Our Team

Cooking Vacations is an American company with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts with many experts,

bringing each guest the best of food, wine and travel in Italy.


Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli

Creator & Owner

Lauren is a writer, photographer, great cook, food lover and artist at heart.  Born into an Italian American family of great chefs, pastry makers and wine producers, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her Neapolitan grandmothers and mom learning how to cook classic Italiano.  After many trips to Italy, and dreaming of living there, she followed her dream and created Cooking Vacations Italy.  She continues to bring new cooking experiences as she travels across Italy, always meeting new chefs, artisan food makers, wine producers and food experts.  She has worked on Todd English’s Food Tripping ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzYTRrYN9Bw ) in Bologna, Italy, hosted the Prince and Princess of Jordan and their family on a Cooking Vacation in Positano, and is an active member Anacapri In Art (http://www.kaireartecapri.it/) on the isle of Capri.

Lauren began her career in the communications as a writer and photographing for The Brown Daily Herald at Brown University. She graduated, moved to Paris and joined the marketing & publicity department at Hasbro Toys, Paris, France launching the American toy line on the European market. She returned to Boston and created Birmingham Public Relations where she was managed media campaigns for the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriot & Bruins sports teams and stars; celebrity Chefs;  Rebook Sports;  the Boston Marathon;  the Wilbur Theatre; restaurants and museums. A published food writer & photographer for Tastes Of Italia Magazine, and foodie at heart, she loves to cook! Traveling, discovering new food recipes & trends is a never-ending adventure for her. Born in the USA, she is an Italian-American who now lives in Boston and Positano, Italy with her Italian husband and former race car driver, Rino Piscitelli.  Rino and Lauren produce their own organic extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil on the sunny Amalfi Coast.

Germaine Stafford

Cooking Tour Manager & Food Writer

Germaine Stafford brings us “Italy On A Plate” each month-a culinary round-up of what is  happening in the culinary world and gives you her chef of the month, book recommendation, and seasonal foods.  Germaine is a fulltime freelance writer who has spent the last 14 years of her life in Italy. For the last 5 years she has been the food and cookery correspondent for Italy published in Britain, has won a variety of competitions for both her fiction and non- fiction work, and in 2004 reached the final of the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger award.  When she’s not writing, she’s probably eating and drinking or has her nose stuck in a good book.

Marie Lucia Birmingham

Business Manager

A chef at heart and always in the kitchen, Marie heads up the accounting department keeping all the reservations in order. She loves to cook,-while listening to her Italian classics. She follows in the foot-steps of her mom Philomena and her grandmother Lucia, as a mom and cook. And like her grandmother, she is always with her children and grandchildren. Marie loves it best when she is rolling out dough, making fresh pasta and baking those sweet biscotti with granddaughters Chloe Lucia and Siena Rose.

Ralph Ranalli

Web Writer and Tour Researcher

Ralph traces his love of Italian food and culture to his Neapolitan ancestors, who emigrated to American in the early 1900s. An author and former journalist, Ralph writes the tour descriptions on the Cooking Vacations website from Boston, where he spends as much time as possible in the North End.

An organic gardener who cooks with tomatoes, squash, greens and herbs from his own gardens, Ralph loves creating dishes passed down from his grandmother Rosa, his great-uncle Francesco, and the Italian-American chefs of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, NY, where his father grew up. A passionate Serie A fan, he roots for Napoli but loves Andrea Pirlo (even though he plays for Juve).

Chloe Lucia Cohen, Social Media & Public Relations

Cooking Programs and Social Media Coordinator & Public Relations

Chloe Lucia Cohen heads up social media and public relations at Cooking Vacations working between Chefs and Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and working the media with food news, recipes and promotions.  While reading, creative writing, playing the violin and theatre keep her busy, Chloe always makes time for cooking.  She can be found in her Mom’s kitchen making her great-grandmother’s recipes from Prata Sanita and Pico.

Paulo A Lima, MSc Food Culture

Food Trends

Paulo brings is the Culture Vulture at  Cooking Vacations where he travels from region to region taste testing. He previously was the food trends director for the world’s number one food luxury project called LA Organic, a project headed by the famous French architect and designer Philippe Starck and the world’s most respected enologist Michel Rolland. Lima is an expert in gastronomy trends and marketing with a Master of Sciences in Food Culture and Communication from Universita di Scienze Gastronomiche / Slow Food in Italy, a post graduate degree in e-business and in Consumer Psychology from New York University, and a BSc in Marketing from Rio de Janeiro’s Universidade Cidade; Paulo travels all over the world locating exciting new products, a mission that allows him to combine his passion for discovering authentic terroir-specific foods with his desire to bring them to a select group of food lovers. Paulo is a master of-analysis of markets that identify and forecast lifestyle and food trends. Prior LA Organic, Paulo was the gastronomy trends director for Italy’s Appennino Truffle Group, the world’s second largest truffle trading firm based in Bologna. Prior he was marketing manager at Italian Cooking and Living Media Group – La Cucina Italiana Magazine in New York.

Signor Fabrizio

Wine Sommelier

Signor Fabrizio is our Cooking Vacations wine maker and sommelier.  His vineyard is set in the Tuscan hills of Chianti.  He produces high-quality organically dynamic wine including vino bianco, white; Chianti DOCG, red; rosato, rose, and vin santo, after dinner wine.  He is passionate about carrying on his craft following generations of family wine making and being part of the Tuscan Wine Roads museum.  His knowledge and accolades of award-winning wine makes him a leader in the field.