I spend a lot of time in the kitchen when I'm here. I help Santina (the hot and hard-working mom) shell peas, I slice cherry tomatoes into sixths. (Sixths.) I try not to be too much of a nuisance, and they're very patient with me. The regular chefs are Antonino, Gaetano, Tommaso (Beppe's son, the youngest of three), and Antonietta (Beppe's mother and the matriarch of the family). As far as she's concerned, no one does anything right — or as right as she does.
I have a particular affinity for Antonino. My own Italian grandfather, Nello, was a chef who died when I was 11. And although Nello was at least a foot taller and from Spoleto and not Naples, Antonino is an excellent grandfatherly substitute. He's taught me never to add red pepper flakes while cooking until the end, among other tricks. Not that my food is anywhere near as tasty as his.