When I first moved to Michigan, I wanted to find the Italian / Italian-American community. We had dinner at Paesano’s , bought the Italian Tribune and even drove around Clinton Township looking for restaurants and specialty shops. I wanted to know where to celebrate the Festa Della Donna (International Women’s Day on March 8), buy San Giuseppe pastries in March, eat good pizza, etc. I had trouble finding a local place that felt like home.
Incredible pizza out here in the Midwest? Hmmm. Even though I was searching, I didn’t really expect to find it.
My fiancé and I finally went in one evening. The small restaurant, whose back wall is covered with children’s drawings, is in a small mall complex near UM. There are no windows, but there are framed pictures from Italy. The pizzas are listed as organic and the pastries in the refrigerated display case look fresh and sweet. We shared a wonderful pizza with a crisp and thin crust. For someone who is overly critical, even I was immediately taken by the pizza.
I asked to speak with Silvio. He came out, probably curious about an American stranger coming in speaking in Italian. I told him that I was searching for the Italian community. He thought for a minute and then scribbled down the email address of his friend Silvia. Silvia and I started emailing and the rest, as they say, is history.
Last night I celebrated Festa della Donna with a roomful of women and Silvio at his pizzeria. Festa della Donna is an international holiday. In Italy, the men traditionally give women (friends, family and even strangers on the street) stems of mimosa, a yellow flower. The women are honored on this day and tend to go out to celebrate in the evenings.
At Silvio’s, we sat around in a circle – Italians, Italian Americans and American alike. We brought our own wine and Silvio brought out trays of food for two hours. We started with trays of bruschette, followed by an enormous bowl of two kinds of pasta, followed by pizza, followed by two cakes, including a traditional yellow cake made to look like the yellow flower, mimosa.
No one was able to find mimosa in town and Silvia bought yellow daffodils to put on the cake.
My favorite dish was the pizza with scamorza cheese and truffle oil. Scamorza is my favorite cheese (it is a smokey, medium hard cheese.) I have to find out where to buy it. I should have eaten less of the bruschette with Silvio’s homemade prosciutto on it so I could have tried more pizzas. I brought home more than half of my pasta since I couldn’t finish it. Knowing how much food there was, the waitress brought everyone plastic take-away containers.
At the end of the evening, I was happy to have not only found the Italian community, but to have shared laughs with new friends.
The highlight of my Italian Festa della Donna came at home. My fiancé opened the door for me and there on the dining room table was a vase with a picture of mimosa. As there was no mimosa to be found in the town, he found a way to still celebrate.
Home is home.