Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco tells us about his family dinners and his mother's meatballs.

on Jul 1, 20110

First things first, we had no idea who would win the signature dish challenge. So before you start complaining that the twins didn't compete against each other, think about it. We would have loved to see the twins go head-to-head, but Ninamarie's super delicious smoked lamb made that impossible.

Last night's dinner party was especially close to my heart. I asked for a traditional Italian family dinner, one that would take me way back to my family's table as a child. My grandmother, my mother, my aunts, and my uncles would overwhelm us with the flavors, smells, and sounds of handmade, homegrown food being enjoyed by the most carefree bunch of loudmouths you've ever met. All of my guests had the same childhood experience and the same point of reference, so the pressure to recreate that magic was intense. I knew it had to ring true for them also, or it wouldn't be a fun night. If I didn't make the right choices, we could all end up feeling like we were at Olive Garden. 

What exactly is a traditional dinner in an Italian family? In mine there was homemade wine and bread, then a table full of antipasti. This came in endless varieties. It might be fish, meat, vegetables, bread, egg, cheeses, or salume, alone or in some combination. Crostini are very popular antipasti. These are simply slices of good bread, lightly toasted in the oven and spread with something tasty -- sometimes a mince of ripe tomato, fresh basil, and a dollop of fragrant olive oil.

Then came the primo, or the pasta course. In our home there was always a special pasta (or macaroni), and it was always the most labor intensive ones like handmade orrechiette, malfati, manicotti, lasagna, or ravioli. The pasta sauce (or gravy) was usually a ragu (chunks of pork, veal, sausages, and meatballs braised in a tomato sauce all day).

3 comments
shelby lyn
shelby lyn

During the time I was married to a chef( and we worked together- thats how we met!) I was a fan of Rocco , even then..it was ..1992/ 1993.. and now look. .. He has a show.. I just happened to come across this show and found it be interesting and entertaining..I watched the " True Italian Meal", in which I found NinaMaria's food to sound enticing as well as the plating. I thought that she DID make the ' special ' dish for your one guest, but it did not get actually SERVED to the guest ( ??) I loved her attitude about food, and she was a pleasure to watch. The brothers..well, a bit cocky , -lol-but I suppose that brought a note of laugh-ability to the episode..lol . I just think that the planner did MORE for the other chef, in terms of the ' setting' and not as much for NinaMaria.Well, in my book, she's a winner. I realize there are no ' losers', per se and its a great experience for the chefs who are picked for the Dinner Party. Although I am no longer married to Mr. Chef..I do still enjoy creating and cooking, and our daughter even helped prep for him at the restuarant where he worked, between the time when she was all of 8 to 10 years old. He taught me many things , even though I was already a good cook when I married him. Life is journey..one does not ever stop learning..even at 57 years young.:)

Lisa B
Lisa B

I have always enjoyed watching Rocco on TV, love the new show and always go to work the next day to see what the other girls thought about the outcome. This week (Town & Country) was very good as well with one exception.... Seeing as this is not a live show I think the producers should have bleeped out the profanity that the gentleman made, they did bleep out the F word which is not half as bad as the GD word so Rocco if you read this please pass that comment on and wish you all the best...

Mary Ann Hansen
Mary Ann Hansen

I am wondering if Rocco new cook book is out for publication price,where to purchase.Have been really enjoying show keep up the good work.