The History of Nonna Emilia
My Nonna (Nonna is Italian for Grandmother) Emilia grew up in Florence, Italy where her mother and grandmother taught her to cook in the family café. In 1921, Nonna Emilia left Italy on a steamship to North America and six years later opened one of Portland’s first authentic Italian restaurants with her husband Ernie Ceccanti.
Nonna always insisted on using the finest ingredients when she prepared her specialties. She put eleven herbs and spices and a special blend of meats in her famous sauce. Her pastry-like dough and freshly ground cheeses made an extraordinary pizza. And she took great pride in always serving enormous portions of every entreé she prepared.
In the family tradition, Nonna Emilia passed her recipes from “the old country” down to me. Years later, I’ve taught my sons Justin & Jordon the lessons Nonna had shared with me. Today, in the restaurant that bears her name, we continue to prepare her Italian recipes with that same pride.
Proprietor and Loving Grandson
Nonna Emilia Ristoranté
Seaside, Oregon – 1959
My Grandfather was the photographer. My Nonna kept this picture on her dining room wall. That’s my Dad, Elio; my Mom, Lorie; and my older brother, Michael. I’m the shortest one unless you count our “wonder dog” Tippy.
My Grandfather, Ernie Ceccanti
My grandfather, was as proficient with a pool cue as he was in the kitchen. In 1961, he had the opportunity to play billiards legend Willie Mosconi (left). Mosconi won the lag and promptly pocketed the next 150 balls in a row. I asked Grandpa if he was disappointed with losing. “Why would I be?” he responded with a broad smile. “I had the best seat in the house.”