A little about me

Melissa-34 (1)

I grew up in a family where food, and the culture of the table, was everything.  It was the way we celebrated, connected as a family, and entertained ourselves.  Every birthday, every holiday (even the Hallmark ones) was marked by a gathering of the extended family for a long, boisterous meal.  I had the privilege of knowing my Italian great-grandmother for 36 years of my life – she passed a few years ago at age 97, enjoying her hearty meals and a regular tumbler of wine until the very end.  So many of my formative experiences happened with her – spending Saturdays at her house picking produce from the garden, then making vats of tomato sauce, or gnocchi, or panettone.   Sunday evenings with the whole clan gathering for dinner, always polenta with sausages, stirred for hours in the enormous copper pot brought with her from Italy.   Food, to me, was home.

Where I came from

I turned my love of food into a profession with a crazy leap of faith in 2005.  I left my corporate PR job and opened an Italian wine bar/restaurant in San Francisco, called Ottimista.  Clearly I was the optimist (which is what Ottimista means in Italian) to take on such a venture with no experience, but somehow it worked.  For seven years I ran the restaurant and eventually the wine program as well, absorbing insane amounts of wine and food knowledge and making wonderful friendships in the food and wine world in the process.   A few years in, I formalized my wine education by studying for, and passing, the Advanced Sommelier certification course.  All along I was cooking, absorbing everything I could about different cuisines, nutrition and the science behind it all, and feeding my tribe.

How I got to the blog

Fast forward to 2015, two kids and a husband later.  I sold the restaurant and it’s sister wine and cheese shop in 2012, when my first son was two and I realized I just had too much on my plate.   Then I focused on feeding my family, learning how to up the ante on nutrition without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. After years in the wine industry, where I was often eating out (and too much) amazing food either at my restaurant or at a wine dinner or traveling in Italy, I finally figured out how food could best fuel my body as well as my soul.  And how wine fit into the mix, not as a standalone element to hoard or geek out about, but as an essential part of the daily table.  I feel like this blog is a natural extension of the hospitality I enjoyed sharing at my restaurant, and that I continue to dish out (along with advice, recipes and nutritional trivia) as I feed my friends and family today.

My food philosophy

At home today, we eat pretty clean, with a whole foods diet that is probably best described as Mediterranean – lots of vegetables, nuts, grains, fish, olive oil, wine, rarely meat and even then, only poultry.  And a little cheese, of course.  We limit white flour at home, saving it for the killer dinner party pasta dish, or going out for wood-fired pizza or great bread, as there are so many more interesting and nutritious grains available (many of which are gluten-free).  We just feel best when we eat this way.  And best of all, this diet is sustainable (and habit forming for my kids) because it is pleasurable and relatively simple.  Nobody feels deprived.  Healthy eating shouldn’t be a chore, or prohibitively time-consuming.  It can be delicious, even decadent, and totally doable, even on a weeknight, with kids under foot, demanding dinner.  I’m here to show you how.