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The Italian Festival
by Jerry Guarino

The annual feast of San Gennaro is held every September in New York. It brings together thousands of Italian Americans and others to sample fine food, wines and Italian culture. Angela Migliore traveled to the festival to enter one of the cooking competitions with her specialty, lasagna.

The judges sampled lasagnas from twenty entrants, many of whom were chefs in New York Italian restaurants. You couldn’t find a better sample of Italian cooking anywhere. Angela was just a girl out of college, with no professional cooking experience. The judges took their time (over an hour) tasting all the lasagnas. When they finished, one of them came to the podium.

“There is something special about Miss Migliore’s lasagna. It is traditional, but it has some undefinable ingredient that makes it stand out. It’s bold, but not abrasive. Fully formed yet easy to cut with a fork. The pork and other meats sit in your mouth a little, allowing the savoring to continue. You don’t want to put it down. We must have the recipe.”

The judges conferred and made their selection, pinning a blue ribbon on Angela Migliore’s sweater. Congratulations Miss. Your lasagna is the best of the festival this year. We can’t give a reason why your lasagna stood out from the rest of the competition. It’s was just the best. The first-place prize is a trip to Italy for you and a friend.

“Thank you. It’s an honor to present my recipe here. Since I was a little girl, my parents and grandparents told me about this festival and this recipe came from my grandmother who was born in Napoli. They brought me to the festival many times and I sampled great food from so many cooks. I never thought my cooking would compare. I’m very humble.”

A reporter from The Italian News wondered too. He tried the lasagna. It was good, very good, but not the best she had tasted. “My grandmother’s lasagna is better than this.” The reporter took samples from the other contestants and brought them home for examination.

Her colleagues at the paper sampled all the lasagnas, a blind taste test and awarded points for taste, appearance and satisfaction. In the end, Angela’s lasagna came in third, behind a grandmother from Long Island and a chef from the city.

Meanwhile, Angela and her grandmother were visiting Napoli, where her family was from, on that prize trip. “Noni, your recipe won. Why didn’t you ever enter it at The Feast of San Gennaro?”

“Because my name is Maria Mariani.”

“I don’t understand Noni.”

“Piccola Mia. I’ll explain it to you someday.”

The reporter was about to publish her findings, but could not understand how Angela’s entry won. “Maybe there is some divine intervention going on here. Maybe Angela is blessed from above.” Then it hit her!

ANGELA is an anagram for LASAGNA and MIGLIORE means BEST in Italian.

The Italian Festival by Jerry Guarino
Copyright July, 2023 – All Rights Reserved