When Zia Donatella comes to live with the Bertolizzi family, little do Alfie and his older sister Emilia know what's in store for them. Zia Dontella is determined to show the kids how a home-cooked meal is better than even the best take-out pizza or burrito. And when Zia's plan actually transports Alfie and Emilia to famous food cities around the world, they learn first-hand how food can not only take you places but can also bring you back home. Alfie and Emilia find themselves transported to Naples, where they meet Marco, a young Italian boy on a very important mission to shop for the essential ingredients for his family's entry in the city's annual pizzafest contest. In their whirlwind search for the perfect items, Alfie and Emilia not only get a taste of Italy, but also find themselves refereeing a family feud between Marco's family and his uncle's family.
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“Alfredo!” Mom called from the kitchen as she flipped open two Presto Pesto pizza boxes in the middle of the table. “Let’s go! Dinner! Emilia! You too!”
Alfie gladly tossed aside his geography homework—his favorite subject—and ran down the hall to the kitchen. He loved maps, but he loved food more. In the kitchen, he reached across the table and scooped up a slice of Supreme Meat Machine pizza, which sagged under the weight of three kinds of meat, four kinds of cheese, and two kinds of olives. Alfie tilted his head back, aimed the tip of the slice into his open mouth, and started backing out of the kitchen.
“Hang on,” Mom said. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Mmph rooph. Learning about rifers in Egypt.”
“You eat at the table with the famiglia. Sit down and get a napkin,” Mom said. “Where’s your sister?”
His sister, Emilia, older by just one year, entered the kitchen with her eyes glued to the history textbook in her hand. She looked up and inspected the pizza boxes.
“Why are we having pizza now?” she asked. “We’re in charge of bringing pizza to school on Friday for United Nations Day.” Their school was going to “taste the foods of the world,” as Emilia’s teacher, Ms. Esch, said. Alfie and Emilia, whose classes would be combined for one afternoon, offered to bring pizza to represent the food of Italy, since that’s where their family was from.
“Mauricio! Andiamo! Mangiamo!” Mom called to the kids’ dad, as she slid a slice of pizza onto a paper plate.
“Then that’ll be three times this week,” Emilia said with a sigh as she stared at the pizza.
“That’s why this week rules,” Alfie said. Why did his sister love to act like awesome things weren’t awesome?
Emilia inspected Alfie’s spread. “You can’t eat all the meat slices. Mom, he’s taking all the Supreme Meat.”
“I’m a growing man,” Alfie said. “I need protein.”
“Please, you’re barely eleven,” Emilia said. “Give me one, boy.” She tried to snatch one off his plate, but he quickly pulled it away. “Mom! Tell Alfredo to give me the Supreme Meat.” She used his proper name just to bug him—he despised his given name, which is why he went by the nickname Alfie.
“Kids, share,” Mom said. “Emilia, pull your hair back. It’s getting in your slice.” She brushed Emilia’s long, wavy hair, which was golden at the ends, back over her shoulder.
“I got it,” Emilia said. She tucked her hair into the back of her fuchsia shirt.
“You should cut that mop,” Alfie said. “You look like a mermaid.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Ciao, ciao!” a voice called from the front door. “Hello, hello!” Dad was finally home.
“We’re in here!” Mom hollered back.
“And I,” Dad said, his voice getting closer, “found a surprise on our doorstep.”
In the doorway stood a slim, tiny woman in ridiculously high heels. Her salt-and-pepper hair was tied back in a loose braid, showing off the chunky gold and multicolored-stone necklace around her neck. She wore a graphic T-shirt under a dark blazer, slim jeans, and roughed-up tan leather boots. She was older than their mom, but somehow the clothes looked right on her.
“Ciao, famiglia!” she said, spreading her arms wide. “Bambina! Arianna!” she said to Mom.
“Zia!” Mom said, using the Italian word for aunt and dropping her slice on the table with a thunk. She sprang from her seat, and she and Zia wrapped each other up in a tight, twirling hug, laughing and screaming the whole time. “Zia! Zia! You’re here! Come sta?”
“Molto bene!” Zia laughed. “Molto bene!”
“I thought you were coming next week,” Mom said to Zia Donatella, holding her tight around her small waist.
“You knew Donatella was coming?” Dad asked from the doorway.
“I’m sorry. Didn’t I tell you?” Mom said.
Dad eyed Mom while he set down the two large suitcases.
Great-aunt Donatella was from Italy—just like their mom and dad—but she lived all over the world, traveling from country to country searching for adventures. It’d been a while since they’d seen her, but Alfie loved her visits. She told stories of places he’d never even thought of visiting. Zia Donatella gave him his first world map when he was five, pointing to a spot in Egypt where she had just seen ancient pyramids. Since then, Alfie covered his walls with maps, memorizing capitals, rivers, mountains, and everything else he thought might be useful for his future job as a professional explorer.
“Kids, give your great-aunt Donatella a hug!” Mom said.
While Emilia hugged Zia tightly around her waist, Alfie stood at a cool distance. As excited as he was to see her, he was getting older and didn’t think he should hug her like she was Santa Claus at the mall.
“My goodness, how you’ve both grown!” Zia Donatella said. When Emilia finally released Zia from her hug, Zia stepped closer to Alfie, taking his face in her hands. Alfie couldn’t help but smile. “Bello!”
“Want some dinner?” Alfie offered. “We got pizza!”
Zia Donatella looked at the cardboard boxes and slices of pizza on the table, now cooled with sweating cheese on top. “Ma che mangiate? What are you eating? This is your dinner?”
“Don’t start, Zia Donatella,” Mom said, combining the remaining pizza into one box and tossing the other. “We’re just busy. Besides, we’re not amazing chefs like you are.”
“It doesn’t take a chef to cook a homemade meal, ragazza,” Zia said.
“Zia, have you run into any bulls lately?” Alfie asked, remembering the story she had told of watching bulls race through a Spanish town; she was almost pummeled by them.
Zia Donatella smiled and said, “Thankfully, no. But I did see a wildebeest in Namibia.”
“He tasted pretty good, too,” she said, winking.
Alfie was so stunned that for a moment he couldn’t react. Then he said, “Mom! Can we have wildebeest for dinner tomorrow night?”
“I don’t think the Save ’n Shop here carries that,” Mom said.
Eyeing the pizza, Zia said, “Does this food you’re eating have a name?”
“Fast,” Emilia said, making Alfie snort out a laugh as she tried to hide her own giggle.
“Zia, don’t you know pizza when you see it?” Alfie asked because—seriously!—it was food from their motherland!
“You poor children. You really think this is pizza.” Zia looked more upset than offended. “Let me cook something,” Zia said, pushing back her chair. “Mi piace molto cuocere! I love to cook!”
“Zia,” Mom said, but Zia had already started digging through the pantry. She found canned fruit cocktail, individually wrapped cinnamon rolls, and boxed mac and cheese. She held a can of peas up to Mom and asked, “Will I find anything fresh in the refrigerator?”
“Why don’t we get you settled in?” Dad suggested. “Tomorrow we can shop. Honey?” he said to Mom, asking with a nod where to put Zia’s bags.
“Well, why don’t you take . . . ?” She looked between Emilia and Alfie. They knew what was coming—someone was about to lose his or her room.
Emilia sat up straight in a desperate attempt to show how responsible she was and therefore how deserving of keeping her room. Alfie tried the opposite approach. He murdered the last slice of Supreme Meat Machine, hoping to show Mom how messy he was and that no one in her right mind would ever put any human in his room. It was strictly an “at your own risk” sort of place.
“You can take . . . Alfie’s room,” Mom declared.
“Mom!” Alfie said. “That’s not fair!”
“Emilia is the oldest,” Mom said.
“But I’m the man!” he said.
“Ha! You wish,” Emilia said.
Alfie felt bad about being rude in front of Zia Donatella, but he couldn’t believe he was getting kicked out of his room. “Where am I going to sleep?”
“Well,” Mom said, thinking. “Maybe you could bunk in Emilia’s room?”
“No!” he and Emilia both yelled at the same time. At least they agreed on that.
“He can take the pullout sofa in the office,” Dad said. “If we put an air mattress on top, it’s not that bad.”
“Not that bad,” Alfie thought. Translation: future spine surgery may be required.
“Great, then it’s settled,” Mom said. “But first, Alfredo, get that room straightened up.”
Alfie sulked to his room to clean it up—and to say arrivederci to his privacy.
Sleep was impossible in the so-called bed. It was more like sleeping on a bag full of baseballs. Alfie’s parents hadn’t been able to find the pump for the air mattress, so Dad said he’d have to tough it out for the night. Noises from the kitchen also kept him awake.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My niece loves these books. She has gotten into cooking and loves adventure stories. These books marry the two. They are fun to read.
This book was such an adventure! Great for kids and adults alike.
I guess know why giada cooks...because she cant write! Read the heading, thats all i have to say about this series. I bought only for the recipe cards...foolish me!
My 7 year old daughter loves this book I thought it would be over her head but she loves the Food network channel so I decided to get it for her and she couldn't put it down. I will be headed back to Barnes and Nobles to get the next won soon.
This book was great! It was almost as good as Giada's cooking