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Cooking With Clara’s Cookbook Brings Italy to Your Kitchen

Cooking with Clara
Cooking with Clara

Mangia! Cooking With Clara: Recipes of a Lifetime brings Italy to your kitchen — no passport required.

The cookbook, which comes from Chicago restaurateur Clara Lizio Melchiorre, gives every food lover the chance to be transported to the heart of Italy, through its traditional recipes.

“I really want this collection to be more of a storybook with recipes,” Melchiorre said in the book via Closer. “A blend of the values my brothers and I grew up with, a special heritage instilled in us by our parents.”

Melchiorre opened her namesake restaurant in Chicago more than 30 years ago in 1987, with the goal of treating every guest like family. Her book Cooking With Clara manages to bring the restaurant’s staples into any home, transforming one’s kitchen into a warm Italian eatery.

“In our family, we show love through food,” she said.

The book features 75 recipes, many of which have been passed down for generations. The fried calamari, for example, is crispy, tasty and sharable and only requires calamari, flour, salt and pepper and olive oil.

Melchiorre’s recipe for “My Mom’s Version of Lasagna” feeds 12 and can be made with pork, veal or turkey to satisfy any meat lover’s tastes. The cookbook’s traditional cannoli recipe calls for five ingredients, including chopped pistachios, which are used to coat the ends of the dessert for a fun twist on an Italian classic.

Melchiorre learned to cook from her family — she is the only daughter of Anthony and Celeste Lizio, who moved from Naples, Italy, to the U.S. in the 1930s and settled in Chicago.

Her mother’s recipes, which she cooked in the back of her father’s grocery store, led to a restaurant on the west side of Chicago called Celeste’s. Although Celeste’s closed in 1963, the family continued to make and sell their homemade products, eventually selling to Quaker Oats which created the Mama Celeste brand still in stores today.

Melchiorre picked up where her mother left off, opening Clara’s in 1987. The restaurant moved in 2013 to its current location in the Windy City and is run by Melchiorre’s son, Rudy Jr., her daughter-in-law and their three children.

Cooking With Clara: Recipes of a Lifetime is available for purchase online at clarasrestaurant.com.

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