Italian Cooking and Living

Photograph Italian Culinary Institue,
All Rights Reserved Courtesy of Cooking and Living
June / July 2005 Issue

As I write my story, I am still in awe about what happened to me on my journey to Italy. I will begin my story with my grandmother, Lucia Scuncio, whom I did not know. She died of influenza when my mother, Philomena, was only 5 years old. I knew of her only in a photograph that I was given two years ago by a distant cousin, and that her grave number was 1648. The journey started here.

After doing research in the archives, I discovered her death certificate and learned that she died September 30, 1913. The same week, my daughter Gina told me she was expecting a baby and that her due date was September 30. Chloe Lucia was born September 30, the date my grandmother died. The nurse who took care of my daughter and our miracle baby was named Lucia.

These coincidences sent me on a mission to Italy. After spending two wonderful weeks in Sorrento with my husband and daughter, we decided to visit Prata Sannita on the last Wednesday of the vacation, a small town in Caserta where my grandparents were born. As we approached the paese, my heart and soul were in a state of disbelief that I would be visiting the place where my grandparents were born.

We traveled to City Hall to inquire about my grandparents, Pasquale and Lucia Scuncio. As we asked for the birth certificates of my grandparents, a young woman behind us in line spoke out. She told us she was Maria Rosa Scuncio. “I am your cousin,” she said. She was there at the exact same time getting a certificate for her daughter, Antonella.

The feelings that we all experienced that moment are unexplainable. It was a miracle, a gift from God. Everyone was crying, and this moment in time reunited a family. I knew in my heart that my grandmother had taken me by the hand—from the moment I was given her photograph to my destination in Prata Sannita.

We visited six Scuncio families, going from house to house. I saw the house where my grandfather was born. We had dinner at Maria Rosa’s house with everything fresh from their land— antipasti, pasta, meats, cheese, wine; and most of all a warmth and love none of us had ever experienced.

As we left for Sorrento that night, the tears of joy and love overwhelmed us. It was a place in time that God gave to me to find my roots. My daughter Lauren now visits my family often. She has also fallen in love with Italy and has a passion of her own, called Cooking Vacations—a venture she is pursuing to help people visit this beautiful part of our universe. Our family now calls one another frequently —we share recipes and photographs, and we visit often. My life circle is now complete.