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Like mom used to make

Staten Island native passes traditional Italian recipes down to next generation

Created date

May 31st, 2009
By Danielle Rexrode If a man s stomach is the quickest way to his heart, then Nancy Leggiadro won the heart of her late husband, George, with pizza di rustica. "George loved my pizza di rustica," says Leggiadro, referring to the traditional Italian meat pie baked with sausage, prosciutto, pepperoni, and three cheeses. "I got the recipe from a lady named Daisy who owned an Italian specialty shop down the street from George s hardware store on Staten Island. I remember she wrote the recipe down on a brown paper bag. I learned how to make quite a few dishes from her and would add my own twist." Cooking up a storm Leggiadro says she s always loved to cook but didn t really spend a lot of time in the kitchen until she met her husband, George. "My mother-in-law was a great cook, and I was determined to be one too," she says. All that cooking came in handy when, years later, Leggiadro landed a job as a special projects and conference coordinator for Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City. "I planned dinner parties and conferences in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and San Francisco," says Leggiadro. "Once, I planned a special event for David Rockefeller. Another time, I orchestrated a dinner in Robert Mondavi s wine cellar. And in Chicago, I transformed a whole level of a hotel into a speakeasy for a special event it was a great job, and I really gained a lot of experience." The other side of the table Now retired and living at Oak Crest, Leggiadro lets someone else do the cooking while she enjoys reading, volunteering, and listening to Pavarotti and Bocelli. And when the holidays roll around, she leaves the cooking to her kids. "I wanted my children and my grandchildren to continue some of the traditional Italian dishes that many people aren t familiar with. Otherwise, I think they would really miss out on something special," says Leggiadro. To that end, she put together an Italian family recipe book of dishes she s made over the years, including of course pizza di rustica. "They use the cookbook from time to time," says Leggiadro of her children and grandchildren. "They don t always stick to the recipes exactly, but I feel good knowing that they ve been passed down in the family and that they re there if they want them." How to create your own family cookbook Whether it s Aunt Ethel s famous meat loaf or your grandmother s mouthwatering crab cakes, your favorite dishes and treasured memories can be preserved through the ages. With the convenience of ' the Internet, creating your own cookbook is easier than ever. Websites,, offer online tools to help you gather, organize, and publish your own family cookbook. Here are some tips to help you get started: 1. ' Pick a point person It s important to establish an editor for your cookbook. This is the person who is responsible for getting things started and making sure they keep moving ahead. 2. Start gathering recipes Contact family members via phone, mail, or e-mail inviting them to contribute their favorite recipe, stories, or family history. ( provides you with an easy-to-use invitation tool to get the ball rolling. All you need is each person s name and e-mail address. For people without email addresses, ' it provides a sample letter for you to use to contact them.) 3. Set a deadline If you plan on having your cookbook professionally printed, you ll need to determine ahead of time the size of your cookbook and how many recipes you would like to include. Give family members enough time to dig up old recipes and think of interesting tidbits about them. Then set a deadline and check in with folks as the deadline approaches to make sure everything is on track. ' 4. Produce your cookbook Whether you plan to use an online cookbook software program or just print the recipes off your computer and assemble them in a three-ring binder, you can be as simple or creative as you want. Here are some quick ideas: include photos of family members, stories about the recipe, or a little bit of family history surrounding the dish the sky s the limit. Also, you may want to consider laminating the pages so they survive spills and splashes. 5. Enjoy the fruits of your labor Family cookbooks make great gifts that will be treasured and used for years to come. Make sure you leave room in your cookbook to add new recipes over the upcoming years. Posting your recipe book online is also an easy way to update and share your cookbook with relatives across the country.