Celebrating holidays in the home I grew up in, surrounded by friends who have grown into family has made each holiday something I have come to truly enjoy. I love cooking with my husband, working with my mom to set a lovely table, and welcoming loved ones to the table where we share sparkling conversation, delicious food (shameless plug for the incredible lamb from Gene & Georgetti Meats!), and some seriously good sweets. I love seeing my grandmother Ida’s table linen from Florence alongside my mom’s hand-painted china, both more than 50 years old. Top it off with her collection of bunnies, and some beautiful floral from Kesh Events, Inc., and we have ourselves one lovely day.
Living in a family of restauranters means that most of the time you are working, you are actually in a restaurant, so for me, cooking at home and welcoming loved ones to a relaxed, homemade environment is both fun and so satisfying!
The first thing I like to do is set a beautiful table. As I have mentioned before, I believe that a beautiful table is the way to set the tone for a celebration, as it welcomes everyone in grand style. The china and the glassware on this table consist of wedding gifts for my parents, and so was the china. They are all over 50 years old and add such character.
Once I set a beautiful table, I also like to plan a delicious meal. Often times with both of these elements I truly enjoy bringing in family or cultural traditions that can add so much to an experience. Before our meal, we always have a little cocktail hour where we welcome our guests and enjoy a few libations and appetizer-type items to get the palletes going for dinner. And the thing about dining in your home is that not everything has to be “perfecttttt” – notice that I have two kinds of chairs at the table. And instead of that being a crisis, I find it that much more welcoming! I do obsess over those salt and pepper shakers though, don’t you?
My father’s mother, Mary, had a tradition where she would take a dozen or so eggs, hard boil them and peel them. Then use about a cup of fresh parsley a few cloves of garlic and olive oil and roll the eggs in the mix as a way to start Easter. Her secret was to get the eggs blessed so that everyone who ate them would have prosperity and good luck! I always start there on Easter. In fact, if I am not home and celebrating elsewhere this is an easy recipe to bring as a guest as well, and it starts a great conversation! Here is a little fancier version that I also have a lot of fun with!
For my family, roasted lamb is very synonymous with Easter, and my husband Collin happens to be a great chef. Now, where to find the lamb? Luckily, our restaurant now offers steak boxes that ship nationwide, and what's more is that the purveyor is also family! Three generations strong and local to Chicago, Northwest Meat. The perfect place to source a leg of lamb for roasting and a rack of lamb for the grill!
To start, I make a pomodoro + basilico pasta sauce complete with fresh fettuccini, and with the meat we had a variety of vegetables like roasted potatoes + fennel, sautéed spinach and a butter lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes. It was seasonal, familial and delightful! Our cousins who join us for the meal complete the day by bringing over homemade wine, done in the way my great uncle Bruno learned from his dad. So truly every part of the day has significance and feels so fulfilling!
We also supplement the homemade wine with some other selections!
And the sweets, of course, are such an important part of any day! From a favorite of mine from when I was a child, Reuter’s Bakery near my childhood home. Small pastries (eclairs, brownies and napoleons, oh my!) and a lamb cake! This bakery also makes the most adorable Easter bread that when sliced shows a variety of fun colors and tastes delicious!
And for all of that, I am very grateful. Being surrounded by good, honest people who love unconditionally and support endlessly is a gift in my life. And one I am really happy to have. Thank you to all who have celebrated with us for Easter, and cheers to everyone. I hope your day is equally as lovely. 🐰😘❤️🌸