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Louisiana Eats: Sicilian Stories, New Orleans Style

Group Dinner
Photo courtesy of the American Italian Library
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"Italian POWs and local Sicilian women at Thanksgiving dinner."

Between 1880 and 1920 over four million Italians immigrated to the U.S., with the majority of Sicilians coming through the port of New Orleans. Their influence here can be found in the food and in the language where special words like niespuli and cucuzza proliferate. On this week's show, we survey those Sicilian connections to learn new things about this place we call home.

We begin with Elisa Speranza, author of "The Italian Prisoner." Elisa was inspired to write her debut novel after hearing stories of Italian POWs housed in New Orleans during World War II. After Italy switched sides in 1943, these former enemies became part of the American war effort and the city's make up.

Then, Liz Williams joins us with memories of her Sicilian grandmother, Nana Elisabetta, who arrived in the Crescent City at the age of 18. Her new book, "Nana’s Creole Italian Table," is filled with recipes and family lore.

Then, we hear from New Orleans food historian Laura Guccione, whose family hails from Alia, Sicily. With her background in botany, Laura has long been fascinated by a local fruit tree, often referred to as the Japanese plum, which proliferates wildly on the island of Sicily. Her linguistic look at the fruit can be found on New Orleans Historical.

Finally, we sit down with Sal Impastato of the renowned Napoleon House clan. Sal tells us the story of the business that was family-owned and -operated for almost a century, before he handed over the keys to Ralph Brennan in 2015.

For more of all things Louisiana Eats, be sure to visit us at PoppyTooker.com.

Poppy is the host and executive producer of the weekly show, Louisiana Eats! Food personality, culinary teacher and author, Poppy Tooker is passionate about food and the people who bring it to the table.