Who are we?
Born in 1976 in Rome, Micaela is an Art historian and tour guide specializing in the Italian capital “through Jewish eyes” (Jewish Roma). Her Tripolitan mother immigrated to ‘The land of the boot’ in her youth and her father, who was born in Rome, has family history dating back to the imperial days, so Micaela grew up eating both gnocchi and Nokides. She now makes sure to give both food cultures a place of honor in her kitchen, to keep the traditions alive as well as maintain the peace.
Born in 1981 in Rome, Angelo works as a real estate broker. He is a member of an old Jewish family that most likely arrived in Italy from Portugal. His parents had a bedding store in the ghetto and Angelo spent his childhood playing football with his friends among Rome’s ancient ruins. Having grown up eating his country’s many delicacies, Angelo is very traditional and prefers to eat only what he already knows and loves. He is especially fond of Stracotto, a beef stew in tomato sauce. “Last Sukkot we stayed with my Tripolitan relatives, and at Angelo’s request I made sure to make a double serving of the Roman fish soup I took to the event just so he would have something to eat there,” says Micaela with a smile. “We even canceled our honeymoon in Japan for fear he would have nothing to eat.”
Gabriel, 9 years old, is a 4th grader at the ‘Angelo Sacerdoti Jewish School’ in Rome and is a talented football player. His mother Micaela is very proud of him. “Gabriel is especially fond of Carciofi alla Giudia” she says with sparkling eyes. “This deep-fried artichoke is perhaps the most famous Jewish-Roman dish. This is a great honor for me.” Recently, Gabriel agreed to try more dishes and he even tries to persuade his little brothers to do the same: “If you eat, I’ll give you 5 euros,” he tells them craftily.
Nathan, 7 years old, also attends the Jewish school. He is in the 2nd grade and, similarly to his brother, a football champion. Much like his father, Nathan is very picky regarding the food on his plate. He’s happy with a hamburger patty “with nothing on it” and prefers his mother’s spaghetti without the tomato sauce. As this is not an option, he has resigned himself to eating the noodles in sauce as long as it is “smooth and without any chunks”.
Isaac, 5 years old, will join his brothers in school next year as a 1st grader. Isaac, who is also amazing at football, eats everything, his mother says. “He is curious and ready to taste everything,” especially Tortino di Alici, an anchovy pastry made at his kindergarten by the nonnas from the local Jewish community. Another dish he never misses an opportunity to eat is Torselli, escarole baked in olive oil. The curly, crisp leaves evoke his imagination and he already knows that he must chew on then carefully so as not to choke, God forbid.
Where was the photo taken?
The Sonnino family’s kitchen is the heart of their home. They keep kosher, and they are passing this tradition to their three boys. Ever since Micaela and Angelo got married in 2009, they have hosted the extended family holiday dinners in their home, in the Monteverde neighborhood of central Rome. This neighborhood is home to many Jewish families who moved there after the ghetto was evacuated. “Last Rosh Hashana, each of the
Nonnas brought a dish from her kitchen: my mother cooked Chraime, a North African spicy fish stew, and Angelo’s mother made, among other things, abbacchio al forno, lamb in the oven, which features on our table every holiday. To add an element of surprise, I actually made Tahdig, Persian rice.”
Our family kitchen
“My husband is slightly annoying in that he is only willing to eat only what I cook that same day,” Micaela laughs as she proudly presents her pantry laden with all kinds of goodies – especially pasta and olive oil, as befitting an Italian household. “When my husband wakes up in the morning, he immediately asks me ‘what are we having for lunch?’ And as soon as he
finishes eating lunch he immediately asks ‘what are we having for dinner?’ I make Stracotto, a beef stew in tomato sauce, on a weekly basis but a few days ago I did not have time to cook and so I asked the nanny to prepare it for us without telling Angelo. I try to use oil sparingly, but when making this dish you should in fact add oil generously, just as the nanny did. Angelo, who
did not know that I was not the one who cooked it this time, showered me with compliments and said that it was the most delicious Stracotto I have ever made… “
The House Special
“When I began cooking, many years ago, I prepared Ngozzamoddi for Shabbat,” Micaela tells us. “My father tasted the meatballs in celery & tomato sauce and exclaimed: ‘It’s just like Nonna’s (grandma in Italian)!’. I was so proud and happy. Ever since then I serve this dish every week. I remember that Grandma used a piece of cloth that she would spread on her palms to shape the patties.” Micaela explains that this dish originated in Jewish-Roman cuisine. “In the past, when there was not enough money to buy meat, ground bones were used as a substitute, giving the dish its special taste and its name, which is similar to the word in Hebrew for ‘bones’.”