I am pretty sure that Primo and Secondo, the two main characters of the delicious movie Big Night, received their education at Istituto Alberghiero in Villa Santa Maria, a tiny mountain village in the heart of Abruzzo…
Villa Santa Maria is called the “Home of Cooks”, since it has been hosting the first Italian cooking school for more than 400 years.
Its origins go back to 16th century when the Neapolitan Caracciolo family used to spend their time in the village. Back then, hunting was a big pastime for noblemen and the banquets following the hunt were so important that hunters and servants were involved in food preparation and table wait-on.
The first papers mentioning this school are dated 1750, where catering apprentices i.e. cooks, assistants, waiters and maccaronari (pasta makers) are listed. This was, perhaps, the origin of the still strong tradition that is celebrated at the Sagra dei Cuochi (Cook Festival) around mid-October.
A member of the Caracciolo family, Francesco, born on October 13th, 1563, would have inherited his family wealth, but after a severe illness, he made a vow to dedicate his life to God. People from Villa Santa Maria have always been so devoted to San Francesco Caracciolo that in 1996 he became the Patron Saint of Italian Chefs.
The Sagra is something not to be missed. It is a real festa that involves the whole village. The lion’s share is played by the Istituto Alberghiero and their students who seize the opportunity to show their know-how and their proficiency. It is an open day for the school, everyone is welcome, tourists and residents who can enjoy a huge outdoor buffet on the main street of the village. And, since every chef compete against each other for the best recipe, can you imagine a better way to entertain your tastebuds?
Interested in testing some recipes? Try this ones from Villa Santa Maria School Lahanelle Caraccioline… they are in Italian only.