3 Top Chefs Celebrate Mom with a Taste of Italy

Food and family are two pillars of Italian culture—with the much respected role of la Mamma at the center of it all. Each year, the second Sunday of May marks Festa della Mamma in Italy and Mother’s Day in Canada, an important day honouring Moms everywhere. To celebrate, we chatted with three of Canada’s top chefs – David Rocco of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, Emma Cardarelli of Nora Gray, and Pino Posteraro of Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca  – about their Mothers’ influence in the kitchen.

Celebrity Chef David Rocco of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita

David Rocco’s Dolce Vita is an incredibly popular television food and lifestyle program, seen in over 100 countries around the world.


What was your favourite dish made by your Mom?
My mom, even though she’s not from Naples, makes the best Neapolitan eggplant parmigiana around. Legend has it, in order to be accepted by my father’s family, she had to learn from his mother how to make a true eggplant parmigiana. Obviously she passed with flying colours, and from then on this dish was a family staple.

Describe your Mom’s influence in your culinary career:
I grew up in the kitchen watching my mom cook … As far back as I can remember I couldn’t wait to get my hands in and start working with the ingredients. I remember being very young, listening to stories they would tell about the dishes we were making, and loving how we were using recipes that had been in our family for generations. I always felt so proud to sit down to a meal I had helped my mother prepare.

List her essential Italian ingredients:
My mom’s essential ingredients are the same as mine:

  • Our garden fresh tomato and basil
  • Various Italian cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO, Pecorino and Ricotta Salata
  • And of course, really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany. For me probably the most important ingredient one can have in their kitchen!

Did you inherit any recipes that you cook for your kids?
Back then, the kind of food we ate was one of the big things that differentiated us, the Italians, from the rest of the kids at school. I didn’t fit in. Until my mother made this Frittata di Pasta, and suddenly I was the kid with the “different” food everyone wanted to try…We make it for our kids to take to school. Inevitably they come home and tell us, “Everyone loves this, so can you make extra, the other kids want some too.” History repeats itself!

Chef Emma Cardarelli of Nora Gray

Nora Gray is a sophisticated restaurant focusing on Southern Italian cuisine, located in Montreal, Québec. 

List an essential Italian ingredient you always had in your kitchen:
We always had real Parmigiano-Reggiano … well first of all, that was my job when we made dinner, I was the cheese grater, and it was always a real block of Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO.

What was your favourite dish made by your Mom?
My Mom really is quite good [at cooking], and as a kid I remember she would make a veal scaloppine.

Describe your Mom’s culinary influence:
I mean my father influenced my cooking career as far as being Italian, but I would definitely say my mother influenced me in keeping things well balanced. She always had a little bit of protein, some kind of carbohydrate and she would do two vegetables, and that was every night of the week.

Chef Pino Posteraro of Cioppino’s

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca is a critically-acclaimed Italian restaurant located in Yaletown, Vancouver.


What was your favourite dish made by your Mom?
I was very lucky, because my mom’s cuisine was exceptional – not because she was my mom, but because she was trained as a professional chef, so she was amazing. My favourite dish of all time was a dish that she used to make for Easter, a roasted lamb, and of course her pasta.

Did you inherit any recipes that your kids love?
My kids had the chance to meet their Nonna before she passed. There was a dish she made stewing beef or veal, [called] Pasta alla Genovese. I make it all the time, [my kids] love to eat it at least twice a week.

What will you be preparing this Mother’s Day?
In honour of my Mother, I will definitely make Pasta alla Genovese, and to combine the dish that I previously mentioned, I will do a lamb with la Genovese using a long pasta shape – it’s called Candele pasta, that you break by hand and cook.

What’s an authentic Italian product you would gift to Mom?
I would give Italian extra virgin olive oil, and I would give them either flour from soft wheat or durum wheat non-GMO, made from ancient grains.

How will you be celebrating Mother’s Day this year? Share your thoughts and delicious dishes with us using #MadeInItaly on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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