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Francesca’s Kitchen by Peter Pezzelli



In Francesca’s Kitchen, Francesca Campanile is a widow with adult children preoccupied with their own lives. Not being able to shake this my-kids-don’t-need-me-anymore feeling, Francesca decides to apply for a nanny position to get herself out of the house and start living her life instead of just passing the time.

Through her food, Francesca wins the hearts of her newfound friends, a struggling single mom named Loretta and her two young children, Penny and Will.

Read more . . .


Where There’s Food, There’s Family

For years, Francesca Campanile was the queen of her home. Standing in her Rhode Island kitchen, making sauce from sun-ripened tomatoes, dropping in basil from her garden, and adding fresh onion, Francesca dispensed advice as liberally as she did the garlic, arguing nonstop with her son and two daughters.

It was wonderful.

But now, her children and their children have moved away. And for the widowed Francesca, no longer having a family around to pester, annoy, guide, love, harangue and, of course, cook for, makes her feel useless. Who is she without them? What she needs is another family that needs her, and when she sees Loretta Simmons’s ad in the Providence paper for a part-time nanny, she’s sure she’s found it. All the single mom wants is someone to fill in for a few hours a day. But it’s obvious to Francesca that Loretta and her kids need more—a lot more. Loretta’s struggling to make ends meet. Every man she brings home is a disaster. And her kids could definitely use some guidance—and a little lasagna, frankly. In these frazzled, disconnected people, Francesca senses a hunger and loneliness as deep as her own. It’s time for Francesca to work her magic—if she can—and the best place to start is the kitchen…

Funny and moving, with a heroine to adore, Francesca’s Kitchen is a delicious story about sharing love, life, advice, and, above all, food.

Kensington Publishing (2006)


Book Club Ideas

Decorations

I have a candle that I love to pull out when I make Italian food. I made it from a Bell’agio Chianti bottle and it has graced many Italian meals and gone through quite a few tapered candles as well.

Italian Candle

Music

Francesca loved music. “Good music complemented good food like a pleasant bottle of wine, and Francesca reveled in their blending, especially when she was cooking. That’s when a symphony of sounds and smells would fill her home”. (Page 231) The sounds of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, or Strauss flavored the air while Francesca was creating her masterpiece in the kitchen.

Verdi Greatest Hits The Ulitmate Puccini Collection Mozart Strauss Greatest Hits

Francesca listened to Beethoven Ninth while preparing a Super Bowl feast for her son and his friends.


Book Club Menu

“No matter how crazy your day might have been, sitting down to a nice meal with your family has a way of centering you and restoring your sanity. Sleep might be the balm that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, but good food is what keeps it from falling apart in the first place” – Peter Pezzelli

Some of the recipes for this book club party are compliments of Peter Pezzelli. He includes some of his favorite family recipes at the end of his story and your Francesca’s Kitchen book club party wouldn’t be complete without including a few of them. Buon appetito!

Antipasto

Billy’s Funghi Ripieni – Stuffed Mushrooms

Alice’s Arance E Pepe – Oranges and Pepper
“…one of my father-in-law’s specialties”

Francesca's Kitchen Appetizer

Insalate

Francesca was spoiled by the sun-warmed tomatoes just plucked from the vine from her husband’s garden. “Sinking your teeth into it, letting the sweet juiciness fill you up, renewed the life inside you. It was like eating sunshine.” Her favorites use for the tomatoes was to make a simple tomato salad.

Francesca's Kitchen Simple Tomato Salad

Piatti Del Giorno

“…and, of course, my mother’s lasagna is the best!”

Noodles, tomato sauce, cheese

Dolci

“And for a little sweet after dinner, my mother-in-law’s biscotti are always a treat!”

Biscotti with chocolate and nuts

Bevande

Serve an Italian coffee with Camella’s Anisette Biscotti.
Bell’agio Chianti
A perfect pairing for lasagna.Bellagio Chianti

Below are other menu options for this book club party.

  • Freshly Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies: This was the first thing that Francesca baked for Penny and Will. (Page 133)
  • Frittata: Francesca made an egg, potato and onion frittata for the children when Loretta was laid up with the flu. (Page 184) You can also make Sue’s Zucchini Frittata from Peter Pezzelli’s collection of family recipes. (Page 339)
  • Spaghetti topped with Francesca’s Tomato Sauce: Francesca taught Loretta to make this easy sauce and Loretta and the kids surprised Francesca one day by making this dinner for her. (Page 190 and 258)
  • Peach Crumb Cake baked in a cast iron skillet: Another delicacy Francesca made for Loretta’s family. This sounds so delicious, I will definitely give this a try. (Page 205)
  • Lightly Breaded Chicken Pieces with Sauteed Artichoke Hearts and Zucchini, Sausage and Peppers, and Baked Ziti: This is the Super Bowl feast Francesca made for Joey and his buddies. (Page 231-233)
  • Pork Chops and Spare Ribs tossed in Francesca’s Tomato Sauce with a side a Ravioli: Loretta made this dish one evening after getting suggestions from Francesca on what to do with the leftover tomato sauce. (Page 260 and 278)
  • Corinne’s Spaghetti Aglio E Olio (Garlic and Oil Sauce): This is one of Peter Pezzelli’s family recipes located at the back of the book. (page 337)

Book Club Resources

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.72 stars (683 ratings)
Amazon: 4.5 stars (102 ratings)
My Rating: 4 stars

Reviews

  • “No one writes about Italian-American families with the humor, warmth, and heart of Peter Pezzelli. Now, with Francesca’s Kitchen, he delivers another winning novel about how much we need the closeness of family—even if we don’t know it.” – Kensington Publishing
  • “Most of the action happens in kitchens: home cooking, good pasta and traditional family values conquer all in this amusing and touching story.” – Publishers Weekly
  • “A warmhearted novel, perfect for an autumn evening in front of the fire.” – Litchfield Enquire

Book Club Fun

Penny, Will and Francesca play Spoons, a favorite card game of Francesca’s. (page 162) Did you know that Spoons is also known as Pig or Tongue, you learn something new everyday. It would be fun to unleash that inner child during this book club party, so pull out those cards and spoons. Click here for a reminder on the complete rules of the card game.

The Author

Visit the website of Peter Pezzelli.

Other works by Peter Pezzelli



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