Hi, my name is Francesca Vitabile Arniotes.
I was raised in my Neapolitan grandparents’ kitchen and began my formal cooking training at age 11 when I entered the back kitchen of the family butcher shop and came under the tutelage of my grandfather and my Sicilian aunt.
We never know what will become important to us in our lives. For me, it was learning about the techniques and traditions, nutrition and presentation as well as the economics of feeding people. Those days and nights in that kitchen were the foundation of my culinary education about doughs for pastas, breads and sweets, meat, fish and the venerated vegetables and fruits from our small farm and orchard, and the fresh foods we would buy at the 9th Street market in Philadelphia.
My appreciation of wines also started in childhood. My grandfather perfected the art and science of winemaking, and over the years, he bottled an extensive and renowned cellar of outstanding varietals, blends, and sparkling wines.
For me, food has been a lifelong passion and artistic expression. And I love the kitchen. It is a place of celebrating wonderful ingredients, and sharing the love of cooking, feeding and celebrating food together. Wherever we are, it is the kitchen that binds generation to generation, old country to new world, and nourishes family and friendships.
To conserve traditions and techniques, to keep and use the tools, like the rolling pin and cleaver of my great-grandparents, in my twenty-first century kitchen is to bestow a kind of immortality, a strong, unbroken family bond reaching back centuries.
When I think back to the moments of my life that are most important, I treasure those days and nights in the family kitchen. There is a fundamental human connection, deep and meaningful, which is at risk in today’s technology-driven world. As long as we come together to the table to eat and drink, talk and laugh, we will nourish each other in many ways, and our children will learn to value the time shared there, and the art and science in the kitchen that makes it possible.
My husband Dean and I travel as often as we can. We are sometimes joined by friends and family, making it a wonderful family experience. Wherever we go, we find a place that has a kitchen. Our first day, we go to the local markets and shops where we strike up conversations with the vendors and talk with them about the local foods and recipes. This always leads us on a wonderful adventure of learning what to buy and how to cook it. When we go “home” to our kitchen, we use what we learned to make something special…a home cooked meal the way the locals do it.
Our good friends Tom and Joyce have traveled together with us many times. Together, we cook lots of great food, drink sumptuous local wines, and share the experience of becoming part of the local fabric. Castles and Kitchens is our way of sharing these experiences with you, and empowering you to make your travels as rich as the ones we enjoy.