Tucked away in the rolling hills of Southern Italy is the small town of Lucano. Our great-grandmother, Christina, the daughter of humble farmers, grew up planting and harvesting her family’s small plot of land. Every Saturday, she and her little sisters would venture from their farmhouse to the bustling town center of Lucano carrying basketfuls of freshly picked tomatoes, garlic, olives, eggplants, and onions to sell at the market. Townspeople would seek out Christina and her sisters for their produce as well as for jars of Christina’s own perfectly seasoned, rich tomato sauce. Our great-grandmother became famous for her tomato sauce all throughout Lucano. Her recipe was sought and asked for by many, but Christina only answered with a knowing smile and one of her hearty laughs.
It was her soulful laugh that caused our great-grandfather, Giovanni, to glance up from behind his stand in the market where he was selling his family’s homemade cheeses. The story goes that he forgot to take payment from a customer because his eyes were locked on Christina’s warm smile.
Giovanni became one of Christina’s best customers. He would buy jar after jar of tomato sauce from her but was too shy say more than “Thank You”. One day, after Giovanni purchased three jars, Christina asked what he did with so much tomato sauce. He replied that he and his family would top dough with Christina’s sauce, mozzarella cheese from his family’s cows, and vegetables and herbs of the season and bake in the family’s hearth. Giovanni and Christina’s relationship blossomed and they married in 1914. Together, they worked with Christina’s family on the farm and developed new recipes using freshly picked vegetables, Christina’s sauce, cheeses from Giovanni’s family’s cows, and other local ingredients found at Lucano’s market. In 1916 they emigrated from Lucano to Chicago, Illinois, where, for many years, Giovanni worked in a local deli and Christina stayed at home to take care of their growing family.
Our grandmother, Maria, one of Giovanni and Christina’s six children, was taught the recipe for her mother’s tomato sauce. Maria was a natural cook, who joined her mother in serving pasta dishes carried back from Lucano for the family. Maria especially loved making her father’s recipe of dough, sauce, cheese, vegetables, herbs, and sausage and created this meal for her siblings and parents almost weekly. Neighbors began asking for the recipe and Maria gladly told them, but the secret was in the sauce. No one knew how to make tomato sauce as good as Christina’s.
Generations have passed, and today Lucano’s still uses the recipes Giovanni and Christina brought from the small town of Lucano to Chicago. We are proud and committed to serving you the most authentic and flavorful dishes using recipes and methods passed down for many years.
Enjoy and grazie!