A few years ago, I started my US tour in Washington, DC in early February; I barely made it out before a blizzard hit and locked in the city for days. Since then, my winter US tour itineraries always move west to east!
This year I arrived in Pittsburgh from Milwaukee (with a 2-day stop for family visits) on February 3 and the snowfall dumps of the weeks before were all around: parking lots were filled with huge gray and black mounds of snow. My warm and welcoming hosts George and Michelle gathered a group of extraordinary friends for a welcome dinner at a charming restaurant in Greensburg, PA where they live.
I had met Michelle a few years ago in Assisi where she was studying Italian on sabbatical from her teaching position at Westmoreland County College in Greensburg. As soon as I met George and Michelle’s group of friends, I knew I was in for a treat. The next morning Kay and Skip – who had been at the welcome dinner – took me to Pittsburgh (my first visit) for food shopping in “the Strip”, the city’s “Little Italy.” After an espresso and a chat in italiano with elderly men playing cards in a local cafe’, we shopped in small, characteristic markets in preparation for the next night’s cooking class. Lunch at Lidia’s Pittsburgh restaurant: buonissimo. After lunch, we visited the Carnegie Museum of Art and then back to Greensburg for my lecture at the College.
Michelle and collaborators had worked months to create an amazing event that drew an enthusiastic crowd. Michelle’s students helped me set up for my Powerpoint talk while others welcomed guests, added last-minute touches to the colorful directions, sold tickets to the auction benefit (to raise money for student scholarships in Italy) and passed out programs and my lecture handout. The warm response to my lecture carried over to the post-lecture biscotti/coffee reception. Even the local TV and newspaper people joined in (and here is the article on my talk).
Michelle, sei grande!
I had plans to explore Greensburg with Kay and Michelle the next day, March 5th but never made it: a tumble down the stairs at Michelle and George’s house ended with a visit to the doctor’s, x-rays, an ankle splint and crutches for a severely sprained ankle. But…the cooking class that night at the home of Vince and Patti went on as scheduled. Patti and Vince had also toured with me in Italy years ago, along with one of their two sons (who also joined in our class). George and Michelle were there, as well my “Pittsburgh guides”, Skip and Kay, Kay’s husband, Joe, 14-year-old Lilli (who was at my side all night – and I’m sure could replicate the whole dinner on her own) and other friends — this jovial and boisterous group I orchestrated as best I could from a high chair in the kitchen with my leg stretched out and ice on top of my ankle! As I tried to oversee the happy chaos and confusion from my chair, Italian-American host Vince threw up his hands and said – “I didn’t know this night was going to be like having my Nonna back!”
…and now a few comments:
“Life blesses us with unique experiences – and you have added another level of life to our world – we thank you and love you and hope that we will be together again” Vince and Patti (cooking hosts).
“Anne, how lucky are we to have met you in Assisi! Our life is enhanced because of you. We loved your lecture and the dinner… grazie mille. Chie trova un’amica trova un tesoro. Noi amiamo te molto.” George and Michelle (my hosts).