Chicken Parmesan

My grandma, Vito's oldest, cooking
My grandma, Vito's oldest, cooking

My great grandfather, Vito, was born in 1910 in Newark, New Jersey. His parents, Italian immigrants, came through Ellis Island in 1905 from Sicily. Vito was the second oldest of five children. His father, Giovanni, died early in Vito’s life and it forced Vito to grow up quickly. He began working on a dairy farm to help financially support his mother and siblings. He was often able to bring home extra milk and cheese, and of all things, eggplant. He and his siblings drank a lot of milk. And they ate a lot of eggplant. So much so that once my great grandfather was the head of his own household, he refused to consume either.

Our entire family would gather at their house every Sunday for supper. What did we never eat? Eggplant. Vito’s house, Vito’s rules. How does this swing around to the chicken parmesan you expected to be reading about? Well, as a result of the great eggplant boycott, we ate a lot of chicken parmesan. There is no recipe, and when you call my grandmother for directions you have to listen carefully, because each time she withholds a different ingredient. Just like her mother, my grandmother’s hands are soft from all of the olive oil they touch and they’re the only hands that know the true secrets to a great chicken parm.

P.S. We lived with my great grandparents for a year when I was little and every morning Vito had cornflakes for breakfast. Not dry, but obviously not with milk. Instead, he would put freshly squeezed orange juice in the bowl.

Place(s): Italy,Sicily,New Jersey
Year: 1905

– Amanda Lesnikowski

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more