Inspired, Frank turned to popular crowd funding company Kickstarter to see if a cookbook would be of interest. Overwhelmingly, it was. Over the course of a month, 825 strangers pledged $27,000 to the project. Promising donors a finished product within six months, the Costantinis got to work.
The elements came together with the help of family friends, who took professional photos, and a kindly gentleman who volunteered to listen to Costantini’s story and help her compose it. “It became a stone soup kind of thing,” Frank says of the composition process. “Everyone brought to the pot what they could.”
The cookbook has a richness and warmth. Reading it almost gives the sense of Costantini’s calming presence. Every few pages, her commentary partners with a dish, offering a relevant history, the time of year it is usually made, or an explanation of what it is. She offers specifics on how to make certain doughs and beautifully decorate cookies.
While Costantini doesn’t have a personal favorite, she loves preparing her grandchildren’s favorites, namely, her pastas, which range from handmade gnocchi to ravioli to linguini she used to prepare with Francesco. Frank’s favorite is his mother’s fried chicken, stuffed with prosciutto and cheese and crusted in breadcrumbs with sautéed zucchinis and roasted potatoes on the side.
Costantini will soon return to Italy to teach a cooking class at an artist resort in Tuscany. Last summer, she was invited to offer lessons for the resident artists. “It was a blessed, blessed time in my life,” she recalls.
This trip to Italy will also serve as research. Costantini will try “finding those meals that [she] missed within this book” so that she might publish another cookbook in the future, an endeavor her son supports. Frank says that this first cookbook has opened up his mother’s life so that she might leave a legacy behind. The authentic Italian recipes have already made an impact on the four thousand purchasers of the book, offering “family treasures,” as Frank refers to them.
Costantini’s passion for cooking has not yielded to her newfound popularity. Her life is busy, taking her places likely not possible before. This fall, she will appear on a Food Network show about talented home cooks who have escalated to professional chefs or authors. Costantini will also give cooking demonstrations locally on the Main Line, with Luigi & Giovanni Caterers and at Dante & Luigi’s. She will also be featured at the TASTE food show at Valley Forge.
Since the book’s release, Frank has been amazed that a simple project has developed into a professional, polished book. Adding to her legacy, proceeds from book sales are being donated to the ministry of St. Francis in Philadelphia. No matter how many people it reaches, the book has proved successful, but more importantly, given the Costantinis a shared family project reflecting on their history and heritage.
Italian Moms is currently available on Amazon.