BAKER, RESTAURATEUR, BUSINESSMAN
WRITTEN BY RICH PÈPE
Italy’s most famous winemaker, Marchese Piero Antinori, says of Rich Pèpe: “Creative and passionate, Pèpe is a modern-day Ambasciatore of Italian Food and Wine, and through his restaurants, travel ventures and cooking classes teaches people about the Italian lifestyle and its culinary heritage, sharing his ‘passione’ for all things Italian.”
“Io sono Italiano.” (I am Italian). Like anyone from an ethnic family, I am very proud of my heritage. All my grandparents emigrated from Napoli in southern Italy and came through Ellis Island just before World War I. With them they brought their love and respect for Italy, its culture, cuisine and warm, lively traditions.
Growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey, some of my earliest memories were of our annual family gathering to make the homemade wine. Both sides of my large Italian family would get together--the men in charge of the winemaking, and the women in charge of making jam and jelly from the fresh grapes brought in from California. During the day lots of last year’s wine was tasted, Italian songs were sung, jokes were told and laughter filled the air. I could only imagine that this is what life was like in Italy and am proud that my family brought a little bit of the “old country” with them to America.