Meet Nonna Lydia Palermo
About Nonna Lydia
I was born Lydia Victoria Palermo to Victor Palermo and Catherine (Bonfiglio) Palermo in Brooklyn, New York. I was the oldest of three. My brother Victor Jr. followed the family business as a baker of Italian pastry. My sister, Camille followed in my mother’s footsteps to become a wonderful cook. As the eldest child, I was not only influenced by my father’s catering hall, the family pastry store and my parent’s obsession with what we were eating tonight, I also had my father’s mother. Nonna Palermo lived above the bakery and she prepared dinner while the rest of the family worked. She was the matriarch and as grandchildren, we all knew who the boss was. Everyone gathered together to eat after work.
Her Sicilian recipes where the ones passed on to my mother and then to me. My uncles all worked with the pastry as youngsters and all children followed suit as we became teenagers.
My earliest memories of my family was all about the food. You were cutting pasta, stuffing cannoli shells or enjoying the aroma of sauce cooking and pastry baking. There was always the extended family to be fed. We learned that entertaining and love were presented in the food.
From Italian immigrants to second generation me, I continue to cook with and for my family and to teach my daughter and two twin grandsons. We fry cutlets and meatballs together and teach about tradition, family and the holidays with me, mamma and our extended family. I am extremely active in The Columbus Citizens Foundation, and other organizations as well. I have cooked for them and have been published in cooking journals in Japan for Italian and American cooking.
My family tradition and fondness are all incorporated in the food. When I prepare arancini or peppers with pinoli nuts and raisins, I visualize my own mother. When I fry dough strips with honey I think of nonna. Frittate are all Nonno. I also smile about my second husband’s memory and influence. He helped expand my cooking to include his heritage, and developed my Japanese cuisine. When I cook with my daughter and our family for the holidays, memories of my life and family are in the fragrance and flavor of each special sauce. What warmth through the smell, texture and taste of love and the holidays. I look forward to my daughter’s choices of family recipes as she whips up her own style and story. Now I will continue to encourage my grandsons with traditional family recipes and goodies laced with memories of family passed.