The dining room of my grandma's villa, nestled just outside the medieval walls of Bologna, is perfectly ready to host the year's most exclusive and important dinner party. There are crystal chalices for the wine. Plates are disposed on the table at a palm's distance from one ather, the bowls shine waiting to be filled with precious hand-crafted, doughy miracles. Light dances across the family silver-forks, knives and spoons that have born silent witness to this family's banquets for hundreds of years, have seen more tortellini than any family member at the table and practically sing to each other about the glorious shapes of pasta they will cup. Bite after bite we finish the first plate of tortellini, then, just for the kids, a second plate is served with fresh heavy cream, a different contation, t so traditional as the broth, but less appetizing. (The adults never eat it this way-though that doesn't stop me from still partaking every w and then.) The tortellini are evaluated extremely carefully in regards to their flavor, shape, density and preparation. Each one of us gives his own assessment, all of which are collected by my aunt, so the following Christmas while she prepares the tortellini, she'll be able to use the negative and positive comments about this year's batch to make improvements, continuing the quest for pasta perfection. That's how the passion for cooking was transmitted through my family: at my grandma Maddalena's table. And it passed from her down to my mother and my aunts and finally to the kids, we three cousins, each of us the only child of one of the three Bini sisters, each of us w all grown-up, yet still enchanted by those magical Christmas dinners. Spending four hours at the Christmas table wasn't a torture but a pleasure, especially for us kids, never kwing what was going to be the next dish, but secure that it would be amazing.
RICCARDO COSTA, writer and filmmaker, instructor of Italian language and culture classes (cooking and film), was born in Bologna, one of Italy's food capitals. From the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Riccardo earned a BFA. In Italy and New York he worked as an assistant to director Spike Lee, among others. He has written and co-written 10 feature screenplays, including Queen of Harlem & The Icebreaker and plays for Off-Broadway. Playwright in residence at Philip Seymour Hoffman's theater company in 2009. As a director he has received awards and recognition in more than 60 festivals worldwide and on CBS. Presently, Riccardo is the President of Blitz Entertainment, a production company in Italy and NYC. In his free time Riccardo is an accomplished chef. Learning to cook from his grandmother, a famous Bolognese socialite from the '50s, he assimilated all the century-old family culinary secrets. He has recently penned a cookbook of some of these traditional Italian recipes, which he shares with friends, acquaintances, celebrities, intellectuals, politicians, and artists who come to his apartment to eat exceptional food, discuss ideas, and network. Riccardo has been a finalist of TV cooking shows.