introduced by the civilizations that settled her shores and left their influence. More specifically, it began in San Cataldo, a mountain town at the heart of Sicily. It began in my mother's kitchen, the same kitchen used by previous generations of her family, "The Lunettas". Fifty miles away, in Comiso on the southern tip of Sicily, my dad's family "The Laurettas" developed their own style of cooking, using the skills and secrets of their ancestors.
Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, it was only natural that Sicilians acquired a unique talent for preparing and cooking seafood. I remember, as a kid, listening to my mom haggling with the fish peddler outside our front door. He would, in turn, be followed by the vegetable and fruit carts, or the cheese vendors, all with the luxury of shopping at home.
Those days are long gone, but the strong Sicilian roots left their imprint on a ten year old who immigrated to America with his parents in the 1950's. I grew up in central Jersey, surrounded by the greater New York city area. My folks opened their first restaurant in Perth Amboy, New Jersey in 1961. They went on to own and operate over a dozen restaurants throughout the 60's and 70's. My mom's home cooking and my dad's business skills formed the basis of my culinary career.
I consider myself a student, in the old school tradition, of Italian cookery and have no patience for Nouveau Cuisine or Fusion trends popular nowadays. I don't believe food should be served in piles or erecting towers with it. Italian food is kept simple, but is bursting with flavor. A well prepared meal should leave you full and satisfied, but saddened that it's over, like the end of a torrid love affair.
"Seafood, Italian Style", I confess is slightly misleading. A more accurate title would be "Seafood, Sicilian (raised in America) Style". Although my recipes have the inherited Sicilian trademark, courtesy of my mom, Gina, I have taken the liberty to experiment and alter them in subtle ways without sacrificing their original essence. These changes through the years have resulted in forming my own style and flair for Italian Cuisine. The seafood recipes offered in this cookbook are a fair representation of seafood dishes available at most Italian restaurants around the country. They are taken from the menus of our family restaurants including my own place on the Oregon coast, Avanti's.
My passion for cooking is surpassed only by my love for fine art. The marriage of these two talents has only enhanced my skills in the conception and presentation of all my dishes. A great meal is like a work of art. It should be pleasing to the eye, as well as the nose and palate. I come from the Mediterranean world, where eating is the highlight of the day, to be looked forward to and enjoyed as in performing a sacred ritual. It is in this spirit that I dedicate this book to my family, the Lunettas and Laurettas, along with all the customers that have enjoyed our food throughout the decades. I invite you to share my secrets in creating your own unique "dining affair".