Writer shares tales of fried pasta, football weddings
Dyker Heights native Anthony LoFrisco pens book of family lore
Anthony LoFrisco didn’t set out to write a cookbook, but that’s what he ended up doing. How he got there is a tale of family love, the importance of honoring history and laughing out loud about fun times in the good old days.
LoFrisco’s book, which was published earlier this year by Trylon Publishing LLC, is titled “The LoFrisco Family Cookbook: How Josie Brought Sicily to Brooklyn.”
The book contains more than 100 recipes LoFrisco’s mother Josie cooked for the family, along with stories from LoFrisco’s life.
Publisher’s Weekly called the book “a welcome trip through time.”
What LoFrisco, a lawyer who grew up in Dyker Heights, really wanted to do was write down his beloved mother’s recipes so that he could share them with his children and grandchildren.
“As I went through various recipes trying to decide which I should include, I couldn’t help but call to mind the context of the recipes and the memories they brought to mind,” LoFrisco told the Brooklyn Eagle.
So as he jotted down the recipes, LoFrisco, 84, also wrote down his memories of growing up in a loving Italian family in Dyker Heights in the 1930s and 1940s.
Stories like the time he attended a “football wedding” at the Knights of Columbus Hall on 13th Avenue and 86th Street, the abrupt end to his attempt — thwarted by his police officer father — to steal candy from Martucci’s Pharmacy on 78th Street when he was 6 and watching in wonderment as workers at DePalo’s cut up a massive 1,000-pound block of provolone cheese.
LoFrisco currently lives in Wilton, Connecticut, but is getting ready to move back to New York City.
“Though you can take the boy out of Brooklyn, you can’t take Brooklyn out of the boy,” LoFrisco’s boyhood friend Frank DeRosa told the Eagle. DeRosa is the former director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
In an interview with the Eagle, LoFrisco spoke about how his book came to be and how the reaction to the book has surprised him.
“What prompted me to write a cookbook was a request from my children to put together grandma’s recipes. They were kind enough not to add, ‘Before you die,’” he joked.
“I thought it important to share those memories with my children and grandchildren. I had no thought that I would publish the effort, which was then little more than a random collection of recipes and related anecdotes. That initial hand-me-down effort morphed into a version that I might share with my family and friends. In early 2013, I had a recipe-sampling party for 20 or so friends. I wanted to see their reaction to some of the recipes I was planning for my family cookbook,” he said.
The reaction was overwhelmingly positive and LoFrisco was off to the races. He started finalizing which recipes to include and organizing his thoughts about his life.
LoFrisco was born in 1933 at home on 78th Street between 14th and 15th avenues. His dad was a cop and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. “Both of my parents were born in Sicily and immigrated to the United States as pre-schoolers. Neither graduated from grade school,” he told the Eagle.
LoFrisco lived in a house on 80th Street between 13th and 14th avenues during most of his youth. He attended P.S. 201 and was an altar boy at the Shrine Church of Saint Bernadette on 13th Avenue.
“My friends and I were avid baseball fans who spent much of our time arguing about which team was better. I was a Yankee fan. But everyone else was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. When we weren’t playing baseball, we were playing stickball or punch ball in the street, sometimes startling drivers by running to the second base manhole cover in the face of an oncoming car,” he recalled.
As a teenager, LoFrisco played baseball on one of St. Bernadette’s Catholic Youth Organization teams. He attended Saint Michael’s Diocesan High School on a scholarship and then went on to Fordham University, where he majored in Russian studies. He later attended Fordham Law School and graduated in 1958.
After conducting research, he finished the book, got it published and was surprised and delighted by the reaction from readers.
“As it turns out, dozens of readers told me how much they enjoyed the stories. My goal was to share the enjoyment of what I considered to be wonderful home-cooked meals that a harried housewife created on a limited budget day in and day out. The stories were intended to entertain and, in the process, to demonstrate that the cooking was part of everyday living, i.e., it was simple,” LoFrisco said.
Does he have a favorite recipe?
“It’s fried leftover spaghetti. It has been a favorite of mine for three-quarters of a century,” he said, adding that it’s the first dish he ever learned to cook.
“The LoFrisco Family Cookbook: How Josie Brought Sicily to Brooklyn” is available in bookstores and on Amazon.com.
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