Zia Ninuccia, the inspiration for Casagiove California

Zia Ninuccia

This is my aunt, Maddalena Santoro, or as I affectionately called her, Zia Ninuccia.  She was the beloved owner of her own market in Casagiove, Italy, and the inspiration for Casagiove, California.

I loved my zia.  I loved the way she embraced us when we came into town, and I loved how she made everyone feel special – keeping track of each of our favorites and preparing them for us with loving care.  For me, it was Carne alla Pizzaiola and for my mom, it was gelato di fragole. For one customer, it was a particular type of formaggino, and for another it was an especially crusty loaf of bread, delicately wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, with the family name handwritten across the top. She was all about the details, and she cared for others with purpose.

She knew I enjoyed not only eating Carne alla Pizzaiola, but every step in the preparation as well, so the cooking experience started with us shopping together and carefully picking out each ingredient.  We would then take it home, and I would stand by her side as she brought these simple, fresh ingredients together in the most delicious way.  She never held back; she loved in a big way — a way that I wish to share with others, at Casagiove, California.

Patricia, Owner, www.casagiovecalifornia.com




Carne alla Pizzaiola — a meat dish made with typical pizza ingredients: tomato and oregano; the name literally means “Pizzamaker’s meat”

See the recipe here: Carne alla Pizzaiola from Memorie di Angelina (in English) or try your hand at this Italian version (with video!): Carne Vitello alla Pizzaiola from Racconti di Cucina

Formaggini — literally “little cheeses”; this term refers to the several varieties of soft cheeses that come pre-packaged and in smaller portions

Gelato di fragola — strawberry ice cream

What about you?  Do you have any special family dishes or food-related family memories you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them! [Comment below]

Patricia Bergen
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Grazie for sharing!
Posted in Storie - Family & Friends and tagged , , , , , , .

Patricia Bergen

Shopping for and preparing meals with family in Italy was a beautiful experience— one that I dreamed about sharing with my community in Dana Point, California. CASAGIOVE, an Italian market experience, is the expression of that dream and I'm so happy to share it with you!


  1. Congratulations! It’s looking good and I’m so proud of you and may all dreams come true because we are all rooting for you and your very inspiring endeavor

  2. What an incredible undertaking. I know you will make a success of the store. I guess I will have to give up Claros and shop at the family store. It was wonderful to see the picture of your Zia as I have rarely seen pictures of our family in Italy. Looking forward to seeing you in an apron.

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