I became friends with a young Italian who was dating another American model I knew. His name was Carlo Fiocchi and I thought that name was oh too familiar. In fact his family fabricates a shit load of bullets—almost all of the bullets sold in the world.
We were invited to his home for a party and that’s when I met his mother. She was one of the most elegant women I had ever met. She spoke English with a proper English accent and obviously spoke impeccable Italian.
Uniformed maids and a tuxedo-shorn butler swarmed about the 20 something guests. There were beaucoup hors d’oeurves and the champagne flowed. We stayed just long enough to say hello to both of his parents and then we went off to a discotheque to dance the night away. I must have made an impression because Carlo called to say that I was invited to lunch at his mother’s home the next week.
I arrived to meet his younger brother, Franco and his mother. We sat at the lunch table and every piece of cutlery imaginable surrounded each place setting. A five coarse meal was served and Signora Franca instructed us on the use of each fork, spoon or knife. She even demonstrated how to peal a pear with a knife and folk—without touching it with ones fingers. I was impressed and while I asked why she was so kindly giving this dining tutorial, she said, “Darling, I overheard you say that you were happy that the party last week wasn’t a sit down dinner because you were still unsure of Italian table manners. I thought my sons could also use a refresher course on the subject and I invited you to join us.”
I was curious why Carlo’s girlfriend wasn’t invited but I was too timid to ask. His younger brother was very charming and wouldn’t stop flirting with me although he was about 5 years younger than Carlo and I. Carlo shared my same birthday. Signora Franca seemed o take took a liking to me. She asked me if I was going home for Christmas. It was the year I decided to go home every Thanksgiving, but stay in Milan for Christmas. She invited me to join the family at their home in Lecco. I was more than happy to have Christmas dinner with a family.
Their home in Lecco was a mansion on the lake north of Milan. I was escorted to my room, which was a sort of master suite, where I found a mirror filled bathroom with dark wood and leather wainscoting surrounding the tub and room. The rooms were larger than those found in the city. I noticed how clean everything was. The silver was polished to a brilliant sheen, the linens were pressed with the creases usually seen when unwrapping them from the package after purchasing them at the store, and the floors were spotless. I noted this because I also noticed that there was no help wandering around the home. There could have been five maids and a butler at the party in their Milano flat and not a soul here in this mansion. I was curious so I asked Carlo where was the help. He replied, “Mother gives the help the week of Christmas off and she does all the cooking.” “Can I help her?” I asked, as I always wanted to learn more Italian dishes for my repertoire.
I found myself in the kitchen with this sophisticated woman while she instructed me on how to dice the vegetable just so for the sauce she would braise the veal shanks in for hours until the meat would fall off the bone. In fact the cute little bone in the center of the shank was filled with marrow which was scooped out with a special utensil and eaten after spreading it onto a piece of bread. I thought it may be disgusting, but it was oh so delicious.