Meet Nonna Cecilia DeBellis
About Nonna Cecilia
My name is Cecilia DeBellis. I was born in Mola Di Bari (Puglia) and came to the United States when I was 10 years old. My family settled in downtown Brooklyn on Columbia Street and that is where I got my first exposure to cooking. From when I was very young, my mother would set me out on small tasks in the kitchen such as peeling onions, chopping parsley and grating cheese as she prepared our meals. As I got older, my responsibility grew because my Mom went to work in a factory and was not home to prepare dinner for us.
So by the age of 11 I would come home from school and find a recipe waiting for me with all of the necessary ingredients to prepare dinner for myself and my parents. You see, I had been watching my mother cook for so long, she felt confident leaving me at such a young age with such an important task. I remember experimenting with different foods and cooking techniques as best as I could.
By the age of 19, I had married and moved to Fourth Place, also in downtown Brooklyn. My husband Gino shared my love for food, but not the cooking part, just the eating part! He would always ask me every morning what was for dinner that night. I was lucky enough to live in an area that was settled predominantly by Italian immigrants that shared our love for cooking with the freshest ingredients. Every Saturday, we would travel to Union Street where they had a myriad of fresh fish, meats, vegetables, herbs and desserts. Any foods I needed to cook were always available and always of the highest quality.
By 1963, I gave birth to two daughters, Camille and Marie. By the time I gave birth to my third daughter, Enza, we had moved to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. My daughters were always exposed to cooking as it has been the centerpiece of our lives; always gathering together to spend time with family and most importantly to eat!
Today, I am a grandmother to six beautiful grandchildren and have just recently become a great grandmother.