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5th Week of Italian Cuisine in the World: “La cucina della Nonna. The Origins of the Italian Culinary Tradition in Montreal”. In conversation with Elena Faita, Lucia Coloccia and Giuseppina Petraccone D’Alesio, with President Laila Tentoni of Casa Artusi (#IICMONTREALWEBINARSERIES)

As part of the 5th Week of Italian Cuisine in the World (23-29 November 2020), promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Education, University and Research and the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and forest policies, the Italian Cultural Institute, in collaboration with the Consulate General of Italy in Montreal and the Embassy of Italy in Canada, is pleased to present a conversation on the theme La cucina della Nonna. Le origini della tradizione culinaria italiana a Montreal, animated by the participation of Elena Faita, Lucia Coloccia, Giuseppina Petraccone D’Alesio and Laila Tentoni, President of the glorious Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli.

Monday, November 23, 3 pm EST

Registration required

Long before pasta and pizza became staples in the global kitchen there was la cucina della nonna. The Italian Cultural Institute is pleased to bring together several nonnas for a special chiacchierata on the origins of the city’s rich Italian culinary heritage. Appearing online for the first time, Lucia Coloccia and Giuseppina Petraccone D’Alesio will share their memories of arriving in this strange new land, Canada, in the 1960s and trying to cook their traditional dishes without the right ingredients or equipment. The nonnas will take us on a culinary journey from their origins in Italy to adaptation in Montreal when confronted with Quebec/Canadian cuisine and the development of local customs like tending to urban vegetable gardens, cooking primarily in basement kitchens, making tomato sauce and wine in the garage and keeping a well-stocked cantina. How has their cooking changed over the decades and will their children and beloved grandchildren adopt and adapt their recipes and techniques into the future in the increasingly globalized domestic kitchen?

Elena Faita is the doyenne of Italian gastronomy in Montreal and the indefatigable force behind the Mezza Luna Cooking School and Quincaillerie Dante. She will offer a capsule history of Italian culinary Montreal from her perch at its centre since the 1950s and share stories about the evolution of the Jean-Talon Market and Little Italy as gourmet destinations.

Laila Tentoni will offer a context for la cucina della nonna as an important aspect of la cucina domestica and its centrality to Italian cuisine. Dr. Tentoni is the President of Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli, a centre dedicated to Italian home cooking named after Pellegrino Artusi, author of La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene (1891), a practical manual for la cucina domestica that became a foundational cookbook in Italy.

Francesco D’Arelli, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute, and Francesca M. LoDico, all-round foodie, will present the event. This webinar will also be a hearty linguistic minestrone with participants speaking Italian, various dialects, Italiese and a dash of English and French.

Lucia Coloccia emigrated from Sant’Elia a Pianisi (Campobasso) in 1969 with her husband, Antonio Coloccia, “un vero napoletano,” she says. In 1985, Lucia and Antonio opened Pasta Coloccia, an artisanal pasta factory from which she is now retired. Lucia has had many lives, from working “alla Sharpe,” a factory, to running a depanneur and, most recently, cooking for kids in a garderie, which she absolutely adores. She is the proud nonna of sixteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren (with one more on the way) to whom she speaks in dialect. Lucia lives in Saint-Leonard where she and Antonio have not one, but TWO cantinas!

Giuseppina Petraccone D’Alesio was kneading pasta dough at her mother’s side in Quintodecimo, Acquasanta Terme (Ascoli Piceno) by the time she was ten years old. In 1963, she immigrated to Canada as a high school student. Her passion for the home cooking of Le Marche culminated in the opening of Pasta Casareccia, a homemade pasta shop and trattoria in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce that has been Certified Authentic by the Italian Government. Giuseppina takes great pride in female empowerment and credits the phenomenal women in her family for her culinary education. Indeed, her legendary ragù recipe, la salsa della nonna, comes from her mother-in-law, Maria Grazia. (Pssst… their secret: simmer the sauce for three hours!) Giuseppina lives in Côte-Saint-Luc.

Elena Faita emigrated from San Vittore del Lazio (Frosinone) in 1954 when she was seven years old. In 1956, her family opened Quincaillerie Dante, an Italian general store in the heart of immigrant Little Italy. Guided by Elena’s passion for cooking, Quincaillerie Dante became one of Quebec’s most iconic kitchenware shops. Encouraged by her daughter, Cristina, Elena began to offer pasta-making demonstrations that became so popular it led to the opening of the Mezza Luna Cooking School in 1993. Together with her son, chef Stefano Faita, she has fundamentally shaped Montreal’s love affair with Italian food, teaching thousands of home cooks in Quebec the art of Italian cooking based on fresh local ingredients. Moreover, in an era when independent women were seen as unconventional, Elena was a transformative female role model. In 2008, she became a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec.

Laila Tentoni is the President of Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli (Forlì-Cesena), the first centre of gastronomic culture devoted entirely to Italian home cooking. Casa Artusi was founded in the name of Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911), the father of Italian cuisine and author of La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene (1891), a teaching manual for la cucina domestica that became a foundational Italian cookbook. Dr. Tentoni is the co-author (with Piero Camporesi and Luciana Cacciaguerra) of Pellegrino Artusi e la sua Romagna (Casa Artusi, 2012) and the promoter of many events and initiatives at Casa Artusi and worldwide including the Tutto fa brodo? project.

Francesca M. LoDico edited the Zagat restaurant surveys of Montreal and was the restaurant critic for Montreal’s Hour. She co-created World Bites, a television series about Canadian ethnocultural traditions, and was a food columnist with CBC Radio. Her work has appeared in PEN International, Canadian Geographic, enRoute and Maisonneuve. Francesca received the Accenti Writing Award and was shortlisted for the PRISM International Short Fiction Prize.


  • Organized by: Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Montréal
  • In collaboration with: Consolato Generale d’Italia a Montréal e l’Ambasci
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