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Dana Marchione majored in Italian at Rutgers, studied two semesters in Italy, and moved there after graduation to teach English and work as an au pair for an Italian family. Back home, she missed the food and the language tremendously. Then one day, on the street in Hoboken, she overheard a young man speaking her beloved language. She turned, their eyes met...and well, that man is now her fiance.
“I guess now I know," she says, "why I spent all those years studying.”
They say Italian is the language of love, and the passions it arouses are as much gustatory as amorous. In fact, the line between one kind of pleasure and the other is easily blurred.
Which is why language teacher Marchione, 30. and culinary instructor Marla Mendelsohn, 59, both of Hoboken, are joining forces to create a six-part series of hands-on Italian cooking classes from January to June.
The classes will be held at Mendelsohn’s in-home cooking school, part of her company, Cookease Catering. Each 2 ½-hour session costs $85 and will include an olive oil tasting, the preparation of three dishes and wine pairings.
The pair hit it off right away when Mendelsohn, who “can’t get enough of everything Italian,” enrolled in Marchione’s Italian language class at her school, Learn Italian Hoboken. It wasn’t long before they started planning the joint venture, which will focus on a different region of Italy in each class, along with instruction in the culinary vernacular.
“We set up the menus in Italian as though you were dining in Italy,” says Marchione.
The virtual travel tour will work its way down the boot beginning on January 17th starting up north in Lombardy, home to Milan. Along the way there will be stops in Venice, Bologna, Florence, and Rome before finishing up on June 13th in the Neapolitan region of Campania.
Students will understand everything involved with ‘da mangiare’-to eat, and ‘da bere’- to drink, including the ins and outs of ordering. “There’s one main verb that you use when ordering, it’s the polite form of ‘to want.’ So you would say, ‘vorrei,’ meaning ‘I would like…,’” explains Marchione.
Both women bring a world of experience to the subject. Mendelsohn, who grew up in Long Island and Wayne, NJ, has traveled extensively throughout Italy, bringing home inspiration and recipes, since she began teaching cooking classes thirty years ago.
“I’ve been to Rome, Venice, Florence, Sienna, Luca, Sorrento, Pompeii…I can’t get enough,” says Mendelsohn.
In 2008, Marchione, a native of Brooklawn, began teaching Italian in Madison and is now a teacher at Hoboken High School.
“It has always been my dream to have a language school,” she says. This is apparently just the beginning. “Eventually I plan to have trips and classes on everything Italian.”
Despite having grown up with Italian-American grandparents who served sauce and homemade pasta on Sunday’s, none of her relatives ever spoke the language, and the family is still quite surprised by her passion for Italy.
In addition to pasta, of course, students will enjoy making and eating dishes like risotto with veal meatballs, baked zucchini and herbs, and strawberries with zabaglione, recipes that are sure to transport you to another world.
“L’appetito vien…cucinando,” goes without saying. Translation: “The appetite comes with cooking.”
SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.