American Food Roots and Le Virtu’

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Some of you already know this, but for those who don’t, I’m happy to share with you a new website I co-founded with three other food journalists: American Food Roots. Our mission is to tell America’s food stories, celebrate the many diverse cultures that have contributed—and continue to contribute—to the American food scene, and to explore why we eat what we eat.

Our venture has been some two years in the making, and we finally went “live” in December. Among the (many) wonderful components of AFR is a section called My American Roots: 2-minute videos of people telling their own food stories—sharing a recipe or talking with a family member or friend about a favorite food or food memory.

Another feature I love—and which we will continue to add to—is 50 States. We have written culinary bios for every state, but our goal is to populate these pages with reported stories, as well as recipes and stories from people who are from and live in those states. Hopefully that means you! 

L to R: Me, Michele Kayal, Bonny Wolf, Carol Guensburg. Photo by Foster Wiley

Me + my apron-clad partners Michele Kayal, Bonny Wolf & Carol Guensburg. Photo by Foster Wiley

Since our launch we’ve covered stories from Minnesota wild rice to the past and future of hard cider. Our Christmas cookie contest included a winning submission by Adri Barr Crocetti. Our American Made section highlights U.S. foods and food products, such as Virginia-made KimKim Sauce. (You can read some background on the site and the four of us here.)

As the only Italiana among the four I’ve been enjoying writing about the food of our wonderfully diverse Italian-American community, including a piece on the Feast of the Seven Fishes for the holidays—and here I would like to give a shout-out to Frank of Memorie di Angelina, who shared his own experience and perspective on this tradition. Be sure to read the comments that follow the story for a lively debate. We Italians are an opinionated bunch. Who knew?! (We all knew, of course.)


Le Virtu’s executive chef, Joe Cicala, stretches maccheroni alla mugnaia, a specialty of Abruzzo

My most recent piece is about Joe Cicala, excecutive chef at Le Virtu’, in Philadelphia, a restaurant that focuses almost exclusively on la cucina Abruzzese (again, shouts out to friends Helen Free and Linda Prospero of Ciao Chow Linda for introducing me to this gem). In addition to meticulously reproducing some of Abruzzo’s most unique dishes, Joe makes his own salumi at Le Virtu’—some 30 different kinds—as well as in-house liqueurs. For the American Food Roots feature, he shared a favorite recipe from childhood, his mother’s Sicilian pasta e fagioli. This is not an Abruzzese dish, nor is it like any other pasta e fagioli you’ve had. It’s a gentle, nourishing soup of green beans, potatoes and capellini. It has quickly become one of my favorites.

Joe's pasta fagioli 1

Here’s a picture of Joe Cicala’s mother’s pasta e fagioli to whet your appetite.

If you haven’t yet stopped by American Food Roots, please do. There is plenty to savor. In addition to stories and videos, we have a growing bank of recipes. And we’re going to be adding new features, including podcasts and a column featuring recipes from our community members. In fact, I’d love for you  to join (it’s free!) and contribute to the conversation about why we eat what we eat. We all come from somewhere, and we all have food stories to share. I hope you’ll share yours with us.

But wait…lest you think I’m abandoning my Italian roots, let me just say mai e poi mai (never and, again, never). I’m chugging away on my biscotti book and also gearing up for the release this fall of The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. I’ll keep you posted on book-related events as they are scheduled. In the mean time, if you are local, next Sunday (Feb. 17) I’ll be teaching two advanced pasta making classes at Hill’s Kitchen, in D.C.

OK, I’m pretty sure I’ve used up my allotted link allowance in this post. Thanks for stopping by and, as always, buon appetito.


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15 Responses to American Food Roots and Le Virtu’

  1. Flavia February 12, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Ciao Domenica,

    Congratulations on the launch of American Food Roots! It is now in my bookmarks and I am looking forward to reading it regularly. I am also looking forward to the release of your next cookbooks–they will definitely be on my cookbook shelves!

    • Domenica February 12, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      Ciao Flavia! Thanks for reading and your kind words. Right now American Food Roots is a labor of love. Hoping it will grow beyond our wildest dreams!

  2. Wendy February 12, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Very exciting! I’ve signed on!

    • Domenica February 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      That’s terrific, Wendy! We are looking for ways to get the American Food Roots community to connect with one another more easily and to become more involved, in the comments section, and in a new column we’ll be launching. So please add your voice and stay tuned for much more to come.

  3. Laura (Tutti Dolci) February 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    What a wonderful project, I will head over and take a peek! 🙂

    • Domenica February 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      Please do, Laura. I think you’ll enjoy exploring. Thank you!

  4. elisa February 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    These are wonderful news!!!!! I signed up and I am looking forward to be part of this project.!

    • Domenica February 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      Fantastic Elisa. I hope you will add your voice as you always have something thoughtful and helpful to contribute. 🙂

  5. Helen February 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Reading this makes me happy all over again- like hearing a beloved family story. And I’ve only been hooked on AFR for 2 months. Know how much your vision, mission and labor are appreciated.

  6. nancy baggett February 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    I already knew, but am delighted to have more info. I love the concept of the site, as I am always delving into the history and lore of American baking. I do hope you’ll let me contribute.

    • Domenica February 14, 2013 at 7:25 am #

      Nancy, it would be great to have you contribute. I will follow up with you. So many possibilities! Thanks, my friend.

  7. Ruth Webber February 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Seems I’ve wandered into your launching just because I happened to wonder how CCBA is doing lately. This looks great!
    Have you heard about the new building for culinary art at Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa, CA? Live cameras show the students while restaurant guests watch. Food includes fruit and vegetables from Shone Farm, which belongs to the college.

    • Domenica February 17, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Ruth,
      Glad you found my blog. I hope you’ll also check out American Food Roots! Thanks for the tip about the Santa Rosa Junior College. I hadn’t heard. Also, I’m curious: what is CCBA?

      Cheers and thanks.

  8. ciaochowlinda February 18, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Domenica – I love what you and your friends are doing at AFR, even though I forget sometimes to check my “reader” and see what’s new. I finally got around to it tonight and am so pleased you gave me a “shout out.” I read the piece on Joe and Le Virtù and was so happy to see that such a deservedly delicious restaurant and its chef got profiled. But I think the thing that makes me happiest is knowing your new cookbook is coming out soon AND that you’re writing a biscotti cookbook. Biscotti is my all-time go-to comfort cookie and I can’t wait to see what you’re dreaming up.

  9. Frank @Memorie di Angelina February 18, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Thanks for the shout out, Domenica! And I can certainly attest that American Food Roots is a lot of fun. I’m a frequent visitor and I always learn something new.

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