Julie Adams (a fashion photographer) and Emma Scott (a writer and designer) have a shared love of Italy. And so together they bring to you beautiful, heartfelt, inspiring and often unexpected stories from people all around the world, and their 'affair with Italy'.

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Rosa Malignaggi Rosa's Table
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Travel Tip No. 21 - Bar Del Fico
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About Rosa Malignaggi

  • I was born and raised on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
  • My parents both migrated to Australia from a village in Sicily called Calatafimi.
  • I cherish a few pots and pans that were my Nonna’s which my mother gave to me. Every time I use them I imagine my Nonna’s steady hand guiding me in my kitchen!
  • I miss walking through my father’s beautiful vegetable garden with him.
  • I met my husband outside Central Station records in what used to be Melbourne’s City Square. We were both shopping!
  • My children Sophie, Francesca and Marcella are my best food critics. They are constantly hungry and always thinking about the next meal for the day! They also help me with my cooking demonstrations. I just love this!
  • My mother’s first question when my children and I visit her is “Avete mangiato tutti?” – Have you all eaten?
  • Come to Sicily with me, my family are waiting to meet and feed you!

Rosa Malignaggi - Founder of Rosa's Table

'The Sicilian tour is very emotional for me, I talk a lot about my family... and drink a toast to my Mum and Dad - the greatest love story I have ever known. A love story that taught me how to appreciate food, culture, my heritage and above all how to truly love.'

About Rosa

At age 16, Rosa, who grew up with very loving but very strict parents, was allowed to go out into town with her cousins, for the very first time. To this day Rosa hadn’t been allowed to go on sleepovers with friends or even on school camp, so this was a monumental day for her. And the one day her parents let her out of their sight, is the day that Rosa fell madly in love with Michael Malignaggi - her now husband of 21 years.

Rosa: “Michael was with the group of people that my cousins were meeting, and there was one moment when we were all together and I stepped out to cross the road. I didn’t see the car, but Michael did and he pulled me away to safety. He saved my life.”

It was as if Rosa and Michael were destined to be together. With both of their families from Sicily, they had an unspoken connection through heritage that transcended their Australian-based lives. And well... he did save her life, like some sort of hero from a romance novel.

As I spend the afternoon with Rosa I discover that Rosa and Michael’s love story is an echo of Rosa’s parents own story, Pina and Diego Mirabella - two people destined to love and build a family and life together.

Rosa grew up on the Mornington Peninsula, in a small country town called Somerville with her Mum and Dad, two brothers and her sister. Rosa is the baby of the family. There is a large age difference between Rosa and her three older siblings.

Rosa: “I was the unexpected accident. Mum always called me the baby doll, Rosetta (the baby version of Rosa).”

Childhood for Rosa was filled with joy. She spent a lot of time in the garden with her Mum. She would play outside, fish for tadpoles, plant vegetables and, like most girls at the time, she would listen to ABBA. She was infatuated with the band. She would sing-along to the songs, imagining she was part of the singing quartet.

Rosa tells me that her parents made a lot of sacrifices to give her and her siblings a good life. Her parents are from the same village in Sicily, Calatafimi in the Province of Trapani on the west coast. The area is famous for its salt mines.

Rosa: “Mum and Dad fell in love in the village, but life back in Sicily wasn’t great. When Mussolini took over it became hard to make ends meet, there was no opportunity for the future. It was up to the men in the family to seek fortunes elsewhere. Dad decided the only thing to do was to leave. He was sponsored by an uncle and came out to Australia. He left his parents, seven siblings and sweetheart behind. I can’t even begin to imagine how he felt. He told me once that it was a huge responsibility. It was a test. If he could make it then the others could follow. He worked very hard, saved and after three years was able to pay for Mum to come over. They were married in Australia. Dad passed away just a few years ago, just shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. After he died we found all these receipts from the Bank of Hong Kong where Dad had deposited money to get Mum to come over to Australia. It was a real love story.”

As a migrant, Rosa’s Dad, Diego, was willing to do anything - he was a butcher, he worked with poultry, with fruit and vegetables, he did brick laying. Whatever he had time to do, he would do it. He did whatever it took to create a future for his family. And Rosa had a blessed childhood thanks to her parents. From an early age she would watch her Mum and Grandma cook. She became the taster.

Rosa: “When Mum made Napoli sauce she would spread some on bread and call me over to taste it. I would give the yes or no regarding the flavour. My mum would say ‘do you think it needs to be sweeter? Does it need more salt? Does it need more masala?’ I was taught to appreciate ingredients.”

It was this experience with food and family that lead Rosa to create Rosa’s Table - a huge passion. Out of a desire to teach others, including her three children, about the importance of wholesome food and cooking for the family, Rosa literally began to invite people into her home, in Frankston, Victoria, to demonstrate how to cook her beloved Sicilian family recipes. Such an intimate experience, with Rosa and Michael’s children often assisting or at the very least coming in to say good night to the group, the classes became a hit and affectionately known as Rosa’s Table. Some zealous guests continue to come back every month. I am told they have become part of the family. After the cooking demonstration the group sits down together and enjoy the wonderful food and hospitality of Rosa and Michael Malignaggi.

Rosa: “When I finished year 12 my parents took me to Sicily for a holiday. Dad took me to their country property. He showed me a fig tree and said ‘I would sit under this fig tree and think of foreign lands and dream about where I would take my family.’ I remember thinking ‘he was crazy, it is so beautiful here, why would you want to live anywhere else’. Even at that young age I knew I had to bring as many people as I could to this incredible place. That’s how I first came to the idea of creating classes around the family recipes and an extension of this - the food tours back to Sicily.”

At the time of this interview Rosa had just taken her first group to Sicily.

Rosa: “The Sicilian tour is very emotional for me, I talk a lot about my family. I take people to my Grandfather’s property. All the men on the tour managed to knock open the door to the abandoned shack (which was once my Grandparents home). We could see the area where my Grandmother once cooked. We brought a bottle of my father’s favourite wine, Lambrusco, and drank a toast to my Mum and Dad - the greatest love story I have ever known. A love story that taught me how to appreciate food, culture, my heritage and above all how to truly love.”

ROSA’S TABLE CULINARY TOUR OF SICILY 2014
Tuesday 9th September, 2014 to Thursday 18th September, 2014

The Rosa’s Table cooking demonstration schedule for 2014 will be ready in January 2014.
For further information on the Rosa’s Table Culinary Tour of Sicily or Cooking Demonstrations, please contact Rosa via email; rosa@rosastable.com.au

Rosa's Italian tips:

1. IF YOU WERE TAKING YOUR FAMILY FOR A HOLIDAY IN SICILY, WHERE WOULD YOU STAY?

Scopello, a beachside village in the province of Trapani on the northwest coast of Sicily, just one hour from Palermo and 25 minutes from my parent’s village, Calatafimi.

I’m particularly fond of its history, sapphire blue waters and tranquility. The village is very small so prepare to stand out as you make your way along a cobblestoned path that leads you to “Hotel Torre Bennistra”. Here Pina or Fabrizio will escort you to your mountain or Tyrrhenian Sea view rooms!

2. BEING A LOVER OF GREAT FOOD, IS THERE A SPECIFIC RESTAURANT/TRATTORIA YOU ARE ALWAYS DESPERATE TO RETURN TO WHEN YOU ARE BACK IN SICILY?

Porta Pantalica translates (‘The door to Pantalica”) is a small humble trattoria style restaurant, which I can honestly say produces some of the best examples of traditional Sicilian cuisine.

3. FOR YOU, WHAT ARE THE 5 MUST SEES IN SICILY?

a) Ortigia – By day, just simply follow your nose as the aromas of tomatoes, basil and garlic will lead you to a mysterious picturesque alley or crumbling balcony where an adventure is certain to unfold. By night sit on the steps of the church of Saint Giorgio in Piazza Del Duomo and watch the elegantly dressed locals weaving their way through the children as they play soccer against the church walls.
b) Calatafimi – My parents Pina and Diego Mirabella were born here. Apart from the sentimental attachment to this beautiful part of the world, Calatafimi is full of history and home to the Doric Greek Temple of Segesta. There is a site on a small hill just above the village called “Pianto Romano”. It is here that Giuseppe Garibaldi and his army of 1000 red shirts defeated the Bourbons and unified the north and south of Italy.
c) Hyblaean Mountain Range – Situated in the south east region of Sicily. Here you will find “Il Giardino di Pantalica”, another agriturismo. It exists at the base of the world heritage listed Anapo Valley and is surrounded by an orange grove and sheer cliffs consisting of white limestone rocks. This is paradise on earth.
d) Food markets of Palermo – my favourite is Capo Market where you will be greeted with an array of sights and sounds depicting the madness, music, love and surprises that Palermo has to offer.
e) Modica – This village is in the province of Ragusa. On the recent Rosa’s Table culinary tour we visited “Dolceria Bonajuto” which is a chocolate shop renowned for its method of making chocolate using the cold pressed method brought to Sicily by the Spaniards in the 1500’s.

4. IF YOU WERE TO TAKE A ROMANTIC BREAK WITH YOUR HUSBAND IN SICILY DO YOU HAVE A DREAM HOTEL YOU'D LOVE TO STAY AT?

Baglio di Pianetto is a vineyard in the hills of Santa Cristina Gela, 650 meters above sea level in the province of Palermo. It is owned and run by the family of Count Paolo Marzotto. His granddaughter the Countess Ginevra Notarbartolo is one of the most inspirational women I have ever met. She works tirelessly to promote the local food and wine industry. Ricotta cheese, honey and stone baked breads are typical food ingredients for this area. Combine these with the wines from Baglio di Pianetto and Chef Angelo’s culinary skills and you are sure to have a truly magical feast. Each room is different and beautifully decorated with antique furniture personally selected by Ginevra’s late grandmother.

5. IS THERE A PARTICULAR FESTIVAL IN SICILY THAT YOU LOVE?

The Feast of Saint Sebastian in my father in law’s village of Ferla (Province of Siracusa) is a feast for all your senses. This occurs on July 20th and is a celebration of the life of their patron Saint. Prepare to be amazed. It truly is a spectacle of colour, sound and a deep faith and respect for not only their religious beliefs but for each other. Families unite to laugh, cry, reminisce and of course eat and drink! Saluti!

6. YOUR 'ROSA'S TABLE' CULINARY TOURS OF SICILY LOOK INCREDIBLE – WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES THEM UNIQUE?

My face lights up every day on this tour, and it’s not because of the places we visit or people we meet, it’s more about the reaction of the participants I am fortunate enough to take with me on this journey. “Every day is a highlight”, they say and by the end of the day their smiles and sense of gratitude is the greatest gift they could possibly give back to me. They meet an array of people from all walks of life. They talk to them, share their life stories, share meals with them. They learn about their hardships, but rejoice and toast them for their triumphs.

The tour primarily focuses on the culinary aspects of Sicilian culture through its people and their food stories and traditions. At the beginning of the tour, I always advise my tour participants to slowly introduce themselves to this wondrous island so that it can reveal itself to them! Somehow, among the sublime landscapes, hills, valleys and abandoned buildings, eggplants, capers, tomatoes, basil and swordfish it just happens!

7. CAN YOU SUGGEST ANY SHOPS IN SICILY WHERE YOU CAN TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME SICILIAN CRAFTSMANSHIP?

The village of Caltagirone in the Provence of Catania is a must see for all lovers of ceramic art. There is a wonderful staircase adorned with beautifully hand painted ceramic tiles leading up to the church of Santa Maria del Monte.

8. KNOWING HOW GOOD SICILIAN DOLCE IS... DO YOU HAVE AN ALL TIME FAVOURITE PASTICCERIA?

Yes, most definitely the Bar Pasticceria in Scopello. You are made to feel like family and the selection of pastries, gelati and biscotti are endless. Try a slice of torta with marmelata, pinoli e pistachio.

2 Comments
Posted in 'Food & Wine' on Monday 16th December 2013
 

Comments

This is great

Posted by FRANCOIS on the 19th December 2013 - 2:05pm

I adored this interview, thank you so much! Sicily is such a magical place & Rosa's tour is surely the best way to experience it.
Heidi xo

Posted by Heidi - Apples Under My Bed on the 18th January 2014 - 3:19pm

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