The Italy of our grandparents at the end of the nineteenth century is remote
from the sophisticated California in which we live today and where our family
vineyards are located. Yet, in many ways we farm much the same
way as the old country, tending the vineyards by hand and we have, perhaps,
now come full circle.
We grew up in Sonoma County, in an Italian-American culture that sprung
from late 19th century immigrants, primarily Genovese, Toscani, Lombardi,
Piemontese, Marchegiani, and Italian Swiss. As children we played in many
of the great vineyards of Napa, Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.
Considerable thought and time was given to the preparation of food and the
wines that were served.
Our exposure to wine has been
lifelong. If you look over our
you cannot help but
notice that wines are used in
many of our recipes. One rule of
thumb we always employed was
that if the wine was not good
enough for drinking, it was not
good enough for cooking. As far
as table wine, we were never
very fussy, as long as the wine
was dry, very good, and from
Sonoma, Napa or Mendocino
Martini and Prati for his ordinary
wine. He used their Sauternes for white (of course, in California in those days they spelled it Sauterne) and
their Zinfandel for red. He also had cases of fine wines in our cellar from his friends the Mondavis at
Charles Krug Winery but it was used only for Sunday dinners and special occasions during which as
children we were always allowed to have a glass of "wine" consisting of a tumbler of water in which a
teaspoon or two of wine was mixed.
The, Sonoma County we grew up in was a rural farming area. The wineries had none of the extraordinary varietal wines we make here today. In 1947, a
$1,000. a plate dinner was held at the Topaz Room in Santa Rosa to benefit the proposed Memorial Hospital. It was the most elegant and expensive
charitable event ever held in Sonoma County to date. The wines simply were listed as chablis and vintage carignane.
Now there are any number of wonderful wineries located in Sonoma County, and you will rarely get a bad wine if it is a Sonoma County varietal. When we
were growing up we often visited the local wineries and have watched the emergence of the Sonoma County wine industry with real pride. We're thrilled to
now have our own vineyards in the Russian River appellation, on lands which we inherited from our parents.
The tales of the Crinella and Zurlo families are probably not much different than those of most other immigrant families in America--Italians and
others--but these stories are special to us. Perhaps readers other than those in our family will find both the recipes and our family history in America of
Our grandmothers, Anna Crinella (of Marches Italy) and
Theresa Zurlo (of Liguria,
Italy) were fastidious and uncompromising about food. There were no
shortcuts. While pasta was freshly made, usually once a week, they eschewed the use of the pasta machine. A heavy wooden pasta board graced the
kitchen table, complemented by a 40-inch rolling pin. This was arguably the focal point of the home, for there was always time to have long
conversations during the ritual of pasta making, which, however time consuming, was pretty automatic. We were always allowed to help. Wrapped in
aprons and standing on chairs we viewed the interesting transformation of flour and eggs into pasta with great attention. So, it was not distracting for our
grandmothers to tell us stories and teach us about cooking as the work progressed. We welcome you to our family and offer our recipes as a means of
sharing our history, along with our wines, with you.
The Crinella Family Cookbook